Ready or not, Mr./Ms. Dealer Principal, Fixed Ops Director and Service Manager, the future isn't just coming. It's here.
A report in this issue of Fixed Ops Journal examines how service departments at new-car dealerships are preparing to work on large numbers of electric and autonomous vehicles in coming years.
Meanwhile, we report, shops have all they can handle right now to stay on top of rapid developments in connected-car, alternative-fuel and advanced driver-assistance systems.
What we found: If you wait for these new-vehicle technologies to descend on your dealership in full force before you respond to them, you're likely to be left behind.
Technology isn't the only change that service departments need to address now. The human factor is just as important, if not more so.
Another story in this issue focuses on an element of the service technician shortage that few people in the auto retail industry seem to want to talk about: the chronic underrepresentation of women among dealership techs. As we report, some dealerships and groups are taking proactive steps to recruit and retain female techs. But if tearing the girlie calendars off your shop walls is your idea of how woke you are on this issue, you may want to reexamine your practices.
As dealerships confront these challenges, they also must face the prospect of reinventing themselves. We hear more and more that to succeed, franchised dealerships will have to expand their business model — selling, servicing and financing cars and trucks — to become mobility centers for their communities.
That means providing, and sometimes collaborating with other providers on, not only such things as valet and mobile-mechanic service for your shop's customers, but also ride hailing, car sharing and vehicle subscriptions (used as well as new). Dealerships will have to do a lot more for service customers than offer loaner cars and maintain a nice waiting area, as important as these things are.
"A lot of changes are coming — somebody's going to have to step up and become mobility consultants," Charlie Chesbrough, senior economist at Cox Automotive, told me. "It's a natural fit for dealers, if they're ready to go the extra mile."
Is your dealership in a position to assume that role? Your store's future may depend on it.