Earlier this month I traveled to Orlando — the happiest place on Earth, according to the Disney folks — to sit in on a small meeting with several fixed ops directors. While not gloomy, that hotel meeting room was not the happiest place on Earth — or even in Orlando, for that matter.
Business is still good. Repair orders and revenue are up. Most dealership service departments have all the work they can handle, and then some.
But issues and challenges still loom. There remains a parts shortage that affects how quickly repaired vehicles are returned to customers. Many dealerships still have staffing problems — especially when it comes to advisers and the all-important technicians. Then there's the concern about the economy and what a possible recession might do to business.
And a question that kept coming up was what impact the low inventory of new vehicles will mean for warranty work for the next three years. The fear was fewer new cars being sold means fewer customers visiting.
But I left the meeting feeling that whatever happens next year, dealership service departments are well equipped to handle it. After all, fixed ops departments endured the Great Recession of 2008 and proved their mettle during the recent pandemic.
In fact, most fixed ops departments showed their value over the past few years by keeping dealerships afloat during lockdowns. The back end of the store became the front end.
Combine this perseverance with the constant training and striving to better serve customers, and service departments are well positioned to be ready for whatever comes their way in 2023.