Atlantic Automotive Group uses equity mining software from AutoAlert Inc. to sell cars and trucks through the service department, Zorzy says. The software provides data on service customers’ vehicle financing plans that can suggest opportunities for them to reduce their monthly payments, he says.
The group’s dealerships inform service customers of vehicles they need “relative to our used-car demands,” Zorzy adds. At the same time, salespeople call service customers to confirm scheduled appointments. Sales employees bring up new-vehicle purchases during those conversations and also may greet the customers in the service lane.
Under its “bumping into customers” strategy, Zorzy says, salespeople engage in casual conversation with customers in the service waiting area to discuss their needs and concerns. Bottom line: The group’s dealerships typically sell 25 to 30 new vehicles each month out of the service lane, he says.
A dealership’s finance and insurance department can keep customers happy, and make life easier for the service department, by selling products that provide “the best customer experience,” says Doug Wells, general manager of Mercedes-Benz of Edison, part of the 23-franchise Ray Catena Auto Group of New Jersey. He says he avoids F&I offerings that yield quick profits by skimping on attention to buyers of those products when they deal with the service department.
"Work with a company that has been around for a long time, has a good history of paying claims in a proper and correct way, and knows how to work with the service department so it doesn’t have to chase payments down,” Wells advises. “Only pick the stuff you want your family members to have, so your service department does not have to clean up the mess.”
The Catena group helps its service departments by selling used Mercedes-Benz vehicles only at its Mercedes dealerships and used BMWs only at its BMW dealership, Wells adds. All are factory-certified or are equipped with factory parts. “Those are the only ones we can warranty,” he adds.
Service and used-car departments can work together productively to reduce the time needed to recondition a vehicle for sale. One way to encourage such cooperation, says Joe Lescota, an industry consultant in the Atlanta area who specializes in remarketing, is for dealerships to distribute reconditioning profits among all departments instead of applying them solely to fixed ops.