Some Ford dealerships, such as Ricart Ford in Groveport, Ohio, have been using pickup and delivery to promote the store's new cars. When a customer requests a loaner vehicle, a porter from the store will drive a new Ford — the model the sales manager thinks the customer's next new vehicle will be based on his or her sales history — and leave that as the loaner.
Mercedes-Benz, Ford, Volvo and several other brands also have been offering customers mobile service as a way to keep them from having to drive to the dealership. Ford and Mercedes have each created service vans designed to enable a technician to carry out repairs at customer's home or workplace.
Fixed operations consultant Jim Roche, formerly a Cox Automotive vice president, estimates there are about 300 repair and maintenance jobs that can be done away from a store. The Mercedes service vans are equipped to install new tires and handle some brake jobs.
Replacing airbag modules, reflashing computers and fixing maintenance items such as light bulbs, wiper blades and filters are other jobs being done remotely.
Dwyer said Ford expects to have as many as 200 mobile service vans on the road and serving customers in all of the brand's major U.S. markets by this summer.
Roche says fixed ops directors are communicating more and in different ways, using more videos, photos and chat features to help them win more business, especially on vehicles being serviced when the customer is not at the store. An example, he said, is when an inspection turns up worn brake parts and the technician shows the customer via video or photos that the parts need to be replaced.
"COVID is really driving mobile service, said Roche. "The idea that the dealership is a destination just doesn't hold most of the time. It is something that we have to do. As soon as a better or more convenient option presents itself, people will gravitate to it."