Dealerships

Service Center Impact on Sales & Reputation

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. - 

Improved sales numbers are usually aided by a good reputation. And that reputation, according to a recent release from J.D. Power and DealerRater, starts in your service department.

The March 2015 PowerRater Consumer Pulse, a monthly analysis of — as the title suggests — consumer opinions, is developed jointly by J.D. Power and DealerRater, each of which lend their specific angles on the automotive industry to create a picture of how customers feel about their dealer experiences.

According to the report, “a dealer’s ability to satisfy its service customers boosts its reputation for good service, which may ultimately lead to increased vehicle sales.”

Other key findings, according to the report, are as follows:

  • Highly satisfied service customers (overall satisfaction scores of 901-1,000 on a 1,000-point scale) are more likely to write a review about their experience, compared with those who are merely satisfied or indifferent (scores of 750-900), according to J.D. Power. Among the 37 percent of highly satisfied customers, 4.3 percent indicate that they posted an online review of their experience. In contrast, less than 3 percent of service customers who are either merely satisfied or indifferent posted an online review.
     
  • Among highly satisfied customers who posted an online review of their last service experience, 91 percent of the reviews were positive; among merely satisfied or indifferent customers who posted a review, only 71 percent of the comments were positive.
     
  • According to data collected by DealerRater, 40 percent of car buyers indicate that the service department’s reputation was significantly important in choosing the dealer they purchased from.

Chris Sutton, the vice president of U.S. automotive retail practice at J.D. Power, reflected on the findings.

“Clearly, there is a strong incentive for dealers to maximize customer satisfaction as it leads to a greater likelihood that customers will post a positive review, helping to support the reputation of the dealer’s service department,” Sutton said.

Furthermore, J.D. Power recommends five critical areas to focus on that have the “highest potential impact on customer satisfaction” in the service department.

  1. A service advisor who focuses on customer needs.
  2. Providing helpful advice to customers.
  3. Fixing a vehicle correctly the first time.
  4. Quick access (within 2 minutes) to a service adviser.
  5. Having the vehicle ready when you said it would be ready.

AutoMatch Adds 4th Store to Network

LINCOLNSHIRE, Ill. - 

AutoMatch USA, a dealership chain that specializes in foreign and domestic pre-owned vehicle of all makes and models, opened its fourth location on Monday.

The newest store joining the network that already includes a lot in Illinois and two others in Florida is located at 13111 South Minuteman Drive in Draper, Utah. The store is situated off of exit 291 from Interstate 15 in the Salt Lake City market.

This dealership joins AutoMatch USA locations in Morton Grove, Ill., as well as in the Sunshine State cities of Jacksonville and Fort Myers.

“We are pleased to announce the opening of our fourth AutoMatch USA location. We have experienced great success across our dealerships in Florida and Illinois, and we are very excited to expand our services to the greater Salt Lake City area,” Marcus Lemonis owner said.

“As a company, we will continue to offer the best value for people searching for reliable and affordable transportation, as well as the financing, insurance and warranty to go with it,” Lemonis continued.

The grand opening celebration for this Utah store begins on Friday and runs through April 4, featuring price specials as well as a ribbon cutting with the local chamber of commerce on Saturday.

Last summer, AutoMatch USA outlined plans for several other openings, including another store in Florida as well as in Arizona and California.

The company retails used vehicles from brands including Chevrolet, Ford, Dodge, Mazda, Jeep, Cadillac, Chrysler, Mercedes Benz, Audi, Porsche, BMW, Lexus, Toyota, Honda and more.

AutoNation Reopens Several Luxury Dealerships

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - 

AutoNation announced this week the reopening of several luxury dealerships. This included two Porsche dealerships — Porsche Plano and Porsche Bellevue — as well as Audi Plano and Lexus of Cerritos.

The first to reopen this past week on Tuesday, Audi Plano, features a redesigned facility with over 60,000 square feet of space. It also garners an additional 12 service bays with lifts, a new alignment rack and tire mount and balance machines, bringing the total bays to 27. A mile away, an off-site service center was added, which offers a full “Perfect Delivery Inspection” and a used vehicle reconditioning center with six service bays. The facilities staff 107 associates and will be open Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Lexus of Cerritos reopened on Thursday, boasting 74,000 square feet of redesigned floor space. It also features 59 service bays, 160 associates and an increased showroom and service department. The facility plans to be open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Similar to Porsche Bellevue, which Auto Remarketing reported on earlier this week, AutoNation also reopened Porsche Plano. The 40,000 square foot facility added 3,000 additional square feet of space. It also added 4 service bays, bringing the facility’s total to 23. The Porsche store currently has 53 associates and will be open Monday to Frida from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. as well as Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Porsche Bellevue Reopens Under AutoNation Flag

BELLEVUE, Wash. - 

AutoNation announced today the reopening of Porsche Bellevue in Bellevue, Wash. The Porsche location was part of the company’s acquisition of Barrier Motors Premium Luxury Group at the end of last year.                                                     

The ribbon cutting ceremony will be tonight at 6 p.m. at the facility’s location of 11910 NE 8th Street.

The location, which features a 38,000 square foot store, will have on display several of the German automaker's high-end feats of engineering, including the new Cayman, 911, 918 and Cayenne.

The service department at Porsche Bellevue features 16 service bays, 1 alignment bay and 43 associates on staff to provide the utmost care for customers. The facility will run Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. PST and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. PST.

What Cars.com Discovered About Dealer Reviews

CHICAGO - 

Cars.com recently announced the results of an analysis it performed on nearly 1 million reviews submitted by customers on its site.

According to the company’s research, seven out of 10 car shoppers said that reviews of dealerships are either a “very” or “extremely” important part of their research during the vehicle-buying process. To further elaborate on this statistic, Cars.com delved further into the topic with a text-based analysis of its consumer-submitted reviews to see what kinds of commonalities it could discover.

“Online reviews are more than social proof; they’re equity for dealerships,” said Simon Tiffen, Cars.com’s senior manager, advertiser insights. “Now that reading and writing online reviews is normal behavior for consumers, we’re able to aggregate and analyze real-life experiences to make tangible improvements to the shopping process, not to mention find out some fun stuff along the way."

One of the first big findings of the research was when customers typically complete their reviews of dealers. Cars.com data showed than over half (52 percent) of all dealer reviews were completed between 10 a.m. EST and 4 p.m., with Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday being the days of the week with the most completed. Seven percent of all reviews were made on Saturdays, and almost none were submitted between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. EST.

“Since consumers are most likely to leave a review during midday, it makes sense for manufacturers and dealerships to capitalize on that behavior,” Tiffen said. “If you’re asking customers to submit a review, time your communication for when they’re most open to sharing, which often means during typical working hours.”

Although the average review on its site is 62 words, negative reviews (that did not recommend a dealership) were, on average, 142 percent longer than positive reviews. Although these negative reviews only make up 4 percent of all the reviews, they were 19 percent more likely to be submitted on a Saturday, Sunday or Monday, implying that the majority of bad experiences happened on a weekend trip to the dealership.

“When a consumer has a bad experience, they want their voice heard,” Tiffen said. “Businesses mess up sometimes, that’s a given. But now retailers have an opportunity to resolve individual issues as well as identify larger problems connected to dealership process through direct customer feedback.”

Cars.com recommends that dealerships pay close attention to make sure that their service quality doesn’t suffer when the business is at its busiest.

“Retailers need to pay extra attention during high-traffic hours to make sure their customer service doesn’t slip,” Tiffen said. “This includes monitoring online review and social media channels, where consumers are likely to vent after a negative experience.”

On that note of dealership response, the company’s data revealed that less than a third of all reviews on the Cars.com website are answered — which the company says can correlate with the dealerships average star rating on the site. The state with the highest rated dealerships, Delaware (with a score of 4.7 out of 5) also had the highest rate of response to reviews, at over 60 percent. To contrast, South Dakota, with the lowest average dealership rating of 3.9 out of 5, had an average response rate of less than 10 percent.

More insight from Cars.com can be found on its dealer-oriented website.

DealerPager Launches New Messaging Platform for Fixed Ops

CHAMPAIGN, Ill.  - 

DealerPager.com has a new custom messaging platform available for dealerships, designed to send custom text notifications to vehicle service clients.

With mobile usage in auto sales growing at a rapid rate, texting is becoming a prime way to reach customers — especially those interacting with the service department.

“It’s as simple as asking a customer if it’s OK to send a text with progress updates or when maintenance is complete. If your service department repairs 100 vehicles a day, that’s up to 100 fewer times your service writers have to leave their desks. Searching for a customer can take 3-5 minutes, or more, so we’re talking about a significant amount of time,” said David Mizer, owner of DealerPager.com.

The company contends the messaging service is a great way to share useful information while customers’ vehicles are in the service department for regular maintenance or more in-depth work.

One reason a tool such as this could be particularly useful in the service department is because of the fast-paces nature of the business, with quick turnover and cars constantly coming and out of the service bays.

With service writers jobs getting busier and busier, especially in light of the influx of recalls, a quick text can be much easier and more convenient than a phone call.

 

AAA Aims to Provide ‘Hassle-Free’ Car-Buying Service

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - 

Following news of the AAA Mid-Atlantic’s recent venture into the car-buying service sector of the auto business, Auto Remarketing decided to reach out to our home state's chapter, AAA Carolinas, to see how one of the organization’s founding members of the auto-buying service does business.

Greg Pence, the manager of the auto buying service for AAA Carolinas, explained how his system works, a system that has been available to his organization’s members in North Carolina and South Carolina since 1993.

“We are a full concierge service,” Pence said. “We eliminate the hassle for our members to go to a dealership and spend four to six hours there and talk to many, many people.”

How exactly does AAA Carolinas eliminate as much customer hassle as possible? According to Pence, all they need to know is what their member is looking for and they take care of the rest — even up to the point of a free delivery, for both used and new vehicles, to a member’s house or place of work, if they so choose.

“Our process, what we do at AAA for our members, is find out the vehicle that they’re looking for and searching to buy,” Pence said. “If we don’t have it in inventory, which we stock 40 to 60 pre-owned vehicles in our inventory, sometimes as much as 100, we will actually go out and find the vehicle for them, either at an auction or another dealership that we work with consecutively. Then we actually buy the car on their behalf, bring it here, it will go through our own inspection process and at that point we deliver the car to their home or office.”  

The entire operation is run out of the AAA Carolinas corporate office in Charlotte, N.C., including all of their inventory and their staff, servicing all AAA members in N.C. and S.C. Although Pence says the majority of his customers are already members, non-members interested in the service will have to get a AAA membership before being eligible.

While that might sound like a pain point for some, the organization also takes the initial hassle out of that situation — by making that free, as well.

“The only way we can sell them a car is to make them a member of AAA, so basically that’s what we do,” Pence said. “We pay for the first year of membership if they’re not a AAA member.”

Pence says this policy has proved to be an excellent way to attract non-members toward becoming AAA members. Although he says they don’t track the percentage of members who have joined for the auto-buying service and stayed, he estimates that anywhere between 60-80 percent of his customers keep their memberships active.

The success behind the AAA car-buying service, just like many other areas of the automotive sales world, is due to positive relationships. Pence estimates that AAA Carolinas sells 120-130 cars a month, 20-30 of which, on average, are sold to North Carolina State Employees’ Credit Union members, one of the many credit unions that employ AAA’s service for their own members.

“We are operating for six or seven different credit unions now, we are their auto buying service,” Pence said. “One being State Employees’ Credit Union of NC, one of the largest in the country. We are their buying service — we do everything for them. They call the credit union and then they have a person based there at the credit union that calls us and gives us all the information and then we work with the member directly from that point.”

AAA Carolinas leverages its strong relationship with neighboring dealerships to work out great deals for its members, while the dealer benefits from the sheer number of vehicles it can move via one conduit.

“As far as the manufacturers and the new cars for sale it’s the relationship and the fact that we’re selling in volume, we’re not buying one car a month. We’re buying many cars a month from them so we’re able to get a better price based off of that, he said “They go through a dealership and we have a fleet person that we deal with directly with a couple of the dealerships for manufacturers and then there’s some other sourcing that we’re able to use because we buy so many cars. But most of the time it is through a dealership – the car’s typically there or we pull it from the port.”

According to Pence, the majority of the used cars they sell are already on the AAA Carolinas lot. Its corporate office also serves as the hub of its auto sales, where Pence says, at any given time, they will have 40-60 vehicles in stock, which typically gives them 45 days’ worth of supply. It also doesn’t hurt that the organization typically serves customers with above-average means.

“We have four or five different banks and lending institutions that we use,” Pence said. “We take all the information down, relay it to the bank, the bank actually qualifies the customer at that point and does the financing, as well. A lot of people go to their own credit unions and banks or pay cash. The AAA demographics are pretty strong — we’ve got high Beacon scores for most of our members and a lot of them pay cash for the car.”

More information on AAA Carolinas’ car-buying service can be found on its website.

TrueCar Dealer Network Hits 10K Mark

SANTA MONICA, Calif. - 

After launching a revamped dealer certification program in late January, TrueCar announced this week its dealer network has surpassed the 10,000 mark.

This number includes 8,700 U.S. franchised dealers and 1,300 independent dealerships specializing in used vehicles.

Company management explained this latest benchmark pushes TrueCar toward its goal of including a third of U.S. dealers in its network.

“We’ve reached a threshold of dealers that provides strong brand and geographic coverage to ensure there are convenient, competitively priced dealers close to consumers,” said Scott Painter, TrueCar’s chief executive officer and founder. “Our business expands as we grow our franchise network and enlarging our non-franchise dealers gives consumers more options on the used-car side.”

Bob McLean is general manager of Larry H. Miller Lexus in Spokane, Wash., a newly added TrueCar Certified Dealership that helped the company reach the 10,000-dealership mark.

 “With TrueCar it’s a very easy process for the customer,” said McLean. “TrueCar also allows us to connect with customers we wouldn’t have had access to without the service.”

The company will be working to build its network even further this year, and is also working on enhancements to its mobile app.

“Forward-looking dealers are acknowledging the evolution of auto retailing and recognizing the strength of TrueCar's brand and loyal user base,” said Mike Timmons, TrueCar’s senior vice president of dealer development. “We wish to thank our dealer partners for their support and we look forward to helping them grow their business.”

MTV Offers Tips On How To Attract Millennials

SAN FRANCISCO and SANTA MONICA, Calif.  - 

Auto Remarketing recently took a look at trends revealed in the recent MTV study, “Millennials Have Drive,” that implies millennials might be more interested in the cars on your lot than you might think.

The first portion of the MTV study debunked myths left and right, showing millennials might be far more interested in vehicle purchases than the industry initially thought.

Next, the study touched on how dealers and automakers can target these younger buyers and keep them coming through the dealership doors.

MTV analysts encouraged the auto industry to “tap into their (Millennials') functional and emotional needs,”starting with how these younger folks engage with cars.

The study asserts that millennials actually engage with cars in a completely different fashion than earlier generations.

For example, while baby boomers may have considered the key to “success” to be independence, according to the study, millennials have added “individuality” to that list.

How does that apply to their auto shopping behavior?

“A car plays an integral role as young people craft the persona they want to show the world and can help them get where they want to be literally and figuratively,” the study reported. “Millennials are striving to reach the same milestones as previous generations, but faster and in their own way.”

And this may play a role in vehicle purchase time, as well. According to recent research from Cox Automotive, car shoppers want to be in and out of the dealership in 90 minutes or less.

And according to the MTV study, 73 percent of millennials get very annoyed when things don’t happen quickly, versus 49 percent of baby boomers and 65 percent of generation X.

Next up, MTV pointed out that millennials use their vehicles to “make their presence known in the world.”

Though reliability still plays a role in millennials choice of vehicle, 77 percent feel it’s important that their next car “makes them happy” and reflect who they are and their personality.

According to the study, 63 percent of millennials say it’s important their car helps them become who they want to be versus 50 percent of baby boomers and 24 percent of generation X.

For example, a young person who wants to illustrate their love for the environment through their next vehicle purchase may choose a hybrid or alternative-fuel vehicle to prove this point.

In fact, General Motors is already tapping into this well across all generations with its latest environmental initiative.

Lastly, the MTV study pointed out that perhaps one of the most important points for the auto industry to consider when researching millennial trends is the fact that most are not loyal to a particular brand.

In the words of MTV: “Millennials are up for grabs — there is no one brand ahead of another when it comes to getting millennials’ attention.”

Consequently, automakers are on a level playing field when it comes to this generation.

MTV suggested transparency throughout the buying process as one way OEMs can reach generation Y. Fair pricing and faster process are also high on the list.

Millennials also want to be able to customize their vehicle, or make it their own, according to the study.

“Millennials want flexibility to create customized interiors that best represent them. They want to play around with different looks via online showrooms where they can experiment (minus the sales people), see car companies seamlessly meld their phones into their cars, and continue to have a relationship with the car dealer where oil changes could earn points toward new floor mats or fog lights,” the MTV study concluded.

Cars.com Service Certification to Benefit Dealers & Consumers

CHICAGO - 

At last week’s NADA Convention & Expo, Cars.com revealed a new tool to help franchised dealerships make their service departments stand out from the pack.

The site has launched RepairPal Certified, which was developed in partnership with RepairPal.

The certification badge is designed to verify trusted service departments for consumers shopping around, and shows consumers certified dealerships’ service departments have strong customer satisfaction scores as well as fair prices. The tool was rolled out in select markets this past week and will be available nationwide this March.

“We’re excited to launch RepairPal Certified for franchise dealers and help them take back their service business,” said Alex Vetter, chief executive officer of Cars.com. “We’ve always dedicated ourselves to building a trusted platform for car shoppers, and consumers have come to rely on us at all stages of the buying process.

Now our goal is to transform the service and repair category by providing much-needed resources for car owner seeking help and advice when it comes to maintaining their vehicles, and or dealerships looking to boost their service business and regain their market share from national service chains.”

Cars.com pointed out that since more than 86 percent of cars on the road today are past warranty, dealers may be losing out on service opportunities with limited options to market this branch of their dealership.

RepairPal is designed to address this concern. To earn and maintain RepairPal certification, dealers must complete an assessment every 90 days covering four key areas, the company explained: technical assessment, minimum warranty, customer satisfaction and price guarantee.

A RepairPal certified dealer must also have OEM-certified technicians, at least a 12-month/12,000-mile warranty, a minimum number of Cars.com Service Reviews with an overall 4-star rating in sales or service, and pricing that falls within the RepairPal Estimator.

When dealer is certified, it will be featured on Cars.com and RepairPal.com.

Cars.com encourages certified dealers to use their certified status offline, as well, in their own marketing materials.

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