Reedman Toll Auto Group is staking its claim in ride-share vehicle sales and service, a segment still in its infancy but expected to grow and redefine retail automotive, said Daryl Kessler, the group’s vice president.
The dealership group’s Langhorne, Pa., campus is home to a new facility and program that caters to ride-share drivers — particularly those who drive for Lyft. The facility has a lounge for ride-share drivers with a second lounge under construction, a 14-vehicle parking area and a VIP service lane specifically for Lyft drivers.
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As a short-term solution, Reedman Toll has partnered with StorkDriver PA, an independent rental car company that rents vehicles, complete with insurance, to ride-share drivers.
Over the longer term, the dealership group hopes to convert those ride-share vehicle renters into vehicle buyers and snag more service business along the way.
Since the program started in November, the dealership group has seen a “steady flow of Lyft drivers and cars” in its service department and lounge, Kessler said. Vehicle sales will come later as the group builds relationships with drivers, he added.
Ride-sharing here to stay
“Ride-sharing is here and here to stay,” Kessler said. “We want to be part of the auto industry that makes rental cars available to these drivers if they need them. We want to be part of the industry that sells cars to these drivers if they want to buy them. We want to be part of the industry that services these drivers’ cars.
“Along with those things we want to be part of the industry that welcomes those drivers and develops them as customers through the whole cycle.”
The seven-dealership group sells Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram, Fiat, Honda, Nissan and Subaru, at its Langhorne location and elsewhere in the north Philadelphia area.
Lyft directs drivers and potential drivers who need vehicles to DriveItAway’s car-sharing platform which connects them with StorkDriver PA if they want to rent a vehicle with insurance or to Reedman Toll if they want to purchase a vehicle.
Drivers who rent vehicles are contacted by Reedman Toll to let them know it can help them finance and insure a vehicle when they are ready to purchase.
“We try to meet any drivers’ price and size needs to allow them to drive for Lyft in a way that works for them,” Kessler said.
DriveItAway president John Possumato said his company’s role is to make it easy for dealers to move into the emerging business of mobility, including vehicle subscriptions, through DriveItAway’s car-sharing platform, while increasing dealers’ traditional sales and service business.
But “the low hanging fruit as we see the business right now is adapting for ride-share drivers,” he added.
More miles, more maintenance
Though ride-share vehicle sales are important, so is the service business ride-sharing generates, said Kessler.
According to Possumato, ride-share drivers drive six times more miles than drivers of personally-owned vehicles, creating a more frequent need for oil changes, brake pads and other maintenance.
“Maintenance is a big part of the work we’re seeing in the shops,” Kessler said.
Reedman Toll is supporting Lyft drivers with special service perks such as four free oil changes, free brake pads for the life of their vehicle after they buy one set of brake pads and a 20-percent discount on all service and maintenance.
Additionally, the dealership group has set up a special service lane with its own service manager for Lyft drivers.
A wall, painted bright pink to match Lyft’s corporate logo and visible when a driver enters the dealership’s campus, helps direct drivers to the Lyft service lane, Kessler said.
‘Driving for their livelihood’
All Reedman Toll customers are a “priority”, but because Lyft drivers come to one specific lane for service, the dealership group wants to make sure their vehicles are sent promptly to the right service department, Kessler said.
For example, Chevy vehicles are sent to the Chevy service department, and Chrysler vehicles are sent to the Chrysler service department, because those technicians can perform warranty work and are familiar with recalls for their respective brands.
However, the group regularly services brands for which it does not operate a franchise, he said.
“Lyft drivers are driving for their livelihood, and we want to make sure we can provide them service as efficiently as possible,” he said.
To position itself as a “home away from home” for drivers during dealership hours, Reedman Toll has outfitted its showroom lounge with sofas and comfortable chairs where drivers can enjoy complimentary coffee and snacks, watch TV and recharge their cellphones, whether they are there having their vehicle serviced or on a break.
The new lounge is scheduled to open in the service department this spring and will be similarly appointed, Kessler said.
“Many times drivers on a long shift need a place to stretch their legs, and why not do it with us?” he said.
Driver appreciation party
In November, Reedman Toll threw an appreciation party for Lyft drivers to kick off the dealership group’s entry into the ride-share market.
Lyft invited current drivers and people who expressed an interest in driving but hadn’t yet committed.
The three-hour event included food, music and a $1,000 drawing.
Lyft, StorkDriver PA and Reedman Toll representatives were on hand to explain how their respective companies help ride-share drivers become successful and sign up new drivers or renters of ride-share vehicles.
“We had about 120 people come,” to the event, Kessler said. “At least 40 of them signed up for service in the future, and about eight had oil changes” during the party.
Ride-sharing is a vehicle segment that didn’t exist 10 years ago and had just a modest following five years ago, Kessler said.
“Rather than five years from now, and wonder what happened, our thought is why not get ahead of the curve?” he added.