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See All That Asphalt? Double the Building

Dealers can likely anticipate a lot of extra space on their lots for the foreseeable future. What can be done with it all?

Pete Liebetreu is the vice president of marketing, product management for Hunter Engineering Co.

With new car dealers making record profits without acres of sprawling inventory, dealers might discover that they are no longer physically constrained or landlocked.  

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Given this fresh outlook, we recommend six ideas for building a stronger future, based on a solid foundation of service:

1. Add Service Drives

This should be the gateway to your dealership. Your service drive should be as nice, if not nicer, than your showroom space. Service is where you currently interact with customers most frequently, and where you will likely interact even more in the future.

Accordingly, size drives with the busiest times in mind. Add autonomy wherever possible to rapidly greet, inspect and move the vehicle and owner on to the next step. Presenting all needed services with a minimum of delay — i.e., automation — is your best way to ensure repeat traffic.

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2. Add EV Service Cells

Consider EV charging points, and possibly even EV-exclusive drive-through lanes. The new electrics don’t need much service, but the new electric manufacturers rarely have brick and mortar. Be the dealer where folks go to have wiper blades, cabin air filters and brake pads installed on any brand. This will take some elbow room, but now you’ve got it.

3. Double Down on Wheel Services

Mainline manufacturers have been encouraging dealers to step up wheel service for years, because they need a healthy dealer network. Yet they knew even before electric that traditional oil and warranty work was declining at a rate that demanded change.  

Auto dealers’ share of the replacement tire market is increasing, but it’s still very small. There’s plenty of room for growth. Use your space to make the fastest, most efficient and quality-driven wheel service cells. As an added plus, EVs, with their higher weight and torque, and emphasis on performance, typically require more regular tire replacement intervals.

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4. ADAS Service Cells

ADAS-equipped vehicles — in other words, nearly all vehicles — require a variety of services. Many independent shops and collision shops do not possess the technical know-how (nor necessarily the confidence or desire) to perform these intricate services.  

Most calibrations don’t require nearly the space many think they do, but if you’ve suddenly got extra room, there won’t be any ADAS work you can’t do. And, as you know, there will be more than enough to be done. Put up a roof and become known as the local ADAS experts.

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5. Bring It In

ADAS systems might be a great reason to bring collision repair on premises. Collision is becoming increasingly intertwined with wheel service work, and you’re already a wheel service expert. 

They’re all links in a service chain. Collision leads to alignment and alignment leads to ADAS. With extra space, you now have the freedom to consider business opportunities you could not have contemplated before.

6. Take It Out

If you just can’t get customers in the service drive, then think about mobile service, the latest market trend. With the newest concepts in convertible mobile service vans, you can offer different services for different days in driveways around town. Invest some space in building an indoor staging and storage area for the cassettes of equipment needed to support these versatile services.    

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Given the recent pace of change in the auto industry, it’s hard to say what the competitive landscape will look like in 2032. But this much seems sure: The advantage will rest with dealers who shrewdly recognized market shifts way back in 2022 and didn’t hesitate to make necessary adjustments.

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