In the first installment of our “How to get good service”, I answered the age old question: Do you really need to service your car at the dealer? In the second installment, I’m going to talk about the positive aspects of servicing at a new car dealership.
The first and most obvious reason that you should service your new car at a dealership is that it has a warranty. The chances are that you might have a niggling problem or two that you want resolved and from a convenience standpoint, it makes sense to have your maintenance done at the same time.
If you actually liked any of the people in the sales department, a service visit is a great time to say hi and continue the relationship. Did you know that most dealerships or sales people will give you a bit of a gift for referring friends? It may not sound like much, but staying in touch and receiving $50 or $100 here or there can pay for those return service visits.
Auto manufacturers require dealers to stay in line with their current brand strategy for retail environments. That means that dealers frequently undergo multi-million dollar renovations to have the most up to date facilities. That means that the consumer has access to a very nice place to visit when servicing, including comfortable waiting rooms with work space, free wifi and whatever other things they can dream up. Many larger stores have cafes or gift stores. Some of the huge dealers in the States have gone so far as to include movie theatres and outdoor activities like a driving range.
It may sound like marketing hype, but the reality is that dealership mechanics are better equipped to deal with their particular brand than the independent shop, for a variety of reasons. Before that statement sends any independent techs who may be reading this off on a rant, hear me out. First off, dealership mechanics typically only work on one brand of vehicle, with the exception of some small volume manufacturers like Jaguar/Land Rover, where it might be a shared shop. This constant exposure to one brand’s quirks, strengths and weaknesses, means that a technician may well know what concerns a customer has before even being told. Familiarity is a strong tool for a tech.
Dealership staff are equipped with the original manufacturer’s shop manuals, not aftermarket replicas, along with the computer diagnostic tools that have been designed to work with your car. Again, the aftermarket has similar tools, but they don’t always have access to all of each car’s onboard systems, which is increasingly becoming a challenge for the aftermarket as computer systems become more high tech.
Then, there are the special tools. When a manufacturer releases a new vehicle, they also release a very expensive set of special tools that are designed to aid technicians when performing specific tasks for which there isn’t an existing tool. A dealer doesn’t have a choice, they must buy these tools, often at a cost of thousands of dollars and sometimes these tool end up sitting on a rack, gathering dust, for years until they are needed. But when they are needed, they are needed. Can the aftermarket get by without them? In some cases, yes, but it is always easier with the proper tool. Technicians at a dealer also go to manufacturer led training sessions on a fairly regular basis to stay on top of the new technology in their vehicles.
Even though most new car dealers are independent franchisees, the auto manufacturer stands behind them 100%, at least in the eyes of the consumer. That means that replacement parts come with a warranty from the manufacturer, not an aftermarket company. It means that if a consumer has a problem with the dealer’s service department, the manufacturer is there to help solve whatever problem there may be. If you have a problem with an independent shop, chances are that you are speaking with the owner. If you aren’t happy, all you can do is move on.
Many dealerships offer convenience services like a shuttle bus or loaner vehicles to keep customers mobile while their car is in for service. Some independent shops try to do this as well, but most simply don’t have the financial resources to make it happen.
New car dealerships are scored on their ability to satisfy customers and those scores are often linked to a variety of benefits from the manufacturer. Those benefits can range from additional wholesale discounts on parts purchases to improved availability of the more desirable new cars. Store management often win trips or merchandise for having top scores and then of course there is the pride aspect of being recognized as being one of the best in the field. All of these things add up to mean that management at a new car dealer are driven to make sure that their customers are happy.
No car dealer is perfect, just like no consumer is perfect. In theory at least, a new car dealer is the best equipped place to service a vehicle.