Dealers, Auto Makers See Profits in Cutting Service's Hassle Factor
There are signs that car makers and dealers are taking consumer demands for more-convenient service more seriously than they have in the recent past. There are a couple of good reasons for this, according to the Wall Street Journal.One is money, the Journal said. As margins on many new-car sales have been slashed by Internet-enabled shopping, dealers are looking for profit in the back shop. The smartones are finding it -- but only if they make their shops more welcoming to customers who need regular maintenance.At a very basic level, a growing number of dealers are setting up Web sites that allow consumers to schedule service appointments, according to the Journal. Paul Taylor, chief economist for the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), says the percentage of dealers with Web sites that allow scheduling of service appointments grew to 64.7 percent in 2002 from 23.5 percent in 1997, with a big increase in 1999."That's when everybody said, 'Wait, our customers want to organize their lives'" using the Web, Taylor said.But the demands for service convenience go beyond Web sites, according to the Journal. Audi's U.S. sales operation, forexample, decided a little more than a year ago to create a new "after sales" operation, headed by Marc Trahan, formerly head of productplanning at Audi of America. Trahan said his first priority has been to improve the quality of Audi vehicles so that customers are seekingless service and more routine maintenance, according to the Journal.