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Innovation is sales key as service business shrinks

Dealers are being forced to become more resourceful to maintain the profitability of lubricant sales with longer service intervals, smaller sumps and improved leak controls meaning service managers have had to be inventive.

Ford, with its wholly-owned Rapid Fit operation, has aimed a pre-emptive strike at shrinking service business by reducing dependency on servicing cars bought from its own dealers. Rapid Fit offers while-you-wait servicing at a fixed cost, and there is no need to book ahead.

Perrys Ford is a medium-sized franchised dealer and service centre in Rayleigh, Essex. It incorporates both a standard service department and a branded Rapid Fit operation.

Perrys sells two grades of Castrol oil in its Rapid Fit operation, while the oil sold in the conventional parts department is a Ford-badged Texaco product.

Perry's service manager Steven Perry said: “The Rapid Fit arm of Ford has increased our lubricant sales since we are targeting older cars and not necessarily Fords. We turned six of our service bays into Rapid Fit stations, and this has improved our turnover.”

Falling new car registrations have not helped sales levels because as new cars usually require a running-in change of lubricants at about 1,000 miles, lost sales directly affect business in the workshop.

Tunbridge Wells Mazda, which uses Castrol 10-30 fully synthetic and Castrol SLX semi-synthetic oils, has seen the lubricants part of its business fall by 40% year-on-year.

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