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Citroen to pump up aftersales volume

Soaring sales of new cars over the past two years have forced Citroen to reassess its aftersales strategy in order to alleviate pressure on its dealer network. The carmaker has developed a three-pronged line of attack, incorporating workshops, bodyshops and service contracts, to help dealers satisfy growing customer demand for aftersales services.

The strategy will involve significant investment by dealers, but Citroen claims they can expect considerable returns from business increase. “Dealers are welcoming these changes - they recognise that this is a good time to invest in new aftersales facilities because of the boom in car sales,” says Arne Willerslev, Citroen aftersales director. He believes the traditional workshop is outdated and wants dealers to adopt Citroen's new fast-fit business Express Service to meet demand for while-you-wait servicing and transparent pricing.

Unlike fast-fit programmes such as Ford Rapid Fit, Vauxhall Master Fit and Renault Minute, which are separate to the workshops, Citroen dealers will convert existing premises. They will, though, retain an area for high-tech warranty and diagnostic work. Eighty dealers are on target to open an Express Service operation by the end of the year, with the rest of the network working to a deadline of two years. Citroen has launched a centralised recruitment programme to find 700 people who will be deployed throughout the Express Service network.

“The motor trade has not been good at communicating what is involved in repair and service work,” says Willerslev. “Express Service will have transparent menu pricing so customers know exactly what they are paying for.” Parts prices have been reduced and Citroen is encouraging its dealers to lower labour rates to ensure the operations are competitive with independent fast-fits. Extended opening hours and weekend work are required.

“Our dealers will be competitive, but they will still make good profits,” says Willerslev. “Independents are not as cheap as they are perceived, nor are they as transparent on their pricing.”

He is confident dealers can boost their retention levels by 50 per cent for cars above three years old. Another tool designed to improve retention is Citroen's new car service contracts. Management of the scheme has been brought in-house, ensuring all maintenance and repair work is absorbed by dealers. Citroen hopes the contracts, priced from £10 to £100 a month, depending on the level of cover, will achieve 10 per cent penetration within three years, with an even divide of fleet and private customers. The policy includes an extended warranty, to four or five years, which is available on grey and parallel imported cars.

“This ensure our dealers get the aftersales business,” says Willerslev. Citroen is also targeting the accident repair market and is in talks with insurance companies on work provision for its 85 approved dealer bodyshops.

The company claims average repair costs at its bodyshops on a 17-hour repair cost around £980, compared to £1300 at an independent. “Because of the standards we rigorously apply to our dealer bodyshops, we can guarantee work is to the highest standards at a fair price,” says Willerslev. “Bodyshops outside of that control aren't in a position to make that guarantee.”

Citroen intends to have 120 bodyshops by the end of 2003, which will include about 15-20 independents meeting the same standards as the dealer bodyshops.

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