A new website is due to be launched in June which aims to take back service customers lost from franchised dealers to independent repairers with manufacturer branded online "last minute" service booking.
Anita Alexander, marketing director at Main Dealer Network UK, part of Alexander Automotive Marketing, believes franchise dealers need to take a larger slice of the service and repair market back from independents in order to compensate for falling new and used car sales.
The website, www.maindealernetwork.co.uk/dealerreg.php, offers dealers an online booking system that allows customers to book their car service, and MoT if required, with their local, manufacturers appointed main dealer at a discounted rate.
The concept is based on the ‘last minute’ hotel concept inviting dealers to release their empty service bays to those customers who are prepared to book a ‘late deal’ which enables them to take their vehicle to their manufacturers appointed dealer – if it’s an Audi they drive it’s Audi they go to.
Main Dealer Network UK believes concentrating on car manufacturer brand rather than dealer brand is less confusing for the customer when searching for servicing work.
Main Dealer Network UK makes its money by charging a fee of 15% of the service or MoT at the time of booking. The site is automated and requires no call backs.
Talks are due to take place with two manufacturers and two large AM100 dealer groups are also looking to use the website to help win back customers from independent garages.
Alexander said: “We are offering the main dealers the chance to make available empty slots to be released to those customers who are prepared to arrange their car service at the ‘last minute’ therefore benefitting from reduced service prices only available through our site.
“Dealers are attempting to do this individually but they’re not getting the exposure they need, whereas we’re doing it by brand.
“It is important to remember that every customer who comes into the dealership to have their car serviced will be walking past the new and used car stock as well.
"Trying to entice customers back with the promise of car giveaways or offers of lifetime guarantees that are both confusing, and, sometimes, with misleading caveats attached, will not work - customers simply want quality and they want it as cheaply as possible.”
Alexander believes that with extended warranties, it is even more vital for franchised dealers to start raising their profile and dispel the myth they are more expensive than independents.
She said: “By coming together with a fixed price service menu throughout all models of vehicles we can lobby the Office of Fair Trading to challenge those independent networks that are falsely claiming they are cheaper than the main dealers.”