AM Online

Four ways dealer groups can beat independents on digital aftersales

By Hugh Dickerson

The retail aftersales market has grown 10% post-recession, according to the latest edition of the Castrol Professional Car Servicing and Repair Trend report. However, much of this growth went to the independent garages, which now account for 50% of the market. So why are franchised dealers still not getting what they may see as a fair share?

Recent Google data shows there is a huge opportunity in the digital aftersales market, with almost 11% more searches for service, maintenance and parts queries than there are for used cars. However, dealers appear not to want to capture much of this market, typically investing less than 10% of their digital marketing budget in aftersales.

Today’s aftersales consumer is no different from the new or used sales customer in their reliance on digital media. 71% of aftersales consumers will use a search engine for research, and on multiple devices and platforms.

  Hugh Dickerson is Google UK senior industry head of automotive

Hugh Dickerson is Google UK senior industry head of automotive and an AM Awards judge. He is responsible for developing digital brands in the UK.


♦  83% of consumers use a smartphone to find the location of the nearest service centre.

♦  63% of consumers will use a tablet device to research aftersales prices.

♦  71% of consumers will use online video to find out about a mechanic or workshop.

It is clear the automotive aftersales shopper is no different to the shopper using multi-channel retailers such as John Lewis. Unfortunately, the multi-channel experience via a dealer for aftersales is generally not on a par with the new or used car sales experience, let alone such other multichannel retailers.

The result is dealer groups are relinquishing control of the acquisition journey to digital startups who are often solely focused on the aftersales sector. The risk for franchised dealers is that these aftersales aggregators could become as powerful as the used car aggregators on which they are now so dependent.    

So what can dealers do to wrest back control of their aftersales businesses?

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  • Reg willcox - 03/11/2014 14:59

    Never mind all this cock and bull, its down to pricing. Dealers cant or wont match the independents simple as that

  • Alex Rose - 04/11/2014 16:29

    Hi Reg - it's not quite as simple as that. We ( looked into this and our findings were published by AM-Online here: There is, of course, a price difference between main dealers and independents, but it's smaller than you might think according to our data. Just 6% in the case of routine servicing and MOTs. Cheers Alex

  • Stan Wilson - 04/11/2014 19:01

    Hi Alex/Reg/Hugh, Firstly Hugh, franchised dealers pumping more spend into aftersales marketing (i.e. Google PPC) is going to be nice business for Google, but you are going to start a price war on aftersales related keywords, much as there has been between the used car portals for many years. The result, garages having to pay more to market their services, either directly with Google or via the new aftersales start-ups you mention, and this cost has to be recovered somewhere - and the consumer will end up paying. Alex, whilst your research was semi-interesting, when publishing figures you need to also explain the data it is based on. What is the sample size, how many of the jobs analysed were quotes vs. won (and carried out) work? You might have 50k users and 4k garages but how many of these had work carried out - very few I suspect. Reg, a lot is to do with the perception of pricing - whilst there isn't much difference between franchised and independents (although much higher than 6%) customers think there is. The other important aspect is quality of work. Independents have to do much more to prove they are good at what they do, with Franchises they have the brand awareness of the Manufacturers... What is more interesting is that a Google representative can get a feature article on AM - shouldn't it be called a Sponsored Ad? Regards.

    • Alex Rose - 05/11/2014 07:09

      @Stan Wilson - hi Stan - happy to send you the original release if you like. As we take our commission when the work is carried out I can say with some relief that a good proportion of the quotes are, indeed, carried out. Drop me a line on if you'd like to hear more.

  • Steve - 14/05/2015 21:07

    As an industry Aftersales professional for a long time, let me tell you that I have had sizeable fleet customers walk away from me to independents, for a lower labour rate (and probably), some form of "sweetener". Only to return to us later after some analysis of their spend, versus us. Yes, their labour rate may be lower, but the hours invoiced are considerably higher.