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Beware of manufacturers’ great expectations

By Professor Jim Saker

One of the privileges of working in the Centre for Automotive Management is that you get to meet such a wide range of people working in different franchises from around the world.

Each brings their own perspective, from not only their geographical market, but also the market segment in which they operate. There is also a diversity of people – from those working for large plcs to others from small owner-managed dealerships. We also have delegates from the heavy goods sector, who view the world purely from the business-to-business perspective.


Professor Jim Saker is director of the Centre for Automotive Management at Loughborough University’s Business School and an AM Awards judge. He has been involved in the automotive industry for more than 20 years.


Last week, the current cohort of MSc students came to Loughborough for a strategy module. The group has delegates from Audi, both in the UK and in Dubai, Ford, BMW, Scania, DAF and Jaguar/Land Rover. During the programme, the conversation moved on to their service operations.

The previous week, I had met representatives from Toyota in Detroit, where a European representative remarked that she objected to the term ‘aftersales’. She said it should really be called ‘pre-sales’, as without the service function there was likely to be no customer loyalty and no product repurchase.

I put this to the Loughborough group, who mulled it over as a concept, but decided ‘service’ as a term was all right for them.

However, what it did throw up was the issue of lead times. One of the Audi dealers from South London said their lead time for a service was about two days, while Scania and DAF said 30 minutes was the benchmark they tried to achieve if one of their vehicles came in with a problem.

People were digesting this comparison when a delegate from Dubai casually mentioned that they were operating on a 42-day lead time for servicing. The room went quiet followed by an outburst of spontaneous questions.

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