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Multi-brand aftersales is an untapped opportunity for franchised car dealers, opinion

Nick Taylor, head of network and business development manager, Eurorepar Car Service

The automotive industry is, without question, going through a major period of change. The knock-on effect of the COVID-19 pandemic paired with a shift in consumer buying habits is challenging business leaders to squeeze the most out of their assets.

Franchised dealerships and authorised repairers are no exception. Showrooms across the country have had to close their doors and watch on as buyers turn to the used car market to meet their needs.

Data released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) backs this up, with a staggering 4.4% increase in used car sales during Q3 of 2020.

The impact of this trend isn’t reflected solely in lost sales, however.

A shift toward used cars has left a gap in the diaries of the maintenance and aftersales teams at dealerships, too.

The question is: what can dealers and repairers do to capitalise on the multi-brand, out of warranty trade? 

Overlooked opportunity

Growing the aftersales and maintenance offering as its own separate division is an opportunity often overlooked by dealers.

Many see the repair and servicing arm as being secondary to the business of selling cars, helping to retain custom until the vehicle’s warranty expires.

But with fewer new cars on the road at the moment, these dedicated service facilities are often underutilised.

Creating an all-makes independent service brand is a great way of using existing capacity to supplement retail and authorised repairer activity.

Filling the service bays is, first and foremost, an easy way to boost the bottom line – especially during the ongoing economic uncertainty.

Even if some or all of the facilities are mothballed out of use, they’re still likely costing the business in rent, insurance, and bills. It makes sense that they, and the highly skilled team that runs them, are put to good use.

Trusted providers

It’s in challenging times that customers are naturally more conscious of their outgoings, too.

Businesses face the battle of convincing drivers to part with their cash by proving they’re a trustworthy, value-for-money provider.

That puts dealers and authorised repairers in an advantageous position, as the big brand backing of a partner OEM carries weight amongst consumers.

Delivering a service accessible to all vehicle owners is particularly beneficial when it comes to customer retention, loyalty and the possibility of upselling products. For those drivers who bought their car from the dealership, it’s a valuable chance to bring them back into the fold. For those that have not been a customer of the company before, it’s a foot in the door and an opportunity to build trust that could help to sell a car further down the line.

Embracing change

Though the pace of adoption is slow, franchised dealers and authorised repairers are waking up to the untapped aftersales potential.

When Hutchings, a four-site retailer with in-house service facilities based in South Wales, began to see a drop in demand for its traditional OEM service work, the leadership acted swiftly to supply the workshop with new jobs.

Rather than go it alone, the group joined the Stellantis-backed Eurorepar Car Service network, allowing it to benefit from the same quality of backing and support as their retail partners.

The team has been able to bring its exceptional service to a wider audience of motorists and is now working to establish relationships with its lapsed customers.

Hutchings is just one dealer group capitalising on its assets.

Look around and you’ll see that they’re not alone. Franchised dealers and authorised repairers are perfectly placed to embrace the change and now is the time to do it.

Author: Nick Taylor, head of network and business development manager, Eurorepar Car Service

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