Auto Service World
Feature   June 1, 2004   by Bob Greenwood

We are the Independent sector — Wake up!

Over the past five years I have been talking (sometimes screaming) about the processes that new car dealerships (the real competition) were undertaking to attract "independent sector clients" to them. Many people within the independent sector (inc...

Over the past five years I have been talking (sometimes screaming) about the processes that new car dealerships (the real competition) were undertaking to attract “independent sector clients” to them. Many people within the independent sector (including Jobbers and WD’s) refused to get their head around on what I was talking about. Now the dealerships are kicking down the front door, and too many shop owners are wondering what the hell is happening. The “war” is in full flight and we had better learn to get our act together, and it had better be now rather than the apathetic latter attitude I witness across this country. If we don’t, do the math, we are going to be their lunch. Consider that many shop owners and jobbers are witnessing lower sales this year. Do you think that, just maybe, the following has anything to do with it?

This is the actual text that is printed on the back of one GM dealership customer invoice:

New car dealerships give you the best value for your hard earned dollar.

If your fur is not standing up on your back by now, it never will.

Now consider these two points:

– ignore their lousy grammar as it proves they operate on the fly without thought.

– do not repeat their mistake by countering this type of hype with a similar format as this is unprofessional on all counts.

We, as the independent sector must come together and do it very professionally. Remember that we are excellent at building one-on-one relationships with our clients. We do it better than any one else within the industry, but it is time to slow down, re-focus again and raise the bar of execution.

Every shop owner must review their capability of execution within their business. The dealerships are after your clients! It is imperative that we step up the level of communication and educate the clients one by one as to the shop’s capabilities. Solicit client referrals. Measure your effectiveness within your business properly; not by sales but by productivity. You don’t need another sales seminar, but you may need professional business acumen in measuring your business to counter the dealerships attack. The Independent shop owner and the selected Jobber MUST work closer together to ensure complete client satisfaction on every visit. As you can appreciate, the front counter processes and business measurement become more important than ever before.

Professional educational material must be readily available for the client and the shop owner to review together. Talk with your Jobber about becoming very involved with the “Be Car Care Aware” campaign coming to the Canadian marketplace this fall through AIA. The literature is excellent at educating the client to preventative maintenance and how your independent shop plays an important role within it.

The tools are available to allow us to get our act together, however, the only way we can win the “war” is by one “battle” at a time executed completely and professionally. If you don’t accept this argument and comprehend what is going on in our industry today … well … good luck. If your jobber can’t see it or comprehend it, … find another jobber as the future profitability of your business will depend on having the right jobber in your corner.

I repeat again, as I have mentioned so many times over the years, … “price of parts” is not the issue in your business. Proper business measurement, productivity and execution to total client satisfaction through delivering “value” is what this “game” is all about today.

The dealerships thrive on creating consumer perception as to what they are all about. We can beat them if we work together as a sector of the industry, and deliver total “Client Satisfaction” — Always — which would then not just be “perceived perception through marketing” but “actual reality through delivering”!

Top 10 Reasons To Take An Older Vehicle To A New Car Dealership
After The Warranty Has Expired

1. Service and parts are competitively priced at new car dealerships.

2. New car dealerships are most qualified to properly maintain your vehicle. According to Ontario’s Drive Clean a properly maintained vehicle “can save you up to 10 per cent in annual fuel consumption and prolong the life of your vehicle.”

3. New car dealerships work on your make and model on a regular basis while an independent service centre may repair your vehicle type only occasionally.

4. New car dealerships keep a computerized service history on the vehicles that they maintain. It is much easier to diagnose and repair a vehicle when you have the complete service record of the vehicle.

5. New car dealerships have exclusive use of diagnostic equipment and service tools specifically designed by the automaker to service their vehicles.

6. Technicians at new car dealerships are trained to understand the diagnostic codes and the action needed to maintain the vehicle’s safety and performance standards. This fact becomes increasingly important in older vehicles.

7. New car dealerships use automaker parts which have been evaluated over millions of kilometres in road testing of prototype vehicles before going into production.

8. The automaker parts have been proven to work well in older vehicles, a critical factor for ensuring that all the various parts still work and fit together in older vehicles for maximum performance. Aftermarket parts have not been evaluated by automakers to see how well parts from different suppliers will work together in older vehicles.

9. New car dealership technicians are regularly updated in computer, mechanical and electronic skills by the automaker. Independent service centre technicians do not have access to this specialized training.

10. New car dealerships benefit from the knowledge gained from thousands and thousands of service visits to them and fellow dealerships. They know the best way to maintain vehicles from their automaker.

Robert (Bob) Greenwood is President and CEO of E. K. Williams & Co. (Ontario) Ltd. and Automotive Aftermarket E-Learning Centre Ltd. Bob has over 27 years of Business Management experience within the automotive industry, counseling individual shops in Ontario. E. K. Williams & Co. (Ontario) Ltd. offices specialize in the independent sector of the automotive industry, preparing analytical operating statements for Management purposes, personal and corporate tax return completion, Business Management consultation and Business Management and Employee Development Courses. Visit E. K. Williams & Co. on the Internet at and sign up for their FREE monthly management letter sent to you by E-mail. Automotive Aftermarket E-Learning Centre Ltd. is a company devoted to developing Automotive Shop Business Management skills through the E-Learning environment over the inter-net. Students learn at their own speed, and at a time, and place, that best suits their needs; available 7 days a week 24 hours a day. Visit Automotive Aftermarket E-Learning Centre Ltd. on the Internet at Bob can be reached at (613) 836-5130, 1-800-267-5497, FAX (613) 836-4637 or by E-mail; or

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