The sharp decline in new vehicle sales has pushed dealers to change strategies to expand repair service options and go after what is typically aftermarket business.
While car dealerships have generally focused on keeping new-to-five-year-old vehicles in their repair bays historically, they’re now putting more effort into attracting those typically in the aftermarket sweet spot, said a recent Aftermarket iReport from Lang Marketing. Furthermore, they’re expanding to offer service on all makes and models, not just their own.
New vehicle sales in Canada came in at 1.49 million in 2022, a 9 per cent drop from the previous year and the lowest number of total unit sales since 2009. In the U.S., full-year sales last year were 13.9 million, a nearly 8 per cent drop from 2021.
In Dealers Return to DIFM Prime Time, Lang reported that these figures are forcing dealers to think of new ways to keep repair business up as the fleet of new and newer vehicles shrinks. They’re “aggressively adapting to the changing DIFM market,” the report said.
So dealers are embracing an ‘all years, all nameplates’ approach that is expanded the range of vehicles they can attract to their bays.
This strategy includes emphasizing used vehicle sales as a way to supplement the lack of new vehicle sales — and direct customers to their service bays.
“To promote their service bays to used-vehicle buyers, many dealers are expanding their use of aftermarket brands, which generally have lower prices than OE parts, and are providing special promotions for frequently performed repairs,” Lang observed.
They’re also adding ‘quick service lanes’ to compete better with independent aftermarket repair shops.
“One major carmaker has stated that a significant portion of vehicles serviced in their dealers’ quick service lanes are nameplates other than their own,” Lang reported.
Ensuring high customer satisfaction is also part of the strategy. Their goal is to ensure the process of having a vehicle serviced is convenient and pleasant.
“This has enabled dealers to capture share from some of their DIFM competitors, especially service stations and garages, which have largely been unable to keep pace with the improving position of dealers in the eyes of many vehicle repair customers,” according to Lang.
When it comes to more complex repairs, dealers have positioned themselves as the most expert option for consumers — noting this is acting as a differentiator between dealers and the aftermarket.
“Dealers have invested in tools, equipment and training to meet the challenges of repairing today’s sophisticated vehicles,” Lang said.
The report further noted that plans of going after more DIFM customers have been in place since the end of the Great Recession more than a decade ago.
“They have begun to promote their service bays to all makes and all years of vehicles and emphasize used-vehicle sales as both a vehicle-sales profit center and a new stream of service bay customers,” Lang said.