In the early 1970s, Fram began a television advertising campaign emphasizing the importance of automotive maintenance. The ads featured a middle-aged technician explaining to the viewers that they can spend a little money now for engine oil and a filter or they can spend a whole lot more later for catastrophic engine failure and replacement.
The technician wrapped up each commercial by saying, “It’s up to you…you can pay me now, or pay me later.” It was powerful and effective. In fact, it was so effective that I still remember it…and these ads ran over 40 years ago (when I was in junior high school)!
Fast forward to 2015 and the message still resonates: vehicle owners can spend a little bit of money maintaining their vehicle now or they can spend a whole lot more later for repair and replacement. This is one of the fundamental, foundational truths of the automotive business. It is an undeniable fact, it is indisputable, it is not up for debate; preventive maintenance saves money.
Let’s bring this closer to home by looking at how this impacts your dealership: either vehicle owners will have their maintenance performed at your dealership or they will end up repairing their vehicles…someplace else. You read that correctly. Either they will have you maintain their vehicle, or they will have your competitor repair their vehicle. Let me explain: if your service team doesn’t recommend preventive maintenance then eventually the customer’s poorly-maintained vehicle will fail. But it won’t happen immediately; it will take a while for un-rotated tires to wear out, for neglected coolant to destroy the radiator, and for unmaintained gear lube to cause catastrophic differential failure. By that time the warranty will have expired and the vehicle owner will have long ago defected to the aftermarket competitors. They will sell the consumer a new set of tires ($800), a replacement radiator ($600), and a new gear housing for the rear differential ($1,000).
If you don’t sell maintenance now the odds are very high that there won’t be a later.
It happens every day. That’s why dealerships are only getting 13% ($30 billion) of the $232 billion that vehicle owners spend annually for customer-pay maintenance and repair. The key to customer loyalty rests in the dealership’s ability to effectively offer preventive maintenance to vehicle owners before they defect to the competition. If you do their maintenance, they’ll stay loyal to your dealership and the need for vehicle repair will be greatly reduced. But if repair is needed someday, they will still remain loyal to you.
Obviously, customer loyalty is great for the dealership’s bottom line. Loyal customers spend money. Therefore, preventive maintenance sales are a huge win for your dealership. Preventive maintenance is also a huge win for the customers.
Bankrate.com updated its “true cost of not maintaining your car” numbers in March 2014. According to an online article by Margarette Burnette, $1000 spent on automotive maintenance will prevent $8000 in catastrophic automotive repair and replacement. That’s a pretty good return on investment.
Burnette’s article makes a strong case for oil changes and other engine maintenance, tire rotation and proper air pressure, annual brake check-ups, and routine filter replacement.
“The true cost of not maintaining your vehicle can include hefty repair bills for bad brakes, failed emission tests, and maybe even a failed engine,” Burnette said. She goes on to explain that aside from the high cost of catastrophic failure, consumers who do not maintain their car can see a dramatic reduction in vehicle longevity. A car that could easily be driven for over 200,000 miles may only make it to 150,000 miles if it is not maintained properly.
Burnett concludes, “following your car manufacturer’s recommendations for oil changes, tire rotations, and routine check-ups requires relatively little upfront costs. However, the benefits can pay off in the long run with better fuel economy, an engine that runs well, and a longer car life.”
To recap what Bankrate.com is saying: every dollar spent on maintenance results in eight dollars savings on repair. This is a very conservative number since it doesn’t take into account the transmission, power steering, driveline, air conditioning, or fuel system. When you consider these vital components, then the savings becomes even greater! (For example, a $250 transmission fluid exchange can help the customer avoid a $3500 transmission replacement. Every dollar spent on transmission service saves $14 on transmission repair.)
This would make a nice word track for your advisors to use on the service drive. The concept of investing a few dollars now to save a lot of dollars in the future will resonate with most vehicle owners, because when they stop to think about it, it just makes sense.
They can “pay you now” for preventive maintenance or (after the warranty expires and they drift away) they can pay an aftermarket garage for repair later. Make every effort to see that they pay you now by asking for preventive maintenance services while the car is in your shop. The best way to ensure that the customer will still be loyal later, is to sell preventive maintenance to them now.