People who can afford to own a car can afford to maintain a car! This is a simple, profound truth. Yet, many service advisors I meet believe just the opposite.
One extreme says, “they spent so much on the car, they don’t have money to maintain it.” The other extreme says, “customers who own economy cars were broke to start with.”
Zig Ziglar would call this stinkin’ thinkin’. Since actions always follow beliefs, this “they can’t afford it” mindset makes for a convenient excuse for lousy service sales. Advisors who believe “the economy is bad,” “our customers are different,” “nobody buys anything,” or some other such nonsense are nothing more than service clerks and order-takers with low numbers, including low revenue, retention, and CSI numbers.
Let’s fact-check the true cost of maintaining a modern automobile. According to AAA, the average maintenance cost is $.054 per mile…five-and-a-half centers per mile. (This information comes from the 2016 AAA Vehicle Operating Cost Report that uses five categories from small sedans at $.048 per mile to large 4WD SUVs at $.059 per mile. The numbers do not include the cost of gasoline or tires, just vehicle maintenance.)
The average vehicle travels 11,800 miles per year, therefore $.054 per mile equals $637 annually. Fifty-three bucks a month! Let that sink in; only $53 per month to maintain a $50,000-dollar machine. That is a phenomenal return on investment.
In the early years of ownership, the cost is much lower since most cars only need a couple of oil changes and tire rotations a year. At $50 for a LOF and rotation, that’s only $100 maintenance for the first year.
Only 5 ½ cents per mile to maintain a $50,000 high-tech, computer-controlled machine that practically drives itself. What a great deal!
Service advisors who communicate this simple truth to vehicle owners early and often will have much smoother sailing when they start offering 15,000-mile, 30,000-mile, and 60,000-mile services. A price tag of $500 for a 30,000-mile service due at about the three-year mark sounds like a lot of money at first blush. But, in the big picture, it fits perfectly into the annual cost of ownership when amortized over three years.
When you compare the “cost to maintain a vehicle” vs the “cost to stay healthy,” it proves to be an even better value. Proper diet, exercise, supplements, and preventive medicine isn’t cheap, but it’s worth it to maintain your health.
Proper vehicle maintenance IS cheap and it’s necessary for Americans to maintain their second-largest capital investment—their car.
Listen, don’t overthink this; selling preventive maintenance services to your customers is the noble, right, and honest thing to do, and it’s within everyone’s budget. Frankly, the purpose of this article is to dispel the myth (read that as “excuse”) many advisors, techs, and managers often bring up when discussing maintenance cost. “It’s too expensive.” No, it isn’t.
Try this quick exercise: look at your service menu and add up the cost of every service interval up to 60,000 miles. If you are on a 5,000-mile service interval, in 60,000 miles, the customer would do eight 5,000-mile services, two 15,000-mile services, one 30,000-mile service, and one 60,000-mile service. Include OEM requirements and your local dealership recommendations in your totals. When you divide the total cost by 60,000, I’m guessing it will be less than 5 ½ cents per mile. If so, then go with that smaller cost-per-mile number when talking to your service customers.
There is one other factor to consider: the cost-per-mile of gasoline; which is, of course, the greatest expense a vehicle owner has. AAA says it costs $.0688 per mile for gasoline in a small sedan compared to $.109 per mile for a 4WD SUV.
So, here’s where the two factors—maintenance and fuel cost—intersect. Well-maintained vehicles get better fuel economy (meaning the gasoline cost-per-mile drops). Clean, deposit-free injectors, intake valves, throttle plates, and combustion chambers increase fuel economy. Clean, sludge-free engines, transmissions, and differentials do, too. Therefore, preventive maintenance becomes a force multiplier that is a double-win for customers.
Automotive maintenance is a necessary investment that produces a fantastic return. The more your customers invest in maintenance, the more financial return they’ll receive. Happy sales to you!
Author: Charlie Polston
Charlie Polston is an Automotive Customer Retention and Profitability Consultant with BG Products, Inc. Charlie has been with BG’s Fixed Operations Division for over 34 years.