For Repairs, Maintenance, GM Dealerships Take A Cue From Wal-Mart

July 29, 2010
Car repair

Car repair

If you get great service, and a consistently low price that competes with independent repair shops or franchised service centers, would you return to the dealership to get your older, higher-mileage vehicle maintained or repaired?

GM is hoping so; to help drum up more business on the service side, GM Goodwrench dealers for Buick, GMC, and Chevrolet are introducing "Everyday Value Pricing."

In what sounds an awful lot to us like the "Every Day Low Prices" campaign from Wal-Mart, they claim to "meet or beat other service centers." The strategy certainly worked for the retailing giant, and GM dealerships could use some help in getting word out that they aren't always that much more expensive, if at all.

No doubt, many owners today are keeping their cars much longer, yet dealership service departments aren't benefiting from this the way they should. Most dealerships typically don't see a new vehicle after the factory warranty expires, let alone after the first maintenance visit or two, and lower new-car sales the past couple of years has left many new-car dealership service departments hurting for business.

A number of surveys have found greater satisfaction with independent shops, compared either to dealerships or to franchised centers.

In Consumer Reports' annual survey, encompassing more than 159,000 repairs over 12 months and more than 373,000 maintenance experiences, it found that car owners tend to be more satisfied with the repairs done by independent shops, yet dealerships have closed the gap.

Dealerships appear to have closed the gap with respect to maintenance, but not with respect to repairs. Overall, 84 percent were very satisfied with independents, but 78 percent with dealerships. But looking only at repairs, Consumer Reports found that there's more of a gap and those figures are 74 percent and 59 percent, respectively.

Given the much higher labor rate typically charged at dealerships, that's not surprising. With dealer rates in the vicinity of $90 to $120 per hour and some independents willing to charge half the higher figure, the bottom-line differences rack up quickly.

GM's dealerships have done quite well in dealer maintenance service satisfaction, with Buick, Cadillac, and Chevrolet all placing in the top ten. For repairs, Chevrolet, Cadillac, and GMC dealerships placed mid-pack, with the largest gap between dealer and independent repair satisfaction indicated by GMC owners.

[General Motors]

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