I was blessed to learn the industry in the early years working on a publication positioned such that I experienced the aftermarket both up and down the channel. Through the eyes of a distribution-oriented magazine, I had to have a clear understanding of all levels of the channel, from supplier to WD to jobbers and retailers to the service level or DIYer. That gave me a realistic understanding of how the various channel partners interacted, how they either benefitted or hindered each other. Additionally, I was also blessed to be involved with a publisher who had titles throughout the various market segments, and that interaction gave me insight into the overall aftermarket within the context of other specialty market niches.
For me, one of the more profound lessons I learned about the service level of the industry was the advantage tire dealers with service had over general repair shops. That advantage was a simple one: of all the aftermarket players, tire dealers usually had the first crack at a vehicle entering the aftermarket, usually seeking replacement rubber sometime in years three or four of ownership. With that advantage, successful tire dealers with a solid service operation could leverage that first-opportunity advantage to build service and repair relations with the vehicle owner – the one-stop automotive service stop that most consumers prefer.
That tire/service advantage has certainly been realized by the new car dealer service sector, with many car dealership service centers now strongly promoting tire sales at their locations, driving maintenance and repair to the dealer bays.
And, though many national and retail service chains have added tires to the sales/marketing mix, tires are not the primary driver toward aftermarket service.
According to a recently released car care consumer tracking research project from The NPD Group, oil change service is the leading driver of traffic through service bays and represents the greatest opportunity for cross-selling other services
Tire rotations, air filter replacements, and car washes are among the top services purchased at the same time as an oil change. The NPD’s Car Care Track, which monitors purchase behavior details of the DIYer and “do-it-for-me” aftermarket and repair consumer, points out that 24 percent of customers are purchasing tire rotations with their oil change, while 17 percent buy an air filter or cabin air filter replacement. And, 12 percent of oil change customers purchase a car wash or car detailing, with 11 percent purchasing wiper blades or brake service.
“With consumers driving less and softer demand for automotive maintenance and repair, automotive service outlets need to maximize each service occasion,” said David Portalatin, NPD executive director and aftermarket industry analyst. “Service providers who are providing just the oil and filter service are missing out on significant revenue opportunities.”
Car dealers and tire shops are much more effective at cross-selling tire rotating or balancing, according to Houston-based NPD. Repair shops are getting a higher percentage of brake service and a variety of repair and replacement-oriented occasions, the firm said, such as steering and suspension, fuel system, electrical and engine work. Quick lubes are more likely to cross-sell air filter replacements in conjunction with the oil change, according to NPD, but lag behind other service channels in all other categories.
“Each car that enters a service bay represents a finite opportunity for revenue growth. Once that car exits the bay, unperformed maintenance and repair represent lost sales that may prove difficult to capture on some future occasion,” said Portalatin. “Suppliers and service providers, working together, can evaluate the service mix and find opportunities for growth, while also offering consumers complete car care service.”
For me, the message here is that consumers may not expect every shop to do every type of service work, but they do prefer to do business with a service facility that can handle the “while you are at it” work that is both cost- and time-efficient for the consumer and the shop. Getting a vehicle serviced can be a real inconvenience for the car owner. So, when a shop can take care of a variety of services all on one stop, the consumer is satisfied and likely to return. And return business is the key to sustained success. When the shop offers “entry” services, opportunities will abound.
Gary A. Molinaro
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