Find or Sell any Parts for Your Vehicle in USA

Chrysler pushes Saturday service and sees Sunday as the next frontier

Mon, 06 Dec 2010

Chrysler Group's Mopar parts and service division is ratcheting up efforts to get more dealers to open service departments on Saturday.

Starting in January, Mopar will open all of its 20 North American parts distribution centers on Saturdays. In April, Mopar launched Saturday hours for its help desk so dealership service technicians could call with questions about repair issues.

Saturday hours can boost revenues for dealers--and Mopar. Coupled with Mopar's Express Lane oil change service, Saturday hours help dealers compete in a marketplace crowded with quick lube and light maintenance shops that stay open all weekend. Chrysler estimates there are 37 such independent shops competing with each dealership.

Chrysler says 69 percent of its dealers were open Saturday as of Oct. 31, up from 60 percent at the beginning of the year.

Chrysler used a little psychology to help persuade dealers of the wisdom of staying open on Saturday. Last spring, field office workers went into the field with cameras.

"We used the tactic of taking pictures showing the competition open on Saturday," said Jim Sassorossi, Mopar's director of sales. Those photos of Dodges, Chryslers and Jeeps up on Jiffy Lube hoists got some dealers thinking.

Also, Mopar is offering dealers who stay open Saturday a small percentage of co-op advertising funds to advertise their service departments.

More alignments

Brian Dennis, owner of Eastchester Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge in the Bronx borough of New York, recently heeded Mopar's call to open his service department on Saturday. Before the change, Dennis couldn't help but notice all the Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles on the lifts at the Jiffy Lube near his dealership on Saturday mornings.

Since he began opening his service department on Saturday, "We've gotten a little of their business, and we're retaining our own."

Dennis says he's getting some of the rival shops' customers at his Express Lane operation, Mopar's quick service brand. Before Express Lane, it took his service department up to an hour to do an oil change. When a car comes in for an oil change now, three technicians swarm.

While a "wet tech" changes the oil, a "dry tech" goes around the car with a checklist, looking at brakes, wipers, mufflers and other items. A third does the write-up. The oil change takes 15 to 25 minutes.

Dennis says at least one-third of those customers are following up their oil changes with bigger jobs.

"One of most noticeable places we've seen uptick is in alignment. We had some pretty expensive equipment to do alignments--$60,000 worth of Hunter lifts and alignment equipment--and they collected a fair amount of dust" before the Saturday opening, Dennis said.

Second try

Brent Locey, director of fixed operations at Courtesy Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge in Grand Rapids, Mich., said he tried Saturday service about five years ago, but it didn't work.

"We staffed it wrong, and we did not have support from factory. We were only open four hours."

This time, Locey said, Saturday service ramped up quickly since he began Saturday operations in October.

"It's really becoming a sixth workday. When it's staffed right and you have the right hours and the right people, you can really make it happen."

Now Courtesy's service department is open from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. Locey says he already is doing about 70 percent of the business of a normal weekday.

"The first weekend we worked on 18 cars; this past weekend we worked on 55. On a regular day we write up 80 to 100. My objective is to mirror a regular workday."

Pietro Gorlier, CEO of Mopar, is even talking about dealerships opening on Sunday, when state and local laws permit. "Sunday is going to be the next step," he said.

With warranty revenues down because of higher vehicle quality, Gorlier wants dealers to get as much post warranty and light maintenance business as they can. "I even saw some lube shops open on Thanksgiving," he says. "When I see that, this is my nightmare. Every time I see one that is open and I am not able to match the service in that moment, this is something that is making me sick."

By Bradford Wernle- Automotive News