2 min read

3 Reasons Independent Dealers Must Be in the Service Business

As the automotive industry evolves, pre-owned dealers need to think differently. 

Now more than ever, an easy target for growth will be in your service center. Here are three compelling reasons why it's time dealers double down on their own businesses.

Independent dealers often face a significant disconnect when it comes to offering express service items. From oil changes to brakes and tires, these services create a recurring loyalty that cultivates repeat business. Many industries, like healthcare services, have figured out that family doctors retain way more patients with specialists at their disposal. That's why many healthcare systems benefit from one-stop healthcare offerings. It’s not all that different in transportation. Getting more frequent customer short-term revenue creates more connecting long-term revenue - like purchasing another car.

While larger dealership chains and some franchises have streamlined their service operations to provide quick, efficient maintenance, independent dealers often lag behind. This gap can lead to the loss of business to more efficient competitors. By implementing express service options, independent dealers can meet customer expectations for speed and convenience, enhancing satisfaction and loyalty. This change not only retains existing customers but also attracts new ones who value their time and expect high-quality, prompt service. The number one influencer for consumer spending is time. Ask yourself, is my business prioritizing the time expense of the customer?

2. Let's Stop Repurchasing New Customers

One of the most overlooked benefits of your service business is its potential to boost repeat customers. Dealers may not fully realize the added value of maintaining a continuous relationship with their customers throughout the vehicle lifecycle. Regular maintenance and service appointments provide touchpoints to reconnect with customers, remind them of their vehicle's needs, and offer additional services or products. By keeping customers engaged and satisfied with their service experience, dealers can increase repeat business and build long-term loyalty. 

Where would you want your customer standing when they find out a major repair is needed on their vehicle? Perhaps a place that might influence the next move as trading their car? The answer is, hopefully, in your service drive. Too many dealers only see the option of increasing advertising expenses to continue to find new buyers. You could spend a lot less, and make a lot more, by retaining those who already know you and might consider your dealership the next time.

3. It's Never Been A Better Time To Expand Your Service Business

In 2024, the United States saw its largest aging of inventory in operation of vehicles, with the average vehicle age reaching 11.4 years in service. This trend indicates that customers are holding onto their cars longer than ever before, which directly impacts the sheer quantity of service opportunities. As vehicles age, they require more frequent and complex maintenance to remain reliable and safe. Dealers can capitalize on this opportunity by offering comprehensive service packages tailored to all ages of vehicles. By doing so, they address a critical need in the market, positioning themselves as essential partners in their customers' vehicle ownership journey. The service business stands to soar as more customers seek trustworthy and skilled service providers to maintain their aging vehicles.

Independent dealers who invest in their service departments can bridge the gap in express service, strengthen customer relationships, leverage the aging vehicle market to drive growth, and finally do something we have lacked for some time. Let’s cover our overhead and all our operating costs, as a well-absorbed new vehicle dealer does. Wouldn't it be nice to know the first vehicle you sell, on the first of every month, went straight to the bottom line?

Mark Gilbert is the CEO of ATN Management and Automotive Training Network, the parent company of Black Ops - A Fixed Ops Dealer Installation Partner