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OEM to Aftermarket: Game On!

The future of the aftermarket is that knowledge will be the competitive edge, says our writer...

The industry has been re-set and the future of the aftermarket has begun. It is a new automotive world and the aftermarket must pay attention and be pro-active and not re-active.

The OEM Dealerships want to take on, and are taking on the aftermarket at its own game and the results, if they are allowed to win, will cost the aftermarket literally “billions” of dollars. The new rules of the game must be studied and understood. The aftermarket must adjust their game plan. Some of the strengths the OEM Dealerships are playing include:

Expanding Vehicle Warranties:
The OEM’s are expanding the no worry, maintenance free warranties and this is all intended to keep the consumer coming back to the dealership. By having up to four years of “no charge” maintenance warranties, the customer will be primed for after warranty service. Extended warranties are allowing the dealerships to win the purchase experience with women and the aftermarket has to get its head out of the sand and step up its game. Consider that women are contributing from 25% to as high as 50% in some regions of vehicle maintenance service and yet the aftermarket is not aggressively addressing this. The dealerships have aggressively made women feel like a “valued customer” and that has started the process of putting the OEM dealerships ahead of the aftermarket. Dealerships provide a clean, appealing environment for women to enter and experience their vehicle service. The service advisor staff are trained on how to speak “with” women where most of the aftermarket speaks “at” or “down” to women.

Technology is Moving Fast:
The OEM have stepped up the pace of technology development and implementation into their vehicles. This is not only creating a higher quality vehicle resulting in less break-down service but challenging the aftermarket to keep up in the amount of equipment required and skilled training requirements. The aftermarket must study and stay on top of vehicle technology by scheduling and attending, without exception, ongoing courses. Another big challenge that is not being spoken loud and clear by the aftermarket will be shop bottom-line profitability in order to afford technician competency and equipment cost. The aftermarket shop owner has been focused on “keeping busy” NOT creating and sustaining shop bottom-line net income. This attitude must change to stay in the game.

Service on Need not By Schedule:
This one factor is huge and can change the game out-come completely. The aftermarket prides itself on “scheduled maintenance”, however, with this marketing ploy the aftermarket is proving to the consumer that it is out of touch with vehicle quality development. When the vehicle is highly “intellectual” it monitors itself and warns the driver if something is wrong and when it should be serviced. Consider the incredible power of “On-star” which keeps the vehicle owner engaged monthly as it reports “all systems” to the driver.

The aftermarket must get its head around that every driver drives differently and at different mileage. “Herding” all the shops customers like cattle and treating them the same is just “out of touch”. Today the aftermarket is close to reaching the technology development of its own aftermarket warning system dubbed “After-star” and we hope it will be out within the next 2 years…….fingers crossed. This technology will allow the individual shop to install a full system into the clients vehicle, tying its client base back to the shop allowing the shop to fully monitor the vehicle on behalf of the client to schedule maintenance on need. These are only three examples of many where the change in the game has been made and all will become more prominent as we move forward.

How does the aftermarket address its future?
First: Recognize and clearly acknowledge that going back to the past is not an option. We are so much better to prepare ourselves for the future by learning to always look ahead and keep our focus on the end result desired. The result desire is total customer/client loyalty which will be built on trust, competency and the experience with their vehicle service.

Second: In a very complicated business and a more complicated world, it comes down to Corporate Values and the overall Corporate Culture. The aftermarket shop that will succeed will have ownership and management who know and understand that they work “on” the business and not “in” the business. The shop operates and thinks like a team focused on total client satisfaction. The total shop values and culture is in place and embraced. This is a profession today and the days of the “trade” are disappearing quickly in the sunset. Our new aftermarket will have room for thousands of new jobs, however they will only be for the educated. There will be no jobs available in this sector for the high school drop out. Knowledge will be the competitive edge.

Incredible opportunity is here and the OEM dealerships clearly see it. Does your shop want to play in this new game, or are you going to sit on the side lines, become an out of shape couch coach who has no effect at all on the outcome of the game but you feel good when you yell and scream at the play?

Much, much more in the print addition of Auto Atlantic.
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