Article

Missed Profit Opportunities

July 2008, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Don Reed - Also by this author

In the pursuit of additional profit opportunities in your service department, you must focus on maintenance of your customers’ vehicles. This is a missed opportunity for many dealers who do not perform complete, thorough inspections of their customers’ vehicles and do not make recommendations for preventative maintenance based on time, mileage, local conditions, etc. The value of these missed profit opportunities might surprise you.

To begin with, let me ask you this question: What percentage of your customers take delivery of their new or used vehicle and then, once they get home, remove that maintenance manual so they can review and study their required and recommended maintenance services? I don’t know the exact answer but I’m pretty confident the answer is, not very many. I’m talking about the transmission services, coolant flushes, air filters, pollen filters (which very few customers know they need), alignments, tire rotations, and the list goes on, and on. Everyone knows when to change the engine oil, but how many do you really think know when to perform all of those other maintenance services?

Next question: Are all of your customers mechanically inclined and can they perform all maintenance services on their vehicles themselves? Most customers rely upon someone with knowledge of their vehicle to provide recommendations for the proper maintenance and service on their vehicle.

It’s kind of like going to the dentist; the dentist performs an inspection of your teeth on each and every visit and makes recommendations to you based on the time since your last visit and the condition of your teeth. You know that you have to brush after every meal and floss, but there are other things your teeth need that you may not be aware of.

You rely upon a professional to help you maintain healthy teeth. An automobile customer is no different. They rely upon a professional, your technician or your service advisor, to properly advise them on how to maintain a reliable and safe vehicle which, in the long run, provides a much more enjoyable driving experience. There’s nothing worse than going on a trip with the family and having a problem occur with your vehicle, right?

Okay, so let’s look at the profit potential regarding this process of inspecting every vehicle and making recommendations to your customers for additional maintenance. In working with dealers all over the country, I have found that a complete and thorough inspection will produce, on average, an additional 0.7 hour of labor per retail work order. Let’s use the following assumptions when calculating the profit opportunity in our model dealership/service facility:

  • Retail labor rate of $85 per hour
  • Retail labor profit margin of 75% (Techs are paid $21.25 per hour)
  • Parts-to-labor sales ratio of 0.8-to-1 ($0.80 in parts sales = $1.00 in labor sales)
  • Retail parts profit margin of 45%
  • Average 500 retail work orders per month

By performing complete and thorough inspections of all 500 vehicles we find, on average, 0.7 additional hours to sell at $85 per hour equals $59.50 in labor sales. At a profit margin of 75 percent, this produces additional gross profit of $44.63. At a 0.8-to-1 ratio our parts sales would be $68 per hour with a profit margin of 45 percent, which produces additional gross profit of $30.60 per repair order. Add the two together, and our total additional gross profit equals $75.23 per work order. Multiply that by our 500 work orders and the result is an additional gross profit of $37,615 per month. That comes to $451,380 for the year, based on 500 work orders each month.

Now ask yourself this question: “How many additional vehicles would I need to sell throughout the year to produce another $451,380 in gross profit?” If your average gross profit per unit is $1,500, this equates to approximately 301 additional vehicles. Does that get your attention? The point is, you need to start looking at your service and parts departments as true profit centers that can not only stand on their own, but also actually generate enough profit to cover all of your dealership’s fixed expenses. That’s service absorption! This means you have less dependency on new and used vehicle sales to make a net profit, which becomes a huge benefit during a soft market, high interest rates, expensive fuel, bad weather and a whole lot of other ills.

In far too many dealerships, the service and parts departments are simply there to provide support for the sale and delivery of new and used vehicles. Their secondary role is to take care of all the warranty repairs, and last of all, if time permits, they will write a retail work order for cash business. I’ve actually been in a service department that told customers that if they didn’t buy their vehicle from the dealership, they were low priority.

If this philosophy makes sense to you, then welcome to the dark ages! As you can imagine, this dealer was losing money in his service and parts department in numbers that would take your breath away. Would you want to be a service advisor or service manager in that store? It’s worth noting that the turnover in those two positions was quite high.

Why would you want to operate any department in your dealership at a loss to support another department? I believe it makes a lot more sense to operate every department as a standalone enterprise that works with the other departments to maximize overall performance and profits. It’s called return on investment.

Vol 5, Issue 6

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