The bar keeps rising for automotive OEMs and service providers as all segments of the industry find new ways to make it easier to serve customers.
This week, General Motors announced it will expand its “Shop-Click-Drive” web application to dealers nationwide. The app, which allows consumers to research cars and lock in prices online, has reportedly been tested in several states since 2012.
The Shop-Click-Drive website explains that its purpose is to combine the convenience of online shopping with the personal service of a neighborhood dealership. Customers can shop inventory and receive personal assistance from participating dealers, all of whom are listed on the website.
This comes at a time when dealerships, like everyone else, are fighting increasing cost pressures. GM dealers aren’t required to participate in the program, but those that don’t know they risk losing sales to other GM dealers who are listed on the Shop-Click-Drive website.
From the standpoint of an independent aftermarket shop competing with OEM dealerships for service work, this online shopping capability marks another tool in the OEM arsenal to win not just the new car sale, but a bigger piece of the aftermarket pie: ongoing aftermarket service.
Aftermarket shop owners know that OEM dealers have been targeting service work more aggressively in recent years to compensate for lower profit margins on new car sales. Nearly all OEMs mandate dealers to carry more new vehicles, as well as more elaborate showrooms and increasingly complex repair tools. Dealers may resist these mandates at first, but those who are able to understand and execute better ways of doing business become stronger competitors.
GM recognizes that consumer shopping habits are changing. They want to be ahead of the curve as consumers go to their phone in the early stages of their shopping excursions. The dealers who understand this (view the list on the Shop-Click-Drive website) are already on board.
The same holds true for the independent aftermarket shop. The aftermarket shop doesn’t usually see a vehicle until the warranty period ends, but being ready to diagnose a problem post warranty is becoming more challenging just the same. The shop has to be ready when the car arrives for repair.
With more control units and error codes to deal with, aftermarket shops have to decide what vehicles they are capable of working on. They need the training, the tools and the expertise to understand the control systems of newer vehicles. This gets more challenging by the day. Many shops are realizing they have to decide which brands they want to focus on in order to be sufficiently service ready.