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When I was a kid, my Dad and I would watch Robert Blake as the gritty undercover TV cop, Baretta.  I got a kick out of his cockatoo, Fred, and his CI, Rooster, but what I really loved was The Blue Ghost, Baretta’s ‘66 Impala.  On the outside it was a beat up, rusted out eyesore.  But under the hood was a raging beast ready to run down the bad guys no matter what they drove.  Thus began my affinity for sleepers.

Well, current economic realities have apparently gotten a lot of Americans thinking along the same lines.  Kelton Research recently conducted a national survey of motorists.  86% of them said that how well their engine ran was more important than how their vehicle looks, inside or out.  85% said they were more concerned with the longevity of their car than their homes. 

Here’s something interesting: 68% express how old their vehicle is in terms of mileage rather than years; and that a vehicle isn’t “old” until it hits 147,000 miles.  On average, they believe that a vehicle should be able to last for 200,000 miles.

If you fix and service vehicles, you know that you have your work cut out for you to hit that 200,000 mile mark.  And the first step is getting your customers to buy into what they need to do to actually make it happen. 

Over the years, one of AutoNetTV’s most popular topics has been “Making Your Vehicle Last”.  We’ve approached it from a dozen angles because it resonates so well with consumers and service advisors alike.  In doing the research for the segments, one of the things I found most interesting is the advice given by people who own vehicles with over 150,000 miles: Change Your Oil on Schedule

It’s easy to dismiss the simple oil change – but it really can mean a lot to vehicular longevity:

  • Changing your customer's oil on schedule is obviously good for their engine
  • When you perform a full service oil change, you’re topping off all of the other fluids.  That means that if a particular fluid does get low in between oil changes, it’s not going too long before it’s discovered so damage from low fluid isn’t as likely.  If the fluid loss is severe or persists beyond one change interval, you’ll look for leaks and get it repaired.
  • The oil change gives you an opportunity to review all of the other factory recommended services and make a plan for taking care of them
  • You can take advantage of the visit to do a walk-around and inspect for other items that need attention

The oil change can be the center of everything the vehicle needs to ensure long life.  It can also become the hub around which the relationship with your customer is built.  I wouldn’t be the first to suggest that you should pay very close attention to how oil changes fit into your marketing plan.

I’ve visited some service facilities that, based on price, really don’t want my oil change business.  They can defend the high price with their technician pay and shop cost structure.  But hanging on to that extra ten bucks means they are letting go of the chance to sell me another needed service based on my maintenance schedule or an issue uncovered in the inspection.  It’s hard to imagine that working out in the center’s economic favor. 

A dealership next to my office offers a very competitive oil change price – after receiving a mail-in rebate (in the form of a debit card).  I’m far too effective a procrastinator for that to work for me.  For my money, a good everyday low price, an occasional discount, discounted pre-paid oil changes or buy X and get the next free, all work. 

So keep your eye on the prize: A relationship with the customer in which they come to you for all their service and repair work, big or small. 

Keep your eye on the prize – that would have been a good name for this article, but “Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow” was Baretta’s theme song, so let’s go with that.

Lance Boldt is Vice President and Co-Founder of AutoNetTV.  AutoNetTV’s digital signage products deliver entertaining and educational TV programming to the lobbies of automotive service and repair businesses as well as digital menu boards and automotive website video content.