Promoting Vehicle Maintenance as Warm Weather Approaches
With springtime around the corner, people’s thoughts often turn to warmer weather, vacation planning and preventive vehicle maintenance. Actually, most car owners only think about two out of the three, according to Dominic Umek, group business unit leader for Conrad’s Tire Express & Total Car Care, a 38-location dealership based in Cleveland, Ohio.
Very few consumers proactively think about vehicle maintenance before winter changes to spring, he says. That’s a mindset that Conrad’s Tire is working to change.
Conditioned to ignore?
Some customers have been conditioned to ignore preventive, seasonal maintenance because of “the technology and quality advancements of vehicles,” says Umek.
“Back in my youth, people were accustomed to getting their cars tuned up annually. With all of the vehicle quality enhancements, the uptime of today’s vehicle versus what it used to be 30 years ago has dramatically improved.
“I think people are becoming less focused on preventive maintenance. That’s why it’s so important to communicate the manufacturers’ recommended service intervals every time a customer visits.
“We’re trying to educate them that the manufacturer of their car says, ‘These things should be done’’ at certain times, says Umek. “So much of our business now is maintenance-oriented and mileage- or age-driven. It’s not as much symptom-driven.
"That makes it much more challenging for the sales associate to communicate the need and justification for a service.”
Sometimes the solution is as simple as grabbing a vehicle’s owners manual and pointing out a manufacturer-recommended service interval.
“We focus on, ‘It’s not us recommending this. It’s the people who make the car you are driving who are saying these things should be done.’
“Pointing to a third party - like the car’s manufacturer - is the best chance to get on the customer’s side of the counter,” says Umek, which is important when trying to make the sale.
A/C and alignments
Vehicle inspections are another effective tool to educate customers as seasons change.
“The multi-point vehicle inspection is what I would call the core offering we do both in spring and in the fall. It’s going to hit all of the major vehicle systems. We look at brakes, suspensions, fluid levels and conditions, filters and obviously, tires.
“Where things differ - at least in our messaging - is that customers seem to be more responsive to additional things in spring, like checking air conditioning system efficiency.”
Conrad’s Tire customers also are receptive to messaging around wheel alignments, explains Umek. “In northeastern Ohio, obviously, the weather destroys the roads so badly” during the winter months.
“Everyone remembers hitting a pothole, so we focus on wheel alignments. The messaging there is ‘Come in and have your alignment checked for free to protect the investment you have in your tires.’
The need for seasonal vehicle maintenance “will always be there,” says Umek.
“It’s no different than going to the doctor. Customers might know that as their vehicles age, there are probably things that need attention. But many just aren’t thinking, ‘It’s time to get my coolant or transmission fluid changed.’ It’s our job, as professionals, to continually educate them.
“Now, there are exceptions,” he says. “There are customers that - to this day - think of the seasons and say, ‘I better get my car checked out before we go on vacation.’ But I will tell you, that is a small minority. The rest need to be continuously educated."
April is National Car Care Month
The Car Care Council supports two months each year to educate consumers about the importance of vehicle care and preventive maintenance: National Car Care Month in April and Fall Car Care Month in October.
“In April, as winter comes to an end, it is time to get (cars) ready for spring driving and summer road trips,” says the Car Care Council’s website. “It’s important to make sure your tires, brakes and windshield wipers are ready for the rain and take care of any issues that may have occurred or been ignored during winter.”
For more information about National Car Care Month and to order a free Car Care Guide that can be shared with your customers, visit www.carcare.org/car-care-months.