Steering clear of franchised dealer service departments? Maybe it’s time to think again

The competition for car servicing business is a battle that looks set to continue for quite some time yet. Repairers like Kwik-Fit and Halfords are striving to present car drivers with a real choice when considering their options at service time.

However it looks as if franchised dealers are finally facing up to the battle.

Having taken customers for granted and expecting these poor beleaguered motorists to keep coming back year after year despite the perception that they were being right royally ripped off, it seems as if the tide may be turning.

It is refreshing to see that dealers and their manufacturer masters, having at last recognised the exodus of original customers, are finally doing something about it and meeting the challenge head on.

I witnessed an example of this happened recently when I was on the periphery of a conversation about this very subject. In fact i was ear-wigging if the truth be told, but I have no reason to disbelieve the chain of events and it certainly made interesting listening.

An old chap, maybe 70 – which in today’s world is probably not that old, in fact I can only dream about looking as good as this bloke at that age, however I digress – was recounting to his friends an experience which happened to him recently and which immediately resonated with a nosy insider like me. Due to the bad weather and the fact that his wife was recovering from a major operation, the second car, which happened to be a VW Beetle cab (the main family car was a brand new Merc estate I found out later) had not had a run out for several months and the lack of activity meant that it wouldn’t start when our chap tried to take it out for a drive.

He immediately tried to jump start it but gave up probably a bit too quickly and decided to buy a new battery. This is where the story got my interest. He went first to his local Fred in the shed garage and was quite surprised not only by the lack of interest shown in his enquiry but in their unwillingness to assist him in anyway whatsoever. Having been told that they didn’t have his battery in stock they seemed completely ambivalent when it came to actually taking the time to locate and quote him for one, so he moved on to Halfords (should have gone there first I remember thinking at the time).

Halfords quoted him £98, having probably not bought a battery for some years he thought this was somewhat pricey and coupled with the fact that he would have to go there with the battery and then come back and install it himself meant that £98 felt a bit steep to him.

In desperation (ok maybe more in hope) he contacted his local VW dealer and was astounded to find that for £113 they would come to his house take the old battery away and fit the new one!

Now you have had time to digest this, I dare say some may say I would rather buy from Halfords and fit it myself but the point of the story is that hands up how many guessed that the main dealer would be the best in terms of service but also quite price competitive?

Usually this story is in reverse in that you are met with lethargy and awkwardness by the main dealer, don’t have a Halfords near enough and the little local man is the knight in shining armour.
In this case however, shopping around for something as small but maybe as awkward to sort out as a car battery, is just as important in terms of its impact (i.e. you can’t drive your car) and that the perception that the main dealer will always be the most expensive might just not be the case anymore.

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