Shop Talk: Service departments part of dealership construction focus

Customer satisfaction with facilities, planning for EV service and storage all factors when thinking about dealership construction.
Automotive News - April 11, 2024

As dealerships are built or current facilities upgraded, service departments are part of the conversation, Sam Rockaway, vice president of sales at REDCOM Design & Construction in Westfield, N.J., said on a recent Automotive News Daily Drive episode.

Rockaway told host Jamie Butters that service facility comfort and space for EV service and storage have been top of mind for manufacturers and dealerships as they think about new construction or remodeling. Here are edited excerpts.

Q: Is there a greater emphasis on service departments, maybe dealers trying to have bigger service departments knowing that it’s going to be a bigger source of their profitability going forward?

A: Each time you get your car serviced, the OEMs randomly send customer surveys out to some of the dealers’ customers. Those surveys are very important. One of the questions on the survey is, ‘What do you think of the facilities you’re in?’ If they don’t get a 5 – the scale’s 1 to 5 – if they don’t get a 5 that survey goes right to the dealer and right to the brand rep. And they’re taken very seriously. They’re incentivized through those surveys. And if they’re not coming back [with] 5s, the brand rep and the brand is going to start trying to push on facilities and try to get them to upgrade them.

Q: Do EV’s present any special challenges in terms of wiring or service bays – things like that?

You need a special lift and the lifts have a weight capacity. And then they need to charge up the batteries. We do get a lot of calls to install EV chargers at the dealers’ stores and it’s an invasive procedure. It’s expensive and none of the dealers have enough electric to run them so we generally have to upgrade their service. It’s a significant investment for the dealer. There’s really no return on the investment in the near four to six years for the dealer. It’s just a challenge, but they’re all doing it. They’re doing it whether they’re happy about it or not.

Q: What are some challenges with storage of EV batteries?

As I walk through dealerships to look at their facilities, you go through the service bays and you see three to four batteries laying around on the floor. ‘Hey, why are they there? This car is brand new.’ There’s a recall or it’s not working right. They replace them. And while they’re replacing them the customer is back in their car driving around. What do they do with the battery in the meantime? There’s really nowhere to safely store the batteries and they’re worried about the batteries just catching on fire. If they catch on fire in their building they can’t be put out easily. It’s a problem and there’s no local code from a building standpoint – at least there wasn’t two months ago here in New Jersey – on how to erect and safely house batteries on sites. There’s no clear answers on what to do.

Click HERE for the link to the article or HERE to listen to the podcast.

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