Automotive News Canada - February 2020 - v2 - F13

FIXED OPS JOURNAL

HANDS ON

VALUE SHOPPER

Dealers offer expertise, but factories should help them stay competitive on repairs

E

ven though my car is long out of
warranty, I still look to the dealer
first for service. If I am not going
to fix the car myself, I am willing
to pay more for genuine factory parts
installed by a pair of factory-trained hands,
especially if the repair involves a
nonregular, nonmaintenance job that
requires deep surgery.
Knowing that job is going to be done
properly the first time by a technician who
RICHARD
knows my car inside and out is, to me,
TRUETT
worth paying a premium.
rtruett@crain.com
But of the three repairs my 2010 Mini
Fixed Ops Journal
Cooper S needed recently, the dealer won
just one. I did the front brake job myself in
my driveway using high-quality aftermarket Bosch pads and sensors I
purchased for $90, or about 20 percent less than the local Mini dealer's
parts department charges. I could have bought those same
replacement parts on Amazon for even less, around $70, but I didn't
want to wait for them to be delivered. I also saved the roughly $154-perhour labor rate that most dealers charge.

Dealer advantage
A leaky thermostat housing is a common issue on Mini Coopers of
that era. When mine began dripping in December, the first thing I did
was check the do-it-yourself repair videos on YouTube to see if this was
a job that fell within my decent repair skill set and one that I had the
proper tools to carry out. The part could be purchased for as little as $34
on eBay. But the thermostat housing is buried in the engine bay,
requiring the removal of many components, several of which have
multiple electrical connections. That combined with cold weather - I
have an unheated garage - convinced me to let the Mini dealer tackle
this one. Even though the total bill was $620, there was good value
there, and I was happy with the service and price. Let me explain.
To get a taxi ride home from the dealership and back again (I don't
use Uber or Lyft) would have cost about $50. The dealer's shuttle saved
me from spending that. The new, genuine BMW thermostat housing
has a 2-year/unlimited-mileage warranty. If it breaks, BMW replaces it
and covers the entire repair. If an aftermarket thermostat housing fails
within a year, you might be able to return it for a replacement, but you'll
pay again for the labor to install it. Finally, as with many dealers, my
Mini store treated my car to a free full inspection.
The dealer uses the Hunter Quick Check system, so as the car was
driven into the bay, the alignment and tire depth were checked. It was
disappointing to learn that three of the four new Michelin tires I had
installed in 2018 were wearing out after just 16,000 miles. I never would
have thought of checking the tread so soon after installing new tires,
but after this winter, they'll be replaced.
Since I bought the car used, I had concerns about the health of the
battery, but it checked out. So did all the other fluids and, of course, the
brakes. That inspection added value to the repair. So did a coupon for
$50 off an oil service, another job I am loath to do in the driveway
during a Detroit winter. Even though I could have done the thermostat

RICHARD TRUETT

One Mini dealer quoted a replacement windshield at $740. An
aftermarket windshield sells for $252. This is one example where
automakers have to help dealers compete with independent shops.

housing job myself or paid an independent garage to do it for less, this
experience shows how the dollar figure on the repair order doesn't
always tell the whole story.

Too high to justify
But a replacement windshield is where my Mini dealer didn't come
close to winning my business. Henderson Glass, a national chain,
charges $252 to replace the windshield on a 2010 Cooper. My dealer
quoted $740. I am willing to pay a little extra for a Mini-branded
windshield, but not close to $500 more. It's an expense I can't justify.
On common repairs such as windshield replacements, the factory
needs to help dealers be more competitive with aftermarket shops.
My colleague Larry P. Vellequette was quoted $600 for the purchase
and installation of two small electrical switches into the tailgate of his
wife's 2014 Fiat 500. But that tailgate was damaged in an accident and
needed bodywork and paint. Today, the car is fixed, but Larry's dealer
got nothing. Larry found a tailgate the same color in a local junkyard
and had it shipped to a body shop and installed for $675. The dealer
would have been given the repair job if the switches cost less, Larry
says. Moral of the story: Amazon, eBay, scrapyards are a just a few of the
places people are shopping and saving money.
I think it's time automakers do more to help dealers compete on price
with independent garages, especially for 6- to 10-year-old cars. The
factory markup on parts is often 40 percent or more. Could the
automakers lower that margin as vehicles age and use these lower
prices as well as the spiffs the service department provides - such as
inspections, shuttle service and discount coupons - to boost retention
of out-of-warranty cars? 

FEBRUARY 2020

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Automotive News Canada - February 2020 - v2

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Automotive News Canada - February 2020 - v2

Automotive News Canada - February 2020 - v2 - Intro
Automotive News Canada - February 2020 - v2 - 1
Automotive News Canada - February 2020 - v2 - 2
Automotive News Canada - February 2020 - v2 - 3
Automotive News Canada - February 2020 - v2 - 4
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Automotive News Canada - February 2020 - v2 - 28
Automotive News Canada - February 2020 - v2 - F1
Automotive News Canada - February 2020 - v2 - F2
Automotive News Canada - February 2020 - v2 - F3
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Automotive News Canada - February 2020 - v2 - F5
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Automotive News Canada - February 2020 - v2 - F13
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Automotive News Canada - February 2020 - v2 - F32
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