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Taking Advantage of Vehicle Recalls

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In February 2017, BMW recalled over 230,000 cars and SUVs in the U.S that may have faulty Takata airbag inflators after the original inflators from another manufacturer were replaced. Takata airbags can explode with too much force and discharge shrapnel into the driver and passengers. The recall has become the largest recall in the industry’s history with 19 automakers in the U.S recalling 69 million inflators.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) first recalled the airbags in 2014 following Senate testimony of Stephanie Erdman, whose face was severely maimed in a 2013 accident. In her testimony, Erdman said that what should have been a moderate impact, changed her life forever.

In mid-December the NHTSA created a strategic plan to make a future free from motor vehicle fatalities which included areas in proactive vehicle safety, advanced vehicle technologies and human factors.

For many shops, the standard process for dealing with vehicle recalls is to check their information system, see what customers have cars with recalls and then notify them, says Gary Keyes, owner of E&M Motors and a former board member of the Automotive Service Association. However, what’s frequently missed is that recalls could mean the loss of business for the shop if a customer is enticed to keep visiting his or her dealership.

While repair shops might only be the first to notify customers regarding recalls, they can also get ahead of losing customers to competitors.


Acting as the Middleman

Bill Haas, consultant and owner of Haas Performance Consulting LLC, says a shop should never let its customers have any experience with a competitor.  

“Nowadays, we see car dealerships wanting to do maintenance services and that kind of thing,” Haas says. “There’s a chance [the customer] can go there and have a really great experience.”

One solution to get ahead of recalls is to act as the middleman. Haas says shops should handle all the paperwork and bring the car into the dealership for the customer in order to be a one-stop service site.

However, Keyes says this option does come with some drawbacks. For example, when Honda had airbag recalls, it offered customers rental cars for about three months while they waited for parts to arrive, Keyes says. He doesn’t want to be put in a position of constantly having to call the dealership and mediate problems.

Another problem Haas has noticed is that if the customer brings their vehicle to the dealership, the dealership has the opportunity to point out “missed” repairs on the customer’s car. He says to prevent this from happening, the shop needs to create a relationship of trust with the customer.

Early on in establishing that relationship, the shop needs to notify the customer that if he or she has any questions at all concerning their vehicle to come in and talk with the shop, Haas says. A shop could run into a situation where customers become angry the shop never divulged their car needed repairs.


A Systematic Process

Recalls show the customer that automakers might be trying to cut corners and build the car as cheap as possible, Keyes says. Shops should at the very least reach out to the customer about every recall that they are notified of in their database.

If shops don’t want to deal with acting as the go-between for customers, Keyes says they should still reach out after the recall repair work is done by the dealership.

“Let them know you’re interested it was done correctly,” Keyes says.

Following up on repairs creates goodwill with the customer, he says. Despite time loss for the shop, Haas says these steps are a way for the shop to have a value-added service that ultimately helps create a lasting relationship with the customer. Haas and Keyes outline a three-step process for properly dealing with recalls:

  1. Call the dealer. Shops should make the customer’s appointment with the dealership, Haas says. The customer doesn’t interact with the dealership in this way.
  2. Handle the car. Have the customer drop the car off at the shop and then have a shuttle driver or office assistant drop the car off at the dealership, Haas says. Don’t forget to pick the car up when it’s done.
  3. Do the paperwork. Have the paperwork, including receipts, done by the time the customer comes to pick up the car, Haas says.

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