How do they really make money? Confessions of a service manager

What do they really make the most money from? Do they upsell unnecessary stuff? And why do they charge for that screenwash? Wonder no more...


Q: What is your view on labelling of master technicians and other such titles? From the outside it's all a bit 'Apple Genius Bar'.

A: A diagnostic scan all told will take about 20-30 minutes. The real skill comes in the interpretation of the results - hence your Master Tech (MT), who may well be qualified to degree level. They're clever blokes and ours certainly was, so deserved recognition of his skills.

Also the scan doesn't necessarily tell you what's wrong. Part of the interpretation is knowing when further checks are required-of the components, wiring and ECU's in a circuit. Modern Controller Area Network-bus electronics also mean the car is one big network - so a fault in one component could trigger a fault code in what may seem an unrelated ECU. It's the MT's job to get to the bottom of all this.


Q: How do dealers of premium cars especially justify their very high charges for services?

A: Some customers want the latest thing, with the best badge, but don’t want to pay to maintain it. Unfortunately a prestige car comes complete with prestige running costs. It smarts a bit paying main dealer prices; but this protects a car's value, and the dealer usually knows their stuff.

Presumably people think that the extra it has cost you at the franchise dealer is worth it in reducing loss in resale value or they would have gone to an independent who wouldn't have done the things that you moan about and charged you less. In that sense it is value for money.

At the end of the day it’s the customer’s choice where/when/if they have their vehicle serviced. They just need to accept the ramifications if they don’t follow the manufacturer’s schedule.

Typically however, those who don’t stick to the schedule are usually the whingers that will want the manufacturer to warrant their cholesterol filled engine when it chucks a rod through the block, the heater fan that’s burnt out because it’s breathing through a choked pollen filter or the coil pack that has failed as it’s trying to ignite a worn out spark plug...

Or those who want goodwill after the warranty has expired yet the car has never seen the inside of a dealer’s workshop for something that is paid for by the customer!

Q: Is it worth having Supagard (a type of interior protection) applied by a dealer?

A: Personally, I wouldn’t buy it. However, I’m a car cleaning freak so it would be wasted on me anyway. In my honest opinion it’s a waste of time if the car receives a reasonable amount of care in its life. The valeters apply it - usually with a minimum amount of training so the results can be varied!

Q: What's the most profitable job from a service point of view? i.e. what earns you the most money for the least hassle?

A: It’s usually service work or things like changing brakes.

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