DETROIT-As if there weren't enough competition among service shops for motorists' dollars, General Motors Corp. plans to turn up the heat more. The carmaker will begin testing dealer-owned satellite auto repair centers early next year, said William Lovejoy, GM's Service Parts Operations manager.
The service-only repair centers will let dealers perform service work that takes two hours or less, such as repairs to brakes, shocks and exhaust systems and oil changes.
GM plans four as yet undetermined test sites. They will be awarded to dealers whose customers don't mind driving 30 or 40 miles to buy a vehicle but won't drive that far for service, Mr. Lovejoy said.
The centers are an offshoot of another pilot program, Goodwrench Service Plus, an in-dealership service plan whose hallmarks are courtesy transportation, extended or convenient service hours, lifetime warranties on parts and service, and competitive menu pricing. It now includes more than 275 dealers in six cities.
Both plans are geared to help dealers give their customers more access to GM service facilities and to compete with independent repair shops for out-of-warranty repair business, Mr. Lovejoy said.
While dealer-owned, stand-alone service centers are scarce, the concept is growing.
Chrysler Corp. has toyed with the idea for a few years, dealers said. And Mercedes-Benz is close to announcing where its first off-site, dealer-owned ``Customer Convenience Centers'' will be located, said a spokeswoman. The satellites will offer service and parts for small repairs and quick service jobs, such as oil changes-in up to four major markets in 1996.
Ford Motor Co. pioneered the concept of dealer-owned, stand-alone repair shops in 1992, and currently has three Ford Auto Care Centers: in Tucson, Ariz., Naugatuck, Conn., and Jacksonville, Fla.