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Published on September 14, 1998

DEALERS FACE SERVICE CHALLENGE

Independent tire dealers should pay close attention to what some of their biggest competitors are doing to attract service business. If they don't, dealers may find themselves losing sales to other service providers that better meet customers' needs.

Automakers, including Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp. and Chrysler Corp., for example, are all experimenting with programs aimed at capturing more of the automotive service business now going to independent repair shops and national chains.

Ford, for the first time ever, tested nationally advertised price specials this summer on light repairs and maintenance. The company said it wanted to help its new-car dealers compete with aggressive aftermarket service chains.

GM, meanwhile, is testing mobile service vans at several GM Service Plus new-car dealerships. With ever-increasing demands on people's time, ``this is a way to more conveniently fit vehicle service into their busy schedules,'' the company said.

Several other automakers are looking at or have established dealer-operated satellite auto service facilities.

In addition, many new-car dealers are expanding service hours to compete with independent repair facilities and attract customers.

Tire dealers should take these moves seriously and consider what they can do to drive business their way.

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