More than 700 auto dealers have signed up for a new service from MSN Autos designed to bring more business to car dealership service bays.
The dealers, representing more than 1,200 franchises, have been accepting online vehicle service and repair appointments from consumers at autos.msn.com.
The feature was launched last December through an agreement with ADP Dealer Services Group in Portland, Ore., a dealer management systems provider.
The service is designed to increase a dealer's service business, especially by bringing customers back to the franchised dealer for service-customers who left the dealer after their warranty had expired.
Early indications suggest the strategy is working. For example, 15 percent of the service appointments made online were for pre-1993 model year vehicles. These are vehicles that are likely beyond the factory warranty, said Iain Smith, ADP vice president of e-commerce business development.
One in five people making the appointments represents a new customer for the dealership, he said.
Car dealers booking service appointments through MSN Autos find that nearly half of these customers make the appointments at night after the typical dealer service bays close.
In addition, 83 percent of those who book through the service show up for their appointment. About 250 online service appointments are being booked a month, and MSN Autos users spend an average of $300 per repair or service order.
Dealers pay an $8 fee per service appointment made through the Internet service.
When an MSN Autos user makes an online appointment request, it is transmitted from the portal to an ADP server, and then on to a dealer.
Many more dealers are needed for the service. Participating dealers have been able to fulfill only 10 percent of the requests coming from the MSN Autos users.
Marketing of the service to dealers began during the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) convention in February.
MSN Autos attracts more than 12 million monthly users. It hit a new monthly record of 17 million users in January, attributed in part to its online coverage of the Detroit auto show.
Because this is a non-exclusive agreement, and any dealer can sign up for the service, there is huge growth potential, said Scott Ehlers, business development manager at MSN Autos.
Neither party would provide financial details of the partnership.