Ford Motor Co. plans to expand its Quick Lane program by 100 repair shops this year.
Quick Lane is Ford's program to win back business lost to independent oil change and repair shops. The auto maker is pushing the Quick Lane concept aggressively at its 4,400 U.S. dealerships to get more than warranty work for service bays.
``Now that their warranty work is dropping, dealers must look at other ways to recoup that business,'' said Sherman Levitt, alternative service project manager for Ford's Customer Service Division.
According to the Detroit-based auto maker, Ford and Lincoln-Mercury dealers opened 80 Quick Lane shops last year. That's the most in any year since the program began as a pilot in 1997. It brought the total number of Quick Lanes to 279.
Quick Lanes can be stand-alone service operations or attached to a dealership. They have a dedicated manager and technicians, as well as their own signs and advertising campaigns. About one in three Quick Lanes is a stand-alone shop, according to Ford.
Some dealers have opened more than one Quick Lane.
Fairway Ford Inc. of Greenville, S.C., has two Quick Lanes-both stand-alone buildings.
``When they are stand-alone, there's more of an opportunity to pick up on competitive-make repair work,'' said Fred Sizemore, Fairway Ford's service manager.
In fact, 45 percent of Fairway Ford's Quick Lane customers drive a competing brand, Mr. Sizemore said.
Nationally, Quick Lane shops are doing about 22 percent non-Ford business, he said.
Mr. Sizemore said his marketing effort for Quick Lane emphasizes that ``we work on all makes and models of vehicles. We went after a whole new customer base.''
Each of his Quick Lane shops has six service bays. The shops are getting about 25 vehicles a day.
Fairway Ford's Quick Lanes, which opened in 2000, offer tires and tire rotation, oil changes, brake repair, struts and shock absorbers, batteries, tune-ups, exhaust systems and cooling system service.
Nationally, Quick Lane shops last year had 1.75 million customers. Ford said the program works because many consumers have the perception that car dealership service takes too long, costs too much and is less convenient than going to an independent repair facility.
Into the `black hole'
``They think their car goes into this black hole never to be seen again,'' Mr. Levitt said of auto dealerships.
Ford's Quick Lane goal is $10,000 per bay per month in revenue. The 279 Quick Lane stores are exceeding that goal, Mr. Levitt said.
That is the case at Mr. Sizemore's shops. He reported his shops normally generate $11,000 to $12,000 per bay per month.
A dealer's investment in a Quick Lane can range from $100,000 to $500,000, depending on whether it is a stand-alone or part of the existing dealership building, Mr. Levitt said. The average investment is in the $200,000 to $300,000 range.
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Quick Lane quick facts
* Number of shops: 279
* Customers served last year: 1.75 million
* Tires sold last year: 315,000
* Average age of vehicle serviced: 5.2 years
* Average mileage of vehicles serviced: 53,000
* Ford's revenue goal: $10,000 per service bay per month
Source: Ford Motor Co.