Vehicles that are used primarily for urban driving always require more maintenance than those used outside the city.
What's more, a trend toward increased stop-and-go driving should spell more service opportunities for alert tire dealers and service shop operators.
However, capitalizing on these potential maintenance opportunities still hinges on service personnel who are aware of the importance of an accurate vehicle history. Simply put, those who can't be bothered with vehicle history can't be bothered with legitimately maximizing sales and improving customer satisfaction.
Regular Tire Business readers likely recall that I've carped about vehicle history in previous columns. My experience has convinced me that it's a topic we cannot overemphasize. Competent auto service providers should behave like good doctors or fitness coaches. That is, tailor the service to the usage in the same way that a doctor or coach tailors a diet and fitness regimen to the patient or client.
For example, the recommendation for a desk-bound, chunky chap will differ from that of the rail-thin courier who never sits down all day.
Likewise, a vehicle that's primarily driven in the city and suburbia tends to run hotter because it idles much more than a car used outside the city. Frequently it also runs at very slow speeds due to traffic crawl-a condition where there isn't much air flowing into the grill and engine compartment.
The city car's automatic transmission tends to generate more heat simply because it's shifting more often than the highway vehicle does. (In all fairness, improvements in transmission and torque converter clutch controls have reduced some of these inefficiencies.) Any savvy transmission specialist will agree that more frequent fluid changes are prudent for ``citified'' driving patterns.
Of course, engines that idle a great deal due to city usage tend to wear more just because often the powerplant is running-turning-but the drive wheel and odometer are not. Of course, brakes also take a bigger beating per mile when the car's mostly driven in the city.
Our definition of city probably needs a fresh look, too. The congestion in some suburban areas is every bit as intense as that within official city limits.
What's more, a colleague just sent me a report from Lang Marketing Resources Inc. (www.langmarketing.com), a name familiar to many in the aftermarket. The consulting firm specializes in marketing analysis for the vehicle products industry.
Several of the report's findings are newsworthy for all service personnel. First, nearly two-thirds of vehicle mileage in 2006 was urban driving. Plus, commuting mileage, which is increasingly stop-and-go driving, increased faster than total miles driven. Third, the average domestic car was 10.9 years old at the beginning of 2006. Fourth, the average light vehicle was approaching 100,000 miles of service in 2006. That's the average, mind you.
Although this report's information should bode well for smart service providers, it doesn't relieve them of the obligation to learn the vehicle history and usage. To me, it also underscores the need for service sales people to read as many owners' manuals as possible. In countless situations, they'll find that the vehicle maker's own definitions indicate when a car is undergoing severe-duty service. That means it needs more frequent fluid changes-not to mention more frequent replacement of items such as spark plugs, filters, oxygen sensors, etc.
Citing an authoritative, third-party source such as the auto maker's own literature should help you cull more legitimate maintenance jobs from the trends cited in the Lang report. Using the right source is one way to boost trust and customer loyalty. An emphasis on proper maintenance improves customer relations simply because it ultimately saves the customer money and increases peace of mind. It does this by making the vehicle run better, longer. It reduces operating costs as well as the risk of breakdowns.
You're the doctor-the automotive fitness coach. Tailor the regimen to the trends I listed earlier and let me know if it doesn't create a bigger, more loyal following.