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Dealerships, they are a changin’ …

April 12, 2016
Truck dealerships are changing to beef up customer service offerings

One of the many mantras I’ve heard spoken by truck dealers large and small is that anyone can sell a truck in this industry one time. Selling that second truck, though, is the key – for if the customer didn’t like the first truck, be it in terms of design, fuel economy, reliability, or whatever, they sure aren’t going to buy a second truck from you.

“I’ve said it before and I will say it again; service sells trucks, the first time, every time,” W. M. "Rusty" Rush, chairman, CEO and president of the truck dealership behemoth Rush Enterprises, explained to me a few years back. “Service makes our reputation.”

Paul Truman, president of Estenson Logistics and Truline Corp., recently stressed that vehicle reliability is a key part of the “service “ equation as well.

“Reliability has become very, very important to us and also the life cycle cost of the equipment, including purchase price and financing and through the life cycle,” he explained during a round table meeting held at the annual American Truck Dealers (ATD) convention in Las Vegas earlier this month.

“Things are going to happen with a truck and [it’s all about] how you deal with it,” added Dave Meetre, fleet maintenance manager for Vulcan Materials Co., during that same panel discussion. “If something goes wrong with a truck, we’ve got to get it turned around, get the repairs made [and get it back in service].”

So how is this affecting truck dealerships on the ground? How are they changing in response to such expectations?

The newly opened Peterbilt of Lincoln facility in Nebraska – part of the Midwest Peterbilt Group chain, which is owned by Sioux City-based SCTS, Inc. – exemplifies some of the changes being done in the name of improving “service,” such as adding a 9,672-sq. ft. second-level featuring a customer lounge, showers, even a laundry facility.

[The video below provides a neat overview of the Lincoln location’s features. You can also view a photo gallery of the new site by clicking here.]

It’s all part of a “major shift” predicted for the role of the truck dealership in this industry; a projection made by global consulting firm Frost & Sullivan in a report two years ago.

The report indicated that demands for more “connected” services, mobile maintenance, vehicle uptime support and tighter relationships between both customers and OEMs are upending many “traditional” business concepts for dealers.

“The value proposition of the dealership is evolving and that will change the very nature of truck sales,” Frost & Sullivan’s Sandeep Kar told me at the time. “In particular, we see a shift towards ‘connectivity’ services through telematics that’s going to affect their aftermarket parts and maintenance services, which makes up the biggest part of the dealership’s business.”

[Mack Truck’s Stephen Roy explained in a video interview a few years back how those trends are being translated into reality in the truck dealer world.]

Just goes to show that truck dealerships are going to keep experiencing some pretty changes now and into the future.

About the Author

Sean Kilcarr 1 | Senior Editor

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