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Rock’s Rants: Equipment Repair

by Ken Rock

Recently I was sitting in an office with a service manager and a few advisors. Someone walked in and said, “The balancer’s not working again.” The service manager’s shoulders kind of sagged as he responded, “OK. I’ll call someone.”

He then told me the balancing machine was 25 years old and on its last legs. It had been repaired numerous times but the dealer wouldn’t approve the purchase of a new one. “You’re kidding,” I said. He wasn’t.

At another dealership I visited, the alignment machine wasn’t working. Their options were to spend $1,000 to fix it for the umpteenth time, or to invest $3,000 for some better parts to fix it. But they really needed a new machine, which granted, could cost up to $60,000. However, you guessed it, the dealer wouldn’t approve a new machine.

Now, most dealers I know enjoy the fruits of their success and there’s nothing wrong with that. They have big houses, wear expensive suits, several cars, some have boats and some even have a plane (or at least they travel first class)! But I can’t help thinking that the money to buy all these fun toys should be money that’s left over after investing in critical equipment repairs and/or new equipment for your business.

Yes, investing in a new balancing or alignment machine is expensive; however, it would allow your employees to do their jobs faster, more efficiently and with better results. Not to mention that nice, new equipment is a boost to employee morale and helps to improve customer satisfaction.

In another dealership, the printer in the F&I office was so old the employees had to smack the heck out of it in order to get it to print. Is that a good image for your customers, while they’re eagerly waiting for the deal to be done so they can drive off in their new car?

There’s an old proverb, you have to use the right tool for the job. You want your employees to dig a ditch, but you expect them to do it with their hands, not a shovel.

When you own a car, at some point the cost of the repairs passes a tipping point. You realize that it’s cheaper to buy a new car, or even if it’s not cheaper, the risk of breaking down by the side of the road isn’t worth it to you. The time, effort and aggravation of having to maintain an old car isn’t worth it to you, so you decide to invest in a new car. 

Are you using these same calculations with outdated equipment in your dealership? What’s the time, effort and aggravation of your employees who have to deal with this old equipment? Anything?

Oh, and the computers. My goodness. You want to talk about pain and hurt. How many times have I been working with someone to help them maximize their DMS software, and I say click on that button.

Then we wait. Spinning circles go around and around, as a six-year-old computer tries to process software designed for a computer processor that’s probably 50X or 100X faster.

Now, I realize that throwing money at problems isn’t always the answer. When it comes to equipment, you have to be able to define the difference between a complaint and a real problem.

A complaint should not always be treated the same as a problem, unless you first verify it is a problem. This requires coming down to the ground level and either figuring it out yourself, or having an expert figure it out for you. Are the balancing machine and alignment machine really beyond repair? How much have you spent repairing them in the last two years, and does it make more sense to buy new?

Is the printer really too old? What is the cost of lost productivity and a negative customer image, versus having to spend $400 for a new printer? Same with computers. A nice, new computer costs less than $1,000 these days and would probably literally double or triple your employees’ productivity. But even if it doesn’t, wouldn’t the cost be worth it just to ease the aggravation experienced by your employees, having to deal with old and outdated equipment on a daily basis?

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