The importance of cars in the work lives of a significant percentage of Canadians could be the best way to sell preventive maintenance.
That’s one of the key findings of a study commissioned by the Automotive Industries Association of Canada (AIA) which looked at the motivations and influencers of consumer behavior when it comes to the repair and maintenance of their vehicles.
The report, conducted by J.D. Power and Associates, suggests the best way to “unlock further revenue potential for automotive service providers” is to remind people how much they rely on their car.
Almost a third of those surveyed agreed their vehicles are necessary to help them earn a living. They also admitted spending an average of 39 minutes a day in commuting traffic.
“Consumer education around preventive maintenance can be the difference for a significant portion of the population in being able to rely on a vehicle to get to and from work,” the study concludes.
J.D. Power & Associates analyzed 9,234 “usable” responses to an online survey conducted in February of this year. Respondents all had vehicles between four and 12 years old (model years 2000-2009).
The report found routine maintenance is much less common among young people than older people, and the number of visits drops off precipitously with the age of the vehicle.
“Our vehicle fleet in Canada is growing in size and aging,” said AIA president Marc Brazeau, adding that it is surprising that as vehicles age, there’s a significant decline in the frequency of service visits as well as a significant increase in the amount spent per visit.
“The industry would benefit from a concerted effort to promote the benefits of regular maintenance, as vehicles get older,” he said. “Frequent visits with a lower price tag result in happier customers, compared to those who come in less frequently and face a high repair bill.”
According to the study, Canadian vehicle owners spend, on average, $249 per visit – an amount that varies predictably according to the age of the vehicle. They visited a service provider, on average, 2.8 times in the last 12 months.
By far the biggest reason for taking a vehicle in was for routine maintenance (56% of visits). Tire changes came in second at 13%, followed by break downs (6%), scheduled maintenance (6%), abnormal noise or feel (5%), vehicle warning light (5%) and other unspecified reasons (9%).
AIA points out that three quarters of vehicle service occasions are routine, or seasonal, therefore predictive in nature.
“Contrary to previous belief, Canadian drivers regard the maintenance of their vehicles with importance,” a press release from AIA states. “These figures are a credit to the success of programs such as the industry-led campaign, Be Car Care Aware.”
Nevertheless, it acknowledges more work is needed to get that message through to younger drivers, aged 18 to 24, among whom only 50 percent cited routine maintenance as the reason for their last service occasion.
The questionnaire also shows that most (74%) of customers book their appointment ahead of time, as opposed to showing up unannounced. But if shop owners that are building online tools to make booking easier, may be getting ahead of themselves. Only three per cent used the Internet to book their appointment. The rest use the old-fashioned method: the phone.
While most also prefer to be contacted by phone (46%) a growing number (37%) said email was better. The growing importance of email was not lost on the AIA’s market research team.
“Automotive service providers should also take note of the communication preference of their customers,” said Dave Fifield of Wakefield Canada, chairman of the AIA Market Research Task Force.
As for what consumers are looking for in a service provider, 19% said they want to deal with someone they’ve had past experience with, 15% look for good customer service, 14% look for a convenient location, and 13% said they stick with the dealer where they purchased the vehicle.
The 30-page study contains much more information, including average age of vehicles on the road, make-up of the vehicle population, number of kilometers driven, and vehicle purchase information.
It is available free to AIA members at no cost, and can be purchased by non-members for $1500.
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