Monday, February 15, 2016

A day of rest, sort of

February 15, 2016 12:01 AM

Katie Kerwin

Nationwide, 10 percent of dealerships offered Sunday service in 2014, vs. 92 percent that offered Saturday service, according to data from a National Automobile Dealers Association study in 2015.

But don't expect Sunday vehicle service to follow Saturday's pattern of rapid growth and widespread adoption, say industry experts. They're betting the Sunday number will grow slowly for the foreseeable future.


Sunday service at some dealerships amounts mainly to basic maintenance. Golling Buick-GMC in Lake Orion, Mich., for example, is open for service from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday. But owner Bill Golling says a customer who brings in a vehicle for major repairs that day will probably have to leave it for service on Monday and drive home in a loaner car.

At Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, only 25 of 2,500 dealerships open their service departments on Sunday, says Pietro Gorlier, head of the Mopar parts and service brand. Gorlier, who calls Saturday service his "pet project," says, "If it were up to me, we'd add Sunday, too," as a matter of customer convenience.

"Tell me something you cannot do on a Sunday in the retail business. Explain to me why the only thing I cannot do on Sunday is to take my car in for service," Gorlier says, "knowing that out of the 37 independent [service] centers surrounding every one of my dealers, at least one- third are open on Sundays."

He admits his bias in favor of Sunday service comes in part from his background in the commercial heavy-duty truck business. "If you have a trailer on the road broken and full of pigs, you're going to take care of the customer. Even more so with buses."

But he adds, "Every time I touch Sunday, I get lots of outraged letters [from dealers] tIelling me Sunday is a day of rest." Indeed, it is illegal in some states for auto dealerships to do business on Sunday.

From a business standpoint, it makes more sense for a dealership to extend weekday hours to 6 a.m. through midnight and add daylong Saturday service before considering Sunday operations, Gorlier says. Realistically, the Mopar chief says, he'll be happy if Sunday service reaches 100 FCA dealerships over the next three years.

James B. Treece contributed to this report.


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