Did you know? A recent report from Castrol revealed almost a third of motorists whose vehicles are aged 0-4-years take their cars to independent garages for oil changes and top-ups. A worrying figure for franchised dealers, but good news for garage owners.

In our A-Z series which seeks to give you as many ideas as possible so you can best manage your garage business, we reach the letter ‘O’ and the very obvious topic of oil. We’re sure you can tell us more about oil than we can tell you, but we hope we provide you with a few extra insights and ideas which could net extra income.

An incredible 31.9% of motorists took their vehicles, aged under four-years-old, to the independent sector, which now meets 68%* of the entire oil change market, for an oil change and that excludes top-ups, according to the Castrol Professional data.

Of course a whole host of factors will be at play here including price, convenience and information on websites as well as longer service intervals for younger vehicles. However, the figures do need to be put into the context of a decline in the number of oil changes carried out in the UK. In 2005, 70.3% of drivers had an oil change carried out on their cars but in 2011 this had fallen to just 59.7%. Meanwhile, the franchised sector is always looking for ways to win back motorists who have migrated to the ‘other side’.

Research from Mobil 1 reveals almost one in five (19.4%) from their sample of 1,000 UK drivers** check their engine oil when an instrument panel warning sign was activated. Almost two thirds (60.2%) changed their oil once a year at most whilst 8.6% hadn’t changed their vehicle oil in two years and 45.7% had no idea of their vehicle manufacturer’s recommended oil change intervals.

With such a lax attitude to the importance of oil changes for the continuing smooth running and upkeep of vehicles among motorists, garage owners could encourage more business by communicating the benefits of a regular oil change to customers even if it forms part of a fixed price service.

Encouraging customers to appreciate the finer points of multigrade oil, synthetic oil and its viscosity may not be easily achievable, but highlighting the damage and false economy of not changing a vehicle’s oil as well as the value-for-money offering at the local garage could well see you boost bookings. Even having a one-litre bottle of oil and a small promotional sign asking ‘when was the last time your car’s oil was changed?’ could be enough to prompt additional enquiries.

Don’t underestimate the power of your website. Motorists are always looking for more information and a quick video on how to undertake a top-up and details of the damage which can be incurred without regular oil changes can be enough to stimulate more business. Don’t be afraid to ask your oil partner for materials to promote and educate motorists on the value of the oil change and link through to their videos which are usually highly engaging and professionally shot. Also, make sure your oil partner is providing you with the very best service including discounts on oil extraction equipment and free collection of used oil and waste as well as training for your staff to better enable them to upsell oil purchases.

When talking about oil to your customers, remind your staff to keep the Castrol Professional data in mind which also found that when selecting a brand of oil, 41% said they would do so according to the protection that particular brand or grade gives their engine suggesting consumers are willing to pay more for a higher quality product.

Garage owners can also consider encouraging customers to consider top-ups thereby creating an additional revenue stream. However, any such campaign would need to coincide with educating consumers who by and large, can believe oil is an unnecessary expense as well as providing staff with the training they need in order to confidently overcome objections. It is worth bearing in mind that many drivers find the choice of oils overwhelming and would welcome advice from experts. Offering customers free interim health checks or when a motorist is more likely to be embarking on a long journey, just before the summer or in the run-up to Christmas, could also be an opportunity to boost oil purchases especially if you are upfront in your offer: Free health check and just £xx for an oil top-up if required.

Garage owners could also take a leaf out of the franchised dealers’ book and consider implementing an electronic vehicle health check system known as an eVHC. This electronic system helps mechanics identify and record work which needs to be carried out whilst the vehicle is in the workshop (red) or work which is not necessary there and then, but will need attention soon (amber). By implementing such procedures, garages can boost business as well as providing customers with additional confidence that their car’s condition is being well looked after. As well as identifying mechanical work, wear and tear and repairs, the eVHC system will also highlight oil requirements. Systems are available from oil partners, but garage owners should also shop around, as eVHC provision is often also available from other aftermarket providers including software suppliers.

With many oil suppliers viewing themselves more as business partners, it is well worth garage owners talking to their account manager to find out if they can take advantage of other products and services provided by the oil supplier.

* Market share by volume: increase from 62 per cent (three-year rolling average, 2003-2005) to 68 per cent (2009-2011). Data source: GiPA (Groupement inter Professionel de l’Automobile) Lubricant Monograph (GiPA ‘Solutions for parts & services intelligence’ – market intelligent specialist in aftersales for car, heavy duty and two-wheels)
**Nationwide online survey (EAME Stay Ahead Campaign) of 1,000 UK motorists aged 18+, conducted on behalf of Mobil 1 by GfK Automotive Research – market research experts, in February 2013.

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