Diesel Opportunities: Are You Ready for the Profit Tsunami?
Incorporating diesel service into your business plan is smart
The diesels are coming! Due to EPA guidelines and Obama administration mandates, the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) figures are on the rise again. Plainly speaking, passenger cars and trucks manufactured from now on must get better fuel economy.
While there are a plethora of hybrid and alternative fuel options in the marketplace, many experts believe the quickest way to attain CAFE requirements is through the use of diesel technology.
Today, only 8 percent of vehicles on U.S. roads are diesels, compared to more than 50 percent in Europe. One study suggests that if 30 percent of vehicles in the United States were diesels, we could virtually eliminate our dependence on foreign oil!
Does your shop work on diesels? If not, it's time to rethink your business plan and start servicing diesel vehicles.
I'm not necessarily suggesting you hire a crew of diesel technicians to repair diesels, but rather be sure your service techs know how to do diesel maintenance services. Fluid maintenance services on diesel vehicles are just as easy and profitable as they are on gasoline vehicles.
Fluids are the lifeblood of modern automobiles. Whether you are servicing the engine, transmission, differential, power steering, cooling system, braking system or air conditioning; fluid maintenance is tantamount to vehicle longevity.
Quite possibly the biggest impact your shop can have on the owners of diesel cars and trucks would be to offer a fuel injection cleaning service. A clean diesel injector is an efficient diesel injector and the result to the customer is greater fuel economy. Today's ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel poses a real threat to injector cleanliness, lubricity, corrosiveness and longevity. ULSD has 15 ppm sulfur, compared to 500 ppm just a few years ago; and over 5,000 ppm back in the 1990s.
Sulfur in diesel provided many benefits, including fuel stability, deposit control and enhanced cold weather performance. Alas, however, sulfur is gone never to return again. Diesel engines cannot tolerate fuel system deposits on the injectors or in the combustion chamber
The emission systems have become very sophisticated with technology that includes diesel particulate traps, catalytic converters, EGR systems, diesel exhaust fluids and selective reduction catalysts. Dirty fuel injectors 1) increase exhaust soot levels, 2) produce an excess of unburned hydrocarbons, and 3) raise exhaust particulate levels.
All this presents a tremendous profit opportunity for your shop! The two-fold service solution for diesel fuel injection systems include 1) cleaning them up and 2) keeping them clean. Your customers will rave about the restored performance when you've cleaned up their injectors, and they will appreciate the fuel economy resulting from keeping them clean.
Once you've made the decision to pursue the diesel business in your service center, then implement the following action points:
• Mention diesel maintenance in all your advertising.
• Create a diesel-specific menu of services you offer.
• Pursue local fleets ... many fleet owners outsource their maintenance work. Fleets can be a stable cash cow for your shop in uncertain economic times.
• Host a "Diesel Technology Trends" workshop and invite diesel owners and fleets to attend. Teach the attendees the importance of diesel preventive maintenance and then let them know your shop can meet their needs. (I have done this at numerous shops with great results ... it works!)
Most customers who own a diesel vehicle probably have one or two gasoline vehicles back home in the garage. If you turn away the diesel vehicles, you won't just lose their diesel business, but likely, you will lose all their business ... ouch!
Twenty-eight years ago, when I began my automotive career, I had a few independent garage clients who were carburetor experts. They refused to embrace something called electronic gasoline fuel injection, saying they would leave that to someone else. Rather obviously, those shops went belly up a long time ago. I believe the same fate awaits service centers that ignore the ever-growing diesel segment.
The diesel wave is rolling in fast. Be sure you "catch the wave" and ride it to profitability and success!
Editor's note: This article is one of several management articles that are being contributed to AutoInc. this year by Automotive Management Institute (AMI) instructors. To learn more about AMI, its courses and instructors, visit www.AMIonline.org.
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