Servicing Modern Vehicles
by Joshua L.
I have said this many times over the years: “You never know the true value of your car until you sell it.” What I mean is that it’s not how much you purchase a car for that determines a good deal; it’s what you pay over the life of vehicle. In my personal experience, the cost of ownership is by far the most important factor to consider when purchasing a preowned vehicle. What’s a $500 or even $1,000 discount off the asking price of a vehicle if you end up spending 2-3 grand in the first few years repairing things that could have been caught by the dealer that sold you the car?
With each new year, vehicles become ever more complicated and difficult to work on. Long gone are the days when you could have AutoZone diagnose your car for free, order the part that needs replacing, and then spend Sunday getting dirty and saving money on a mechanic. Modern vehicles no longer allow you to simply swap parts in and out.
Most electronic components have to be digitally “married” to the car, and the only way to do that is with access the car’s internal software. And because every aspect of modern vehicles are controlled by computers, manufacturers go to great lengths to prevent just anyone from fiddling with their programming. For good reason too. Think about how often you hear of large companies getting hacked and all of their customer’s personal information stolen. Imagine if anyone could easily access internal software of your luxury car? Because of this–and thankfully so–, manufacturers heavily restrict access to the availability of their diagnostic software, and even monitor those they allow to use it. They even monitor and store what has been done to a particular vehicle, and can cut access at any time.
Getting approval for the software is only one piece of the equation. Another is the the fees for the subscriptions, which range in prices, but can cost many thousands a month. This is just to access the internal software of the car. Then you have to have a qualified technician to perform the service required. And if all of this wasn’t complicated enough, the software can only take you so far. While modern cars are able to analyze just about every aspect of every component they have, when something fails or stops working right, just like a person, the symptoms can manifest in different ways, and therefore when the computer throws a code (a code is the diagnostic symptom), it only narrows down the issue so far. The mechanic has to dial in exactly what is wrong.
Because of all these factors, you can probably imagine how expensive it can get to have the programs and trained technicians for every manufacturer. This is where many service centers fall short. Sure, they can do some basic things without worry, but they can also still perform larger services that seem to fix a problem, but sadly end up causing more issues down the road, which plays a major role in some of the horror stories about European vehicles we’ve all heard.
So, how does a service center set itself up to service its vehicles to the highest standards while still being efficient and also profitable? The answer lies in knowing your strengths and honing them as best as possible. Our approach is pretty simple. While we buy and sell lots of vehicles every month, a quick look at our inventory will give our secret away. We buy lots of the same vehicles. We may have 80-plus cars on our lot at any given time, but 10 of them may be different color BMW 3 Series, and so forth.
By sticking with cars we know (and ones we are passionate about), we quickly learn which vehicles typically need what–and which vehicles we don’t trust to sell–so we can service them efficiently. And by employing service technicians who are familiar with these vehicles and giving them the tools and software access to do their job without cutting corners, we can sell vehicles that I can say with confidence are far better than our competition.