In tune with the times

Gone are the days when a roadside mechanic could repair almost any car on the road.

Autocar Pro News DeskBy Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 29 Feb 2012 Views icon3618 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
In tune with the times
Gone are the days when a roadside mechanic could repair almost any car on the road. Today, enjoying new technology is not only for the privileged few. The Mahindra XUV500, one of the latest models which has seen the longest customer queues, is a good example. The vehicle has 60-70 sensors, and 14 ECUs. Compare that with seven sensors and no ECU in the first Scorpio. A feature like keyless entry is no longer confined to the premium luxury car segment. You also get it in a compact car like the Nissan Micra.

Not only advanced technology but the burgeoning vehicle population also warrants a solid servicing infrastructure. OEM-authorised dealers are investing to ramp up their workshops. Simultaneously, there’s a rapidly growing business opportunity of independent workshops to cater to vehicles’ servicing needs. Dealership-owned workshops have to not only cater to customers but also ensure they remain loyal even after their cars’ free warranty period is over. All this, even as there’s a little dampness in the macroeconomic weather.

How are OEMs gearing up to meet new demand and retain customers? What are they doing to ramp up their authorised workshops in tandem with the growing technology in vehicles? Are they equipping their service stations with the latest diagnostic systems and are they training workshop personnel to handle such equipment? With increasing customer expectations on quick service turnaround, the importance of such systems cannot be emphasised enough.

To find answers to these questions and more, we contacted a host of OEMs. Here are the ones who participated and shared information about their efforts in ramping up the workshop network, both quantitatively and qualitatively.

ARVIND SAXENA

DIRECTOR, MARKETING & SALES, HYUNDAI MOTOR INDIA

On workshop infrastructure

At Hyundai, we believe that high levels of investment in physical and human capital ensure long-term growth. Hyundai is constantly investing in workshop equipment and employing skilled technicians and engineers to provide round-the-clock assistance and high customer service standards to our customers.

On growth in workshop equipment technology

We maximise value for our customers by providing high-quality services through a strong customer-centered network. Over the years, there has been a significant increase in the technological prowess in handling workshop equipment such as diagnostic equipment, vehicle lift equipment and wheel service equipment.

The focus has expanded from servicing cars to inspection and maintenance, accidental repairs, safety and quality checks.

On the number of authorised workshops

HMIL has a strong network of 787 workshops across 430 cities. We have increased our dealership network from 174 in 2006 to 340 in 2011. Our major focus in the year 2011 had been the rural market, where we encouraged our dealers to open sales branches to reach customers in emerging townships. By the end of 2013, we will activate 1,000 workshops and expand workshop capacity, especially in the metros.

On manpower challenges

Hyundai boasts high employee retention as a result of efficient training and retention programmes. We are working towards increasing the training capacity and by the end of 2012, the number of regional training centres will be doubled from the present four to eight.

P BALENDRAN

VICE-PRESIDENT, GENERAL MOTORS INDIA

On workshop infrastructure

Investment in infrastructure is always made with a long-term perspective. Sales can vary depending upon market conditions but for the workshop, it’s the units in operation on-road which derive the capacity expansion and investment in workshop infrastructure. Also, on a long-term perspective, the outlook for growth in vehicle sales is positive in line with the overall growth of economy. The investment on space and equipment may vary from Rs 15 lakh to over Rs 85 lakh, depending upon the location, with minimum space requirement of 4,500 square feet for a workshop.

On growth in workshop equipment technology

We now have world-class equipment available in terms of quality as well as productivity enhancements.

On the number of authorised workshops

We have 272 workshops at 209 locations. Our expansion plan will be in line with the potential of upcoming markets. However, investment in infrastructure may vary according to the size of the market. Our plans are as under:

  2012 2013
S/R 300 325
W/S 310 335


On manpower challenges

The first initiative we take is to retain the existing skilled manpower deployed in our workshops. We follow best-HR practices in terms of incentive schemes and recognitions. We also run a lot of motivational programmes to keep employee excitement intact. Additionally at the organisational level, GM has now initiated tie-ups with local ITI institutes to nurture technical talent. Technical manpower is inducted from these institutes so as to be trained under our supervision in order to produce skilled manpower.

The total number of technically skilled staff deployed at our dealerships is over 3,000 which includes technicians, service advisors and the bodyshop technicians.

JNANESWAR SEN

SENIOR VICE-PRESIDENT, SALES & MARKETING, HONDA SIEL CARS INDIA

On workshop infrastructure

In today’s environment, better aftersales and service play a very critical role as they help in generating high customer satisfaction which, in turn, results in repeat visits and referrals for the brand. Also, the investment in productive and efficiency equipment in workshop services helps in creating additional revenues for the dealerships apart from sole reliability on sales revenue.

On growth in workshop equipment technology

For example, nowadays most car models are switching to more high-grade steel to increase the safety of their occupants and reduce overall vehicle weight to increase efficiency. These high-strength steels require very high-end spot welders, MIG/MAG welders along with top-end crash repair systems to measure vehicle dimensions and the impact of an accident and then repair it to the original shape.

Our dealerships use the latest equipment, which is recommended after a lot of trials, and is being used by our counterparts across the globe. In the above case, we have recommended our dealerships to use fully advanced spot welders which cost close to Rs 7-8 lakh. Similarly, we have crash repair systems with electronic measurement (Rs 20 lakh+), paint booths (Rs 18 lakh+), and car alignment m/c (Rs 8-10 lakh) which can do the job very accurately.

For the Brio, we use the latest bonding glue for rear panel fitment in place of conventional spot welders. With every new model launch, there are changes and investment which goes into our dealerships so as to ensure that our cars are repaired in a manner that they attain the best results in terms of drive quality and the safety of occupants.

Even in the area of general repairs, equipment is organised and planned in order to improve efficiency and accuracy of repairs.

On the number of authorised workshops

By the end of this financial year (2011-12), we will have a total of 156 workshops in 84 cities which include 3S and 2S facilities. By the end of 2012-13, we will take our network to 182 including 3S and 2S facilities.

On manpower challenges

We have drawn a career growth plan for our technicians where they can enhance their skills and broaden their roles at our dealerships. We conduct training seminars for skill enhancement for our technicians. We have training centres in Greater Noida, Mumbai and Chennai to address the training requirements. These training centres are equipped with the latest equipments and have highly qualified instructors to impart training and provide hands-on experience to our manpower. Also, we conduct a lot of on-the-job training (OJT), start-up OJTs, and e- learning through IDTs (In Dealer Trainer) to train new recruits.

Furthermore, we conduct regional / national level NHCs and contests for motivation of the workforce. Last year, one of our paint technicians represented India in the World Skill Contest in the car painting category.

There are around 5,000 persons deployed across our dealership workshops (washing / cleaning manpower not included). This year, we have trained close to 3,000 people at our three training centres through various seminars. We ensure that every new technician is adequately trained before they attend to any car in our workshop.

P K UMASHANKAR

VP, CUSTOMER SERVICE OPERATIONS, FORD INDIA

On workshop infrastructure

The post-sales experience is the key to loyal customers, which is irrespective of the market trends. With Ford vehicles adhering to the global standard, the quality of vehicles has become extremely good and customers have very high expectations on services from dealers too. In such competitive times, one needs to invest in workshop equipment to run the workshop productively and profitably; optimum utilisation of available infrastructure needs to be in place. We are bringing in new and improved diagnostic equipment which can detect problems at the first go. Systematic planning, management and monitoring of workshops are absolutely essential to meet the above objectives.

Ford is committed to provide the best-in-class service experience to its customers, which recently led to the opening of 45 sales and service outlets on a single day.

On growth in workshop equipment technology

There has been a quantum jump in workshop equipment technology. Over the years, the equipment has become smart, compact, and green, delivering better results by saving on time, money and delivering better results. Time spent on diagnostics through diagnostic equipment that reads and checks data from on-board microprocessors has reduced substantially. There is an increased emphasis on processes being green and saving on cost for the customer and cars spending lesser time at dealerships. Some examples are:

• Vehicle diagnostic equipment is much smaller and smarter, which can read the on-board vehicle microprocessor and also highlight the problem area. This diagnostic equipment can be connected to vehicles and various vehicle parameters can be monitored simultaneously while the vehicle is driven.

• In case of air-conditioner repairs, new-generation AC recovery machines can recover the AC gas and use the same gas post-repair. helping protect the environment by recycling the same gas.

• New-generation body equipment can repair minor dents without any major paint job, which reduces repair cost and again protects the environment.

• Vision-based advanced 3D wheel alignment machines ensure that wheels are perfectly aligned to steering geometry which is very important for passenger safety.

On the number of authorised workshops

We have over 175 workshops. With 90-minute Quick Service bays available in over 90 locations, Ford India provides service convenience to its consumers. Sales and service expansion continues to be a core focus area for Ford as we broaden our product portfolio with the commitment of eight new products by mid-decade. Our sales and service expansion has been and will continue to be in line with the business growth which has seen growth of over 40 percent in the last two years.

Ford today has 230 sales and service facilities across 123 cities, up from 164 sales and service outlets across 97 cities in 2010. All showrooms are Brand@Retail dealerships built according to Ford’s global standard.

On manpower challenges

We expect our dealerships to mirror Ford’s global standards for customer service and which also demonstrate Ford’s authenticity in offering a satisfying ownership experience. To ensure this mandate, we have put in place a number of processes to keep the dealers abreast of evolving Ford technologies that encompass technical training, soft skill training and business management sessions. We impart regular training to shopfloor teams, modules of which are based on the best-case studies identified by our experts globally and learnings locally. This helps them in connecting with the consumer and providing best of services to them while adding their local expertise.

PRABHU NAGRAJ

(DGM-CRM), HONDA MOTORCYCLE & SCOOTER INDIA

On workshop infrastructure

Workshop infrastructure plays an important role to ensure quality repairs of vehicle. Good infrastructure not only builds customer confidence, but also ensures good revenue generation for the dealer. HMSI works closely with its dealers. The direction we follow is that revenue from aftersales business should take care of expenses of the total dealership and generate additional profit. HMSI works along with its dealers towards the optimisation of workshop resources and improving workshop efficiency through various methods like idle time study, and the one-bay-two-technicians concept.

On growth in workshop equipment technology

HMSI continuously studies and introduces tools and equipment to enhance efficiency of the workshop and improve maintenance accuracy of the vehicles. Usage of pneumatic tools, bike lifts, multi-roller test benches, headlamp adjustment equipment, and painting equipment are being recommended to our dealers and many of our dealers have started using such equipments. We also have introduced the EROS (electronic repair order system) at our dealers to reduce the reception time and enhance visibility of information to our customers.

On manpower challenges

The Indian two-wheeler industry is growing continuously and availability of skilled manpower is a big challenge. At HMSI, we recognise this challenge and have plans to ensure skilled manpower at our dealers. We are expanding our training facility to more towns and also working towards having close tie-ups with technical institutes to increase availability of skilled manpower.

S MURALIDHARAN

VP & HEAD — AFTERMARKET, BOSCH LTD

What are the challenges of providing top-quality service in an increasingly sophisticated automotive industry?

One of the biggest challenges is technology upgradation and keeping pace with current global trends.

Industry at present doesn’t possess adequate skilled manpower to cater to the increasing demand for automotive diagnostics. This is the result of norms becoming more stringent and greater focus on safe and economical driving, resulting in a shift from conventional mechanical systems to modern electronic systems. The industry is in desperate need for qualified experts in automotive diagnostics.

Firms like Bosch are also losing about 30 percent of its aftermarket businesses to fake and spurious parts. The positive thing is that the impact of spurious parts is declining because of the raids that we conduct along with local authorities and education that we impart to our mechanics.

A platform to showcase products/services is another challenge in the automotive aftermarket industry. Customers today prefer genuine parts and so the demand for branded parts has increased significantly.

We are thankful to organisations like CII for organising exhibitions and helping us showcase our products to end-customers.

At Bosch, we do not compromise on quality, innovation and customer orientation, and we make sure that our products match with OE standards thereby ensuring safety of the vehicle.
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