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CARFAX: Better Maintenance & Relationships

Autosphere » Dealerships » CARFAX: Better Maintenance & Relationships
The purpose of the Car Care app is not only to help consumers stay on top of vehicle maintenance but also build stronger relationships between them and their dealer service department. Photo: CARFAX

As we entered 2021, CARFAX Canada announced a new Car Care app, designed to track and facilitate regular, schedule maintenance on vehicles.

The new app builds upon CARFAX’s successful legacy of providing consumers and dealers with transparent, easy to access information on each vehicle, allowing for not only smoother transactions but the ability to create strong and long-lasting relationships between customers and dealers.

To find out more about the app, how it works and where it fits into CARFAX’s overall strategy, Autosphere interviewed Shawn Vording, Vice President, Auto Sales for CARFAX Canada.

Creation of CARFAX Canada Car Care App

Autosphere: Can you tell us a little about some of the factors that led to the creation of the Car Care App?

Shawn Vording: The first really evolved around market research.

One in three Canadians readily admits they don’t take good care of their vehicle. They don’t maintain it to the standards they should and so, we knew there was an opportunity there. Additionally, many of them wanted to do a better job but the effort to understand the maintenance schedule and for it to come from a trusted source just wasn’t there.

For us at CARFAX—based on our brand and the trust it has been able to create among consumers, as well as based on the fact that it is a positive outcome to maintain your vehicle properly, yet there just isn’t a great workflow, on that aspect, we identified a chance to do something.

Functionality of the Car Care App

So how does the App work?

SV: Consumers download the app via iOS or Android and enrol their vehicle VIN into the application.

From there they are also able to select their favourite shops, which currently are dealer service departments that are already members of the program. The consumer can select a preferred dealer and then the app pushes out critical maintenance information they would want, such as open recalls that are existing on the vehicle, the OEM recommended maintenance schedule—winter tire change reminders etc.

There’s also interesting features like fuel mileage, and functions that let a consumer know how efficiently they are driving their vehicle etc.

How can local service providers/repair shops participate in the program and what are some of the benefits it offers for them?

SV: Right now, there is organic growth in the number of providers that are on that program and we have a team that is reaching out to activate more dealership service departments to participate.

There is no cost for anyone in this application whether it is dealers or consumers it really is just about building an audience and driving that audience back into service departments so work can be performed on their vehicle.

Our team’s mission is to actively reach out to dealers to sign them up and also, since the initial press release, we have seen significant interest from dealers in reaching out to us saying what is this thing and how do I get involved with it?

Building on CARFAX database

Can you tell us a little how the Car Care app builds upon what CARFAX already provides?

SV: The Car Care app, is essentially a by-product of what we’ve already been doing and that is gathering vehicle information.

Our historical maintenance database is already extremely large, to begin with, and so, as more consumers sign up for this and more service providers start sharing their service records, the amount of data available continues to grow.

The data is attached only to the VIN and only to maintenance and so there are no issues related to personal information or privacy—it is very specific to the VIN and the maintenance performed. Not only does this help increase the participation in dealers that are providing data into the database but it is also a significant win for the dealers because it is driving consumers back to their service departments and besides, it truly does help tell the story on the vehicle.

For example—we often talk about “home-grown cars,” which are those vehicles that are purchased new at a dealership, serviced at that dealership, traded-in and sold again at the dealership.

These vehicles have a clear and transparent history from the time they were originally purchased to when they were serviced and eventually traded-in. These vehicles are highly desirable because they command a premium and also sell faster, so a tool like the Car Care app can be very effective for a dealership to build more “home-grown” vehicles through the sales process.

Gauging app feedback

Although the app was launched fairly recently have you been able to gauge any feedback on its use in the marketplace to date?

SV: As of the beginning of March, we already had 60,000 users on the app, which for us, represents a good, healthy adoption rate.

In terms of feedback, the decision to download this app is first, because there is a desire to keep vehicles in better condition by maintaining them and secondly, to have all of that information located in one easy to access spot instead of having a portfolio of receipts in your glove box that you have to sift through. There is value for the consumer in having service information and history readily and easily available.

There is evidence to show that consumers want to maintain their vehicle and they want to be prompted by a trusted source, so they have a better and more valuable story to tell the time comes to sell it.

Impact on traditional service repair and history 

How do you feel the Car Care App might have an impact on traditional spring and fall vehicle maintenance?

SV: There will definitely be a positive push towards that but the intent with this is to really take away some of that seasonality. Currently, it is often a challenge for an OEM or a dealer to track down the current owner of the vehicle, so with the app, as vehicle recalls or TSBs happen, we can alert the owner very quickly so they can get their vehicle to a franchised dealer service department.

By doing this, there is the opportunity to create some load levelling within the traditional seasonality of vehicle maintenance by providing a schedule of the recommended servicing as a reminder to vehicle owners. Ultimately, this strategy simply becomes just part of owning your vehicle and ownership means being able to take care of your car and maintain it properly.

We know that historically, vehicles that have service repair history and records tend to sell for more at resale time than those that do not, do you have any comments on this and how the Car Care App can influence such outcomes?

SV: There is definitely, a quantifiable increase in value to a well-maintained vehicle, whether it’s the number of days to turn the car or a premium that you can sell it for. The first teaser I can provide at this point is that at CARFAX, we are going to quantify what that value is, while the second teaser is that while the Car Care app represents a foundation for us, there are other dealer programs we are working toward, which we will be announcing details of shortly.

Impact of the Car Care app during COVID-19 

Given that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many consumers to rethink vehicle purchase decisions plus a shortage of new cars, how do you think a tool like the Car Care App can benefit both consumers and the industry in the coming months and years?

SV: I think the obvious answer is that load levelling in the service department has the ability to bring more consumers back to the dealer.

The bigger picture within this application is keeping the relationship between vehicle owner and dealer strong and keeping it active. What we have seen, is that from the lockdown from mid-February up until now, into the start of a spring market, is significant pent-up demand from people who either haven’t been driving for a year or have not been driving for the last 45 days.

Our report volumes indicate significant pent-up demand from those who are starting to drive again and those who are now looking to make vehicle purchases or sale decisions. Holistically, then, there has been an impact on consumer behaviour as a result of the pandemic and while the Car Care app is focused on vehicle maintenance, in the large scheme of things it ultimately plays into maintaining and nurturing that relationship between the dealer and the customer.

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