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THE Ford Motor Company is expanding into Australia its global all-makes service chain for older cars and is offering franchise opportunities to Ford dealers, car dealers of all other makes as well as independent service operators who want to become part of a branded chain of repair and tyre shops.

Operating under the Quick Lane Tyre and Auto Centre brand, the workshops offer while-you-wait servicing, maintenance and repair of 14 key activities without the need of an appointment.

The Quick Lane service centres are standalone operations typically with six to eight service bays, although some are much larger.

They are located away from dealerships and do not have any Ford branding.

The opening of a pilot Quick Lane centre at Hoppers Crossing in Melbourne’s west is the first of a planned rollout of Quick Lane across Australia. A second store is planned for Richmond in Melbourne’s inner east.

Franchises will cost from $250,000 to set up.

John Hanighen, global CEO of Quick Lane, told GoAutoNews Premium: “We have been around for 23 years with 1100 locations globally. There are about 900 in North America with 200 in Europe and the rest scattered around the world. There are 10 in Thailand and we are getting started in China.

“We use a site-modelling partner to put the stores where people shop the most so they can get their car worked on (while they shop). The business model covers both the auto service and tyre replacement markets.

“It is laser-focused on 14 light repairs and maintenance offered at menu pricing. It is all about customer convenience, transparency in pricing and includes a safety inspection that comes with every service.

“The model is pretty consistent around the globe and it has proven to be pretty effective in offering the customer services in two hours and typically 90 minutes, or less, without an appointment.”

Mr Hanighen said that Quick Lane would be seeking both dealers and independent operators for the franchise.

“We can do both. A dealer can be a franchisee but we also have independent franchisees as well. For example, in Thailand half the franchisees are dealers and half are independent. So it can be a mix,” he said.

“In the US it is all dealers because of the structure of the dealer network there. So the dealers are the franchisees in the States. In Europe (Germany and the UK) it is about 50-50.

“There are about 13 stores in the UK and we will be going into Spain and France later this year.

“It is backed by Ford but it is not a Ford dealership play. It is an all-makes play. Ford does back it and that is one of the pluses for the franchisee who joins it.”

Mr Hanighen said that between 80 and 90 per cent of vehicles serviced were makes other than Ford. The locations were chosen on the basis of the age of vehicles and the vehicle demographics within the target market area.

“The location at Hoppers Crossing was picked because of the age of the vehicles and the traffic patterns and the customers in the demographic that matches our model,” he said.

Mr Hanighen said there were plans to open in Brisbane and Sydney “but we will go where the demographics show the best chance of success”.

“We are looking at the whole country as our rollout plans unfolds,” he said. “While we don’t want to be specific we would like to grow out the market in the next three to five years. But I can tell you it will be a significant number of stores because of the potential we see.”

Mr Hanighen said it will be a franchisee model only and there will be no master-franchise arrangements available.

“We have some franchisees who own two stores, maybe three, and we like some folks to have auto backgrounds but they don’t have to necessarily because we have a very good support for the franchisees when they get into the business,” he said.

“We have significant training for the technicians, service advisers and the franchisee themselves at an academy and we also have a coaching network that comes along to make sure the guys are performing well to make sure the guys are successful going forward.”

Mr Hanighen said that Ford dealers in Australia have been applying for the franchise but dealers of other makes were welcome to apply.

“We met with a couple (of Ford dealers) last week and we have presented to the Ford dealer network,” he said.

“In Thailand half of the 10 stores are Ford dealership franchisees and the others are independent.”

Mr Hanighen said Ford parts used for Quick Lane were genuine Ford parts as sold by Ford’s international parts business, Motorcraft. Parts for other makes are sourced from Omnicraft, an all-makes parts supplier that Ford launched about three years ago.

He said that following the pattern established globally, parts and labour within the menu pricing would be highly competitive with other service operations in Australia.

“Usually we are all in line because the labour drives a lot of the cost but we always make sure we are competitive with that,” he said.

“But we are not just targeting the independent workshops (with pricing offers), we make sure we are competitive with the service chains and of course with competitive dealers.”

Mr Hanighen said that Quick Lane offered dealers the opportunity to get involved in servicing older cars and all makes of cars that they do not service at present.

“From the independents side, this is a way to get into the aftermarket space. So we could have an independent repairer working alone decide to join the Quick Lane network if they wanted to,” he said.

John Hanighen

“It is a way of becoming part of the 18 million or 19 million vehicle opportunity to maintain, repair and service all the vehicles that are out there in Australia.

“As the carparc ages, especially when it gets to 11 or 12 years old, the population of these cars is going to increase.”

Mr Hanighen said that the property for a service centre is typically leased rather than owned.

“Dealers like to own property but our experience is that leasing is the best option because of the flexibility it gives the franchisee,” he said.

Quick Lane Tyre and Auto Centre handles servicing and light repairs for suspension and steering; transmission; wiper blades; air-conditioning; lamps and bulbs; belts and hoses; as well as cooling system maintenance.

Additionally, the comprehensive range of vehicle services and repairs includes tyre fitment, rotation, balancing and wheel alignment, replacement of shock absorbers, brake services, oil and filter changes, batteries, alternators, starters and electrical services.

Quick Lane customers will receive a complimentary Vehicle Health Check every time they visit a Quick Lane for service.

Mr Hanighen said that marketing for Quick Lane would begin soon, coinciding with the opening of the Hoppers Crossing store with a focus on social media and digital marketing “to get things started”.

There will be more general advertising as the number of stores increases and reaches critical mass.

Franchise arrangements are being handled by Finn Franchise Brokers: 1300 535 932.

By John Mellor