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THE Takata airbag recall disaster has helped return long-lost customers to dealership service departments, with one data firm reporting a 10 per cent increase in service clients on the back of the recall campaign.

CRMA director Jason Fisher said that as a byproduct of his company’s contract to find missing vehicles with Takata airbags, he had seen a chance for dealers to retain some of the customers coming in for recall work.

“A lot of dealers had been thinking along these lines,” he said.

“Dealers are going to have to start making estimates on when the airbag replacement program is going to start tapering off so that they can ensure that the gaps created in their service capability by Takata will be filled by new work.”

He said that the chance to boost customers was part of the discussion his company is having with its dealer clients.

“If you have 100 bays in the service department you can, in theory, put 100 vehicles through your workshop in a day,” he said.

“If you are doing 30 airbags a day – and we have dealers doing 20 a day – that’s 80 cars you are going to need to get back in six months time to get a service.

“But 20 of them are not going to come back for a service because they only came back for a recall and they are not coming back again. So that is a scary prospect.

“We have been working with dealers to contact the recall customers to say; you hope they enjoyed the experience dealing with us. We check the service history to say we notice you have not been in for a service before and invite them back.

“So we are getting people back in that way.”

Mr Fisher said the responses have so far been positive.

“Considering we are targeting people who have never been back or have not been back for more than five years we are up at around a 10 per cent return rate,” he said.

“These are people who have not been back for years.

“So we are saying to dealers that they are going to all this trouble of getting these people into the dealership for the recall, why don’t we try to capture them for a service down the track.”

Mr Fisher said that some dealers told him that they cannot sell customers a service when they are in for the recall.

But Mr Fisher disagrees.

“We have seen that Honda is also offering an incentive of fuel vouchers for people who bring their car in,” he said.

“They are saying we’ll give you money if you bring your car in for service.”

Mr Fisher said that other manufacturers are getting involved, showing that there is an ability to find the silver lining within the cloud.

By Neil Dowling

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