CHICAGO — Resource Automotive, a unit of The Warranty Group Inc., reported that its DriverPlus prepaid maintenance program is experiencing double digit growth, as dealers increasingly focus on fixed operations as the foundation of their customer retention strategy.

DriverPlus provides customers with an alternative to paying for recommended maintenance at the time it is performed by spreading the costs over the term of the loan.

Dealers have found DriverPlus key to assuring that customers return for recommended service and continuously build their relationship with the dealership. Studies show that the more often owners bring their vehicle in for service, the more likely they are to repurchase at that dealership. While DriverPlus is typically sold in the F&I office, many dealers have found it effective to embed the product into every sale.

“At the end of 2009, our retention of new and used customers in the service department was only 29 percent. In January 2010, we began giving each customer that purchased a new or used vehicle a complimentary 36 month/45,000 mile DriverPlus package. By November 2010, of the 862 customers who purchased a vehicle in the first six months of 2010, 35.6 percent have returned for service at least one time and 31.7 percent have returned two or more times. That's a total return 67.3 percent — more than double what it previously was,” said Fred Timbrook Jr., dealer principal of Timbrook Auto Group. “In addition to e-mailing customers a service reminder, Resource provides us with a user-friendly reporting tool that allows us to see how many coupons each customer has used and also which ones are due for service.”

“DriverPlus is a core element in our strategy of utilizing technology to push profit per vehicle, drawing on every profit center in the dealership. First, it provides a competitive differentiator within the sales process. Second, it brings customers back for service, producing additional gross profit and enhancing customer loyalty. Finally, it increases the chance to make each buyer a customer for life, adding value to the relationship and leveraging the dealership’s marketing activities,” said Mike Frosch, president North America, The Warranty Group.