J. D. Power and Associates recently released a report showing that customers of cars that have been recalled are very satisfied with the service they received. Chris Sutton, Vice President of automotive retail practice at J. D. Power said, “Manufacturers have shown that it is possible to turn a potential negative into a positive when it comes to recalls.” You bet it is.

JDPower Car Customer Service Study
Good ratings for service, sure. But is there such thing as a free repair?

The report briefly touches on why CSI (Customer Satisfaction Index, not the crime show) is high, such as offering express service lanes and allowing on-line scheduling.

But there is an 800-lb. gorilla in the room and an elephant there behind him.

Every recall customer is a potential new-car sale–a consumer who probably wouldn’t be in the dealership at all, if not for the recall. And everyone bringing their recalled vehicle to get fixed is a prospect for additional–and paid–vehicle services.

I own two General Motors vehicles, and both have been recently recalled. I’ve taken one in for repair so far. While waiting for the work to be done, I got my complimentary coffee and wandered around the showroom. Sure enough, I saw a couple of cars that impressed me and, just as surely, a friendly salesperson offered me details on all the hot features available only on 2015 models–as opposed to my two-year-old “clunker,” which, by the way, would make an awesome trade-in!

I didn’t buy a car. But I was tempted. I listened to the entire sales pitch, and had to stop myself from visibly drooling. All because of that darn recall.

However, I did buy something I absolutely hadn’t planned on buying. In addition to the free recall repair, the service manager suggested I have the transmission fluid changed. Heck, I’m already here, right?

I don’t have hard data, but my guess is that most recall customers end up unexpectedly opting (and paying) for additional services–and selling extra services is as much a part of the dealer’s strategy as having an irresistible showroom to explore, and a captive audience all but mandated to be there with time enough to admire the merchandise.

No manufacturer likes having to recall the vehicles they make. But, given that recalls do occur, doesn’t it make sense that manufacturers (and especially dealers) see that as an opportunity to sell more cars and services?

So it’s no surprise that J.D. Power found that dealers treat recall customers well. The surprise would be if they did just the repairs and spared me the gorilla and the elephant.

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