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Viewpoint, Is the Wrench More Powerful Than the Pen?

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nzy of press kits, executive fluff interviews and the free meals, the journalists become brainwashed by their own egos. They think that their words are selling cars and putting wind into the sails of car companies’ stock prices. But, many of their facts and opinions are quickly disproved in a very short period of time.

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However, I feel that compared to the average automotive journalist, the opinion and views of the aftermarket technician and shop owner holds more influence over the driver. Your opinions as a group, drive just as many or maybe more, automotive sales than the typical article or TV segment.

As an independent shop owner and technician, you see all makes. You get to see the vehicles and drivers in situations the automakers and journalists could never dream of while they are sipping a free drink and eating shrimp at a press conference. This gives you critical insight in forming opinions about a car company’s products.

A great example of this is the recent downturn at a German carmaker. It has been a mystery to some automotive journalist why the latest versions of their vehicles have met a chilly reception with once loyal buyers. They looked high and low for a reason, but failed to come up with the right answer. But, just about every shop owner and technician knows the answer to this great mystery.

It was not styling, 0-to-60 mph times or even a glove box that can be used as a cooler. The reason why the new models are failing to sell is a series of electrical problems with previous models that you have probably seen in your bays. Also, you have experienced the same level of frustration that the customer was subjected to when trying to resolve these problems.

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The previous generations of these vehicles had a wide variety of debilitating electrical problems. These problems included a brake pedal switch that paralyzed cars with automatic transmissions. Also, a keyless remote that left drivers locked out or unable to start their vehicle. Chances are you have had to help an owner of one of these vehicles by providing a shoulder to cry on.

Now, when the company tries to sell the once loyal buyer an even more complicated and more expensive car, some of them did not bite. Also, it might make you very hesitant to recommend this brand if someone ask for your opinion.

So how can an OEM improve your opinion of them? Some carmakers think that building a maintenance-free and trouble-free vehicle is the way to improve your opinion of them. This works, but only for so long. What really sets a brand apart is that when it does break down and it is out of warranty, you are able to find the information, tools and parts to fix it right the first time.

The next time one of your customers asks your opinion about buying a new vehicle, take pride in your answer. You must realize that your customer takes your opinion more seriously than any journalist or advice from a new car salesperson.

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