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Old 26th August 2014, 23:17   #1
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Post Startup idea: Technical audits of car dealership service estimates

I own a German make car and have been having a significantly difficult time with their dealership owned service center in Pune and Mumbai. I had a relatively small problem - the fuel indicator was showing zero reading within an hour of filling petrol. I took it to the service center and first they gave an estimate of Rs. 2,500 and within a few hours revised the estimate to Rs. 5,200.

I've taken up this issue with the manufacturer, and hence would not like to go into the details of the problem over here right now (after escalating the issue the manufacturer finally responded and has agreed to 'look into the issue').

My past few experiences with car dealership service centers and also on reading the several other posts in this "car dealership" section of the team-bhp forum tells me that there is a significant, serious and recurring problem with regards to overcharging and mis-reporting of the issue for service centers of the dealership. The recent Competition Commission of India (CCI) ruling fining the car manufacturers for Rs. 2,500 Crore is a clear message that massive amount of fraud and overcharging is happening by service centers.

Hence, this is an idea i'm proposing: A 3rd party should have an approved panel of car experts (expert panels can be created for different car makes) and anyone team-bhp member who feels is getting overcharged can contact this expert panel to get their service center estimates vetted and audited. If the service center is found to be overcharging, the service audit team can charge a small fee for saving the car owner from unnecessary service center charges. The service centers also seem to be replacing parts in huge quantities even when the problem is very small and could be fixed by attempting a repair of the part. This ends up in creating a massive environmental nightmare - as replacing parts is becoming the norm in these foreign made cars. The fixable part ends up in the landfill and besides the manufacturer/dealership everyone else in society is at the losing end of this battle (both for spending unnecessary money and for adding more non-recyclable products to the landfill).

Since most car owners are not expert enough to understand and debate with service center managers and advisors, there is a clear need for an expert panel team which people can rely on and trust and to whom the car owners can direct their questions and request them to audit the service center estimates and work done.

In case there are any takers for this idea or would like to pursue this further (in terms of building the online internet platform which can facilitate such a service) -- please do let me know, as I'm very keen to work on this idea.

Look forward to hearing from the community.

Best,
rsutaria

Last edited by Rehaan : 27th August 2014 at 13:57. Reason: Hi rsutaria, I've generalized your post a little to widen the discussion.
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Old 27th August 2014, 14:08   #2
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Default re: Startup idea: Technical audits of car dealership service estimates

Hi rsutaria,

Firstly, I think the regulation and cross-checking should happen from the parent company. We shouldn't have to rely on a 3rd party company to cross-check whether or not we're being ripped off!

This is only possible with good management and good systems in place - top down. Unfortunately, just like the repair of complex electronic items, most consumers are clueless about car repairs too. Technically sound and trustworthy management has to be put in place to ensure accurate diagnosis as service centers.

For example, when we send our Innova for service, it's a PLEASURE and i am happy to speak to the service advisor and approve the additional charges for things he has spotted (accurately, might i add). When i send my Vento for service, I literally have to argue with the service advisors about what they think might be the problem (the solutions of which all have a 4-figure amounts attached).

There are actually some existing services that offer technical checking of used cars :
Example (B2B mostly) and Vericar (for end users) - which shut down as it wasn't sustainable.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rsutaria View Post
The service centers also seem to be replacing parts in huge quantities even when the problem is very small and could be fixed by attempting a repair of the part. This ends up in creating a massive environmental nightmare - as replacing parts is becoming the norm in these foreign made cars. The fixable part ends up in the landfill
I agree with your intent here, but I don't agree with your point.

Fixing a broken part will almost never be as good as a brand new replacement part. Service centers should only use new parts and do replacements (not repairs - which are a lot more time consuming too).

For repairs, you can always go to your trusted 3rd party mechanic, or do some roadside jugaad.

The beauty of India is that very few things actually end up in a landfill. Everything has a life beyond its life, and I can assure you that most half-broken car parts are also being re-sold to fixer-uppers who will then resell them as working used parts (or even 'fake' new parts).

cya
R

PS - Here's a related thread : LINK (Ideas for Automotive Entrepreneurial ventures)

Last edited by Rehaan : 27th August 2014 at 14:15.
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Old 27th August 2014, 14:32   #3
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Default re: Startup idea: Technical audits of car dealership service estimates

I think its it's wishful thinking to imagine a company policing its own service centers (other than maybe toyota and tesla). Margins on cars are low, and servicing is the only way a lot of dealerships stay in business. Take that away from them and.....

I'd suggest you offer a total service - including pickup, drop off and validation of bill expenses.

The problem with your model is that without an itemized estimate, disputing it can be futile, and by the time you get a bill, it would be too late. Also, car owners tend to have varying degrees of propensity to spend - from those who want their cars to be 100% functional all the time, to those with the chaltha hai attitude. Tailoring your feedback to get the right amount of what is needed, and what is not, is a subjective process. For example, I would not be too keen on replacing the AC compressor, even if it might die in another 6-12 months, but wouldn't hesistate to blow a ton on overhauling the fuel pump, just for a marginal performance improvement.

More often than not, what your advisors recommend, might also turn out to be wrong. Service centers give worst case estimates because they are worried about legal liability. If they don't replace something, and it blows up/breaks down, they can potentially end up in court. If the owner does it, then he's taking on the risk in the face of the payoff.

If you, a third party says that something is not needed, the owner benefits from it disproportionately, while taking on a huge amount of risk. Even if you inform the consumer of the potential risks, and the customer asks you what would you do, you might say that it is not needed - to save the customer money. But then what if something goes wrong? Would a sort of signed waiver from the customer be enough?
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Old 27th August 2014, 16:03   #4
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Default re: Startup idea: Technical audits of car dealership service estimates

Hi Rehaan & greenhorn,

Thanks for your replies. Rehann - I agree with your point that the solution for advanced equipment like cars needs to be top-down. But based on my recent experience with a service center (which was not at all different than the kind of experience you've had with your Vento) made me realize that non-technical folks are really going to be struggling to get their cars serviced. And with the recent CCI ruling that most manufacturers have been ripping-off their customers by overcharging on spares - the issue is completely out in the open now that service centers are heavily over charging for spare parts. Every foreign car maker, baring Hyundai, has been fined for this violation.

Hence, unfortunately, while relying on the manufacturer would be the nicest thing to have, the reality is demanding a different solution. I'm also not so confident of your assessment that things in India do not end up in the landfill. In case you might have missed the recent Satyamev Jayate episode on garbage landfills of India it is worth a view: http://www.satyamevjayate.in/dont-wa...r-garbage.aspx.

What greenhorn has outlined are very real issues with trying to offer such an audit service. Who will take the final responsibility for such repairs? What is needed here is a technological disruption in the way estimates are generated. This is not going to be a simple service to provide or a problem to solve. It is going to require building really strong/professional car expert teams who can respond in a timely manner. This in itself is not a simple task to build such a team.

The solution I'm thinking of is to use real-time video discussions and a team of 'flying doctors', who within city limits can engage with the customer to make sure only the right repairs are happening on the car. Of course, car servicing as greenhorn has pointed out, can indeed be a subjective issue and is not always objective.

I was going through the "Ideas for automotive entrepreneurial ventures" link and I really liked one of the suggestions - that maybe the team-bhp mods can have a dedicated thread where startup entrepreneurs can identify themselves and suggest what it is in the automotive space that they'd like to experiment with or be co-founders of.

Basically, right now the end goal of my suggestion is to find out ways and means by which only the right amount of servicing gets done on a car and that no extra parts which don't need to be replaced are unnecessarily getting replaced.
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