BMW of North America Inc. wants more of its 338 U.S. dealers to use a computerized system to do vehicle inspections when customers arrive for repair and maintenance work.

The auto maker is offering a special program subsidy for dealers who sign up to use Mobile Productivity Inc.’s product, MPi-EDGE/World Class Inspections. Pricing is based on dealership size and number of users.

While participation is voluntary, BMW is encouraging its dealers to consult with MPi to see if the program is a fit for their service departments.

The goal is to boost the number of multi-point vehicle inspections by making it easier and faster for service technicians to conduct them. With the MPi system, mechanics use hand-held devices to check off formatted inspection points on a mobile screen.

The finished product is a report using layman’s terms and illustrations to describe what is in good working order and what is not. The report recommends repairs and includes costs.

It is designed to boost repair orders, increase service and parts profits and enhance customer satisfaction by keeping clients’ cars in good and safe running order.

Despite the mutual benefits of inspections, mechanics often skip the traditional clipboard variety because of the time and effort involved in writing things down, point by point.

Even when inspections are done that way, mechanics sometimes stop short of doing a full report. The MPi system keeps that from happening because the software doesn’t accept incomplete inspections.

Some BMW stores using the system already report it leads to more thorough inspections, a better job of explaining needed repairs to customers and an average $100-$125 in additional needed repairs per inspection.

“We’ve seen a very marked increase in service department up-sells this past year,” says Lisa Schomp, owner of Schomp BMW in Highland Ranch, CO.

She expects that to get even better. “We’re still discovering what this tool can do for us.”

Dealerships facing soft vehicle sales of late are turning to their back shops to pick up the profit slack.

“We now see the service department as a great place for sales and growth opportunity,” Schomp says.

BMW’s backing is valuable, says David Boyle, MPi president and chief operating officer.

“With current market conditions, the key is to promote and sell all legitimately needed parts and service work to existing customers,” he says.

MPi’s vehicle-inspection program includes the EDGE software system; two customized, customer friendly reports called “Recommended Action Plan” and “Know Your Vehicle”; management reporting and analysis capabilities; consulting and training services; and process and performance metrics.

sfinlay@wardsauto.com