Some dealerships are using free vehicle inspections to boost service-department repair orders.

One of them is Car and Truck Country, a 10-store dealer group with 13 service departments. It's based in Flemington, NJ.

“In 2009, we broke all kinds of records for retail customer pay business at our stores,” says Steve Jellen, Flemington's fixed operations director. “We increased our volume of pay for repair orders (ROs). We increased our overall number of ROs and traffic volume.”

He cites a $1.1 million gain in customer pay work for the year, a 5% gain for the group.

The dealership group uses MPi's EDGE System. It is automated and works in conjunction with a handheld device which a dealership mechanic can use, relying on a check-point software program.

Managers can readily review the number of completed vehicle inspections, technician recommendations, advisor sales/close ratios and other metrics to pinpoint potential management issues.

“I can see if a technician is making more or fewer recommendations than his peers, and I can see if an advisor is following our process to make the sales,” Jellens says.

Customers are given copies of the completed inspections, showing what repair or maintenance work is recommended.

Jellen estimates 25% of customers who receive the report return to complete work they refused during an initial visit. It's a key driver behind the overall increase in RO counts, he says