Fixed operations departments should be the “backbone of the dealership, not the back door,” says Stan Rodia, director of service for a Mercedes-Benz dealership in Arlington, VA.

Even the no-nonsense name of his dealership, American Service Center, reflects that philosophy. Its service department, with $15.8 million in revenue, ranks seventh among all dealership service departments on the Ward's 500.

Owner Morton Zetlin says his father-in-law and founder, Saul Brooks, always stressed service and taking care of the customer.

An indication of its brisk service operation is that on any given day the dealership will have between 250 and 300 loaner vehicles on the road. Of those, 100 are Mercedes from the dealership's own fleet of vehicles. The rest are mid-level vehicles supplied by Enterprise Rent-A-Car Co.

Rodia admits the extensive loaner program, available to customers whose vehicles are under the Mercedes-Benz warranty, is expensive. But American Service Center is the only Mercedes dealership in the Washington D.C. market to offer it, and that makes it a huge competitive advantage.

“We see it as a necessity,” Rodia says. “More than 35% of our business comes from people who have bought their vehicles at other Mercedes-Benz dealerships.”

The dealership repairs an average of 170 Mercedes Benz vehicles a day and washes all of them before they are returned to customers.

The service department is organized into what management calls a lateral support system, which essentially is “a bunch of little shops in one big shop,” Rodia says. Each service advisor is responsible for a team of six to seven technicians.

“It lets them focus more on the customer, not just the vehicle,” Rodia says. Instead of sitting at a desk and entering the information into a computer, the service advisors are out in the service lane with the customer going over the vehicle and writing the orders.

Rodia also credits advertising for the growth of the service department business.

Top 10 Service Revenue

Overall Rank Dealership Service Revenue
2 Fletcher Jones Motorcars $35,877,457
70 Smythe European $26,307,836
1 Longo Toyota $20,302,700
3 Braman Motorcars $17,547,752
46 Fletcher Jones Imports $16,395,430
8 #1 Cochran $16,140,070
56 American Service Center $15,861,347
59 Beverly Hills Mercedes-Benz $15,849,487
58 Penske Motorcars $15,113,800
10 Mercedes Benz South Bay $14,334,025