Some of the nation’s largest dealership groups are extending back-shop hours and increasing work shifts as part of an effort to beef up their fixed operations.

AutoNation Inc., the country’s largest dealership chain, is stepping up service operations at its 246 stores, says Michael Maroone, company president.

“We are expanding our offerings and offering seven day a week service,” he says. “We are doing a lot more prospecting and training. We are getting aggressive, innovative and testing the organization.”

It’s not clear yet how many Americans will buy alternative-fuel vehicles as those make their way to market. But vehicles powered by the likes of electricity and hydrogen may offer a future boon to back shops, says AutoNation CEO Michael Jackson.

That’s because maintaining and fixing those complicated powertrains will require auto technicians of the highest level, such as those found at dealerships, he says.

“As a retailer, the complexity of these vehicles will be good for us, because who will be able to fix these things? Your authorized dealership network.”

Dealership service work is increasing as people keep their cars longer and so require more maintenance and repair work.

The solution to the increased work is to add more shifts, not enlarge facilities, says Earl Hesterberg, CEO of Group 1 Automotive dealership chain with 95 stores.

“You don’t have to build new service bays and buy more land; you add a second shift,” says Hesterberg, a former executive at Ford Motor Co., which, as a manufacturer, knows something about work shifts.

Yet, he says, it is necessary to “get auto makers to acknowledge” that increases in dealership business need not automatically result in building-expansion projects.

“You can’t avoid physical representation,” Hesterberg says. “But in Europe, they are much more important for service. People will travel to buy a new vehicle, but not to get that car serviced.

DARCARS, a Maryland-based 26-store dealership group, heavily relies on its service departments “and always has,” says Tammy Darvish, one of the dealer principals at the family-owned enterprise.

A well-oiled service department begins in the service lanes, she says. “We make sure the advisors in the service lanes are sales-oriented but credible.”

She cites success by employing female service advisors. “Sixty percent of our service customers are women.”

sfinlay@wardsauto.com