With ongoing growth in many vocational market segments, including operations that use medium-duty trucks, truck manufacturers like Ford, GM and Ram are actively working with their dealer networks to expand service offerings. Just as importantly, they are providing extensive training and support to the highly specialized commercial dealers.
Since time is money for medium-duty commercial vehicle users, the OEMs also note, these programs, improvements and new offerings are helping minimize costly downtime and keep trucks on the job.
In early July, Ford reported record-setting sales of its F-650 and F-750 Class 6 and 7 medium duty chassis cabs, including a more than 80% year-over-year gain. The OEM quickly credited both continuous product improvement efforts and an ongoing focus on expanding its commercial dealer network for the growth and success. When Ford introduced the new versions of the F-650 and F-750 in 2015, noted Kevin Koester, Ford’s commercial truck brand manager, there were fewer than 100 dealers across the country servicing the OEM’s medium-duty trucks. “Thanks to an ongoing effort, there are now more than 500 Ford dealers servicing medium-duty trucks across the U.S.,” he said.
“That five-fold increase in medium-duty servicing dealerships gives customers confidence that whether they operate locally, regionally or nationally, they will be able to get service and support quickly,” Koester added.
General Motors’ return to the medium-duty truck segment with the Class 6 Chevrolet Low Cab Forward 6500XD and Silverado 4500HD, 5500HD and 6500HD models led to the start of large investments in service capabilities by dealers, the OEM noted.
“We have a number of dealers that are growing their facilities for service,” said John Schwegman, director of commercial product and medium duty at GM Fleet at the time. “For dealers, it’s not about meeting minimum requirements. It’s about how they can maximize the return on their investment in this opportunity because they see it as significant.”
After GM announced its medium-duty plans, Schwegman reported, over 400 dealers applied to sell Chevrolet medium-duty trucks, and more than one third of those were new to the market segment. Overall, GM has more than 600 Chevy and GMC Business Elite dealers with service departments equipped with tools and equipment, and staffed by certified technicians, to accommodate commercial fleet needs.
Minimum dealer requirements to sell Chevrolet medium-duty trucks include having specific service door heights and lifts for the larger trucks. Training for staff in the service department is also mandatory. Chevrolet dealers also needed to be prepared to handle priority service needs around medium-duty truck users’ schedules.
For fleets operating Class 3, 4 and 5 Ram Chassis Cab 3500, 4500 and 5500 models, FCA US has BusinessLink dealers prepared to meet their needs. The dealerships offer extended service hours and specially-trained in-house and in-field technicians to service the OEM’s commercial vehicle lineup.
Meanwhile, earlier this year Ford also announced that it was improving its service and support offerings with a Commercial Vehicle Center program. The network of more than 650 dealers, the OEM noted, is committed to offering service support to commercial customers. The program replaces the previous Ford Business Preferred Network of commercial dealers.
“Our goal is to make Ford Commercial Vehicle Center dealers the trusted choice for commercial customers by providing an easy, effortless customer experience through a comprehensive, industry-leading commercial dealer network program,” said John Ruppert, Ford’s general manager for commercial vehicle sales and marketing.
To maximize customer vehicle uptime, Commercial Vehicle Center dealer service departments are open at least 55 hours per week, and have employed new stocking programs to improve parts availability. In addition, all Commercial Vehicle Center dealer employees are cross-trained by the OEM to provide customers with support from sales to finance to service.
Additionally, Ford’s new Commercial Advantage Rewards loyalty program lets customers earn factory benefits that can be redeemed at any Commercial Vehicle Center location. Dealers can offer their own rewards through the program as well.