Independent Car Servicing Important Enough to Buy Used

When BMW and Mercedes-Benz implemented policies designed to control where and how their cars could be serviced, they set a trend that other car manufacturers are beginning to look at. How long the trend lasts is anyone’s guess. Data shows that customers are not all that happy with the move, to the extent that they are willing to trade in their new cars if it means being able to use an independent service garage.

A Servicing Stop survey meant to gauge consumer opinions about main dealer versus independent car servicing produced some rather interesting results. According to the data, 53% of motorists would rather trade in a newer car restricted to main dealer service for a used model that can be taken to an independent garage.

In addition, the survey revealed that nearly 70% of motorists prefer independent service. Some 46% believe that independent garages offer better prices, 40% claim to prefer supporting local businesses, and 14% say independent garages are more likely to allow customers to choose the date for service.

Nothing New to See Here

Despite the survey data, Servicing Stop chief executive Oly Richmond says there’s really nothing new to see here. He contends that consumers have always preferred independent car servicing over dealer service. He says the only thing surprising is that brands like BMW and Mercedes seem to be doubling down on dealer servicing requirements.

So, why would BMW and Mercedes-Benz attempt to force customers to use only dealership service? They say it is because they are trying to protect the integrity of their cars’ computer systems. Both manufacturers insist they want to maintain control over all the data created by the cars, as well as the electronic control systems that are now part of every modern engine system. They say that independent car servicing puts both data and electronic systems at risk.

Security concerns among some premium manufacturers has been elevated to the point that they have begun encrypting computerised systems to prevent them from being unlocked by service centres that do not have authorised equipment for doing so. And because independent garages don’t want to invest in the equipment, they are increasingly being prevented from working on some premium brands.

Time to Make a Choice

If nothing else, the Servicing Stop survey indicates that it is time for all parties to make a choice. Are premium brands like BMW and Mercedes willing to put their customer base at risk by forcing buyers into more expensive dealer servicing? Are car buyers willing to forgo brands they have always purchased in order to maintain the ability to use independent service garages?

It does not appear as though manufacturers are going to be dissuaded from continuing their servicing practices. So it’s up to individual buyers to decide what they are, and are not, willing to tolerate. Based on the recent survey, independent car servicing is by far the preferred choice. That could mean bad news for BMW, Mercedes, and other premium brands.


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