Profiting from Hybrid Repairs
Skip Schinsing has a background in the racing industry. And, to this day, he has no desire to get passed up by competitors.
That might help explain why Schinsing’s current employer, Porsche Jacksonville, has a white-knuckle grip on the hybrid repair market in northern Florida.
“Whatever we can do, at all levels, we’re trying to help people with understanding these modern vehicles,” notes Schinsing, who is about to embark on his fourth year as a dealership service manager.
“We recognize that this is where the future of the industry is headed … alternate fuel,” says Brandon Starks, Porsche Jacksonville’s general manager.
Of course, dealership managers can’t teach others about new vehicle technology until they’ve been taught themselves. And Schinsing and Starks discovered in 2012 that the nuances of hybrid repair can’t be learned overnight.
About five years ago, Porsche Jacksonville started to see the occasional hybrid model roll in for maintenance work. Before long, management could tell that the service department’s entire staff would eventually need to learn all of the intricacies of hybrid repair.
“We sat down,” Schinsing recalls, “and made the decision to embrace the Porsche hybrid. We made a point of educating the technicians.”
Of course, considering all the expenses associated with providing training—including tuition, hotel accommodations and airfare, which might add up to around $4,000 per employee, depending on the manufacturer—it was natural to wonder if the Florida dealership would reap legitimate rewards from such investments.
By 2015, more and more plug-in Porsche hybrids were visiting Jacksonville for maintenance, like the Panamera sedan, the 918 Spyder sports car and the Cayenne SUV. Additionally, the first fully electric-powered Porsche, the Mission E coupe, was unveiled as a concept car at that year’s Frankfurt Motor Show.
Clearly, it appeared worth Porsche Jacksonville’s resources to get certified for repairing alternative-fuel vehicles.
“I foresee working on hybrid repairs here, turning into electric car repair and maintenance not too far down the road,” Starks says.
So, management made sure that nine technicians went to Porsche-specific training facilities. They even investigated specific training for 918 Spyders. Furthermore, the dealership made brochures that helped educate customers on hybrid technology, and also took the time to ensure that staff members—such as service advisors, the customer experience manager (a role akin to a concierge) and even their appointment scheduler—were well versed in hybrid technology enough that they could answer most customer inquiries about the vehicles’ functions. That’s really all the dealership needed to do, along the lines of marketing, with regard to hybrid repair.
“We all take part in that customer education,” Schinsing says of his service department staff. “It’s ongoing, all the time. … Questions and inquiries—that goes on all day long.”
The Florida dealership has tooled up, too. In recent years, Porsche of Jacksonville has spent a sizable sum on hybrid-specific tools, like a hybrid-only Snap-on kit that can be moved from vehicle to vehicle, and lots of high-voltage tooling, along with its requisite rubber gloves. The dealership also now features vehicle charging stations on both its interior and exterior.
When Starks says his customers have responded well to hybrid repairs, he has the numbers to back it up. Porsche Jacksonville’s service department has a customer satisfaction index of 98, to go along with a customer retention rate of 65. The average monthly car count has increased incrementally, to 425, over the last few years.
Starks feels that, as long as his dealership keeps educating its customers on hybrids—and has ample employees in place to provide that education—then Porsche Jacksonville will remain well-positioned for the future.
“It’s important that everyone embrace hybrid customers, and understand that it’s not just a fad,” Starks says.
Management in Jacksonville has learned that, if they can avoid being overwhelmed by hybrid vehicle technology, they can usually help their customers avoid feeling that way, too.
“It’s technology, moving fast forward,” Schinsing says. “You can’t hide from it. You can’t deny it. You’ve got to embrace it, you’ve got to educate yourself.”