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As cars multiply in our market, servicing them will be crucial

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Don’t Drink And Write

I used to collect Casio G-Shocks. Not sure what I was thinking at the time, but amassing an assortment of colorful digital watches seemed cute then. So cute my collection made it to Piece No. 42. It was fun being able to wear a different G-Shock each day, the choice being mostly dictated by the shirt color I happened to pick from the drawer.

That was until many of them stopped running one day, their batteries dying in succession — almost on cue. I remember seeing at least 12 powerless pieces, all begging for a P500 battery replacement. Add it up. At that point, it started sinking: Digital timepieces — or other products, for that matter — are only enjoyable when they’re functioning (obviously).

I tell this story after having attended the inauguration of the newly built Toyota Alabang Service Center in Las Piñas City. To be clear, this is not a new dealership or showroom. This is simply a service-only facility that the owners say is now officially the biggest Toyota service center in all of Asia.

Apparently, when the Toyota Alabang showroom moved to a better, larger building in September 2014, the principals estimated that the size of the structure was enough to let them accommodate their customers’ cars for the next six years. Alas, sales were so brisk that the location’s service bays ultimately became insufficient in just two years, prompting management to erect a facility that is exclusively dedicated to after-sales service.

The new service center, Toyota Alabang claims, can conduct work on 150 cars per day, with one vehicle being attended to by three technicians at the same time. The selling point is preventive maintenance within 60 minutes — a clear improvement from the current backlog at the regular dealership.

I hear Toyota Balintawak is also opening a similar facility. I won’t be surprised if this is now the Japanese automaker’s approach for its entire dealership network in the country: a separate service center that’s completely distinct from the sales showroom. Indeed, I’m guessing other brands will adopt the same business model, what with the steady influx of new cars in our market. Last year, the formal auto industry sold a total of 470,000 brand-new vehicles. That’s in 2017 alone. Definitely a lot of cars to service and (let’s be honest) make money from. After all, it’s not really in unit sales that dealerships rake in their profits — it’s in after-sales service and parts replacement.

It now makes sense why the market’s leading car company put up a technical school. The Toyota Motor Philippines School of Technology is the company’s way of ensuring that it will have a reliable supply of competent technicians to service the vehicles of its customers. What a brilliant strategy, if you think about it. They manufacture and sell you the product, and they supply the workers needed to maintain and repair said product. That’s the cash register ringing, in case you’re wondering.

But seriously, all this is good news for a lot of hardworking Filipino mechanics — both within the Toyota network and outside of it. In fact, I’m betting the friendly neighborhood “talyer” now has more business than ever. Remember that car owners will always go to non-dealership garages to have their vehicles serviced once their warranty expires.

The growth of vehicle sales in the country in the past decade has been so fantastic that it’s frightening to imagine the amount of work needed to service all the cars being added to our road network on a daily basis. The upside here is that more and more car technicians will be gainfully employed. Do you have kids in high school who still have no idea what they want to do later in life? You might want to turn them on to the prospect of fixing cars. Who knows? They could be so successful they might end up owning a chain of small service centers.

Motor vehicles are just like my old G-Shocks. They will start conking out one by one. Be the business person to take advantage of the opportunity and provide the care they need.

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