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Is AAA your Competition?


Curt Hogan

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AAA in our area has, for the last couple of yours been running battery replacement trucks in addition to the normal towing vehicles. I stated my displeasure with this program to my AAA representative when I was participating in the AAA Approved Auto Repair program and using them as my towing service. Since I have ceased participation in the program, my tow in rate has more than doubled.

I was reading a recent issue of Brake and Front End magazine today and got to wondering if those of you who are still involved with AAA are as alarmed as I am even though I am a former participant? According to the editorial AAA has purchased a 30 something location, auto repair franchise, operating in several states in the Midwestern and Eastern United States.

My concern is this, when I was a AAA Approved shop I advertised, as I'm sure most of you do, The AAA logo in all of my print advertising, on my radio advertising and even my Yellow Pages ads. Heck, I even allowed them to hang their sign on my pole and building. All of those years I paid dues to belong to and advertised for an organization that is now a direct competitor.

Yeah, I may just be venting but really would like to know what you all think?

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It appears being in New York has one advantage: They don't have a strong AAA approved shop program. Only shops that have towing service in New York can apply for AAA approved shop status. We have many customers who have AAA cards, buy all they get is a free tow to my shop. AAA shops also are designated by territory.

 

I would like to know of the details of this program, since it seems different in other states.

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  • 1 month later...
  • 6 months later...
  • 1 month later...

There is one shop in town, does not provide towing service, that is an AAA approved shop. He get's all first shots at all tire work and mechanical repairs. I thought it took more than just 300 names. Can't find any direct info for details to sign up. Any links anyone?

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  • 3 years later...

I am on the other end of this, my shop started off as a AAA Emergency Response Server provider. WE are the battery truck guys. It helped my business flourish as many member cars arent starting and they automatically assume its the battery. I get all kinds of tow ins from my guys when they are alternators, starters, crank sensors, timing belt, you name it. My guys also have a very high rate of getting members on the go. Meaning they are able to help the member get started and off to where they need to go or to drive to a shop. Shop became AAA approved after the fact and it has not been a deterrent for me. The shop approval in my opinion hasn't necessarily brought me ALOT more work but it puts new customers at ease and partially because my AAA guys are already getting stuff towed in.

 

I will agree though that it is alarming they are buying up chains and doing there own thing. I will say though, with the way Service Providers act and take care of customers. AAA almost HAD to do this to take care of their members. Our numbers have been some of the best in our region and all we do is jump start people and if they need a battery, we simply ask them if they would like a new one. Yet, service providers around us would call me asking how the hell we sell so many batteries. Honesty, Integrity and just plain getting to their breakdown location within a decent amount of time! Good business is just taking care of your customers. Make a profit but take care of your customers!

Edited by ATSAutomotive
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  • 2 months later...

Joe how is it working out for you?

Well, to be honest, not as I expected. While I do believe it adds a level of consumer confidence, it has not helped in gaining new customers. In fact, what it did do is bring attention to all my existing AAA customers to ask for a discount. The discount was never a thought in my customer's mind, now it is.

 

The other issue is that in NY there are AAA towing and AAA auto approved shops. The AAA tow companies ask shops for "kick backs" to get the car towed to your shop. I won't go down that road.

 

At this point I am disappointed.

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If it doesn't help in getting new customers then it looks like it would only cost money.

 

My manager bill and myself have been digging through the files to see what move we need to make. Essentially, you could be correct.

 

We need to decide a few things; Do we need an AAA Approved status? After all, it was only a year and a half ago we joined the program. Is it a badge of honor? Yes it is. You need to qualify. And, if we give it up, how will customers perceive it and what other shop in the area will become a AAA Approved shop? Don't forget, we have a lock on the territory.

 

Right now, I have more questions than answers.

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It is pretty expensive if you have to give every existing customer AAA member a 10% discount. A smart regular customer could join just for the discount. Why do you think it is not bringing in new business?

 

We track all new customers and must enter in our management system how that person found us. Hardly any say it was because of AAA.

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I have a simular situation with my local AutoZone. I lost a battery sale to them this week. I called the store manager to express my anger and I was informed that he agreed with me but corporate wasn't going to change. This week my guys are instucted NOT to purchase from them so I hope they enjoyed the $99 battery sale.

 

I think it is wrong for these auto part stores to play mechanic. Free installation of wiper blades, batteries, lamps and scanning CE lights hurts shops like mine.

 

(I want to weld the battery hold down bolt and send the car to AutoZone for a new battery out of spite) LOL

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  • 4 weeks later...

Since I am no longer affiliated with AAA I don't know all the particulars, but local shops that are AAA approved have recently received notice that the program is changing. There is a whole new set of rules and requirements to participate. During my conversations with other owners, their biggest concerns are a discount is now mandatory and they now require you to agree to begin work on AAA customers vehicles within 1 hour of wrecker drop off! There are other requirements but they escape me now.

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The shop can tell AAA that they are able to handle "Priority Service Tows" or not. If you tell AAA that you can handle "Priority Service" it means you will triage those cars within an hour to let the customer know what amount of time you will need to diagnose or fix the vehicle. You can tell AAA that you can not handle any priority tows at any time of the day or any day of the week.

At first glance the new requirements may seem onerous on a shop, but we have not found that to be true. We have had a good relationship with AAA and these new requirements help to make the AAR program stronger and more exclusive. In Northern NE, AAA does not operate repair shops and has told us that they will open repair facilities.

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We recently dropped the AAA program. They wanted us to give them all of our customers email addresses to perform regular CSI reviews. We have always told our customers that the email addresses are for internal usage only.

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AAA in New York merged with another AAA group in the New England area. I don't know all the details yet. I do know that AAA wants to promote a 2 year, 24 month warranty as one of the key changes.

 

I have had many discussions with my area rep about and recently told my rep that I can no longer afford to give a 10% discount. If the program does not change, I will drop out.

 

Well it seems that I was not alone in my feelings and my AAA group as of Jan 1, 2015 will cap the discount at $50.00. I still have a few issues to work thru, but hope is not lost.

 

I was will keep everyone updated.

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For us here is Wisconsin we were contractually obligated to start diagnosis within one hour and we had to give a 10% discount on labor only. So not only did I have to put my full paying customers on hold but, I had to do so at a discount! On top of that, we were often made out as the bad guys when we got surprise tow ins. There was no way we were going to be able to service them in a timely fashion. This is another reason we kicked the AAA program.

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  • 3 weeks later...

We are lucky to be the only shop within 5 miles of a college. The kids call AAA, we are the only shop they can get towed to for free. Works out good for us and the towing companies, plus I keep a part of my lot clear for AAA tow ins so its easy for the rollback drivers to get in and out. We never say no to tow ins. But, we are not a AAA paying member garage so there's nobody telling us how fast to work. Like I've always said following someone else's plan benefits them, now if there was heavy competition the $$$$ might be worth it.

Edited by alfredauto
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