Service advisers at 34 Sonic Automotive Inc. stores are utilizing iPads as part of operations and have notice the increase in repair orders. At these stores where service iPads are used, customer-pay business is increasing. For one, grosses per repair order have increased by 8% on average at Lexus dealerships and 11% percent at Toyota stores. Last October, Apple, iPad's manufacturer, even recognized the accomplishments of Sonic during the gadget maker's earning conference call. In April, all Sonic stores will be equipped with service department iPads. Also, sales representatives have already received iPads. Sonic President Scott Smith disclosed that they have made a "huge, huge, huge, multiple-tens-of-millions-of-dollars commitment to go this way," adding that this is just going to get bigger.
He disclosed that they are rolling out the iPads and iPhones to technicians, service writers, salespeople, F&I and porters. "It's not cheap," he admitted. Sonic, the third biggest retailer in the nation, is investing $57 million this year on technology. It is spending much to equip its frontline employees with Apple gadgets that are expected to boost their productivity, persuade clients to spend more and increase loyalty. Unlike other large public dealership groups, Sonic is staying away from acquisitions and instead, it is investing internally.
Other huge retailers are also utilizing tablets in their operations, but Sonic's initiative is on the leading edge. Leaders at AutoNation have disclosed that they will be equipping their service and sales employees with tablet computers in 2012 and 2013. Asbury chief Craig Monaghan foresees a day when most areas of the dealership are using tablets instead of PCs. Asbury has utilized iPads in some store pilots. Group 1 Automotive is utilizing tablets in service departments at some stores. Lithia and Penske are operating service department pilots.