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Automotive Marketing by Area: Fixed Ops Focused

Automotive Retention Rate for Dealers

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Automotive Retention Rate for Dealers

The customer retention rate is a measurement all dealerships pay close attention to. Retention reflects the customer experience and ultimately affects the bottom line for the dealership. Both the sales and service departments seek high customer retention rates.

Understanding the Automotive Retention Rate

Calculating Customer Retention Rate

There are no standard calculations for dealership retention. Every manufacturer has a specific method for calculating retention, so dealership leaders focus on these metrics. It is imperative that fixed ops leaders consistently review their performance and work to find ways to improve their scores.

Finding Retention Rate Data for Sales

Finding the dealership’s sales retention rate depends on the manufacturer they represent. Some manufacturers may not even measure retention. When manufacturers measure retention, they provide this information on the internal dashboard within the dealer network.

Finding Retention Rate Data for Service

Every manufacturer measures retention rates for the service department. The district parts and service manager will often provide these reports directly to the dealership service manager via email. Typically, they’re available monthly in the dashboard that the manufacturer provides the dealers.

Calculating the Retention Rate for Dealerships

The retention rate is automatically calculated for dealers in the metric from the manufacturer. Calculations vary from one manufacturer to another.

Typically dealerships track customers that have one customer-pay repair or warranty repair order in a rolling 12 months. Some also track customers that have two or more customer-pay or warranty repair orders in this same period.

What is Considered a Good Retention Rate?

A good retention rate depends on the type of car line, which can be segmented into three categories. Category number one covers all domestic lines of cars. Category number two is the import car line, while category number three includes highline cars.

Surveys of various dealers show that domestic stores define a successful retention rate as retaining 55% of their service clients. These are clients who have been in one or more times within the last 12 months. For import carlines, the threshold would be 60% or better. Highline cars would need 65% or better to be declared a success.

There are a handful of reasons for these differences. One reason is that certain carlines have done a better job branding themselves to help customers identify with the brand. This influences a customer to return to the dealership to have their car serviced.

Another aspect of it is the maintenance intervals. Domestic vehicles often have the shortest maintenance interval between minor services. Import vehicles tend to have slightly longer maintenance intervals.

Luxury cars like BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audis have the longest maintenance intervals in between minor services. Domestic vehicles might need service every 5,000 to 7,000 miles, while imported vehicles need service every 5,000 to 7,500 miles. Some of the highline vehicles can go 12,000 to 15,000 miles in between maintenance intervals.


A winning dealership relies heavily on returning customers, especially in the service department, but knowing your customer retention rate will help you set goals for your dealership in both the sales and the service departments. 

Meeting these goals can have a great impact on the success of the dealership as a whole, so it’s imperative to review and analyze these numbers regularly, allowing for adjustments to be made throughout the year.

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