Dealer Ops

The Dangers Of Speed In Detailing

Dealers put a great deal of pressure on their detail department to get cars done quickly and on the lot, but don’t like the results.

Like most dealers, you and your used car staff put pressure on detail departments to get cars done quickly. On top of that, you pay “by the car” which encourages less than quality work. How, then, can you expect good, quality work and speed? It is like an oxymoron.

There is, just too much emphasis put on productivity and speed in dealerships, and it is hurting you, your customers and the detailers.

There has always been an emphasis put on time in detailing. A detailer is pushed to rapidly complete the detailing tasks, and that is a direct threat to quality.

Here are some of the complaints dealers and their staff direct at detailers who put a priority on speed over quality:
  • Chemical residue left on surfaces
  • Wet carpets that result in mold and smell
  • Misuse of cleaning chemicals as detailers don't allow for proper dwell times or try to use too much of a chemical in an effort to hasten its effectiveness
  • Swirls in paint caused by the use of the wrong compound or skipping steps in the paint finishing process.
  • Compound or wax residue left on exterior of vehicle.

What's the plan?

The problem is that you make productivity demands on the detail department without a plan on how to achieve greater efficiency, without sacrificing quality. Do you have a plan at your dealership to prevent this?

The drive for greater productivity with fewer workers – has created a demand for quick detail but not the resultant poor quality work.

In the past, you could get away with poor quality work because you sold the car and it was “down the road”, never to be seen again, hopefully.

But today’s buyer is more savvy and looks more closely at their vehicle. If your dealership sells detailing to the public, you have customers coming back. The retail customer is more demanding, plus they keep their vehicle longer, which means the short-cut, cover up work is soon discovered and you have an unhappy customer.

Consider the Health Problems

Have you ever consider the health risks involved due to improper cleaning of the interior? Few; if any detailers or even dealers, have considered that improper detailing procedures can create health risks for customers.

This health risks can be caused by increases in mold contamination and other fungi growth common in vehicles where improper cleaning and shampooing procedures were used. Why? Because carpets are not thoroughly dried after cleaning or the original spills may not be thoroughly dried, allowing fungi to grow.

Other risks typical of vehicles detailed where speed is emphasized over quality are:

  • Chemical residues left behind after cleaning, creating interior air quality (IAQ) problems
  • Use of too much cleaning chemical to do the job, the “more is better” mentality.
  • Chemical working times – the amount of time they are supposed to be left on the carpet before being removed - aren't followed, meaning germs and bacteria may not be eliminated
  • Carpets may not be adequately vacuumed allowing pollutants to become airborne and creating IAQ problems

Consider Quality First, Not Speed

Any good detailing program should stress quality ahead of speed.

Of course, slow detailing doesn't necessarily translate into a guarantee of thorough or quality detailing, but detailers who are pressured to work faster are likely to cut corners or not follow good detailing procedures.

As a dealer you should:

  • Establish a detailing standard for quality before trying to speed up the detail work
  • Make sure the quality standard is known and understood by your detail manager and all detailers
  • Give the detailers the training and equipment to do the work faster but with higher quality

Develop a Plan

You need to develop a plan to reach the quality and productivity levels you want, or it won’t happen. Whether the plan is adopting specific procedures or some similar action, you need a written plan as well as a training program on how to complete the tasks to meet the new time and quality standards.

The plans must have:

  • Proper instruction of the new detailing procedures and standards
  • Clear goals and standards for detailers to meet
  • Acceptance of the shared goals among the detailers


The proper time it takes to detail for quality can be addressed with the detailers through benchmarking. A time standard for the shop should be established through benchmarking and then used to gauge the detailers’ time management skills.

Each vehicle has its own cleaning difficulties and because of that, a time figure should only be arrived at after reviewing the vehicle.

To benchmark properly; a detail manager must:

  • Create a time standard for each detail job.
  • Create, using the best detailing practices, a company standard procedure for each function that maximizes efficiency and quality
  • Teach those standards to detailers

Once those standard has been adopted by all of the detailers, compare their times to any national standards you can obtain as well as the standards of other dealership detail shops.

Once that has been done, provide additional training for those that don't meet the standards.

The bottom line is speed and productivity, but quality of service and more importantly, the health of vehicle occupants should not be sacrificed as result.

Through the proper focus and emphasis and with a good training program. Both quality and speed can be obtained to some degree with proper focus, emphasis and training programs.


Don't Get Stuck Without A Plan

Besides "sick vehicle syndrome," demands for increased productivity without a proper plan to realize that goal can lead to:

  • Low detailer morale: Pressure on detailers to work faster creates anxiety. Adding to that problem is a lesser opinion of their own work, as Quality is placed second to Quantity
  • Increases in workplace injuries as detailers rush through their work
  • Mistakes in detailing practices
  • High employee turnover rates
  • Increased customer complaints

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