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Pass-Thru Devices Are Here

Why Should You Sell Them?
By Michael Bowdish, Guest Writer

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As a mobile tool salesman, you often think about what you can offer your customers that will keep them ahead of the game. This is no small task, especially when it comes to technology in the shop. Here is one easy sale: Pass-Thru Programmers. Do your customers ever ask for a solution to sending their customer’s car to the dealership for re-programming? A Pass-Thru programmer can be a valuable money- and time-saving tool for your technician customers. They are also easy for you to sell and have good cross-selling opportunities. Selling these devices becomes even easier if you know how to demonstrate a reprogramming session.

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The shop of today faces many new challenges in the arena of technology. Re-programming vehicles is one of them. Pass-Thru programmers are useful to a shop that works on a variety of makes and can’t buy every factory scan tool. Everyone who has a computer, Internet access and a Pass-Thru device can reprogram any J2534 OBD II-compliant vehicle (1996 and later models).

The ability to re-program a vehicle gives a shop the advantage of working on more vehicles, which in turn makes more money for the shop. Time is also saved if a shop doesn’t have to tow a vehicle to a dealership, and we all know time is money. A typical re-programming session takes about 30 minutes. A dealership can take a day or up to a week, and charge $100-300! Once you explain the advantages of re-programming in house to your customers, Pass-Thru devices become easier to sell.

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Qualifying Customers
The best strategy to selling a device like this to your customers is to know how to qualify them for the tool that meets their needs. As a tool dealer, you most likely know what kind of vehicles your shops typically service. If you don’t, start asking, and keep track for each shop. Your customers always want more business, but sometimes they don’t know how to get it. Pass-Thru programming allows all shops to re-program cars with programs straight from the manufacturers. Encourage them to buy devices for various makes/models so they can work on additional vehicles and increase their business.

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Your shops can reprogram vehicles economically! Each of the auto manufacturers sells subscriptions to their programs on a per day, monthly or yearly basis. They all vary, however, and some are more expensive than others. If you sell Pass-Thru programmers to your customers, they can re-program all makes in the United States. This comes to them with minimum investment and decent earnings on your part, along with good opportunities to cross-sell them other tools.

Additional Opportunities
What else can you sell with Pass-Thru programmers? Two major components: scan tools and battery chargers. Pass-Thru programmers typically do not come with enhanced diagnostic functions, but that’s OK. Sell your customers a good scan tool along with a Pass-Thru programmer that covers the most makes, and your customers will be able to work on anything that comes into the shop. A good battery charger is also an easy cross-sell. Battery voltages must not fall below a certain point on each specific vehicle. A good battery charger with low AC ripple (less than 1 volt) is necessary!

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When you sell your customer a good scan tool and battery charger, also sell them a good Pass-Thru device. First consider what vehicle manufacturers it covers. You want to sell a versatile Pass-Thru device that allows your customers the ability to reprogram every vehicle sold today. Some do more, some do less.

Secondly, buy from a company that will give you and your customer good technical support. These devices aren’t for the computer incompetent and help over the phone can be vital.

Lastly, understand the value of the Pass-Thru device you’re carrying. Pricing structures vary widely from manufacturer to manufacturer and also amongst distributors. In addition to quality and technical support, pricing and profit opportunities should be a consideration in your decision-making process.

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So now you’ve made up your mind to sell Pass-Thru devices. You’ve found the device you would like to sell, and you’re authorized to sell for the company. What should you do next? Learn how it works. The more you know about Pass-Thru devices, the better you can sell them. The Automotive Service Association (ASA) provides classes on Pass-Thru programming and typically holds training sessions in various cities around the U.S. (see www.asashop.org). Check out the manufacturers’ service websites and find out what functionalities each offer with Pass-Thru. Buy a device, and learn how it works. Consider charging your customers a setup fee. The more knowledgeable you are about Pass-Thru programming the more you can sell.

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Know about specific manufacturer functionality. Each manufacturer implements its Pass-Thru program differently. Ford makes you download Ford Module Programming and, in conjunction with a subscription, allows you to re-program just about every module in a newer Ford. General Motors is now web based and their software runs on a web page. The software varies greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer and the best way to know it is to use it.

A great place to find information on each manufacturer’s service program can be found on the National Automotive Service Task Force website at www.nastf.org. Here you will find links to all of the manufacturers’ sites as well as information about their services. Spend a few hours online to become familiar with this information. If you know what vehicles your customers work on, and you know about each manufacturers’ services, the Pass-Thru benefits stick out immediately. Pass-Thru becomes another easy sell for you.

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Why do the vehicle manufacturers provide these services to everyone? They have to. The SAE published a vehicle communications standard in 2002 called J2534. You might often hear Pass-Thru programming called J2534 or J2534 Pass-Thru. It’s all the same thing. The J2534 vehicle communications standard was put in place to allow more service facilities the ability to reprogram a vehicle. Vehicle controllers in the U.S. began to be software upgradeable in 1996, and manufacturers constantly find errors in specific vehicle programming. Prior to 2002, a vehicle owner had to take his or her car to the dealership to have it programmed, in order to fix a problem that physical parts alone could not fix. Now the dealerships are not the only ones who can re-program cars; any independent shop can do it as well. There are plenty of sales opportunities for Pass-Thru programmers, and these tools are necessary for any shop today.

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So are you ready for a sales boost? Ready to offer your customers something that can get them more business? Pass-Thru programmers are a must for any automotive service shop. These devices are valuable to your customers, and have good selling potential. If you’re educated about the programmer, motivated and willing to provide this tool to your customers, plenty of good business is yours to be had. 


Mike is a representative from Drew Technologies who is versed in vehicle communication standards. He helps independent repair shops with Pass-Thru programming, as well as mobile tool jobbers.

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