Ford is claiming to be the first UK car manufacturer to provide on-line booking of vehicle servicing and repairs, following the launch of its new website,

The internet-based aftercare booking system is now available in the UK following a global launch in September 2000 and a trial in Britain earlier this year.

The website enables vehicle owners to obtain a firm, all-inclusive price quotation for scheduled vehicle maintenance and selected repairs, and book a guaranteed appointment time with a dealer of their choice. The service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to anyone with internet access.

Typing in either the vehicle registration plate details or vehicle identification number (VIN) enables the system to identify all relevant information, including repair and pricing details specific to a particular vehicle.

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When a dealer has been selected and the customer is satisfied with the quoted price, a ‘real-time’ appointment can be booked using an interactive workshop calendar.

The booking process calculates the time required to complete the scheduled service or selected repair and the customer is informed of the likely time at which the vehicle will be ready for collection.

If repair work is needed but the exact nature of the problem is not clear to the customer, the system allows the customer to highlight any concerns in their own words, for a qualified technician to investigate.

For security reasons, credit or debit card details are not requested at the time of booking and the customer receives an e-mail by return to confirm arrangements, followed by a reminder on the day prior to the appointment.

It is currently possible to book service and maintenance appointments on-line with 150 dealers and around 200 of the 400-strong network will offer the facility by the end of the year. Remaining dealers will join during 2002.

Ford UK also plans to introduce a similar system for fleet vehicle operators but has not yet confirmed a start date.

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