Service Manager Patrick Mackey recently faced a disgruntled General Motors customer who came to him reluctantly for a repair after another dealership had failed to fix the problem.

Mackey decided to smooth things over. Give me a chance to fix the car, he offered, and I'll pay your car payment for one month. Plus, I'll give you a year's extension to your OnStar subscription to make up for the inconvenience.

It was an offer few service managers would have made. But Mackey works at a GM Certified Elite dealership: Brasher Motor Co. of Weimar in Texas.

With that Certified Elite status come perks, one of which is the ability to make aggressive offers with the confidence that the factory won't nickel-and-dime the dealership for doing it.

"Everybody could do that, even if you're not Certified Elite, but you have to submit a form and hope GM will approve it," says Mackey. "My rep told me, 'You can do whatever I can do. I can't tell you no.' I knew I could get it paid for by GM."

In July 2011, GM developed its Certified Elite program to help qualified dealers run a more efficient service business and improve customer service satisfaction. Of GM's 4,300 dealers, 300 currently qualify. Those who do say they derive tremendous benefits from the designation.

"It allows the managers to do their job without having to get permission," says Joe Clemens, general manager of another Certified Elite dealership, Sapaugh Chevrolet-Buick-GMC-Cadillac in Herculaneum, Mo.

"It allows us to handle our warranty claims a lot easier and make the best decisions for all the parties concerned," Clemens says. "It saves us a day on average of getting the decision handled. So the customer feels like we're making the decision right here and we've got their best interest in mind."

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