05 Brand Specific Shop

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Table of Contents

Industry Overview / Trends

When entering the automotive service industry, there are many different shop types to choose from. This course covers six shop types to help inform a person entering into the industry the strengths and weaknesses of each type. Those that plan to enter the industry should do the research and choose a career path that best matches their personal strengths, weaknesses, and expectations.

The US automotive repair and maintenance industry is huge with combined annual revenue of about $115 billion and about 160,000 service locations. The independent repair shop sector can compete effectively in this market by providing superior customer service, convenience, and specialized services. For example, the 50 largest automotive service companies generate less than 10% of the market’s revenue and the independent auto repair industry is estimated to have between 75%-80% of the market share.

A well run independent repair shop can compete with any other auto repair business, including new car dealerships; however, a brand-specific independent repair shop can virtually mimic the service department of a new car dealership.

Below is a picture of a 40-year old Honda repair shop, Triad Auto Specialty, that works out of a 16-bay 10,000 sq ft building in Greensboro, NC. This shop takes on the look and feel of a dealership minus the car sales component. This is also the facility used for almost all of Gearhead School’s shop-based video production.

Triad Auto Specialty – Greensboro, NC – Honda Specialty Shop
Tour of Triad Auto Specialty | Length: 10:38

Below is the shop of Bimmer’s Only an independent BMW shop with shops located in Dallas and Plano Texas. They use the same diagnostic software as the dealer (BMW ISID and ISTA-P) and many of their techs have attended BMW factory training.

Bimmer’s Only – Dallas & Plano Texas

Organizational Chart

The typical brand-specific independent repair shop is most likely locally owned and operates at a single location (or could be part of a multi-shop operation). In most cases, the shop owner started the business or worked in the business as a technician. However, more shops are now being owned and operated by entrepreneurs with no significant automotive hands-on experience.

An organizational chart, common for a brand-specific independent repair shop, is shown below.

  1. The owner is often the on-site operator but may be more of an absentee owner with another person that operates the business on a day-to-day basis.
  2. The front end staff can be much larger with more positions based on the workload of the shop.
  3. Most larger shops have a dedicated person in the back end that gets involved with “problem” cars. These are cars that are being hard to diagnose or have come back to the shop with customer complaints. This person is likely paid a base pay and is also expected to produce some billable work.

Tech Positions

At the basic level, most automotive shops categorize their techs into three levels as shown in the list below. These three levels are covered in more detail in the Shop Careers Lesson :

At the basic level, most automotive shops categorize their techs into three levels as shown in the list below. These three levels are covered in more detail in the Shop Careers Lesson.

A Level Tech

“A” level techs have the highest skill sets and typically work with drivability issues, controller area networks (CAN), and emissions diagnostics.

B Level Tech

“B” level techs have mid level skills and perform most of the general repair work. The vast majority of techs in the industry fall into this category. B Techs often work under a team leader which is an “A” level tech.

C Level Tech

C level techs have basic entry level skills. They often perform maintenance and some basic parts replacement jobs.

Specialty Tech

At larger shops, some techs may be further classified by their specialties such as:

  • Drivability/Emissions Tech
  • Undercar/Alignment Tech
  • Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning (HVAC) Tech

Service Information System

A brand-specific shop doesn’t need service information coverage on all makes and model cars; therefore, most brand-specific shops just purchase access to the OEM’s service information system.

Training Programs

Fundamentals Training

There was a time when a person could enter the automotive service industry without any training and “figure it out” over time, but those days are gone. Modern automobiles are extremely complicated and include complex mechanical, hydraulic, electrical, and electronic systems. A person entering the industry today without at least some fundamentals training is in for a frustrating career and will most likely leave the industry over time.

One of the best options for fundamentals training is an A.A.S in Automotive Technology (two-year program) from a state-supported community college. Many colleges also offer manufacturer’s programs, such as GM ASEP, Ford ASSET, Toyota T-10, and Honda PACT that place you in the workplace for hands-on training as part of the program.

For more information visit the lesson on Continuing Education Training.

Continuing Education Training

The challenge of technician training is much easier with brand-specific repair shops since the training is focused on a single manufacturer. However, access to the OEM’s training programs varies widely from virtually everything is available to almost nothing is available. While service information related to a car’s OBD-II emission system has to be available “at a fair market price” any other type of OEM training does not. Ultimately the availability to OEM training to the aftermarket is driven by the OEM’s view of the aftermarket’s role in servicing their brand.

For more information visit the lesson on Continuing Education Training.

Toyota Training Support (Best Case Scenario)

In 2007, during the Automotive Industry Week held in Las Vegas NV, the OEMs were all given the opportunity to address several hundred shop owners about their OBD-II training support for the aftermarket. Most of the OEM presenters were not offering any significant support, then Mark Saxonberg from Toyota stood up and delivered the following speech:

A reputation for a positive lifetime ownership experience is one of the most important distinguishing attributes that can set an automaker apart from its competitors. Positive ownership experiences sell cars! If automakers expect independent shops to deliver positive ownership experiences, we have to create effective and affordable service support systems for you.

The industry is changing at an astonishingly fast pace – and if you haven’t already, it’s time to get on-board and start changing with it. Here are a few suggestions to help get you started.

First, get yourself a broadband connection to the internet in your shop and connect it by a secure wireless network to your service area so you can begin taking advantage of the wealth of service support services there.

Use your third-party and OEM website service information resources regularly – the days of fixing cars without service information are gone,

Come to grips with the fact that the increasing incremental costs of service information and diagnostic tools are eroding your bottom line – it is time to understand just how much and begin building those costs into your fee structures,

And finally, become accustomed to using PCs in your service environment – a great deal of your service support will be delivered by them in the future.

Mark Saxonberg

To this day, Toyota offers some of the best, and most affordable, support to the aftermarket industry with its Toyota Information Systems (TIS) service, as outlined in the chart shown below. Note that the aftermarket can gain access to Toyota’s OEM level service information, technical training, and their scan tool software for $1295/Year.

Toyota TIS Service Information Price List

Aftermarket Training Programs

For a comprehensive list of aftermarket training resources (some are actually applicable to a brand-specific repair shop) see the Continuing Education Training Lesson.

Employer Training Plan

Some of the points that should be addressed when evaluating a shop as a potential employer.

Written Training Plan

  • Does the potential employer have a plan (preferably written) on how to keep the shop’s technicians trained on emerging technologies?
  • It is ultimately the shop owner’s responsibility to set the policy on training and a serious commitment to ongoing training should be in a written training plan.

Training Budget / Funding

  • Does the shop fund upgrade training? If so, what costs is the shop willing to pay for?
    • The cost to enroll the tech in training
    • The travel cost for a tech to attend the training
    • The lost wages while a tech attends training that occurs during working hours

Training Incentives

  • Is there an incentive plan for techs to become trained at higher levels?

Fringe Benefits

Fringe benefits in the automotive service industry shouldn’t be much different than other responsible employers in the technical services industry. In reality, the automotive repair industry is in competition with more than just the other shop down the street. They are ultimately competing with other transportation and service-related careers such as:

  • Heavy Equipment / Diesel Technician
  • Aircraft Mechanic
  • Wind Turbine Technician
  • Industrial Machinery Mechanic