Brothers usher Andersen’s into new era
Golden, Colo.—When Al and Ila Andersen decided to relocate their established repair shop, Andersen’s Foreign Car Service, from West Colfax Avenue in Lakewood up the road to Golden in the late ’70s, some thought it was a risky move.
The desired building, a six-bay body shop, was surrounded by farmland, recalled their son, Kurt Andersen, who 39 years later continues to usher the family business into a new era, with the aid of his younger brother, Karl Andersen.
It turns out that decision to move was a good one. Today, that same building is surrounded by a plethora of dealerships, businesses, and nearby residences, and continues to draw a loyal following.
Deep Colorado family roots
“We painted Volvo on the roof and it’s been a landmark ever since,” Kurt Andersen said. The roof now contains a few more names, Mercedes-Benz (MB), BMW, VW and Audi, a representation of the makes they have added to their service repertoire.
At the onset of the business, Andersen said his father specialized in mobile service for English and British makes, conducting service in customers’ driveways. A frigid Colorado winter made him reconsider, and he decided to rent a two-bay shop at 4th Avenue and Federal Boulevard.
He then had a four-year stint working at Kumpf Motors and a shop in Boulder, only to return to entrepreneurship in 1960, renting a shop on West Colfax Avenue, this time with an exclusive emphasis on Volvos.
Additional makes came into play in the mid-1980s, he said, as the import vehicle population began to expand.
Dissecting modern diagnosis
In order to properly diagnose and repair multiple makes, OE level scan tools are a must, Karl Andersen said. For Volvos, the shop uses Vehicle Information and Diagnostics for Aftersales (VIDA), laptop-based diagnostic software that requires an annual subscription, he said, adding Autologic is the go-to scan tool for BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
Although Autologic works well for most applications, he said with OE tools and software, the level of information is far greater, including wiring diagrams, TSBs, and all factory service information.
AllData and Identifix are also used to fill in information gaps when necessary, Kurt Andersen said.
“It’s not a cookie cutter thing,” he said of the diagnostic arm of the repair process. “It has become a part of servicing the car.”
Kurt Andersen, an ASE Master Technician, now exclusively works in the front office and serves as the shop’s sole service advisor. He said explaining the need to charge for diagnostics is challenging.
“People don’t like to hear that we’re going to charge a fee to plug into their car and pull codes,” Andersen said, pointing out that big-box parts retailers offering free services to pull “P” codes have created that mindset. “It’s what they relate to.”
“The manufacturers charge us to use their site, so you can’t plug in for free,” Karl Andersen said, adding that it’s simply the cost of doing business now.
Customers who shop for price are not ideal for the shop, he said. Except for oil changes, he said they do not discount services. “This only leads to more discounts. It may create more customers, but not profit.”
The brothers agree that having long-standing customers makes running the shop a pleasure. Interacting with them brings a great deal of satisfaction, the older brother said.
The shop is also equipped with two in-ground dynamometers. The older one for drivability diagnosis, and the other for diesel emissions testing.
Using the right parts also makes a big difference in the quality of the repair.
“We prefer OE or OE-equivalent and what works best on the car,” Kurt Andersen said, adding that the brand of a part, and who supplies it matters, too.
Go-to suppliers include Western Automotive Warehouse Distributors (WAWD), WORLDPAC, and key wholesaling dealerships. Price is a factor, he said, but they have to be easy to work with and provide adequate delivery.
For the makes they work on, Akebono Euro ceramic pads and Bosch QuietCast pads are preferred brands, Karl Andersen said. “Doing a job two to three times to reduce noise is no good for anybody.” Typically a brake job also means installing new rotors, he said, pointing out that many of their customers are travelling in and out of the mountains via I-70, which is hard on brake rotors, and the excessive heat can cause warping.
WAWD is the shop’s preferred supplier of Bosch batteries, Karl Andersen said, a brand they’ve had great success with.
Due to their status as a Bosch-authorized service center, if a Bosch part is installed, and it fails, its backed by Bosch parts and labor warranty, Karl Andersen said. Customers who purchase a Bosch starter or alternator receive a towing certificate, good for two years in the event that one of those parts fails, he added.
Training is a must
Training to stay up to date on vehicle technology is a constant, said Kurt Andersen, who in the past has attended management training through the Automotive Service Association of Colorado and Management Success over the years. Karl Andersen said he also takes technical courses through WORLDPAC and Bosch. Bosch conducts mobile training service using virtual reality (VR) goggles, he said, having recently attended a VR training was on Bosch’s gasoline direct injection (GDI) system.
Making time for play
All work and no play makes for a dull livelihood, the brothers say.
“It’s important for us to not be all about cars,” Kurt Andersen said. “It’s nice to have other outlets.” When he’s not working in the family business, Kurt is busy training and competing in triathlons with is wife Jan. He has personally completed eight full triathlons that consist of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and marathon run (26.2 miles). At the time of the interview, the couple is planning to compete in the La Habana half tri in Cuba this year.
When Karl Andersen isn’t working on cars, he said he enjoys singing and playing the drums, often for several area churches.