Quality, not price, drives Lindsay Trans

Warrensburg, Mo. — A sign posted in the front office of Lindsay Transmission states the shop’s sales philosophy in large letters: “We refuse to lower our standard of quality to match our competitors’ prices. You are not paying more for the same thing. You are paying for something much better.”

To Kit Lindsay, who founded the shop more than 30 years ago, automotive repair is all too often seen as a commodity, instead of what it actually is — a service.

Customers, who Lindsay said will typically need only one or two transmission overhauls for their vehicles over a lifetime, often have difficulty understanding the difference between a “patch” — fixing only what’s broken — and the value of a thorough overhaul from experienced technicians using quality parts that will increase the longevity and restore the performance of their transmission.

“My job is to manage expectations and let them know there is a difference,” he said. “And you cannot be my customer unless you are willing to understand there is a difference.”

Lindsay said his selling points include using OEM and only quality, name-brand aftermarket parts. The shop’s veteran technicians are experienced and take the time needed to complete a repair correctly.

“Also, we don’t have big egos here,” he said. “If we don’t understand or don’t know something, we take the time to learn it for you. And we all can afford to buy a car as nice as you have or nicer, so we appreciate your investment.”

When customers question the price of a repair compared to another shop, Lindsay said too often they are overlooking an important consideration — warranties.

“We offer a three-year, 100,000-mile warranty,” he said. “I am sure you will not find that anywhere else. I also tell them the auto industry, as a whole, rewards speed over accuracy. At this shop, we do not reward speed; we reward accuracy. So it’s going to take a little longer, but it’s going to be right.”

Each of his technicians specializes in one make, Lindsay said, with domestics being the bulk of the shop’s work. Because of the high cost of tooling needed to rebuild transmissions it rarely sees, the shop relies on Certified Transmission for quality remanufactured units for import vehicles.

Lindsay, who specializes in operating the shop’s machine equipment, including a Bridgeport mill and lathe, serves on Sonnax’s Technical Automotive Specialties Committee (TASC) Force, a group of technicians and transmission rebuilders who consult with Sonnax engineers to develop parts and repair processes used in the transmission aftermarket. In this way, Lindsay said the shop serves as a beta test site for new products and for troubleshooting.

‘Work with a Pro’ program offers expert guidance to hobbyists

A few years ago, Lindsay began offering hobbyists a chance to work alongside him on their projects.

“These are guys who can do most of the stuff on their own car. They are not going to venture into a rear end or a transmission, but most of them want me to know that, by God, they can rebuild that engine. It seems to be a pride thing,” he said. Lindsay said he establishes a rapport with such customers, listening to their story about their car. And he lets them know he has a program called “Work with a Pro,” if they would like to take part in the repair.

“Most of the guys who do this are baby boomers,” Lindsay said. “The kids are out of the house by now and they have disposable income to spend on the Chevelle or Vette, or whatever they wanted. They’ve always liked cars as their hobby. So they jump at the chance to come here and do that.”

Lindsay said more than a dozen of his customers have taken advantage of the program. Work is clocked at $2 per minute and tracked at the end of the day so there are no surprises when it comes to pay the bill, he said. The final cost is often not much more than it would cost to have the shop do the work, although it takes longer, Lindsay said.

Participants in the program, who have ranged from a truck driver to a neurosurgeon, can choose to allow Lindsay to do the work while they watch, “or I can Tom Sawyer you: I tell you what to do and stand back.”

Some customers have been a bit timid at first, he said, but “after they see it’s not complicated with somebody like me there, they get more and more involved.”

While never allowing them to get in over their head, Lindsay said he also “gives them a reason to be thankful they’re here.”

One example, he said, is a customer disassembling a transmission valve body, and a spring and ball fly across the room. He will shoot Lindsay a distressed look, he said, “and I’ll look at them and tell them, ‘This is what you’re paying me for. If this happened at home, you’d be lost now. And who would you get to help you? I’ve seen this a hundred times. I know exactly where that ball and spring goes.’ And then they’re relieved, and that builds value.”

Parts & People

Parts & People is published monthly by Automotive Counseling and Publishing Company, Inc., a Colorado corporation, P.O. Box 18731 Denver, CO 80203, 303-765-4664. President-Lance Buchner. Founded by Lance Buchner and Dave Lucia.