Toyota and Lexus fuel new revenue
Kansas City, Mo.—With their expansion last July into servicing Toyota and Lexus vehicles, Andrew and Terri Otto, owners of longtime Honda/Acura specialist Otto Service, grew their customer list while also making for a slightly less harried lifestyle.
There was pent-up demand for the two marques for the Ottos, who bought the business in January 2017 from Andrew’s father, Alan, who founded the business at his home in 1977 and built the current shop, on Blue Ridge Boulevard in 1998.
“A lot of our Honda/Acura customers also own Toyotas and Lexuses,” Andrew Otto said, and multiple times a week, they would ask us if there is somebody like us who can service those vehicles.”
While Alan Otto was committed to retaining the shop’s Honda/Acura specialty, Andrew worked up front in his father's business during the day and moonlighted turning wrenches on Toyotas and Lexuses. He said he soon grew to appreciate how similarly repair-friendly and well-designed they were and planned to add them to the business once he bought it.
“Our head technician’s 20 years of experience includes working on Toyotas and Lexuses, so he’s happy to see the added car count,” Andrew Otto said.
It has not been a drastic change for the shop, which is positioned as a dealer-alternative with an independent’s personal touch. Specialty tools have been added as needed, he said, and almost all diagnostic issues can be tackled with a Snap-on Modis scan tool. With an annual subscription, the shop keeps up with the latest OEM repair information direct from the manufacturer: Service Express for Honda/Acura, and Toyota Information System for Toyota and Lexus, all the more important, he said, as vehicles have grown in complexity.
Today’s electrical systems, in particular, require more care in researching, Otto pointed out, as CAN bus electrical systems mean they may be networked in a way that’s not intuitive, so vehicle-specific information is needed to correctly diagnose what used to be a simple repair, such as an inoperative power window motor. Because of its wide selection of OEM parts, WORLDPAC supplies about 90 percent of the shop’s parts. The couple just returned from the WORLDPAC STX training and expo event in Grapevine, Texas, where they attended technical and management training, and they get the bulk of their training from ASA-Midwest meetings and the Vision Hi-Tech Training & Expo event, with the balance filled by wholesaler-sponsored classes.
The shop, which has three technicians and a service manager, performs all manner of repairs and preventive maintenance, which Otto said Honda has ingrained in its customers to follow its mileage-recommended maintenance. “It’s almost one of those things you don’t have to sell. We have people come in and say, ‘I’m here for my 120,000-mile service.’”
Alignments are the only service not performed in-house, and are sublet due to a lack of space in the five-bay, 4,500-square-foot shop. Building expansion for more shop space and a larger customer lounge is one of the couple’s long-range goals.
“When my dad designed the building in 1997, Hondas were not as big as they are now, and they were easy to maneuver around the shop,” he said. “You didn’t have the big Pilots and the Odysseys.”
Long known for their Honda/Acura work, the Ottos will be updating the shop’s signage and are starting to market to those owners and to area Toyota/Lexus customers to let them know they can handle those, too.
Andrew Otto had much preparation for the next step in his career, having helped run the office since 2002 and being general manager since 2010.
Terri Otto said, “It’s been wonderful being an owner now, because we are able to support organizations that are near to our hearts. Our twin boys were premature; they were born two months early, so we spent a month in the NICU at Overland Park Regional Medical Center. So the NICU is one of the big things we like to support. We also have a strong desire to help veterans, and we will be starting a donation drive in June. My dad, Bruce Lineberger, was a Vietnam veteran with the United States Marine Corps.”
Even so, the shift to ownership has meant more stress, as the couple shoulders the weight of being responsible for their employees’ livelihood. Although the technicians are flat-rate, they’re guaranteed at least 40 hours.
“We care about them like family,” she said. “We want to make sure they’re able to provide for their family, and although we somewhat know what our slower times will be, we can’t always project the highs and lows.”