Alpine Automotive builds rapport with customers to last generations

Denver—George and Debbie Pepping, co-owners of Alpine Automotive, purchased the existing business in 1987 and decided not to rebrand, keeping the name the same, and signing on to uphold the reputation of a shop that has been serving Southwest Denver since the 1950s. New ownership left only one question for its existing customers: Will the quality of work remain the same?

It’s been 28 years, and the two co-owners still have customers coming in from the first day they opened, Debbie Pepping said.

“Building up a good rapport with your customers is really where the satisfaction in running your own shop is,” George Pepping said. “You can’t please everybody all the time, but you can get to know your repeat customers and develop an understanding and trust that keeps them coming back.”

That level of quality and care must be shown in every aspect of the shop, Debbie Pepping added. But there also has to be a good business plan in place to acquire new customers, as she said automotive repair is a business of attrition. Community involvement and consistent efforts to reach new and old customers are vital to staying connected with repeat customers.

“Because you lose some customers for a time when they buy new vehicles or move somewhere else, staying involved in the community is a good retainer,” she said. “We’ve always supported the local high schools sports teams and we have supported Team Sugar Bee, and Colorado Helping Hands veterinary care. It’s a simple way to give back.”

The shop also regularly sends out direct mail coupons and has aligned itself with NAPA, becoming a NAPA Autocare Center in 1996, Debbie Pepping said. The NAPA Peace of Mind warranty and the incentives the shop gets on parts have both been valuable services for the shops all makes/all models business model. She added that NAPA is the shop’s No. 1 supplier and its first call for parts, followed by O’Reilly’s Auto Parts and Emich Chevrolet in Lakewood, as well as the Autonation Parts Network OEM franchise dealers for OEM parts.

Cale Mossberg, the lead service advisor at Alpine for the past year and a half and George and Debbie’s son in law, said that the shop sometimes uses salvaged OEM parts when it can’t source parts new, but takes extra care to explain to the customer that the part is used and does its own quality testing in the shop when possible.

“I buy from salvage yards fairly often because parts proliferation is becoming more of a problem. It’s a catch 22 because the part is OEM-used, but it does save the customer money. We’d rather use new parts, but we have to service our customers. Our goal is to fix the car so that it doesn’t comeback; the salvage yards we use are the ones we trust with large inventories who we have a working relationship with,” Mossberg said.

He added that while the shop will also install customer-supplied parts as a service, before doing so it sells the value of diagnostics.

“We don’t want to charge a customer for ‘parts swapping diagnostics,’” he said. “We’ll use a customer-supplied part, but before we do, we explain to them that the warranty will be limited and we try to sell the value of our diagnostics process that could end up saving them money in the end.”

Alpine currently turns to its network of dealerships for reflash and recall needs, George Pepping said, but it is looking into the investment required to purchase the necessary GM Tech II software, as the need for reflashing vehicles becomes more common.

“If we’re confident and have the tools necessary to fix the issue, we use all of our resources to get the job done in house,” he said. “I’ve never considered reflash or recall work that we send to the dealership as ‘taking away from my business’ because they’re still my customer. They appreciate my honesty for not trying to fix something that I’m not able to.”

He added that the shop rarely needs to send work down the road as its subscriptions to Identifix and AllData, and its regularly updated Snap-on scan tool, make it equipped to fix most issues. The shop’s technicians receive regular training through Alpine’s involvement in the local NAPA BDG Group, through online information services and regular attendance at OEM franchise dealerships seminars, Debbie Pepping said.

Alpine hires ASE-certified technicians, and currently employs three full time. It has six bays, which Mossberg said aren’t assigned to any one technician to help improve the shops workflow and teamwork.

 “It’s a somewhat unique way to operate, but it’s worked well with our shop layout,” Mossberg said. “Keeping technicians mobile puts the emphasis on teamwork; it helps with workflow by focusing on the next car coming in instead of ‘bay stacking’ and technician favoritism.”

Alpine has been a member of the ASA-CO since the early 1990s and Debbie Pepping said the future for members is bright.

“The network of relationships we’ve developed through ASA-CO and the community over the past 28 years is very strong. We all talk to each other and help each other as much as possible and I’m excited to see how our membership in ASA-CO develops with the changes the association has made recently,” Debbie Pepping said.

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.