New franchise provides support for shops seeking hybrid service offerings

Gainsville, Va.— The Hybrid Shop (THS), developed by a pair of shop owners in partnership with Automotive Research & Design (AR&D) to educate and promote hybrid service, offers shops an opportunity to expand their technical services for hybrid vehicles along with a marketing program to promote it, said Matt Curry, who is CEO of THS. The THS program combines hybrid test equipment and a SAE certificate of competency developed by AR&D, and the marketing experience of Curry and his wife, Judy, THS chief marketing officer.

“I recognized our future success depended on our ability to service hybrids and reach the hybrid owner,” Matt Curry said. “And we realized we could build a program that answered the needs of shop owners looking to service the hybrid market.”

Besides the tools and training, a marketing program was necessary to drive hybrid owners to repair shops that possessed the skills, training, and equipment to provide professional service and battery reconditioning, he said. The program is designed to add another layer to a pre-existing service and repair center that has an excellent reputation and technical staff. “We want to recruit the top shops around the country to participate in our program and provide them with unmatched training, equipment, and marketing support to help make their venture even more successful.”

He added that the THS program, launched in April, has 10 THS dealers so far. “Everyone at THS is passionate about what we do,” Curry said. “We know our job is to provide the value shops and consumers are looking for. We want our franchisees to get the utmost from their investment and be successful.”

THS begins with a search for the number of hybrids in the area of an inquiring shop. California, Oregon, and Washington, as well as Washington, D.C., have as many as 30,000 to 50,000 in a 10- to 15-mile radius, he said. “On the other hand, there are only 5,000 in a 50-mile radius of Mobile, Ala. Hybrid ownership still differs greatly from region to region,” Curry said. “We want our franchise holders to be successful. Our first job is defining the size of market and their potential for success. How close any two locations may be is defined purely by vehicle density.”

Training, verification, and blind checks are all part of the program. To build a successful brand the products and service must be consistent location to location, Curry said. “Shops must complete an intensive four-day on-site training prior to hanging our shingle. They then have one year to achieve SAE certification. Master Dealers will oversee regional franchises, including blind visits. Our job is to stay up with the technology. A franchisee has a responsibility to stay up on the training.”

Key elements to the program are battery pack power and energy tests and printed reporting. “Much like the printed report from an alignment, our testing provides easy-to-understand color reporting for service advisors to share with consumers that illustrates battery pack condition before and after the reconditioning process.

“Battery conditioning improves performance and fuel economy, and reconditioning batteries is an important part of hybrid ownership, extending their useful life and keeping toxic nickel batteries out of landfills.”

Training is modular, covering batteries, transmissions, controllers, regenerative brake systems, power inverters, and related components, Curry said.  Supporting the testing equipment is an on-line monitoring system and database. The system provides technical support, as well as tracks the operation of the equipment to ensure proper use and results. Franchises are reviewed yearly and must pass stringent prequalification before acceptance to the program, he added.

“Our goal is to create a well-branded, well-executed hybrid business model comprised of the best shops and technicians internationally,” he said. “The hybrid owner is a discriminating buyer, well-educated, and an above-average earner; we have to hit our marks to keep their business.” 

Parts & People

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