Following in father’s footsteps, John Rost brings craftsmanship to luxury car repair
Concord, Calif.—By working hard to attain the right skills, training and OEM information to work on some of the finest vehicles made in the world, German Auto Body has been growing since its inception in 1966. Its second-generation owner John Rost has taken his father’s shop and continued the family legacy by providing collision repair services for discerning car owners throughout the South Bay.
Rost, 53, now has 30 employees and is repairing 110-120 cars every month without any DRPs out of a 29,000-square-foot facility consisting of two buildings. He said he is proud of all of his OEM certifications and that every repair his crew performs is done only to the manufacturer’s stringent specifications.
In 1951, his father, Joachim, began an apprenticeship in a Berlin body shop where he learned how to repair and restore German cars. He taught him that only the finest craftsmen, materials and repair techniques should be used to achieve exemplary results, Rost said.
Fifteen years later, Joachim opened German Auto Body in Palo Alto. Since joining the family business 31 years ago, Rost says he has worked hard to keep his father’s spirit and passion for quality auto repair alive. Today, German Auto Body repairs any type of vehicle, but specializes in German, Japanese, hybrid and electric cars.
Rost was attending college to study real estate, but when his father encountered health issues, he jumped into the shop without hesitation. “I was 22 at the time and, at first, I was doing pretty much everything at the shop,” he said. “Right after I took over the business, we decided to move to Santa Clara to be right in the middle of Silicon Valley and that turned out to be a great decision.”
Rost believes that one of his shop’s core strengths is knowing how to work on today’s luxury brands. The key, he said, is being able to attain OEM repair procedures quickly and knowing what to look for. “Our technicians are on the OEM websites a lot and we’re even talking about designating one to do all of the research and then feed the information back to the crew. We use AllData, but the information on these cars is changing literally all the time, so we have to refer to the OEM sites and use AllData for more general information.”
Attaining OEM certifications is one thing, but maintaining them through copious training and education is the only way to truly stay ahead of the game, Rost said. “We get some good training from I-CAR, but for us to work on Porsches and BMWs, for example, we need to pursue their individual training programs. With BMW, we send our technicians to their training centers in Oxnard and Ontario, and they’re excellent. They get hands-on training and when they come back, they’re excited and we’ve discovered that the information they learn also helps them when they work on some of the other brands.”
As one of the few Silicon Valley shops that are Porsche-certified, German Auto Body is always diligently trying to get better at repairing a brand that is prevalent in the South Bay. “The training for Porsche is a little more limited, but the classes are very good and they enable us to do repairs that other shops can’t,” Rost said. “That’s why our Porsche certification is really valuable, because Porsche owners know that you have to be precise and prepared to fix these cars correctly.”
Working on hybrids and EVs is a different beast altogether, because if a mistake can be fatal, Rost said. “I won’t let any of my technicians touch a Toyota Prius until they’re experts on hybrids and can prove it, because disarming those electrical systems is potentially dangerous. It has to be performed step by step and you can’t rush through it. Toyota’s TIS training is extensive and there is a huge amount of information there to absorb, so it’s a lot more than just don’t touch the orange wire and the yellow wire.”
Yesterday’s technicians were craftsmen whose hands were their most important asset, but now it all comes down to computers and brain power, he said. “There is still a place for old school techniques and they will never disappear, but today’s technicians have to be very computer literate to succeed in this environment. It’s so technical now that you can’t possibly know everything, and that’s why it takes a certain type of person to excel in this industry now.”
One of the biggest concerns at German Auto Body is being able to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to the Advanced Driver Assist Systems (ADAS) that exist in literally every vehicle Rost’s crew works on. “In the end, we have to rely on our scanners and if they don’t have everything in there, we could miss something, so in those cases we have to send the car to the dealership. With Porsche, for example, a factory scanner is going to cost you $60,000 and that does not include the biannual updates. How can a shop recoup that money, so we have to rely on the non-factory scan devices? With BMWs, re-initializing things such as the batteries and headlights requires an entire process and if you miss a step, you’re in trouble.”