Precision Automotive aligns with key programs, vendors
Sacramento, Calif.—Rick Norton, owner of Precision Automotive Service, said being an ACDelco Professional Service Center, a NAPA Autocare Center and in the Factory Motor Parts Partners Network offers several benefits, from parts to value-added services.
“Our first call is Factory Motor Parts,” he said. “I’ve been buying from them since I opened the business 25 years ago. NAPA has become our second call, but they’re relatively new to us. A main reason I decided to align with them was for brand recognition. I think the NAPA brand resonates with consumers well, and their program’s value added services are strong.”
He added that being involved in three programs affords his technicians more opportunities for continuous training. He regularly sends technicians to NAPA training seminars, ACDelco training at a local Universal Technical Institute (UTI) by instructor Dan Nagy, and hosts in-house FMP training seminars several times annually. Norton is ASE Master-certified, and employs one service advisor and three, full-time technicians, of whom Jon Allmang and Mike Bush are also ASE Master-certified, working in the eight-bay, 4,500-square-foot shop.
Precision offers an extended three-year/36,000 mile warranty on parts and service, and has narrowed its service offerings to only Asian and domestic makes and models no older than 1990.
“When you’re working on a car manufactured before 1990, it is difficult to even find parts, let alone good quality parts,” Norton said. “Often times, you’ll have to source them used-OEM, which compromises your warranty. I decided to make 1990 the oldest cars we’ll work on in order to protect my brand.”
Norton said the business model was something he learned to do while gaining the bulk of his general repair knowledge working for Florin Automotive, a longstanding ASCCA shop in Sacramento.
“I started my career in Germany, attending courses at the Darmstadt Career Center, so it’s somewhat ironic that I chose not to work on Europeans, but, honestly, the repair information available for European makes is not widely shared with the aftermarket,” Norton said. “By specializing in Asian and domestic vehicles we’ve been able to really hone in and equip our shop to be a last stop for most of our customers.”
That means the jobs independent repairers have traditionally passed to the dealership – such as reprogramming – Precision is able to do in-house.
Since 2006, Precision has used an EASE J2534 pass-thru universal vehicle reprogrammer, by Drew Technologies, for most of its reprogramming needs, and invested in Ford IDS diagnostic software, a GM Tech II scan tool and a variety of Snap-on aftermarket scan tools. The shop also subscribes to Mitchell 1 and Mitchell ProTruck, AllData and Identifix as its primary information systems.
Norton said he recently invested $4,000 in the new IDSSII scan tool for Isuzu light and medium-duty trucks, which he chose to buy because two of his major fleet customers use Isuzu medium-duty trucks, models 2007 and newer.
“Whenever I source a piece of equipment, I keep ROI in mind,” he said. “I think we are the first independent aftermarket repair shop in the nation that Isuzu sold the IDSSII to, and it’s been well worth the investment. We can now reprogram an Isuzu medium-duty truck in-house, which allows us to be the full-service provider for our fleet customers.”
He added that the IDSSII also gives wiring diagrams, repair information, technical service bulletins, and much more, so renewal of the software “isn’t priced out of this world for what you’re getting.”
Another long-time business partner for Precision is Jasper Engines & Transmissions.
At the time of Parts & People’s interview, Norton had a Chevy truck in the shop that belonged to his neighbor on which he’d replaced the transmission with a Jasper transmission a little more than three years ago. Recently, his neighbor noticed that the transmission had developed a substantial leak and was starting to slip. When Norton diagnosed it, he found that the transmission was burnt up and needed to be replaced. By this point, it was one month outside Jasper’s three month warranty. The response Norton received when he called Jasper was unexpected.
“They sent a new unit to me at no charge, no questions asked,” he said. “I had to cover the labor, but I was impressed by such good support. Jasper Engines & Transmissions are the premier rebuilder of automatic transmissions and engines in the U.S. and we sell a lot of their units because they have a strong warranty and work with you if you have a problem. We’ve had few issues overall, but they’ve proven that when an issue does arise they’ll back it up.”
Norton has flown to Jasper’s headquarters in Indiana and has seen the time and dedication the company puts into its products. He said the local Jasper rep, Dave Caraccilo, has been very helpful in keeping the shop updated on product changes and releases.
For shop management, Norton has been using AutoVitals for the past five years. He said it’s been an effective system, helping him increase business substantially through online marketing, something he knew nothing about.
“The thing about having a breadth of mechanical knowledge is that it doesn’t translate into business knowledge very easily. For a long time I was a fairly poor business owner,” he said. “Autovitals has been a very good thing for our online presence, and helps us track of what we’re doing with marketing — what’s working and what isn’t.”