Chuck Arnold and Reggie Sateren review work orders in the front office of Plateau Diesel Performance.Sam Ellis is the diesel diagnostic specialist at Plateau Diesel Performance.Technician Ryan Jones performs service work on Dodge Ram 3500.Mike Ramos, parts manager and service support specialist, oversees the $25,000-30,000 in-house parts inventory.

The ‘A-Team’ of niche diesel specialists

All-star staff at Plateau Diesel doesn’t fix symptoms, it uses technical expertise to fix root causes

Enumclaw, Wash.—It’s not often that a relatively new business has experienced the growth that Plateau Diesel Performance has since opening in early 2015, but much of the credit goes to an exceptional staff, said Chuck Arnold, service manager.

Plateau Diesel was founded by Mike Sateren who had been a minority owner at another diesel shop in Enumclaw where Arnold and several other staff members were employed, said Arnold, who had been the service manager at that facility for 17 years.

“There were issues that caused us to start a new business, even though Mike was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Though Mike died in June, we forged ahead with the business and his wife, Reggie, joined the business to help perpetuate his legacy.”

Beginning with just Sateren, Arnold, and two techs, the diesel pickup specialist shop was busy from the start, Arnold said, and by August there were four techs on board. Parts Manager Mike Ramos also joined the staff, and currently there are five techs and a shop helper; Reggie Sateren, who works in the front office with Arnold;Megan Foshaug, the marketing manager who provides administrative and customer service support; and bookkeeper and president of the company Bruce Campbell, who was the former finance officer at the other diesel shop.

“Basically, all of us had worked together at the other shop so we knew the expertise of each tech, all of whom have extensive technical experience,” said Arnold, who has been working with diesel trucks and motorhomes since the 1970s and formerly wrote a monthly column for RV Life. He also has been an on-air guest with Tom Turner, a Federal Way shop owner and longtime host of the award-winning Northwest Auto Show on Seattle’s KVI radio, for many years.

With 6,500 square feet of space and 10 service bays, Arnold said the shop draws customers from a wide area. “We service about 75 pickups a month, but our average repair order is $1,777.” While some same-day service is provided, some engine replacements, cylinder head jobs, or other services require longer times. He noted that the shop frequently performs service for other shops and dealerships due to their reputation.

About 80 percent of their work involves repair and maintenance, Arnold said, with the remainder being power enhancements to gain better fuel economy or for towing purposes. “Newer vehicles have limitations as to what can be accomplished with power upgrades due to emissions issues.”

“We did over $1 million in sales in 2015 and our goal is to double that, or more, this year,” Arnold said, adding that the shop is looking for an additional 3,000 square feet of space in its business complex.

“The worldwide trend toward diesels is growing according to Bosch, so we expect our business to keep growing,” Arnold said. Because Plateau is a niche specialist and only works on diesel pickups, he said he sees a bright future. “Some shops dabble with diesels, but often there is a lack of diagnostic capability and they don’t look at undiscovered problems and simply fix the symptoms. A full-vehicle diagnosis and evaluation is key to being effective for our customers.”

Using a variety of scan tools, including Ford and GM OE tools, as well as Snap-on and other products, is vital to the diagnostic services provided at Plateau, Arnold said. During the recent visit by Parts & People, he provided a sample service order/service estimate that was nine pages and included extensive data on service performed based on the customer request, plus detailed tech notes covering every aspect of the vehicle from brake performance to a compression test to torque patterns. “Truck owners seem to absorb estimates and the data we provide better than other vehicle owners, so it’s important for us to make them aware of their truck’s maintenance and performance issues.”

Ongoing technician training, from both OEs and the aftermarket, the use of OE scan tools, and using tech data programs from Identifix, Mitchell, and others, assists Plateau Diesel in both securing needed data and performing top-quality service, Arnold said. “We’ve been through a number of technical revolutions with diesels, but we’re able to remain conversant with new technology as it comes to us.”

Though they have only been in business for some 18 months, Plateau Diesel was honored with the 2015 and 2016 Business Hall of Fame award by the Enumclaw Award Program for being the Best Automotive Repair & Maintenance Services business in the community.

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.