Kent Performance transforms from general repair to fleet and electrical specialist
Kent, Wash.—When Kent Performance Auto Center was founded in 2008, Co-owner and general manager Doug Greenfield said he never imagined that almost 10 years later the business would be what it is today.
“We transformed from a general repair shop working on all cars and light trucks to a maintenance and repair facility with 90 percent of our business servicing fleets,” he said.
“We still service some cars, but it’s mainly trucks in our service bays today,” Greenfield added. “We service 70-80 light-duty pickups a month, including 4x4 units, plus we have 80 fleets that we do business with, including PSE, FedEx, the U.S. Postal Service, T-Mobile, CenturyLink, Amazon, the city of Kent, state of Washington, GSA, and the list goes on. We service everything up to Ford F-550 trucks.”
An ASE-certified Master Technician, Greenfield has spent 33 years in the automotive arena, much of that time as a parts manager for dealerships, including Dave Smith Motors in Kellogg, Idaho, which is one of the largest wholesale parts suppliers in the country. An avid racer for decades, he said he also served as the general manager for Pacific Raceways in Kent prior to opening the shop he co-owns with his wife, Judy, who handles accounting and customer service matters for the business.
Kent Performance was first housed in a former Chevrolet dealership, Greenfield said, and moved to a 23,000-square-foot shop with 33 service bays a few years ago. “We purchased the 2.5 acre site with a shell of a building. We were able to design and build the total shop and office areas the way we wanted to.”
The operation includes the 33 inside bays (47 total vehicles can be inside at any given time), an expansive equipment room that includes dozens of scan tools, a shop foreman’s office, Hunter wheel alignment racks, an upstairs lunchroom, an accountingn office, a large customer service area, customer lounge,and a parts department. Outside the shop is a 30,000-pound lift for larger vehicles.
On the average day, all 33 bays are filled. As a result, the shop recently began a mobile fleet service operation that will be expanding. “We did $40,000 in our first week and many of our fleet customers are delighted we are offering this service,” he said.
Hi-tech pay for hi-tech performance
With eight technicians, six of them are ASE-certified, as are both service advisors. Tim Dinser, his shop foreman, is an ASE-certified Master Technician and DOT-certified. “We also have diesel, LPG, and CNG specialists so we can work on virtually any alternate-fuel vehicle, including hybrids,” Greenfield said. Techs have attended several hybrid classes attended this year.
“Our techs are very busy guys and can bill out almost 600 hours in two weeks with an average monthly vehicle count of 320-350. Our goal is that they all make $100,000 a year or more.”
Kent Performance also sells tires and wheels, provides alignment services with Hunter equipment, and is a warranty center for Jasper Engines & Transmissions, said Greenfield said, adding that the shop started a seat loaner and replacement program for one of its fleet customers. “Many drivers are in their trucks all day and can develop spinal problems, so we bought new seats that we can loan to vehicles when needed until we can get new seats installed.”
“About 50 percent of our business involves electrical or electronics diagnostic and service/repair work,” Greenfield said (OTC, Snap-on, and factory tools such as the Chrysler StarSCAN are widely used). “Obviously, a lot of the work involves engine systems, but we also do electrical service work from battery, starters, and generators to wiring issues. Some commercial vehicles, particularly older ones, can have major issues.”
Data sources for electrical and electronic issues include Mitchell1 and AllData, plus the shop works within a small group of fleet provider shops in the Puget Sound area sharing data.
“It’s all about down time with fleet customers,” Greenfield said, adding that they regularly source OE parts from various suppliers such as Seattle Automotive Distributing for quality and dependable delivery. “In our parts department we stock critical items for vehicles we regularly service, including chemicals, hoses, oil coolers, rotors and pads, and other products.”
Continuously fine-tuning operations and systems
Greenfield said the shop is continuously upgrading systems in order to better serve customers and track data.
“A new software system is being installed that will allow for each technician to have a laptop in the shop and enter the data pertinent to their work station, and advisors can connect to those to track progress and stay current on priority jobs. It’s a unique system designed by two former R.O. Writer reps and it will help us with tracking in a variety of ways. It will also be integrated into a new telephone system that ties our 10 incoming lines together so we know who is calling us.”
The ongoing success at Kent Performance involves a variety of issues, Greenfield said. “Much of it is due to our tenured staff that represents more than 120 years of experience. It’s also the systems we have in place, from digital inspections and photos when the vehicle arrives to our ‘two test-drive rule,’ where both the tech and shop foreman test drive a vehicle before it leaves the shop. Ongoing training and using the right systems and tooling also plays an important role.”
Being involved in the community is also a vital element, Greenfield said. “We support several organizations, including the Kent Food Bank, and in total donated some $37,000 in 2016.”