Strength in numbers — from shops to car counts
Kent, Wash.—Brothers Greg and David Huntley were no strangers to the business world when they opened their first Greg’s Japanese Auto shop in Renton in January 1987. They had been involved in various ventures in Anchorage, Alaska, since they were teenagers, including operating an auto repair business established in 1982.
“Oil dropped to $9 a barrel in the summer of 1986 and the Alaskan economy, totally oil driven, dropped like a rock. Some 50,000 people left the state, so Greg and I decided to join them and moved to Seattle,” said David Huntley, vice president and general manager. “We had already been specializing in imports, largely due to very successful sales of Subaru in Alaska, so we decided to specialize in Japanese vehicles when we opened in Renton.
“Greg has always been the visionary leader, and I have been the boots on the ground,” he said. “Greg travels 50 percent of the time, but he remains our spiritual leader.”
Today, Greg’s has eight service and repair locations in the greater Seattle area and 56 employees, plus a company-owned, two-story building in Kent that serves as its corporate headquarters, training center, and parts warehouse.
Between the eight stores there are 22 technicians and 16 service advisers in addition to store managers. Twenty techs are ASE certified, 11 of them ASE-certified Master Technicians. In total, there are 20 techs that are also state certified by DOE as an Automotive Emission Specialist.
Huntley said the company has been fortunate to retain the vast majority of its techs as it remains a challenge to recruit new ones. “We have decided to find the right candidate and train them in our shops,” he said, adding that he is also interested in the technician apprenticeship program that ASA Northwest will unveil in Washington later this year.
Ten people are employed at the company headquarters, including the Huntleys and Mike Millsap, the parts and service coordinator, plus accounting and warehouse staff.
Greg’s averages about 1,850 vehicles per month, totaling more than 22,000 cars, trucks, and SUVs annually, Huntley said. Toyota brands account for about 35 percent of our car count with Honda/Acura at 25 percent, followed by Subaru and Nissan/Infiniti at 15 percent each, then Mazda, Mitsubishi, Suzuki and others.
Each shop has a Nissan Consult II, a Toyota Techstream, a Drew Tech CarDAQ-M, a Honda GNA, and an Autel MaxiSys Pro, plus some shops have additional scan tools, Huntley said. “Each tech has their own laptop with our Maxx Traxx point of sale system so they can see the available CarFax vehicle maintenance history. They also have AllData and Identifix available to them. Plus Bolt On Technology is working with Maxx Traxx to improve performance and we are currently implementing it at our Southcenter (Tukwila) store to get the training and process streamlined.”
That facility is managed by Mike Tyler, who spent 18 years at Big O Tires prior to joining Greg’s. “We are the beta site for Bolt On and we’re excited to be part of this new system for Greg’s,” Tyler said.
WORLDPAC is a major supplier because of service and quality parts availability, Huntley said. “We only want to use high-quality parts and fluids at our shops such as Denso, Akebono, Hitachi, Aisin, MBL, and others, including one of our newest lines, Raybestos brake products.”
Tyler said his store has a parts inventory of about $10,000, mainly everyday filters, spark plugs, fluids, oxygen sensors, and more.
For technician training, Huntley said the company uses Gary Smith of G.S.S. Enterprises. “Gary is able to be brand and model specific so we are only training on the vehicles we see in our shops.”
For many years, Huntley said Greg’s management was in R.L. O’Connor’s first 20-group. “The coaching Greg and I received from Bob O’Connor and the other shop owners was instrumental in keeping us in business.”
No longer a member of a 20-group, Huntley said he is becoming more involved with ASA Northwest, a trade group the company has been a member of for years. “We need to know about how other people are succeeding and failing so we can learn from their experiences, plus ASA and its members have lots of resources for training, cost of operations, and much more.”
Long involved with radio and print advertising, Huntley said Greg’s has been a proud sponsor of the Seattle Mariner’s broadcasts and continues to support that effort.
Success at Greg’s in part, Huntley said, is a bonus program called “The Great Game of Business,” where the company shares financials with employees each month “so they are invested in the successes and challenges we face. We’ve been lucky in keeping our employees engaged and, for the most part, happy.”