Expansion is the name of the game
Greenville, Ill.—Z-1 Automotive has flourished in this rural market for the last decade as Richard Zbinden has adapted to keep up with growth and the changing automotive industry.
The shop started as a one-man operation in 1996 when Zbinden decided to purchase a lift and install it in a building he had built himself that was close to the interstate in Greenville.
“After a couple of years and as business picked up, I hired additional technicians and operated from our original location until 2007. I purchased a bigger building in town, remodeled it, added on and have been here since 2008,” Zbinden said
He currently employs four technicians, one lube and tire technician, and a general repair/tow truck operator. His shop manager handles most of the day-to-day activities and assists with service writing.
Z-1 features nine working bays, including a Hunter alignment rack and another with a drive-on rack for lube and tires. Six have Rotary lifts and another is open.
When further expansion is warranted, the plan is already in place.
“I purchased the adjacent building and if we need to we can always use that for more workspace. Right now, we are selling Propane and may sell some used cars out of it until the time comes,” Zbinden said.
Equipment investments over the last couple of years include various job-specific tools, especially for diesel repairs.
“We’ve brought in tools for Duramax and Cummins which help with cam positioning, water pump pulling, and timing component repairs.”
The shop has also adapted in going from handwritten tickets and bookkeeping to NAPA TRACS, which also incorporates Mitchell 1’s ProDemand.
“We tried a couple other systems, but we decided on NAPA TRACS because its ability to track inventory and sales,” he said.
Zbinden has been a NAPA AutoCare Center since 2004 and he discussed how NAPA benefits the shop as well as the customers.
“McKay, our local NAPA, does a fantastic job in providing us not only a quality selection of parts, but also gives us training opportunities for the technicians. The nationwide warranty is also a good peace of mind for the customer because they know they have 24 months or 24,000 miles on any part changed and it is covered nationwide at any NAPA shop.
“McKay group does a great job in taking care of us when we need help, so we buy most of our parts through them,” he said.
When tackling driveline and powertrain repairs, Zbinden also relies on OEM parts suppliers such Auffenberg Automotive Group and Weir Wholesale.
“Weir delivers to us twice a day and Auffenberg has several routes that can service us in a timely manner. Sometimes, for example, when it comes to sensor replacement and electrical parts repairs, I find that it is better to go OE.”
He also added that remanufactured parts are also used, but warned that shops should keep up with their suppliers as far as the brands they are carrying.
“I’ve had pretty good luck with remanufactured alternators, starters, some sensors as well as brake calipers. You just must be sure you are paying attention to what you are putting on. Sometimes the parts supplier will switch out who they are using, and the quality can differ if you aren’t keeping up with it.”
When a repair is out of the question and a new engine is the only option for a customer, Zbinden prefers to install Jasper Engines. Z-1 is listed as an authorized Jasper installer on their website and has been using them for as long as he can remember.
“Jasper doesn’t only provide a quality engine, but they will take an engine with known failures and make their product better than the OEM which failed in the first place. They have done a really good job with some GM engines that seem to fail more often than not,” Zbinden said.