The inside track on import service
Peoria, Ill.— Having been a loyal customer and frequent visitor to Kauth and Mayeur over the years, Michael Benét was honored to be offered the opportunity to purchase ownership rights of one of Peoria’s top import repair facilities.
“I was approached by Peter Kauth and Brad Mayeur in 2002 as they thought I would appropriately carry out what they had started and continue to make it better,” Benét said. “I had experience running several other business ventures and I worked together with them in building race engines for many years. I saw this as a fantastic opportunity to make something that they laid the groundwork for into something even greater.”
Benét grew up in Peoria and, self-admittedly, thought he would not stay there forever. “I said I would be the first to leave and ended up being the only one that stayed,” he said, laughing. Benét’s love for cars is accredited to his mother who moved them to Peoria from a horse farm. Benét classified his mother as a “gear head.”
Benét began racing competitively at the age of 15 (illegal at the time) with the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA). He took many national wins and pole positions as well as receiving Road Racer of the year by SCCA. Benét also raced open wheel cars in the Formula Mazda class and even began testing for a NASCAR Craftsman Truck team before, Benét admits, “I ran out of saleable youth.”
Benét’s passion for racing has helped to garner a better understanding of import vehicles as a whole, he said. “When parts fail on a racecar, you know that it has been put under the max stress level that it can take. It’s no different than repeated use in a daily driver. It just happens in a shorter period of time in a racecar. These failures in racing have really helped us understand, industrywide, where and why failures can happen on passenger vehicles as well.”
The bread and butter for Kauth and Mayeur is passenger car repair and maintenance on import models such as Volvo, BMW, Honda, and Audi. The shop doesn’t shy away from other import makes, as they frequently do repairs on high performance cars such as Aston Martin, Lamborghini, Maserati, and Ferrari.
“I would say that 75 percent of our workload is passenger car maintenance and repair. We still have a pretty steady flow of high performance or exotic vehicles — we have some high-profile customers that still allow us to build engines and work on their cars, which keeps things interesting.”.
The most common pattern failure that Benét sees come through his import bays are with Volkswagen. “VW has some of the most loyal owners out there and they are attached to their vehicles. When they are brought in, the owners just want them fixed, no questions asked. We see many issues with window regulators and small electrical failures.”
The shop maintains a small parts inventory and is an authorized Bosch repair facility.
“Bosch is fantastic. They not only offer quality products, but their knowledge base is out of this world. If there is a question about a product or a repair, they are available and willing to share what they know. We’ve been with Bosch for over 20 years and the name recognition really helps us stay on top of the import market,” Benét said.
Kauth and Mayeur was awarded “Finest Bosch Authorized Service Center” in the nation two years in a row. “We have had some competition step it up on us here recently, but we intend to be back on top again soon.”
He added that Isringhausen Imports, in Springfield, and WORLDPAC are also reliable parts and training resources.
The 14-bay, 10,000-square-foot shop stays consistently busy throughout the year with and average monthly vehicle count of 215 with an average RO of $840. “Our customer base has grown to around 5,000 per year which is right where we figure we need to be going forward,” Benét said.
Employee empowerment, tool and equipment investments
Benét’s business model gives his six full-time technicians and tire technician “ownership” of their respective bays.
“I basically allow each of my technicians to be their own boss. I give opinions, state facts, and provide them with tools and equipment when necessary, but other than that it is theirs to run,” he said.
As far as shop equipment and diagnostic tools, Benét says, “We have so many scan tools because we handle so many different makes and models. Most are OE scan tools and we have several top-of-the-line Bosch units that get the job done.”
The shop also features the latest Hunter tire mounting and balancing equipment as well as a John Bean alignment rack. “These high-performance wheels are some of the most delicate in the industry and we take pride in their service without damaging them or causing blemishes. This is why I have a full-time tire technician specialist.”
Eye toward the future
Benét emphasized the importance of positive interactions with female customers. “With the world the way it is, now more than ever, it is important to respect our women customer base. Often, women are bringing vehicles in for service and we need to really change the ways we interact when we are explaining repairs or selling services. The experience should be positive and unintimidating. Women make more decisions in the household than men, for the most part, and we need to recognize that as owners and employees.”