Mark Foppe, owner of Auto Tech Auto Center, says the future of the industry hinges on training and education in ADAS and vehicle information systems.Technician Nate Sari (left) is shadowed by Ranken Tech student Dylian Deline as a part of Ranken’s internship program. Service Advisor Joe Thornhill uses online ordering along with Identifix.Technician Caleb Kantola has all of the tools to handle what comes through the shop.The waiting area at AutoTech Auto Center was remodeled to provide customers with a better experience.

With New Year comes opportunities

ADAS training, tool investments, digital inspections and customer education are on the menu at AutoTech Auto Center

O’Fallon, Mo.—When Mark Foppe purchased AutoTech Auto Center in 2016, the foundation was already laid for him to takeover a successful shop by the previous owners, yet he knew there were new opportunities.

“I decided that there was room for some improvement. This year we have had five of the highest profit months we’ve ever had and that is directly tied to implementing new technology and ideology into this shop and getting everyone here to buy into it,” Foppe said.

One of the things Foppe built upon were initial implementations of the technology for digital inspections by previous owners.

“There was an attempt to bring in digital inspections a few years back, but the lack of buy-in and because the technology was still in the early stages kept it from being successful. I switched the shop management software over to Mitchell 1 and incorporated Smart Check for NAPA - AutoVitals to bring it up to speed and implement in into the shop.”

AutoTech also uses Bolt-On Technology’s Report Pro in sync with Mitchell to provide an enhanced invoice. Bolt-On also allows staff to communicate with customers through text and email updates.

Foppe said the biggest challenge in the last year or so has been getting his staff to accept that change is inevitable and they have to be willing to adapt to the industry trends.

“People are creatures of habit and I understand that, but there has to be a willingness to be educated and stay current with what we are going to be seeing going forward.”

Monthly training is mandatory, including for ADAS.

“We are looking at ADAS a lot here lately. We have attended several training classes through NAPA and at VISION. Those repairs and calibrations are important to driver safety and I don’t want to be a part of any legal trouble that may come from not diagnosing and repairing these cars correctly,” Foppe said.

Any vehicle that needs programming repairs is looked at by DTI (Design Technologies Inc.) out of St. Peters, Mo. “Lou Craven and his guys are the best around. They are going to be able to help a lot of us independent shop guys when it comes to ADAS going forward,” he said. DTI is ramping up heavily to be able to do ADAS specific repairs going into 2019, according to Foppe.

Future investments and updating equipment will be a focus for 2019. AutoTech recently had two new Challenger lifts installed by Nichol Marketing Group, and scan tools were updated to the latest Snap-on Modis Edge. Foppe is considering a 1234yf refrigerant machine, and another scan tool from either Snap-on or Autel.

“It has come to the point that every vehicle is going to have to have a full scan run before any repairs are done. In order for this to be profitable, we will have to look at upgrading to the Snap-on Zeus or Autel MaxiSys, which can scan in 90 seconds or less.”


Customer-supplied parts and education

Foppe said he takes exception to customers who bring in their own parts for repairs after getting codes read elsewhere.

“With the availability of replacement parts increasing online and customers thinking they can save money, it has become extremely difficult to educate them on the importance of letting us provide the parts as well as the service. The chain stores offer free scans as a way to sell parts,” he said.

Foppe will not install any part that he does not source and uses this as an opportunity to educate Millennial customers.

“I want them to understand that just because a code says a part needs to be replaced, that this is not always the proper repair. There are underlying manufacturer codes that don’t get seen by those cheap code readers and in the end it may cost them more. For example, I had a customer come in with a code that a chain gave her and said she needed a catalytic converter. I was able to educate her about the way they do things and she agreed to let us do the diagnostics. There was in fact an evap code which laid underneath the cat code and it went from being a $1500 dollar catalytic converter replacement job to a solenoid replacement and diagnostics charge that was half that.

“It is up to us to, to make sure we are ready for change and to take that as an opportunity to educate ourselves and our customers.”


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.