Scott’s offers the dealership alternative

Training and shop culture paramount at Scott’s Auto Service

Troy, Mo.—Surrounded by other independent repair shops, Scott’s Auto Service differentiates itself with a simple formula: quality parts, expert diagnosis and investing in the right tools and equipment.

“We can fix anything the dealerships can, supported by high-end repair diagnosis with OEM scan tools, so much so that other shops bring us problem vehicles,” said tech-turned-owner Scott Hager, who previously worked at a dealership for 14 years. With continual training and dealership mentality ingrained, he carried it forward into his shop culture.

How does Hager keep up to speed with diagnostics?

“It’s a lifestyle. I always read everything I can get my hands on, from industry publications to iATN,” he said. “I’ve trained my staff so they can perform all repairs, but when there’s an issue we put our heads together and solve it.”

Hager’s technicians have also received training from AASP-MO’s EXCEL show and regularly attend ASA-Midwest’s Vision Hi-Tech Conference. ACDelco also provides opportunities, as do parts stores. “Training isn’t mandatory, but no one’s ever turned it down,” he said, adding that he pays for it. “If someone didn’t want to go, then they probably don’t fit into our culture.”

Scott’s initially specialized only in GM, but as time progressed it branched out to all domestics and eventually foreign makes, aside from German brands such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz, for which Hager said they are not yet tooled up for. “We try to be the dealership alternative, and not being capable to service those brand to that level, we’re hesitant to accept them without qualifying the job and the customer.”

Focus is on high-quality parts

Scott’s generally offers its customers only top-quality parts (largely OEM with a mix of NAPA and FMP), but on occasion will offer lower-tier products as requested, though he will acquiesce only with caveats, he said. However, in some situations Scott’s knows it has to offer those parts due to a car’s overall condition, in which case it will price reman over used and give the customer the pros and cons of each.

“I do my best to maintain margins. Management people will say a shop needs 50-percent margin on parts, but that’s not always easy to do using high-quality parts and when you’re competing with dealerships,” Hager said. “On the other side of it, we don’t have a lot of comebacks, which also improves productivity.”

Scott’s performs internal repairs on transmissions, such as solenoids and sensors, but if they are slipping or need an overhaul the shop relies mostly on OEM replacement. “For aftermarket, Jasper is our only choice, because of their warranty and what they have, sometimes for a better price,” Hager said.

Scott’s doesn’t install customer-supplied parts, as Hager can’t warranty them. “We don’t seek those types of customers in the first place, the ones that are only looking for the cheapest avenue. We repair cars properly in a clean, cared-for facility that lets people know we’re not a hole-in-the-wall business. We’re value-orientated, using the best parts and equipment.”

Built for productivity

The shop was designed with productivity in mind, Hager said. “Little things contribute to efficiency such as the spacing between racks to allow sufficient room for roll carts and to allow car doors to open without damaging another vehicle. I could fit more racks in the shop, but it wouldn’t make us any more efficient.”

Each technician has his own floorjack, jump box and battery charger so they don’t have to walk across the shop. “It’s all about time savings. I don’t pretend to be a good manager. I just try to hire good people and eliminate the bottlenecks, keep everyone productive, watch my techs’ numbers, sales numbers and percentages,” said Hager, who has been using R.O. Writer for nearly 10 years and just added Smart eCat for online parts ordering and estimating.

The facility’s Hunter HawkEye Alignment System was also purchased for efficiency. “My guys love it. It was a lot of money for something that people generally view as a commodity, but I reviewed the number of alignments we performed the previous year and calculated we could save at least 15 minutes per alignment. The labor savings alone made it worthwhile, and it will have paid for itself in 4.67 years.”

Displays in the waiting area, such as a Gates Timing Component System and an Accessory Belt Drive System, assist in explaining service to customers. “Most people don’t know what a timing belt is, but they appreciate seeing and understanding it. Pictures are worth a 1,000 words and hands-on is even more.”

Customers are also beginning to learn and expect initial diagnostic charges, he said, but there’s always going to be some pushback. “They can go to AutoZone and might have a code pulled, but that doesn’t solve the issue. A systems examination needs to be performed. It’s similar to using a thermometer when you think you have a fever. It might tell you you’ve got a fever, but then what are you going to do as to why you have it?”

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.