Rudy Gargiulo, owner of C&M Automotive & Transmission, says that as vehicle components last longer, shops must re-tool their business models.Rudy Gargiulo (right) and Service advisor Kenny Leavitt, review a diagram on the shop’s large TV monitor. Gargiulo says he is adding two more monitors at other workstations.Transmission Technician Javier Gamez dismantles a six-speed automatic transmission.Technician Eric Brogmus uses the tablet supplied by Bolt-On Technology to take pictures of the vehicle’s dirty air filter to send to the customer.

Capitalizing on new technology

C&M Automotive & Transmission flips technology challenges into service opportunities

Simi Valley, Calif.—Vehicle complexity can often present challenges in service and repair for many shops, but Rudy Gargiulo embraces the opportunities new car technology presents.

“We love working on transmissions because the more complicated they are, the more expensive they are to fix,” he said.

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At a Glance

• Founded: 1974 by Rudy Gargiulo’s father Carmine and Mike Hickey
• Monthly car count: 160-180
• Average RO: $700
• Shop size: 3,300 square feet
• Bays: 7
• Lifts: 4 Rotary
• Staff: 1 office manager, 1 service advisor, 4 techs (2 master), 2 office assistant/porter/clean up apprentices
• Parts partners: NAPA, WORLDPAC, IMC, local dealerships

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C&M Automotive & Transmission, an award-winning AAA-approved auto repair facility for more than 20 years, has served the car and truck repair needs of the Simi Valley community and surrounding cities for the past 45 years.

“I’m a firm believer that we need to be smart,” said Gargiulo, who is an ASE Master Tech, ATRA member, and second-generation owner. “So our technicians are constantly getting training and reading TSBs on newest multi-speed and dual-clutch transmissions.”

Customers can bring their car or truck in for a free initial transmission inspection that includes a road test, computer scan, and a technical evaluation to determine the best plan of action.

“Today’s transmissions are complex and intertwined with the rest of the car,” he said. “The day of the easy diagnoses is all but over, although half of all problems are electronic or minor and don’t require a complete overhaul.”

Gargiulo sees that complexity as an advantage for his shop because he has the equipment, knowledge and, most importantly, the trained technicians to handle whatever comes along.

Equipment of choice includes factory diagnostic scan tools and test equipment, a Tech 2, Master Tech, Matco Maximus, an Autologic for Mercedes-Benz, an I-Scan for Asian vehicles, and a Ross Tech.

The shop also subscribes to Automotive Video Innovations (AVI) online training and is an ACDelco Professional Service Center (PSC), which gives them access to all GM online training as well as the ability to send technicians to the General Motors Training Center in Burbank.

“Most people ‘get’ that cars are complicated when it comes to electrical diagnostics and repairs,” he said. “We often use Google as a reference to show the customer if we can find any supporting information.”


Tapping into routine maintenance

The double-edged sword of vehicle technology is that cars and their components last longer, often necessitating a re-tooling of shop business models to find new profit centers.

Approximately 40 percent of the C&M’s business is undercar, including front suspension, brakes, transmission, and other driveline components.

But that is changing, as Gargiulo has rewired the shop’s focus to also concentrate on scheduled maintenance, including BG Products fluid exchanges, hybrid maintenance, failing batteries, and bearings in the electric motors.

To build business and exposure, C&M has partnered with Kukui for CRM services, a new website, and setting up special phone numbers for lead tracking. He also started performing digital vehicle inspections (DVI) using Bolt-On Technology.

“I used to use AdWords and Reach Local for new business but I get a better return with Kukui. We’re also starting to push all forms of social media, doing direct marketing, and online advertising.


AAA affiliation benefits

Being an AAA shop has numerous advantages, he said.

“First, it aligns us with a brand that’s known for being consumer-satisfaction based, and it brings us a lot of quality repeat customers.”

 There are also regular special-offer coupons sent to AAA auto insurance members; one of the most recent being a free 40-point inspection with no repair work required.

“The only problem is, some people think it’s a free ‘diagnosis,’ instead of an inspection,” Service advisor Kenny Leavitt said. “So I have to educate them about the difference, but it’s been a successful promotion overall. And, with April having been National Car Care month, it also helped stimulate maintenance and repair business.”

Digital inspections using Bolt On Technology have also been profitable in building business by identifying deferred maintenance issues and illustrating service needs to customers through photos and videos.

It’s working. Gargiulo says the full-service shop is now five-star rated on Yelp, Google, and Facebook.


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.