El Cajon’s East County Diesel builds business with Bosch certification
El Cajon, Calif.—Robert “Bobby” Field opened East County Diesel in January 2010 and incorporated in 2014 when Mitch Mendenhall joined the business and became a partner.
“Between Bobby and myself we have more than 60 years’ experience in the automotive industry,” Mendenhall said. “And both of our lead technicians have more than 25 years’ experience, so we can handle virtually any diesel repair for Cummins, Duramax, Power Stroke, and TDI engines.”
Field has 33 years experience in diesel performance and repair, having previously worked at West Coast Marine and Industrial and as the owner of Advanced Fleet Services. A graduate of Cuyamaca College’s technology program, he has two associate’s degrees, is an ASE Certified Master Technician, and is certified in several diesel categories for Power Stroke and Cummins.
Mendenhall’s background is as a sales representative for Driveline Service, Mitchell 1, Mighty Auto Parts, and BG Products. He has certifications in shop management from Mitchell 1, in maintenance and chemicals from BG Products, and in management and VS7 chemicals from Mighty Auto Parts.
“Our backgrounds complement each other well,” Mendenhall said. “Bobby is a hands-on technician and I enjoy talking to people and handling the front office, so joining forces was a perfect fit for both of us.”
The business has had a steady increase of about 25 percent a year in the past three years, and is on track to see an increase of 35 to 40 percent in 2016. The average repair order is $1,900 to $2,500, also up considerably, Mendenhall said.
He attributes the growth to a number of factors including setting business goals and strategies, launching a website, being heavily involved with ASCCA at the local and the state levels, and becoming a Bosch Certified Diesel Diagnostic Center.
Mendenhall said it was no easy task getting the certification from Bosch, which started with a recommendation from one of the shop’s main suppliers, H.G. Makelim Co., and included submitting a 28-page application.
“We believe that becoming a Bosch Diesel Vehicle Diagnostic Center further promotes the image that we strive for in being the best and most professional shop in the automotive diesel niche that we specialize in,” Mendenhall said. “Networking and exchanging ideas with other ASCCA shop owners have also been instrumental in growing our business.”
Mendenhall said the shop’s website, designed by AutoVitals, has helped bring in a number of new customers to the shop.
AutoVitals also includes review collection for existing customers, a business listing and review page, a personalized service schedule and loyalty point system, communication via text messages, email, Twitter, and Facebook applications, and access to the Service Advisor Huddle, to get recipes for success from the best shops in the industry.
“We use Mitchell 1 Manager SE to manage all aspects of the shop from front to back more efficiently,” he added.
Field said the shop recently purchased a 2,000-HP Mustang dynamometer, which will help with performance tuning and testing. It should also generate business from other shops who want to use the dyno.
The shop buys almost all of its parts exclusively from OEM manufacturers and Bosch. Other aftermarket parts are usually purchased from O’Reilly Auto Parts.
“Our technicians are encouraged to further their automotive education anyway they can,” Mendenhall said. “We will pay for educational training at the local community college or ASE testing as long as the technician passes the classes or testing.”
East County Diesel is 5,800 square feet, has five employees including management, five bays, and four Rotary lifts.
“In the past two years, we have added two lifts, purchased a forklift, and built a clean room” Field said. “We have most PC-based factory scan tools, a Snap-on Solus, an IDS for Ford, Cummins factory software and an Autel MaxiDAS DS708.”
Mendenhall added, “We perform all maintenance, repairs, and performance upgrades except tires, alignment, and smog. We have a very good mix of maintenance versus repair versus performance upgrades in our shop.
No matter how much a shop invests in its tools, training, and marketing budget, satisfied customers are always the best source of marketing and revenue, Mendenhall said.
“We have a great customer base that includes military, police, and fire departments, which we give a 10-percent discount on labor. Plus we have horse owners and people going on vacation towing a trailer who just want their truck fixed right so it doesn’t break down in Arizona,” Mendenhall said. “We are very grateful for their support.”