John Eppstein, owner of John’s Automotive Care, says his customer shuttle, a Honda Element, is a rolling billboard for the shop.The bright and modern customer service counter and waiting area at John’s Automotive Care offers free beverages and snacks.ASE Master Technician Tony Shelton installs an alternator on a customer’s vehicle.ASE Master Technician Joaquin Velazquez performs a front-end service on a customer’s Mazda pickup.ASE Master Technician Jason Schmitz services the rear brakes on a customer’s Honda Civic.

Knowledge is power to be shared in service and repair

John Eppstein overcomes business challenges by staying informed and sharing experiences with other shops

San Diego, Calif.—John Eppstein, owner of John’s Automotive Care and National 2016 NAPA/ASE Technician of the Year, began his career in 1983 at a Texaco service station.

“I wanted a job that I loved to do – where I could help people,” he said. “I was hired at a Texaco station to pump gas and service vehicles, which soon turned into working on cars exclusively.”

It didn’t take long for Eppstein to figure out that he wanted to run his own shop. Every chance he got, he took classes from Sun Instrument, dealerships, various parts stores, and NAPA Auto Parts.

“My boss at the Texaco station placed no importance on the ASE program so I did not earn my first ASE cert until 1994,” he said. “Now I am a double ASE Master Tech with 23 certifications, and all of my technicians and my service advisors are ASE-certified.”

In February 1998 Eppstein opened a one-man shop, John’s Automotive Care, opting to stay in the same neighborhood he had been in for the prior 10 years because of the relationships he had built with customers.

“My business model was based on outstanding customer service, high-quality repair service, and giving back to my community,” he said.

Eppstein had used NAPA parts for many years and had a great relationship with his local NAPA store, and his shop became a NAPA AutoCare Center in early 1999.

In 2003 Eppstein was offered a chance to move into an established 5,700-square-foot facility by the shop owner who was retiring but didn’t want just anyone to take it over.

“He wanted someone who would take care of his customers and employees as I had been doing with mine,” Eppstein said. “We have been in our current location ever since.” 

The shop has 13 employees,12 bays, 10 lifts and is a STAR Certified test and repair facility.

 

The road ahead 

Looking ahead to the future of automotive repair, Eppstein said there are a lot of challenges, such as attracting trained technicians, that the industry needs to overcome.

Eppstein said the best way to overcome the challenges is to stay as informed as possible and share what has been learned with others.

In 1999 he joined ASCCA and, shortly after, his local NAPA Business Development Group (BDG), of which he was president for several years. 

Those affiliations have allowed him to work with other successful shops in San Diego and share his knowledge with them as well as learn from their experience. 

“These shop owners have learned that the more you help others the more you get back in return,” Eppstein said. “I have also been involved with the RLO Training, Bottom Line Impact Group (BLIG), since 2005.”

Eppstein said he was on the board of directors for the local ASCCA chapter for several years and is currently on the ASCCA state board and is on several committees within the board.

“When I took over as chair of the meetings committee we were averaging about 10 people at our meetings and now are averaging more than 30,” he said.

 Eppstein said his shop has been an AAA-approved repair center since 2004. “AAA has been a good partner for us,” he said. “They bring us some good customers.”  

The shop has Toyota and Honda factory scan tools, Snap-on scan tools, a Snap-on Smoke Machine, and is purchasing a new press with all the right adaptors to safely replace most bearings and hubs as well as bushings.

“We are a NAPA AutoCare Center so more than half of our parts come from them, including our new smog machine,” he said. “We also buy a lot from Metro, SSF, IMC, WORLDPAC, Cal State, Wabco, and dealerships.”

Eppstein said the bulk of his work is on gas and hybrid vehicles and fleets, but his diesel work is increasing because he now has three technicians who are qualified to work on diesels.

“Diesel is probably 2 or 3 percent of our business,” he said. “We have some small, two- to three-vehicle fleets and up to 100-vehicle fleets, which are about 15 percent of our work, and we do alignments for a couple of body shops in the area.”

He said he extends the shop’s 36-month/36,000-mile warranty to fleet accounts, plus a special brake warranty.

“We will customize a maintenance plan for each fleet customer depending on their wants and needs.”

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.