Pro-active ride control services generate business at AutoTech
Riverside, Calif.—Tony Solorio, owner of AutoTech since its opening in 1992, said he and his team takes the proactive approach that every customer should be aware of their vehicle’s condition before it leaves the shop.
“When a vehicle comes in for any service, we do a free 38-point courtesy safety inspection, and before we align a vehicle, we inspect it for any worn parts,” he said. “If we find that there are any other repairs needed, the customer can choose to have the work done then, or schedule it for a later date if it’s not a safety issue.”
Solorio said his shop was originally located across the street on Chicago Avenue in a converted service station with only two bays, which he eventually outgrew. So in 2000, he purchased a larger building on Third Street, its present location.
The shop now has 10 bays, four BendPak lifts, one Forward 7000 lift, and two AAMCO 4000 disc/drum brake lathes.
The additional space also allowed the shop to offer more services, including alignment, ride control, and tire sales, Solorio said.
“We bought a Hunter R611 four-wheel alignment system, a Coats 1250 Direct Drive wheel balancer and a Coats ProGuard Plus leverless tire changer, which can handle oversized, run-flat, and low-profile applications,” he said. “We don’t make a huge profit on tires. It’s more of a service to our customers.”
AutoTech is a state-approved vendor, a STAR-certified test and repair smog station, an Official Brake and Lamp Inspection Station, an AAA Approved Auto Repair (AAR) facility, and an ASE Blue Shield shop.
“We get a number of salvage title vehicles that come in to have the brakes and lights inspected, and smog checks are a good source of new customers and related repairs,” he said.
Solorio said that being an AAR facility has also helped the bottom line by bringing in new customers, as well as getting existing customers back to the shop with service specials that AAA offers to its members.
“When AAA has a special, we send out an e-mail blast and post cards to our customers through Mitchell 1 OnDemand5, which we also use for shop management and estimating,” he said. “And the work is backed by AAA’s nationwide 24-month/24,000-mile warranty, which is an added benefit.”
Solorio said he is planning a targeted marketing campaign soon through a company such as Mudlick Mail or Kukui, to stimulate routine maintenance, diagnostic, and fluid-exchange business.
“We have a Snap-on Modus Ultra and a Verus scan tool, and an Autel TS501 TPMS diagnostic and service tool” he said. “We also sell Justice Brothers (JB) and BG Products. JB coolant and brake fluid exchanges and BG fuel injection service are the most popular.”
The shop has been doing more airbag replacement, ride-control sensor replacement, and some reflashing, Solorio said.
“We can handle many vehicles, but for some cars we have a mobile service that comes out. I plan on getting a laptop device soon so we can do more in-house,” he said.
The shop has four technicians, three of whom are ASE certified, and two, including Solorio, are Master certified, plus a service writer, a parts runner/porter, and an office manager.
Technician training is ongoing, he said, and includes WORLDPAC classes, which he pays for, online courses from Jerry Truglia, parts vendor seminars, and Hunter Training School for the alignment system.
“Whenever a parts store has a seminar, we all go,” he said. “Mitchell 1 also provides training for the front office, and we subscribe to iATN, Identifix, and Repair Pal.”
Solorio buys parts from WORLDPAC, IMC, One Stop Undercar, Factory Motor Parts, CARQUEST, AutoZone, Star Auto, and O’Reilly.
Another strategy Solorio uses to help his business is community involvement. He is a member of the Riverside Chamber of Commerce, Riverside East Rotary Club, So Cal Christian Network Club, Breakfast Networking Club, and is past president of the Magnolia Center Exchange Club.
“Bob Cooper of Elite says that the No. 1 thing a business should do is be involved in the community, both for business and personal reasons,” Solorio said.
“I am also a past treasurer, vice president, and president of ASCCA Chapter 14 Inland Empire, which has helped my business as well by being able to communicate with like-minded people to help solve common problems.”
Solorio said he regularly updates the shop’s website with new specials, and and is working on search engine optimization (SEO) because “everyone goes to the Internet to find a shop. And we are also ‘mobile friendly’ for smart phones.”
Approximately 35 percent of the shop’s business is fleet, Solorio said, including private contractors, city, county, and state vehicles.
Solorio said business has remained stable over the past two years, noting that car count is about the same and the average repair order remains $395.
With the various forms of marketing he does, tracking where new customers come from is important to determine what’s working, he said.
“When we start the repair order, we ask customers how they heard about us,” he said. “More often than not, it’s through a referral. We have about 1,000 steady customers who are still our best form of advertising.”