New Ownership For Just Brakes
Hicks Equity Partners, Gemini Investors and Monhegan Partners — in partnership with former TBC Corp. executive Bill Ihnken — have acquired the Just Brakes chain of repair shops. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Just Brakes owns and operates more than 130 shops in eight states and 14 major markets across the southern United States.
Ihnken — the former president and chief operating officer of TBC’s company-owned store division — has been named CEO of Just Brakes. Ihnken joined the TBC Retail Group in 2000 as senior vice president of operations, eventually becoming president and COO of the group’s company-owned store division in 2012. Prior to TBC, Ihnken held management positions with various retail automotive services companies, including Firestone Complete Auto Care and Sears Automotive.
Peter Pfister, managing partner of Monhegan Partners, called Ihnken the ideal executive to lead Just Brakes. “Bill has enjoyed a long and successful career in the automotive services industry, and understands the complexities of managing and growing a large chain of stores dedicated to extraordinary customer service,” Pfister said. “He is a great leader and has the vision, energy, and commitment to move Just Brakes forward.”
Tom Hicks, chairman and CEO of Hicks Equity Partners, has been named chairman of the Just Brakes board of directors. Hicks said the new ownership group is excited to pursue a range of growth opportunities for the company under Ihnken’s leadership.
Gemini Investors president Jim Goodman said ownership plans to continue Just Brakes’ expansion into the provision of other automotive aftermarket services. “Just Brakes has an exciting future, and we are pleased to participate in enhancing the business’ value,” Goodman added.
Ihnken said Just Brakes is a well-recognized brand name operating in attractive markets that will serve as a wonderful platform for growth. “Hicks Equity Partners, Gemini Investors and Monhegan Partners bring the strategic and financial resources needed to capitalize on its significant potential,” he said. “I am excited to lead Just Brakes and to collaborate with our dedicated employees and vendors to execute our long-term strategic plans, which include investments in training, expanded car care services, improved facilities and strategic acquisitions.”
Copper-Free Brake Pad Informational Site Debuts
An informational website is now available, www.copperfreebrakes.org, to be of assistance to the auto care industry in complying with the “better brake laws” enacted in California and Washington states. These laws were designed to reduce the amount of copper, cadmium, chromium VI, mercury, lead and abestiform fibers contained in brake pads sold in those states beginning in 2014.
The website — which comes from a collaborative task force of aftermarket associations, as well as leadership representing brake pad manufacturers, distributors, retailers, dealerships and service providers — contains information and links to help suppliers, distributors and service providers know what is expected of them regarding the manufacture, sale, and installation of brake pads in these states.
Brake friction material manufacturers are required to undergo a self-certification process through an approved registrar and to have their materials tested for the level of those the items in question. Ultimately, all brake pads manufactured after 2021 will contain less than 5 percent copper by weight. And, by 2025, brake pads sold in California will contain less than 0.05 percent copper by weight.
A similar industry task force is working on implementing a memorandum of understanding that would make the Washington state regulations a standard across all states.
Rodney Pierini, president and CEO of CAWA, led the task force. “We are excited by the fact we have a central industry repository for information regarding the better brake laws,” Pierini said. “We realize that this is a dynamic environment, and the information regarding both states’ regulations should be accessible on one webpage. We will be continually adding materials including a frequently-asked-question page to the site once they become available or if regulations have changed.”
Other participants that collaborated in the website creation include the …
• Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA)
• Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA)
• Automotive Service Councils of California (ASCCA)
• California Automotive Business Coalition (CALABC)
• California New Car Dealers Association (CNCDA)
• Automotive Service Association of Washington (ASA-Washington)
• Washington Automotive Industry Association (WAIA).
Both states provided content for the site. Developers say updates to the site will be made continually as recommendations for content are received.
Car Care Council Launches Maintenance Mondays
To help consumers better understand car maintenance, the Car Care Council has launched a weekly campaign on the image-sharing social media site Instagram. The council’s “Maintenance Mondays” program will use Instagram to share images and video tips each Monday — visuals that also will be carried on the council’s other social media outlets. Topics will range from simple DIY and preventative maintenance tips to information on choosing an automotive professional.
Follow “Maintenance Mondays” by joining the Car Care Council on Instagram at instagram.com/carcarecouncil, or find them on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest with #MaintenanceMondays.
Point Of View: Need For Technicians Truly Critical
At the expense of coming across as redundant, the most important issue facing the auto care industry today is the technician shortage. And it is a problem that will continue to grow without a major set of efforts on the part of the auto care industry. But, as someone once taught me, nothing happens unless you ask for the order, and that is the major move this industry needs to embrace – asking those available to fill those slots, now and into the future.
To that end, I was certainly glad to see the recent announcement that the University of the Aftermarket Foundation helped to facilitate such a shout-out to prospective recruits to the industry, working with the popular television shows “Two Guys Garage” and “Truck U,” which will air public service announcements (PSAs) promoting the virtues of education and the availability of scholarships for those seeking a career in the auto care industry. The TV spots, produced for the University of the Aftermarket Foundation by Brenton Productions, the TV shows’ producer, share information about the auto care industry scholarships available at automotivescholarships.com. The announcement was reported in our sister publication, The Greensheet.
If you take the time to look at the PSAs, you will clearly see these are well-produced messages that will resonate with the real prospects for this industry – positive messages for those who already have a bit of a passion for today’s vehicles. But it is only a start.
Along with these public service spots, we need more training facilities, both regionally and nationally, involved in training more future techs. It is great to see the UTI ads on a number of TV programs, but more vocational programs need to get involved. And our industry needs to work hand-in-hand with these training providers in the same way they already work with the automakers. Scholarship funds will go a long way to encourage them, and we need to raise even more money than we already are gathering.
But the victory in this war will come with winning the hearts and minds of those who would consider our industry as a means to a career. Video ads and social media programs can show them the opportunities that abound, and can do that in a method that elicits a favorable emotional response.
And speaking of war, one fertile area for recruitment of qualified candidates for these technician positions in our industry should involved the armed forces. There are Wounded Warrior Programs affiliated with each of the five military branches, and our trade associations should be working to liaison these programs to their industry members. Council of Economic Advisers research shows that the unemployment rate for recent veterans remains incredibly high — around 10 percent — and remains noticeably higher than it is for non-veterans in the same demographic group. The jobless rate for all U.S. veterans was just 6.9 percent in October — slightly lower than it is for the population as a whole.
These are qualified candidates, many with technical and mechanical experience, who just need an opportunity to get restarted after serving our nation selflessly. Our industry has plenty of opportunity for these veterans who understand discipline and what it takes to work within a team – a true win-win for all involved.
I have no doubt that this industry will rally to meet this challenge, as it has in the past in facing most critical issues. But we must all do our share, in a global sense, in getting our associations and others moving to make this all happen. But it will also take the efforts of each of us as individuals in making sure the foundation of this industry is kept viable and strong. And those folks in the service bays are truly the foundation for your future.
Gary A. Molinaro
Bridgestone Phasing Out Its Expert Tire Brand
As 2013 drew to a close, Bridgestone Retail Operations (BSRO) announced plans to phase out its Expert Tire brand, which was in place at 80 locations. Management opted to shutter 15 Expert Tire shops as year’s end because of sales volume issues and/or their proximity to other BSRO shops.
Of the remainder, 63 Expert Tire locations will be rebranded as Firestone Complete Auto Care shops and two Expert Tire locations will change over to Hibdon Tires Plus shops.
Management expects the conversion to be completed by the second quarter of 2014.
The products and services offered by all BSRO shops — Firestone Complete Auto Care, Tires Plus and Wheel Works — are to remain the same during and following the transition. These changes are intended to strengthen BSRO’s position in the marketplace and better enable the company to focus its investments in areas that can have the greatest impact on its business model.
BSRO operates more than 2,200 tire and auto service centers across the United States.
ATD Expands Its Presence In Canada
American Tire Distributors (ATD) has acquired all outstanding common shares of Wholesale Tire Distributors (WTD). WTD operates two distribution centers in southern Ontario, located in Vaughan (north of Toronto) and Stoney Creek, servicing approximately 2,300 customers. The acquisition further strengthens ATD’s presence in the southern Ontario region and provides a greater level of service to customers in the Toronto market.
ATD entered the Canadian market in 2012 by purchasing Triwest Trading Canada/TriCan Tire Distributors and added to its Canadian platform by acquiring Regional Tire Distributors (RTD) in the Ontario and Atlantic regions in 2013.
“WTD has an excellent reputation amongst its customers and suppliers for its coverage of the southern Ontario region,” said Bill Berry, president and CEO of ATD. “Our goal is to provide unsurpassed service and product availability to customers across Canada and this is an important step in achieving that goal.”
ATD will continue to run its Canadian operation as a standalone business unit, based in Burlington, ON, with Mike Kustra serving as president of the entity.
ATD is one of the largest independent suppliers of tires to the North American replacement tire market. It operates 129 distribution centers, including 21 distribution centers in Canada, serving approximately 70,000 customers across the United States and Canada.
RMA Expects Tire Shipments To Rise 2% In 2014
Tire shipments were expected to increase more than 4 percent in 2013 to 297 million, according to the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA). For 2014, RMA expects tire shipments to increase nearly 2 percent to 302 million.
RMA says that increases in vehicle miles driven and registered vehicles triggered a boost in 2013 replacement passenger tire shipments to an expected 200 million units — a nearly 5 percent increase when compared to 2012. For 2014, continued improvement of economic conditions, coupled with lower fuel prices, should increase demand for passenger replacement tires by 1 percent.
Replacement light-truck tire shipments were expected to come in at 29 million in 2013 — an increase of about 3 percent. A further increase in demand of nearly 2 percent is forecast for 2014.
Replacement medium/wide-base/heavy on-highway commercial truck tire shipments were expected to decline by nearly 2 percent to 15.90 million in 2013 as a driver shortage limited truck utilization. A 2-percent increase in demand is anticipated in 2014 as truck tonnage and manufacturing continue to grow.
Constellation Software Buys ASA Automotive Systems
Constellation Software’s Vela Operating Group has acquired Merrimack, NH-based ASA Automotive Systems, a supplier of software products for tire dealers, auto repair shops and retreaders, including POS, e-commerce, order processing, accounting and business management technology.
As a result of the acquisition, the ASA business will operate as an independent division of Constellation/Vela’s Friedman Corp. Deerfield, IL-based Friedman specializes in ERP software for manufacturers and distributors of “make to order” and “engineer to order” products in the building products, capital equipment and automotive sectors.
Mark Thompson, CEO of Friedman, said the acquisition of ASA complements Friedman’s markets and product portfolio. “The ASA product offering will enable us to further grow our already-strong presence in retail and wholesale supply chain operations,” Thompson explained.
ASA president Ken Halle said this new relationship gives ASA access to a broad network of software professionals, and provides the support and security of a strong global parent company to enable ASA to continue growing and building its software brand.
Myers Industries Enters Into New Credit Facility
Akron, OH-based Myers Industries, parent company to Myers Tire Supply, has entered into a five-year, $200-million senior secured revolving credit facility, replacing its previous senior credit facility, which was scheduled to expire in 2015.
“This credit facility provides the company long-term financing at attractive pricing and flexibility through 2018. Together with our recent $100-million private placement of notes, the company has capacity to fund its strategic initiatives,” said Senior Vice President and CFO Greggory Branning.
Pro-Cut Offers Branded Brake Service
Pro-Cut Rotor Matching Systems (West Lebanon, NH) has launched a new branded brake service, BrakeSaver, that merges its rotor machining equipment with on-site training and point-of-sale material. The concept here is that, just as a tire needs to be balanced, a rotor must be matched to the hub. The BrakeSaver program includes training in rotor machining and selling the service to customers. Factory-trained experts come to shops to assemble the lathe and train staff in its use. And, counter staff members are trained on the BrakeSaver process so they can upsell the service. Point-of-sale and marketing material are included.
Fram Launches Filter Program For Pro Installers
Fram Filtration (Lake Forest, IL) has introduced Fram Pro Series, a line of oil filters for professional installers. The products are designed to align oil filter selection with the specific oil (conventional, premium conventional and full synthetic) used by installers during oil changes. The company launched the Fram Pro Series at AAPEX in the fall, and is now rolling out the product line to professional installers nationwide.
Speedemissions Touts New Branding, Customer Initiatives
Atlanta-based Speedemissions Inc. has announced that, while its corporate name will remain the same, it plans to operate its shops in 2014 under two new brands: Expresso Emissions and Expresso Car Care Cafe.
Expresso Emissions shops will continue to provide vehicle emission testing and safety inspections in those markets where it is required, as well as sell light bulbs, wipers and headlight restoration services. The Expresso Car Cafe facilities will handle the same services, plus emission repair, diagnostics, engine tune-up, brake repair, radiator and air conditioning flushes, oil changes, and more.
The Expresso Car Care Cafe shops also will feature a new design. They will be between 3,300 and 4,400 square feet, with either four or six bays for auto services and almost 2,000 square feet dedicated to the customer experience. These shops will offer free Wi-Fi and secured tablets for customers to use while getting their vehicles serviced, roughly 30 linear feet of display space to sell merchandise, and a valet service to provide customers with transportation to and from work or home.
President and CEO Rich Parlontieri said that, as a means to accelerate development, Speedemissions will not be in the real estate business, but rather will be working with several of its current landlords to become partners in the project. “We expect to open two to four Express Car Care Cafe stores in 2014,” Parlontieri said. “With respect to the current Speedemissions testing stores, they will, over the course of the year, be rebranded with the Expresso Emissions logo design and colors, but will not be converted into Expresso Car Care Cafe stores because of existing building constraints.”
NASTF Gets Its First Shop Owner Chair
Allen Pennebaker, owner of Orinda Motors in Orinda, CA, is the 2014 chair of the NASTF board of directors. He is the first independent shop owner chair of the organization, which was founded in 2000. Pennebaker has served on the NASTF board for many years as a representative of the Automotive Service Council of California.
He is joined by fellow officers:
• Vice Chair – Steve Douglas, director of environmental affairs for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers;
• Treasurer/Secretary – John Lypen, director of industry relations for Motor Information Systems; and
• Immediate Past Chair – Charlie Gorman, executive manager of the Equipment & Tool Institute (ETI).
Four new members were elected to the board, filling vacancies in four categories. They are:
• Claude Hensley of Lockman Locksmith in the locksmith category;
• Donny Seyfer of Seyfer Automotive in an independent technician/shop owner position;
• Chris Chesney Sr. of Carquest as an industry educator; and
• Mark Saxonberg from Toyota in a post designated for an OEM.
Members re-elected to the 15-person board are:
• Bill Long of AASA and Kathleen Schmatz of AAIA, both representing the parts supplier category.
• Doug Greenhaus of NADA, representing the franchise dealer category.
• Scott Brown of iATN and John Lypen, representing information service providers.
• Charlie Gorman, who received an automatic re-appointment to serve as the immediate past chair through 2014 and to represent the tool company category.
• Allen Pennebaker and Bill Moss of Euro Service Automotive, representing the independent technician/shop owner category.
• John Cabaniss of Global Automakers and Steve Douglas, representing OEMs.
• Karen Miller of Inspection Connection in a one-year at-large position on the board.
ASE Announces New Officers For 2014
Glenn Dahl, senior coordinator of technical education for Bridgestone Retail Operations, is chairman of the ASE board of directors for 2014. Greg Gaulin from Gaulin’s of Williamsville (NY) is vice chairman. Mike Durkin from General Motors is treasurer, while Jeff Walker of Walker’s Automotive Service in Pleasantville, NJ is secretary. Rob Barto of Nissan North America serves as past chairman.
ALI Board Includes First Associate Class Member
The Automotive Lift Institute (ALI) board of directors — historically comprised solely of lift manufacturers — now includes a representative from the lift inspection side of the business. It’s Evan Calarco of Total Tool Ltd. in Castleton, NY.
The new associate class of ALI membership was created as part of ALI’s Lift Inspector Certification program that launched in 2012. Any North American organization with at least one ALI-certified lift inspector on staff may join ALI as an associate class member. More than 40 companies have joined ALI as associate class members in the past few months.
ALI’s 2014 board is made up of the following leaders:
• Chairman – Jerome Lentz of Challenger Lifts;
• Douglas Grunnet of Stertil Koni USA;
• Gary Kennon of Rotary Lift Consolidated;
• Jeff Kritzer of Bendpak Inc.;
• Pete Liebetreu of the Hunter Engineering Co.;
• Stet Schanze of the Gray Manufacturing Co.; and
• Bob O’Gorman, ALI president.
In related news, DEKRA — a German company that administers automotive testing, inspection and certification programs worldwide — has committed to exploring ways to work with ALI, with a focus on the group’s certified lift inspector program. This followed a meeting in late 2013 between DEKRA and Gorman.
ASA Welcomes New Affiliate
The Automotive Service Association (ASA) board of directors has approved an affiliation agreement naming ASA of PA as its 13th affiliate. ASA of PA currently hosts training and management meetings in the southeast portion of the state, and is working on expanding these training and management opportunities to reach the entire state.
Q3 Parts & Service Results For Major Auto Dealers
All of the publicly traded dealership groups that we track posted higher year-over-year parts and service sales in the third quarter of 2013. The highest percentage increase again came from Group 1 Automotive, where revenue was up 13.5 percent. The largest company that we track in this area, AutoNation Inc., reported a 9.6-percent increase in service, parts and collision revenue.
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AutoNation Parts & Service Revenue Up 9.6% In Q4
AutoNation Inc. (Fort Lauderdale, FL) saw its third-quarter parts and service revenue increase 9.6 percent to $653.80 million, while parts and service gross profit rose 10 percent to $27710 million. Same-store parts and service revenue growth came in at 5.7 percent. According to management, the business continued to grow across-the-board for customer pay, warranty, wholesale parts, and collision for both revenue and gross profit.
Interestingly, AutoNation’s parts and service and finance and insurance operations — while comprising roughly 19 percent of the company’s total revenue for the nine months ended Sept. 30, 2013 — contributed approximately 65 percent of the company’s total gross profit for the same period.
America’s largest automotive retailer, AutoNation owns and operating 267 new-vehicle franchises, which sell 33 new vehicle brands across 15 states.
Penske’s U.S. Service & Parts Sales Rose 8.9% In Q3
The Penske Automotive Group (Bloomfield Hills, MI) saw its service and parts revenue increase 4.4 percent to $381.49 million in the third quarter of 2013. The $16.10-million uptick in service and parts revenue included an 8.9-percent rise in the United States and a 5.8-percent decrease internationally. The increase was due to a $12.30-million (3.4 percent) increase in same-store revenues during the period, coupled with a $3.80-million increase from net dealership acquisitions.
Management attributed the increase in same-store revenue to …
• A $6.40-million (2.5 percent) increase in customer-pay revenue;
• A $5.20-million (6.9 percent) increase in warranty revenue;
• A $500,000 (10.3 percent) increase in vehicle preparation revenue; and
• A $200,000 (0.9 percent) increase in body shop revenue.
Service and parts gross profit increased $18.40 million (8.7 percent) to $229.50 million, including an 11.2-percent increase in the United States and a 2.9-percent increase internationally. The increase was ascribed to a $14.60-million (7 percent) increase in same-store gross profit during the period, coupled with a $3.80-million increase from net dealership acquisitions.
According to Penske’s management team, the same-store gross profit increase came from the aforementioned 3.4-percent increase in same-store revenues, which increased gross profit by $7.40 million, coupled with a 3.4-percent increase in gross margin, which increased gross profit by $7.20 million. The same-store gross profit increase was due to …
• A $6.10-million (18.3 percent) increase in vehicle preparation gross profit;
• A $4.00-million (10.6 percent) increase in warranty gross profit;
• A $3.50-million (2.8 percent) increase in customer-pay gross profit; and
• A $1.00-million (7 percent) increase in body shop gross profit.
The Penske Automotive Group is the second largest automotive retailer headquartered in the United States as measured total revenue. The company operates 321 total retail automotive franchises, of which 171 are located in the United States and 150 are located outside of the United States (primarily in the United Kingdom).
Group 1’s U.S. Customer-Pay Parts & Service Comps Increased 5.1% In Q3
Houston-based Group 1 Automotive saw its parts and service gross profit increase 13.2 percent to $121.63 million in the third quarter of 2013 on revenue growth of 13.5 percent. Same-store parts and service revenue increased 8 percent to $226.98 million, driven by increases in all aspects of the parts and service business: collision, customer-pay, warranty and wholesale parts.
U.S. same-store parts and service revenues increased 7.8 percent, or $15.50 million, for the three months ended Sept. 30, 2013, driven primarily by
• A 23.2-percent increase in collision revenue;
• A 5.1-percent increase in customer-pay parts and service sales;
• An 8-percent increase in warranty revenue; and
• A 5.2-percent increase in wholesale parts revenue.
Same-store gross profit increased 9.5 percent in the third quarter of 2013. U.S. same-store parts and service margins improved 80 basis points, primarily because of improved profitability in the warranty and customer-pay parts and service business units, as well as a higher volume of internal work between the parts and service departments of Group 1’s dealerships and the new and used vehicle departments, which was generated by improved new and used retail vehicles sales volume.
Group 1 owns and operates 141 automotive dealerships, 179 franchises, and 35 collision centers in the United States, the United Kingdom and Brazil.
Sonic Reports 7.8% Sales Increase From Fixed Ops.
Charlotte-based Sonic Automotive reported parts, service and collision repair (“fixed operations”) sales of $309.60 million for the third quarter of 2013, which was up 7.8 percent compared to the $287.31 million the company reported a year ago. Fixed operations gross profit climbed 6.1 percent to $149.15 million.
Customer-pay revenue increased 4.6 percent to $137.111 million (up 2.7 percent on a same-store basis), while wholesale parts revenue rose 14.9 percent to $43.35 million (up 13.2 percent on a same-store basis). Warranty revenue increased 11.7 percent to $45.41 million (same-store sales up 9.7 percent), led by increases in warranty activity at Sonic’s BMW, Honda and Lexus dealerships.
A closer look at the company’s third-quarter results shows that fixed operations customer-pay revenue at Sonic’s domestic dealerships decreased 2.8 percent. Customer-pay revenue at mid-line import dealerships increased 3 percent, while customer-pay revenue at Sonic’s luxury dealerships increased 5.3 percent.
Included in all of the revenue streams above, with the exception of wholesale parts, are operating results from the company’s 20 collision repair centers. Collision repair revenue decreased 7 percent in the third quarter, primarily due to the closure of one collision center in the first quarter of 2013.
Sonic operates 123 franchises in 14 states, representing 25 different brands of cars and light trucks.
17 Consecutive Quarters Of Same-Store Customer-Pay Sales Growth For Lithia Motors
Lithia Motors (Medford, OR) saw its service, body and parts sales increase 9.8 percent to $97.78 million in the third quarter of 2013. Gross profit rose 9.3 percent to $46.99 million. Lithia, the ninth largest automotive retailer in the United States, has 92 stores in 11 states.
Same-store service, body and parts sales increased 5.6 percent to $93.94 million on top of 6-percent growth from a year ago.
Lithia increased its same-store customer-pay business 3.8 percent to $52.66 million — the 17th consecutive quarter of improvement. Same-store wholesale parts sales rose 8.5 percent to $17.44 million, while body shop same-store sales increased 2.5 percent to $8.93 million.
Same-store warranty sales increased 10.6 percent to $14.92 million, as domestic brand warranty work increased 3.3 percent, import warranty work increased 24.6 percent and luxury warranty work increased 10.9 percent due, in part, to recent recalls and maintenance packages.
Same-store service, body and parts gross profit rose 5.3 percent to $44.28 million.
Asbury’s Parts & Service Gross Profit Up 14% In Q3
Parts and service gross profit rose 13.9 percent to $94 million for the Asbury Automotive Group (Duluth, GA) in the third quarter of 2013. Sales increased 8.6 percent to $154 million. The $12.20-million growth in parts and service revenue came primarily from …
• A $5.10-million (or 5 percent) increase in same-store customer-pay revenue;
• A $2.50-million (13 percent) increase in same-store warranty revenue; and
• $3.50 million derived from acquisitions.
Same-store parts and service gross margin increased 270 basis points, climbing from 58.2 percent a year ago to 60.9 percent for the three months ended Sept. 30, 2013. Management attributed the growth to increases in Asbury’s higher-margin parts and service businesses, including a 30-percent increase in gross profit from the reconditioning and preparation of vehicles, a 17-percent increase in warranty work and a 5-percent increase in customer-pay parts and service gross profit. Wholesale parts gross profit increased 2 percent
Asbury operates 79 retail auto stores, encompassing 100 franchises for the sale and service of 29 different brands of American, European and Asian automobiles.
Connected Car Service Provider Touts Funding
Charleston, SC-based Zubie, a connected car service provider, has raised $10 million in “Series A” funding from Castrol innoVentures, the innovation arm of global lubricants giant Castrol; the communications company Comporium Inc.; and OpenAir Equity Partners.
Launched nationally in September, the Zubie uses a cellular device (called the Zubie Key) that plugs into a vehicle’s OBD port to capture vehicle and driving data, including car diagnostics, location-based alerts and driving behavior reports. The Zubie service is sold via Amazon.com, BestBuy.com, the company’s own Zubie.co storefront, telesales and via channels for enterprise customers. The device is iPhone- and Android-compatible.
Notably, customers have the option of sharing their data in exchange for services and discounts from auto service and insurance partners.
In related news, Zubie has announced that John Barnes Jr., executive vice president of marketing and business solutions for Comporium, and Jonathan Tudor, venture director for Castrol innoVentures, are joining the Zubie board of directors.
Tint World Opens 5 New Shops Across 4 States
Tint World Franchise opened new locations in late 2013 in Lenexa, KS; Leon Valley, TX; San Antonio; Medford, NY; and Penn Hills, PA. Lenexa marks the first Tint World shop in Kansas. It’s the first of a three-store development deal in the Kansas City area. Penn Hills is the first location in Pennsylvania.
The company plans to open additional locations in Miami; Austin, TX; and Roswell, GA in 2014. And, Tint World is preparing to expand internationally with locations in Canada, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.
Weston, FL-based Tint World is a franchised provider of automotive, residential, commercial, and marine window tinting and security film services.
Demand Advantage Joins Carfax Service Network
Demand Advantage, a web-based shop management and CRM software provider, has joined the Carfax Service Network. This gives Demand Advantage users direct access to Carfax QuickVIN and Carfax Service History Check. Participating shops also are featured on Carfax Vehicle History Reports and in the myCarfax app.
New Responsibilities, New Personnel At ISN
Integrated Supply Network (ISN) vice president of sales and service Nellda Clark has added responsibilities. Clark is now responsible for all sales and customer service departments, adding mobile sales, export and the customer service departments to her list of national accounts, stationary sales and the e-commerce department.
In addition to these traditional ISN divisions, Clark includes the former Preferred Tool & Equipment outside sales force in her team. (ISN recently acquired Wixom, MI-based Preferred Tool & Equipment).
Clark has more than 20 years of industry experience — the last 12 of which involved responsibility for national accounts, mobile and retail store front sales.
Meanwhile, Sarah Shelstrom — previously publisher of Professional Tool & Equipment News and Professional Distributor magazines — joins ISN as its director of media and public relations. Shelstrom will be responsible for all public relations communications for ISN in the automotive aftermarket, and will work with ISN vendors on driving their brands through ISN publications and web media outlets (Toolweb, Mobile Xpress and Tech’s Edge).
Lakeland, FL-based ISN bills itself as the nation’s largest independent automotive and light industrial tool and equipment specialist, serving wholesalers and distributors around the world.
People Watching 1/15/14
• Scott Cisco is now a dealer business consultant with the PowerLane Tire Solutions division of U.S. AutoForce. PowerLane is a North American marketing outfit seeking to help car dealers sell more tires. Cisco is a former sales development manager with Federal-Mogul Corp.
• Mark Flint is now the vice president of sales and marketing – Matrix System and Pro-Spray at Quest Automotive Products. He was managing director for the Pro-Spray business in the United Kingdom.
• Hyundai Auto Canada Corp. has named Donald Romano as its chief operating officer, a newly created position. Romano’s key responsibilities are sales, marketing, parts and service, along with product and strategic planning, and public relations.
News Briefs 1/15/14
• A large order for an OEM dealer service unit provided Hickok Inc. with its first profitable year since 2006. Fiscal 2013 net income came in at $138,805, compared to a $783,966 net loss a year ago. Sales increased 36 percent to $6.47 million.
• According to the U.S. EPA, model year 2012 vehicles achieved an all-time high fuel economy of 23.6 miles per gallon — a 1.2 mpg increase over the previous year, making it the second-largest annual increase in the last 30 years. Fuel economy has now increased in seven of the last eight years.
• TRW’s North American Aftermarket Group has added a VIN reader to its mobile catalog apps.
• Spectra Premium Industries has announced a limited lifetime warranty on its fuel pump assemblies, electrical and mechanical fuel pumps, and fuel strainers, effective Jan. 1, 2014.
• Dorman Products has added a new VIN input search field to its website and launched a new mobile site.
• Users of the Dayco VIN-scanning smartphone application can now access the company’s “Augmented Reality” (AR) training on serpentine belt and timing belt replacements.
• SKF has added eight short videos to its YouTube channel, providing technicians with training on wheel end bearings and seals.
• Rotary Lift has introduced a new line of LED shop lights, called Tech Lights, with magnetic clips that allow the lights to be attached a lift’s columns, its arms, a tool cart or a vehicle itself.
• ARI Network Services has launched an online Wheel Studio as an extension of its Wheel & Tire website software, which is used by tire dealers to allow consumers to research and buy wheels and tires online. The Wheel Studio lets consumers see side-by-side, high-resolution images of wheels on their vehicle make and model.
• The Donald B. Rice Tire Co. (Frederick, MD) has changed its name to Rice Tire. The company has nine locations in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.
• MAM Software is now a member of the National Tyre Distributors Association (NTDA), a tire trade association in the United Kingdom.
• Service King Collision Repair Centers has acquired the three-shop network Body Works Collision Centers, expanding its footprint into Oklahoma. Service King has more than 100 locations in Texas, Tennessee, Arizona, Arkansas and Mississippi.
• MAACO’s new franchise center in Lauderhill, FL features a new customer-centric retail format and image, including digital sales boards and a retail color wall. The facility opened Jan. 6.
• Mitchell International is now an associate member of the Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA).
• Direct Lift is continuing its relationship with Barrett-Jackson collector car auctions, serving as the exclusive lift sponsor at all Barrett-Jackson events in 2014.
Event & Trade Show Briefs 1/15/14
• This year’s Service Opportunities & Service Day (SOLD) — held Jan. 27 in Las Vegas at the Mirage the day before HDAW 2014 — will feature a session led by Bruce Merrifield on distributor profitability and service integration. His presentation will concentrate on information availability and service organization performance. Click here for more information.
• The Automotive Service Association (ASA) will hold its next annual business meeting March 6 at The Sheraton Overland Park in Overland Park, KS. The meeting will coincide with the Vision Expo (March 7-8), an annual education and trade show hosted by ASA’s affiliated association, ASA-Midwest.
• Registration is now open for ETI ToolTech 2014, which will be held April 28 to May 1 at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn in Sonoma, CA. Click here for more information.
• Delphi Product & Service Solutions is hosting free, four-hour training classes on the fundamentals of fuel delivery systems in cities across the United States. Click here for more information on the Delphi Fuel Tour 2014.