Ohio Cheapest Place For ‘Check Engine Light’ Repairs
Ohio had the lowest average “Check Engine Light” (CEL) repair cost in 2018 at $354.24 — improving one spot from last year in the latest state ranking from CarMD.com Corp. The next most affordable states for car repairs were …
• Maine – $354.38
• Michigan – $356.16
• Wisconsin – $356.84
• Vermont – $359.64
At the other end of the spectrum was the District of Columbia at $414.02 — its second year in a row with this particular distinction. The next most expensive states for repairs were …
• Connecticut at $413.91
• California – $403.13
• Georgia – $402.66
• New Jersey – $401.59
“Several factors contribute to a state’s average repair costs, including vehicle age and type, how difficult the repair is, parts required, how much time is needed to make the repair, and what the repair shop charges per hour,” explained David Rich, technical director for CarMD.
A few highlights from CarMD’s new study …
• Car repair costs are going up. The average cost to repair a CEL in Ohio was $354.24 — nearly 6% higher than the previous year, when drivers in Ohio paid $335.26 on average for parts and labor.
• The average cost to repair a CEL issue in the District of Columbia was $414.02 — up nearly 3% year-over-year and a few dollars higher than the previously reported high of $410.98 back in 2016.
• For the third consecutive year, Vermont vehicle owners had the lowest average labor cost at $134.53, attributable to a loose or missing gas cap being the most common cause of a CEL in the state, accounting for 7.8% of repairs.
• Drivers in Mississippi paid the most for labor at $163.97, as the most common repair was to replace ignition coils and spark plugs.
• Drivers in Connecticut paid the most on average for parts at $264.60, while drivers in Michigan paid the least for parts at $201.74. The most frequently recommended repair in both states was to replace one or more oxygen sensor.
CarMD analyzed data from more than 11.40 million cars, trucks, vans and SUVs needing repairs in 2018 to compile its ranking. Click here to get more insights from the report, including the ability to see the complete ranking of U.S. states and districts.
Midas Promotes Will Helton To VP/GM
Midas has promoted Will Helton, most recently division vice president of the central U.S. and Canada regions, to vice president and general manager. He’s responsible for the development of strategic, operational and organizational support for the brand, as well as focusing on growth.
Helton joined Midas last January after nearly 16 years with Bridgestone in various roles. He started as a college intern and moved up from store manager to region manager, responsible for Firestone Complete Auto Care locations in central and southern Texas.
“Over the last two years, we have seen the value that Will brings to the organization, and we are excited to work alongside of him, our leadership team and our franchisees to take Midas to the next level,” said Brant Wilson, president and chief operating officer of franchise operations for TBC Corp., parent company of Midas. “His operational expertise, leadership experience and knowledge of the industry has been, and will continue to be, beneficial to our organization.”
Midas has 2,100 franchised, licensed and company-owned shops in 14 countries — nearly 1,200 of which are in the United States and Canada.
Monro Reports Record Sales, Margin Expansion
For the fiscal first quarter ended June 29, 2019, Monro Inc. came through with $22.61 million in net income — an increase of 9.5% when compared to the previous year. Similarly, gross profit rose 9.3% to $128.15 million. Gross margin increased 80 basis points to 40.4%, attributable to benefits from the optimization of Monro’s store staffing model and product and service offerings, as well as leverage from higher comparable-store sales.
The company’s sales increased by $21.25 million, or 7.2%, to a record $317.06 million. The growth came from a comp-store sales increase of 0.8% as well as $19.60 million in sales from new stores (including $16.60 million from recent acquisitions). This was partially offset by a $700,000 decrease in sales from closed stores.
It’s worth noting that the company experienced an approximately 100 basis-point impact to comps from the shift of some wholesale volume to non-comp Free Service Tire locations. This created a temporary comp-sales headwind in the first quarter.
Adjusting for this temporary negative impact, Monro’s comp-store sales growth would have been up +1.8% for the first quarter. Nonetheless, it was the sixth consecutive quarter of comp-store sales growth and second consecutive quarter of positive comps on top of positive comps (adjusted for days), attributable to higher average ticket.
In his July 25 discussion with member of the financial community, President and CEO Brett Ponton noted accelerated comp performance in April as Monro entered its spring service selling season. This was followed by temporary softness in May and, to a lesser extent, in June, mainly because of cold and wet spring weather in certain regions. Comps were +4% in April, -1% in May and flat in June.
“We are encouraged that comparable-store sales recovered toward the end of the quarter, despite facing tougher year-over-year comparisons,” Ponton said. “And, we are pleased to report that we have seen continued improvement into July with comparable-store sales up approximately 1% month-to-date.”
By category, comp-store sales …
• Rose 6% for brakes.
• Increased 2% for alignments.
• Grew 1% for tires.
• Declined 1% for front end/shocks.
• Decreased 2% for maintenance services.
Brakes was the strongest-performing category for the fifth consecutive quarter. “Our strategy to provide customers with clearly defined options relevant to all consumer price points drove higher in-store conversion again this quarter,” Ponton pointed out. “Despite lapping the successful launch of our good/better/best merchandising strategy in the first quarter of last year, we continued to see a meaningful year-over-year increase in demand for brakes this quarter. In addition, we remain focused on optimizing our tire assortment to create the best value for our customers and further our goal to becoming the No.-1 destination for tires at any price point.”
“Overall, the optimization of our product and service offering is one of our strategic priorities,” Ponton told analysts. “We will look for opportunities to continue to advance our category management and pricing capabilities going forward.”
OUTLOOK … Monro has revised its fiscal year comp-store sales guidance downward. Management’s previous guidance called for an increase of 2% to 4%. Its new forecast is for comps to increase 1% to 3%. The change reflects unfavorable weather conditions in certain regions that have negatively impacted comps fiscal year-to-date.
Management also has narrowed its fiscal 2020 sales guidance, now calling for between $1.285 billion and $1.315 billion in sales — an increase of 7.1% to 9.6% compared to Monro’s fiscal 2019 sales. The company’s prior sales guidance called for $1.295 billion to $1.325 billion in sales.
CFO Brian D’Ambrosia told analysts that Monro’s guidance assumes stable overall tire and oil cost compared to fiscal 2019. “Amid ongoing macro concerns — including global tariffs and other material cost pressures — our vertically integrated and diversified supply chain continues to drive our cost leadership position and remains a key differentiator in our industry,” D’Ambrosia said.
“As we have mentioned previously, any tire and oil cost increases not mitigated by our differentiated supply chain are expected to be passed on to consumers,” he added. “However, any such costs and related consumer price increases are not assumed in our fiscal 2020 guidance.”
ADDITIONAL INFO … A few other items of interest from Monro’s fiscal first quarter financial results conference call …
• Monro is preparing for the final phase of management’s omni-channel build-out, which is scheduled for the second half of fiscal 2020. This will include offering customers the option to view and purchase tires online as well as schedule an appointment for in-store installation.
• The company is introducing a new digital phone system which will be rolled out across its store base over the remainder of the fiscal year. “Successfully executing on the phone is critical to driving customers to our stores, and we are confident this new system will drive greater visibility and more consistent phone execution to better serve our customers,” Ponton said. “This is a major step to upgrade our network infrastructure and create a unified communication strategy, which we believe will support the ongoing rollout of our marketing initiatives and, importantly, lead to substantial improvements in the customer experience for years to come.”
• Monro is in the process of rolling out its cloud-based training system across its store base. Management is prioritizing newly acquired stores in an attempt to facilitate the onboarding of new employees.
• The company is implementing a cloud-based, data-driven store staffing and scheduling system designed to drive staffing efficiency by rebalancing the level of technical skills in each shop. To complement this initiative, Monro also is launching a mobile app that allows employees to pick up shifts.
• Ponton stated that Monro’s quarterly turnover was at the lowest level since fiscal 2016.
• As of June 29, 2019, the company had 1,251 company-operated stores and 98 franchise locations — up from 1,164 company-operated stores and 98 franchise locations a year ago. During the quarter, Monro added 55 company-operated stores and closed one store. The company also opened one greenfield location during the quarter. — Marc Vincent
Monro Expanding Again In Louisiana, California
During the first quarter of fiscal 2020 (the three months ended June 29, 2019), Rochester, NY-based Monro Inc. completed its acquisition of California-based Certified Tire & Service Centers. The deal included 40 retail shops in the San Francisco, San Diego and Los Angeles markets, as well as a distribution center in the southern California city of Riverside.
The acquisition marked the company’s entry into California, expanding its geographic footprint to the West Coast. The transaction is expected to add roughly $45 million in annualized sales, with a sales mix of 70% service and 30% tires.
As part of its broader consolidation effort, Monro plans to rebrand these 40 shops under its Tire Choice Auto Service Centers banner.
Monro President and CEO Brett Ponton emphasized on the company’s July 25 quarterly report conference call that Monro now has a solid platform and the proper corporate infrastructure for further expansion in the region. “In this regard, we are pleased to announce that we completed the acquisition of two additional stores in California during the first quarter, which are expected to add approximately $3 million in annualized sales, further solidifying our strong foundation on the West Coast,” he said.
“Similarly, we continue to diversify our store footprint in southern markets and completed the previously announced acquisition of 12 stores in Louisiana, another new state for Monro, early in the first quarter. These locations are expected to add approximately $15 million in annualized sales, representing a sales mix of 35% service and 65% tires.”
Monro also has signed definitive agreements to acquire eight additional locations, filling in the recently entered market of Louisiana. These shops are expected to add roughly $12 million in annualized sales, representing a sales mix of 50% service and 50% tires.
On a combined basis, acquisitions completed and announced in fiscal 2020 represent an expected total of $75 million in annualized sales.
“Looking ahead, we are well positioned to continue to execute on our robust pipeline of attractive M&A opportunities and currently have over 10 [non-disclosure agreements (NDAs)] signed with opportunities ranging from five to 40 stores,” Ponton said.
He told analysts on the call: “This is the most robust pipeline that I’ve seen since I have been at Monro.” Part of that is related to opening up new geography, such as pushing deeper into the South and establishing operations on the West Coast. — Marc Vincent
Leeds West Enters Texas Market Via Partnership
Leeds West Groups (LWG) and The Monteverde Group have entered into a joint equity partnership agreement regarding eight Big O Tires locations in Texas. The shops — located in the San Antonio and Corpus Christi markets — expand LWG’s footprint into a 16th state.
Greenwood Village, CO-based LWG is a management platform capitalized by private equity and family office funds. It acquires, owns and manages national automotive repair franchise brands across the United States. LWG also includes a national real-estate portfolio and outside national investment opportunities. It now has more than 90 automotive retail locations.
While financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, we do know that LWG is coming in as a “pure equity partner along with a strategic infrastructure infusion,” according to LWG. It will not have day-to-day operational control of this market.
The Monteverde Group, led by Chris Monteverde, will manage day-to-day operations, while LWG assumes back office infrastructure responsibility and “aggressive growth funding,” according to an announcement dated July 25.
“We have made the strategic move to start investing in world-class operators, and we firmly believe Chris and his team are that,” said CEO Judd Kyle Shader. “We believe we can enhance LWG growth avenues now across a whole new level of opportunity while leveraging our best-in-class, automotive-specific office, purchasing and software infrastructure — all alongside LWG’s current aggressive growth strategies in our current stores and current marketplaces.
“We have worked very hard setting up the LWG senior management team to be able to operate at a very high level with clear-cut structural responsibilities in all arenas, giving LWG now the ability to go after any and every multi-unit large-scale deal we see fit in the aftermarket automotive repair sector nationwide.”
Chris Monteverde noted the power of the Big O brand, stating that he believes the brand has huge potential in Texas and beyond. “The marriage of LWG now gives me and my team the ability to go after any growth opportunity nationally that I see fit for my Big O Tires team,” he added, “and allows us to capitalize on their automotive-specific office infrastructure, while allowing my team to deliver a high level of operational excellence.”
The Monteverde Group joined the Big O Tires organization in 2004 and now has 24 locations: eight in Texas and 16 in northern California. Chris Monteverde was Big O Tires’ 2017 “Franchisee of the Year” and the International Franchise Association “Franchisee of the Year” in 2018.
Greenbriar Buys Lamb’s Tire & Automotive Centers
The Greenbriar Equity Group has acquired Lamb’s Tire & Automotive Centers, which includes 18 locations in central Texas. Lamb’s is now part of Greenbriar’s GB Auto Service company, which includes more than 100 auto repair shops in California, Nevada, Arizona and Texas.
Jim Ramsey, former president and CEO of Lamb’s, is now a regional vice president at GB Auto.
The automotive aftermarket is one of Rye, NY-based Greenbriar’s focus sectors. GB Auto operates under the BRAKEmax, Tire Works, Ramona and Evans Tire & Service Centers brands, offering tire replacement, brake repair and other undercar services.
Kukui Honors NAPA AutoCare As Founding Member Of ‘Kukui Certified’
Kukui Corp. has recognized NAPA AutoCare as a founding member of its “Kukui Certified” partners program. The designation honors organizations that go above and beyond to support the automotive aftermarket by …
• Elevating the standards to which shops are held.
• Enabling shop owners to achieve success in their personal and professional lives.
• Supporting the communities in which they serve.
Recipients are selected based on a variety of criteria, including the evaluation of data gathered by Kukui member shops who use the partners, signifying actual success; the recommendations of existing customers; and first-hand interaction and interviews with candidates.
“Kukui has been part of the NAPA AutoCare program for the past few years, and this partnership has given us an insider’s view into the many ways that NAPA works to support the success of the auto industry and how they give back to the community,” Todd Westerlund, CEO of Kukui, said. “The amazing work NAPA does to support the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund is just one of the examples that align with the values of Kukui. Their diligence to uplift the image of the industry and to hold members to the highest standards makes me proud to welcome NAPA AutoCare to ‘Kukui Certified.’”
The Hybrid Shop Touts Q2 Expansion
The Hybrid Shop (THS) reports that it doubled its number of locations in the second quarter of 2019 with new sites in the Northeast, including two in Maryland, as well as a multi-unit tire dealer in Arizona. The management of THS attributed the expansion to a growing number of hybrids coming out of their manufacturer warranty periods and manufacturers adding more hybrid and electric vehicles to their line-ups.
Through their partnership and training with THS, participating independent repair shops and tire dealers are able to fully service hybrid and electric vehicles as well as provide consumers with replacement batteries.
Battery manufacturing is carried out in THS’s Torrance, CA facility. THS also provides proprietary diagnostic tools that focus on systems unique to hybrid and electric vehicles.
BUKL Launching New Tire Service
Toronto-based BUKL plans to launch a new tire service this week thanks to a partnership with Bridgestone Tires and its TireConnect, as well at NTD tires. Drivers will be able to use BUKL to buy tires and have them installed at a network of more than 100 auto shops in the Toronto area.
“These partnerships allow us to give individual shop owners the ability to compete with specialized tire shops through volume discounts and the ability for customers to purchase tires online,” BUKL CEO and Founder Jesse Sahlani said. “At the same time, our customers get competitive rates and multiple locations to choose from around the Greater Toronto area.”
BUKL works with a network of about 200 auto shops in the Toronto area. Users select a shop, lock in a price, schedule a time for service, and pay directly through BUKL’s website or mobile app, which launched earlier this year. About half of the shops have the equipment necessary to provide tire services.
NuBrakes Expanding On-Demand Service Into Houston, Chicago
NuBrakes, an Austin, TX-based on-demand brake repair service, has closed on $720,000 in seed funding to expand its brake services into new cities, starting with Houston this month and Chicago in mid-August. Gurtin Ventures, Capital Factory, Contrary Capital and others provided the capital .
NuBrakes began offering service in Dallas and Austin. The service comes to customers and is the next step from the team behind NuWash, an on-demand, app-driven car detailing service founded in 2016.
NuBrakes started out bringing on mechanics as contractors with the option to become an employee as the business grew. It’s now shifting toward hiring mechanics on as employees, spokesman Jake Lane said. The company has been using online job boards and LinkedIn to recruit.
For marketing, NuBrakes is using mostly digital channels (search and social media) and emphasizing discounts, convenience and an anti-upsell philosophy.
As far as expansion plans, the company plans to wait for its three Texas markets to mature before expanding to other cities in the state. And, eventually, after Chicago, the company plans to head to one of the coasts, Lane said.
Auto Value, Bumper To Bumper Honor ‘Technicians Of The Year’
Auto Value and Bumper to Bumper earlier this month announced its 2019 “Technicians of the Year” — one from the United States, one from Canada and one from Mexico. They are …
• Jason Jackson of Automotive Excellence, an Auto Value customer of Warren Distributing in Seal Beach, CA.
• Ryan Booker of Driven Automotive, an Auto Value customer of Auto Electric Service in Regina, Saskatchewan.
• Abelardo Portillo Alvarado of Auto Value Llantas y Servicios, a shop in Malpa Automotriz’s network in Hermosillo, Sonora.
BFGoodrich Extends Tradesmen Program To Canada
BFGoodrich Tires has launched a support program in Canada for workers in construction, agriculture, landscaping and other trades that rely heavily on pickup trucks for their work. Tradesmen Support Program benefits include discounts on BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 tires and roadside assistance.
The launch follows a similar program in the United States earlier this year.
Partner associations in Canada represent nearly 50,000 tradespeople and include the Association Provinciale Des Constructeurs D’habitations Du Québec Inc. and the Gratitude Programme in Quebec.
Members of partner associations receive the largest discount, but any tradespeople can take part in the program and receive discounts on tire sets.
ASA Automotive Systems Announces Leadership Changes
ASA Automotive Systems has promoted three key managers to senior leadership positions. The changes were made to align with the company’s restructuring and growth strategy.
“The restructuring will help allocate resources and personnel expediently, drive growth in services, meet changing customer demands and enable strategic innovation across our product pipeline,” ASA General Manager Dave Vogel said.
Changes include …
• Hasan Askari, currently executive director of enterprise products, has been appointed executive director of enterprise sales, reporting to Vogel. Askari and his team will focus on consulting with existing ASA customers, providing input on best practices, and sharing additional products and services available to ASA clientele. He is based in the Deerfield, IL office.
• Ashley Hopkins, currently TireMaster Enterprise (TME) professional services manager, will take the role of director of enterprise operations, reporting to Vogel. Hopkins will oversee departments providing service and support to the existing enterprise customer base to include the TME, TirePro and TireMax product lines. She is based in the Londonderry, NH office.
• Jared Bailey, currently TireMaster professional services manager, will take on the role of director of TireMaster operations, reporting to Vogel. Bailey will oversee departments providing service and support to TireMaster’s existing customer base, as well as onboarding new customers. Bailey is based in Meridian, ID.
“Our single-largest challenge at Fog and [Constellation Software Inc.] is grooming or attracting qualified leaders as we continue to grow those companies, organically or acquisitively, within our portfolios,” said Marc Belanski, automotive portfolio manager at the Fog Software Group.
Constellation Software of Toronto purchased ASA in 2013. ASA was assigned to the Fog Software Group operating division.
UTI Launches ‘Early Employment’ Initiative At Arizona Campus
The Universal Technical Institute (UTI) has launched an initiative, believed to be the first of its kind, that engages transportation industry employers in developing their talent pipelines and gives students an inside track on long-term careers. UTI’s “Early Employment” program marries post-secondary skills education with on-the-job, apprenticeship-type training.
Students learn about and can apply for local jobs with participating employers as soon as they enroll at UTI’s Avondale, AZ campus. There are over 30 early employment positions available to incoming students this fall. UTI plans to start the program in Arizona and then expand it to its 12 campuses across the country.
Employers have the opportunity to screen and hire incoming students before they start school and give them on-the-job experience while they complete their education.
The goal is for students to graduate and “hit the ground running” in fulltime jobs at employers where they are already immersed in the culture and processes, positioning them for long-term careers. Graduates who meet their employers’ criteria will receive reimbursement of school-related expenses and other incentives, along with full-time employment.
Participating employers in this new program include …
• ADESA Auto Auctions.
• Knight Transportation.
• Larry H. Miller Dealerships.
• The Loftin Equipment Co.
• The Penske Automotive Group.
• Republic Services.
• The RWC Group.
• S&S Tire & Auto Service Center.
• The Sunstate Equipment Co.
• United Rentals.
The Area Sales Manager (ASM) is the primary contact for all assigned warehouse distributors within their area of responsibility, and secondary contact for all assigned jobbers. … (more) … Click here to find out more.
The Director of Distribution is responsible for providing value to our customer. This is accomplished by working with a team to develop and implement measured standards at all company locations. This position requires the exercise of independent judgment and discretion. … (more) … Click here to find out more.
DC Battery Hub is a remanufacturer of hybrid batteries located in Holland, MI with shipping hubs in Dallas, TX and Los Angeles, CA is seeking aggressive rep agencies for many territories across the U.S. and Canada. … (more) … Click here to find out more.
Motor Adds VMRS, ACES Support To Heavy-Duty Estimated Work Times
Motor Information Systems has announced enhancements to its Estimated Work Times for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. The updated dataset provides customers with labor times now mapped to nine-digit Vehicle Maintenance Reporting Standards (VMRS). Additionally, the data adheres to the Auto Care Association’s ACES standard, including the Product Classification Database (PCdb). According to Motor, these new features allow for simplified tracking of maintenance and repairs, linkage between labor times and associated parts, acceleration of the quote process, and more.
People Watching 7/29/19
• Stertil-Koni has added Tim Kerr as a product manager, responsible for leading such initiatives as new product concepts, customer satisfaction and distributor training.
• TTN Fleet Solutions has added Tyler Harden as its vice president – service provider network. Harden is tasked with building and refining the company’s service provider network. The company offers emergency roadside assistance, towing and accident management, scheduled and preventive maintenance, and call center services.
• Jackson Dietrich, a recent high school graduate who will attend Southern Illinois University in the fall, is the 2019 Mitchell 1 “Automotive Technology Outstanding Student.” Each year, Mitchell 1 recognizes a U.S. or Canadian student for their achievement in automotive technology and auto shop repair scholastics.
News Briefs 7/29/19
• Christian Brothers Automotive was ranked second in Forbes magazine’s “Best Franchises to Buy” list in the high-investment franchises category.
• The Car Care Council recently issued a reminder to consumers that their spark plugs should be replaced periodically.
• Federated Car Care scholarships have been awarded to eight students for the 2019-‘20 academic year. The awards go to employees or children of Federated Car Care members. Fisher Auto Parts funds the scholarship program, which is administered by the University of the Aftermarket Foundation in memory of the late Art Fisher, founder of Federated Auto Parts.
• Mitchell 1 has added the ability to search its ProDemand repair information software using an OEM part number, further expanding the search functionality in the 1Search Plus module of ProDemand. Service writers and technicians now have the option to start a repair information lookup beginning with a part number in addition to diagnostic code, component or symptom.
• Henley Enterprises, the largest franchisee of Valvoline Instant Oil Change (VIOC) shops, had 142 service centers raise over $51,000 in June to benefit the American Cancer Society’s “Road To Recovery” initiative. The program provides free rides to patients who otherwise might miss their cancer treatment.
• Caliber Collision reports that its 2019 “Rhythm Restoration Food Drive” collected over $900,000 in donations from April through May. That works out to be 5.4 million meals. According to Caliber, 85 food banks across 37 states will benefit from the fundraising.
• TBC Brands, one of the largest distributors of private-brand tires in North America, has launched a new brand: National Tire. The current lineup is available in three fitments of over 110 sizes — 40 sizes designed for sedans, SUVs and CUVs; nearly 60 fitments for CUVs, SUVs, pickups and vans; and more than 10 sizes for ST trailers.
• Mitchell has announced a partnership with Drew Technologies under which Drew’s scanning and diagnostic technology and services will be available via Mitchell Diagnostics, an automotive diagnostic system designed for the collision repair and automotive claims processes.
• Fix Auto USA has announced a formal relationship with Podium, a Utah-based software company, to modernize and enhance Fix Auto’s online interactions with vehicle owners. The deal will provide Fix Auto USA franchise locations with access to Podium’s interaction management platform.
Event & Trade Show Briefs 7/29/19
• ASE reports that over 365 high school and post-secondary instructors from around the country attended its Instructor Training Conference earlier this month in Frisco, TX.
• Registration is now open for the Automotive Service Association’s sixth annual Technology & Telematics Forum taking place Sept. 12 in Troy, MI. Click here for more information.
• Registration is now open for the 2019 Automotive Maintenance & Repair Association’s (AMRA) Annual Members’ Meeting taking place Nov. 4 at The Venetian in Las Vegas. Chris Sutton, vice president – auto retail for J.D. Power, will be the keynote speaker, discussing the firm’s Aftermarket Service Index Study results. For more information or to register, visit amra.org/upcoming-events.