Quick Hits …
(A few short items to get us started this week)
• According to the Auto Care Factbook 2020 and IMR Inc., delayed auto maintenance in the United States has reached $24.90 billion. What’s being delayed most are oil changes (11 million cars in need of an oil change), tire changes (nearly 7 million unchanged tires) and brake pads (over 5 million delayed brake jobs).
• A Federal Reserve report shows that relatively small, unexpected expenses — such as a car repair or replacing a broken appliance — can be a hardship for many families without adequate savings. When faced with a hypothetical expense of $400, nearly 40% of adults surveyed would be unable to cover the cost using cash, savings or a credit card paid off at the next statement.
• On average, Americans spent $1,986 on vehicle repairs and maintenance in the last five years, according to a recent Ally survey conducted online by The Harris Poll. Millennials and Generation Z people (ages 18-34) paid an average of $2,334 compared to $1,654 for adults 55 and older.
Leeds West Hires COO
Greenwood Village, CO-based Leeds West Groups (LWG) has named Derek Wessels as COO. Wessels has direct responsibility for all three of LWG’s automotive divisions. He most recently was a regional manager with Bridgestone Americas, where he worked for a little over 12 years. Prior to that, Wessels was a regional manager at BRHACO/Driver’s Edge Auto Repair.
LWG is a management platform capitalized by private equity and family office funds that acquires, owns and manages national automotive repair franchise brands across the continental United States. This includes Midas, Big O Tires and SpeeDee Oil Change & Tune Up shops.
Meineke Expanding In North Carolina
Joe Cooper, owner of seven Meineke Car Care Centers franchise locations in the Charlotte area, has agreed to open 10 additional locations over the next five years. Cooper had previously worked in new center development for Meineke at the corporate level before becoming a franchise owner with the brand.
He opened his first shop in 2014. In his first year, Cooper received the brand’s “Rookie of the Year” Award” honor. The following year, he was “Franchise of the Year.” Last year, Cooper was recognized as “Multi-Center Operator of the Year.”
Meineke Dealers Group Partners With Alloy Wheel Repair Specialists
Alloy Wheel Repair Specialists (AWRS) has announced a partnership with the Meineke Dealers Association to be the preferred alloy wheel repair service provider for Meineke Car Care Centers in the United States and Canada.
As the preferred vendor, AWRS’ network of over 400 certified technicians can provide select wheel refinishing and straightening services onsite at Meineke locations. Additionally, AWRS offers offsite wheel remanufacturing services for wheels with extensive damage, special finishes and custom color change services.
Valvoline Establishes First Company-Owned Shops In Canada
A little over a year after making its first quick lubes acquisition in Canada, Valvoline Inc. has reached a definitive agreement to acquire certain business assets of Minit Lube in Alberta. Calgary-based Minit Lube has six shops. Valvoline plans to purchase four of them, making them company-owned locations, and franchise the remaining two shops to Minit Lube’s existing owner.
All Minit Lube locations are expected to be rebranded as Valvoline Great Canadian Oil Change. The move would expand Valvoline’s existing quick lubes network to more than 1,350 company-owned and franchised locations across Canada and the United States.
“In 2018, the acquisition of Great Canadian Oil Change and Oil Changers provided us with the ideal opportunity to expand our quick lube service model outside the U.S.,” Valvoline Quick Lubes President Tony Puckett said in an Aug. 22 announcement. “The Minit Lube acquisition is significant for Valvoline because it will establish our first company-owned service centers in Canada.”
The transaction is expected to close during the fourth quarter of fiscal 2019 (the three months ending Sept. 30, 2019). Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Car Repair Startup RepairSmith, Backed By
Daimler AG, Launches
RepairSmith — a startup in the vehicle repair and maintenance market that’s backed by Daimler AG — has launched in the Los Angeles and San Francisco markets. Its offers include online pricing and scheduling, as well as a choice of service location: at home, at work or at a shop.
With RepairSmith’s at-home or at-work service, RS Delivery, a certified RepairSmith technician arrives in a company vehicle, equipped with the tools and parts to complete “the vast majority of all work a vehicle may need,” according to the company. And, if more sophisticated tools are required to get the job done, RepairSmith will take the customer’s vehicle to a RepairSmith-certified shop to complete the repair and return it when the job is done.
The company also allows car owners to drive their own vehicles in for service, an offering it calls RS Drop Off.
RepairSmith is available for all vehicle types; it’s not limited to vehicles manufactured by Daimler AG. According to the company, RepairSmith partners with independent repair shops and is partnered with a few hundred shops in its service areas in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Requirements for its shop partners include …
• Being registered and in good standing with the California Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR).
• Having a reputation for quality service and honesty.
• Offering a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty.
It’s also worth noting that RepairSmith takes a customized approach when sending customers to its shop partners. The preferences shops select when setting up their accounts dictate the types of repairs the company sends to shops. And, the company’s technicians are not gig workers; they have full-time hours.
RepairSmith plans to expand its service offerings to other major metropolitan areas through the remainder of this year and 2020.
Diagnostic Network Announces New Pricing Structure
Diagnostic Network, an online community that helps techs solve challenges and learn about new vehicle technology, has changed its subscription plan. Previously, all members were required to pay $20 per month to access the community. Now, two subscription plans exist …
• Free: Members can start their own discussions, reply to others and read all content.
• Premium ($49 per year): Everything in the free plan, plus members can search all content, create and manage user groups, bookmark discussions for later, and more.
The new subscription plans are effective immediately. For more information, visit diag.net.
Diagnostic Network Now Supports Student Memberships
Diagnostic Network has announced support for student memberships, as well as the ability to control the minimum experience required to participate in topics and user groups. The goal is to allow less-experienced members to read and learn from discussions on the site, while participating in a limited and controlled way.
All discussion topics now have a minimum experience requirement of four or more years, so those with fewer years of experience (such as students) will only be able to read discussions, not create new ones, as well as vote on or reply to existing messages.
Instructors and others interested in working with those new to the industry can create user groups specifically for them. For example, instructors can create user groups for their students, then use the invitation system to invite their students to join Diagnostic Network for free and participate in that user group, while still being able to read and learn from all of the other discussions happening on the site.
Additionally, user group managers are now free to set any minimum level of experience required to participate in their user groups. Administrators have started by setting all existing user groups to a minimum of four years, like topics.
It’s worth noting that the Diagnostic Network topic remains open to members of any experience level, so that all may have input about the development of the online community.
To create and manage a user group, a premium account is required costing $49 per year.
ATI Partners With E3 Solutions To Tackle Technician Engagement
In the face of a growing labor shortage, the Automotive Training Institute (ATI) is partnering with E3 Solutions to help ATI member shops attract and engage automotive service technicians. ATI is a national coaching and consulting company for shop owners, and E3 specializes in employee engagement testing and training.
The alliance extends E3’s services and benefits to shop owners. The combined training model will include a survey tool for shop assessments and strategies for increasing engagement. The goal is to improve hiring and retention, and, further, to improve customer satisfaction, productivity and profitability.
ASA Automotive Systems Teams With Phocas
ASA Automotive Systems (Meridian, ID) has announced a partnership with Phocas Software that will make Phocas’ data analytics tools available to companies running ASA’s TireMaster Enterprise and TireMaster GTX software. Phocas’ technology includes sales, purchasing and inventory databases that can assist ASA Automotive Systems dealers in making data-driven decisions and in mining value from their business information.
According to ASA Automotive Systems, Phocas makes data analytics accessible and simple for users of all skill levels; improves inventory, rebate, sales and order tracking; turns raw data into charts, tables and graphs; and monitors customer buying trends.
New Management Software Debuts For Tint,
Custom Installation Shops
Austin, TX-based Venture Apps, a software development firm that creates small business solutions and specialty software for vertical markets, has launched a software platform specifically for automotive tint shops, custom installation shops and automotive customizing shops. The goal is to streamline day-to-day processes for shop owners and managers.
More specifically, the Shop Manager App includes the ability to …
• Schedule customers.
• Create and track production schedules.
• Create estimates and invoices.
• Manage inventory.
• Track employee time and projects.
• Integrate with QuickBooks Pro, Premier and Enterprise.
The Shop Manager App is available on a monthly subscription basis. It comes in three tiers to match the needs of small or large businesses. The software handles one or multiple locations and comes with a mobile app version for employees to track projects.
CCAR Offers AGM Battery Safety Course
The Coordinating Committee For Automotive Repair (CCAR) now provides a free online safety course on absorbed glass mat (AGM) batteries. The program, developed by CCAR and ShipMate Inc., is billed as the first in a series of complimentary online safety courses resulting from an agreement with the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). For more information, visit ccar.training.
ADAS Forum Planned For AAPEX 2019
AAPEX 2019 will host a three-hour advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) forum that will address opportunities and challenges with servicing ADAS-equipped vehicles. The event will be part of this year’s AAPEXedu program and will take place from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm, Nov. 7 in the Bellini Ballroom of The Venetian.
Session one of the forum will cover today’s ADAS. Panelists will discuss the investment required for targets, the floor space and technician training needed for proper calibration, and the new business opportunities created by this technology. Chris Gardner, senior vice president of AASA, will moderate. Panelists will include Frank Leutz, COO of Desert Car Care and host of the Wrench Nation car talk show; Dave Milne, president of ASE; and John Nielsen, managing director of AAA.
Session one also will include a presentation titled “Who Is Liable When ADAS Systems Are Not Calibrated Properly?” The discussion will address …
• What happens when older vehicles are not calibrated.
• Who audits or checks vehicles after calibration to ensure their ADAS systems work properly.
• What happens if a shop does not accurately inform customers about their ADAS systems.
Session two will focus on the future, with presenters sharing their vision for next-generation ADAS recalibration tools and techniques. Ryan Frisch, manager of R&D engineering for Hunter Engineering Co., will moderate a discussion on emerging tools and processes to properly maintain and calibrate complex vehicle sensor and control networks. In a separate presentation, Douglas Brooks, manager of perception systems at Southwest Research Institute, will discuss the immersive perception models required for fully automated vehicles.
Joe Hudson’s Collision Getting New Majority Owner
TSG Consumer Partners, a private equity firm focused exclusively on the branded consumer sector, has signed a definitive agreement to acquire a majority stake in Joe Hudson’s Collision Centers (JHCC) from Carousel Capital. While financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed, we do know that Carousel and JHCC management will continue as minority investors in the company.
JHCC operates roughly 110 auto body repair shops across Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.
Pierre LeComte, managing director at TSG, said in an Aug. 22 announcement: “We are thrilled to join forces with JHCC CEO Traweek Dickson and the management team as the company looks to capitalize on a number of compelling growth opportunities, including increasing its geographic footprint and expanding in its existing and adjacent markets.”
Harris Williams was the financial advisor to Carousel Capital and JHCC. The deal is expected to close in the third quarter of 2019.
TSG is no stranger to the auto care industry. Among its holdings is Meguiars, a manufacturer of premium automotive care products, including car wax.
Caliber Collision Adds Senior Execs
Caliber Collision has announced Judd Nystrom as its CFO and Claudia Schaefer as its chief experience officer, replacing Bob Gary and Greg Clark, respectively, who are retiring.
Schaefer — who is responsible for furthering the Caliber brand, as well as internal and external customer experience — was the chief marketing officer for Jamba Juice.
Nystrom comes to Caliber from NBG Home, a home decor design and manufacturing company. He also is a former vice president of finance and investor relations for Advance Auto Parts.
Auto Glass Repairers Join Forces
The Columbus-based Safelite Group has acquired TruRoad Holdings from CenterOak Partners, a Dallas-based private equity firm. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
TruRoad of Woburn, MA, provides on-demand auto glass, advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) recalibration and claims services through a number of subsidiaries, including JN Phillips Auto Glass, TechnaGlass, Harmon AutoGlass and Windshield Centers. TruRoad serves consumers, insurance carriers and fleets across 17 states through a network of 2,000 company‐owned, franchised and contracted providers.
TruRoad also owns StrategicClaim, which provides claim software technology and incident management services for a number of U.S. auto and property insurance companies.
The Safelite Group is composed of three major businesses: Safelite AutoGlass, a large provider of vehicle glass repair, replacement and recalibration services in the United States; Safelite Solutions, a fleet and insurance claims management service company; and Service AutoGlass, a vehicle glass wholesale supply chain and distribution operation. Together, the businesses serve 10 million customers through nearly 7,800 mobile glass shops and facilities.
CarMax Plans To Hire More Than 850 Techs, Detailers
CarMax Inc. (Richmond, VA), a used car retailer that has over 200 locations across the United States, plans to hire more than 850 automotive technicians, painters and detailers nationwide. The initiative is billed as the largest technician and detailer hiring effort in the company’s history.
CarMax is partnering with job site Indeed to hold hiring events on Sept. 12 at various locations across the country.
Hired technicians will primarily work on reconditioning vehicles and preparing them for sale, working on a variety of makes and models. CarMax, a TechForce Foundation partner, offers reimbursement programs for ASE certification, as well as free or discounted tools.
Mazda Allies With Lincoln Tech For Technician Training In New York
Lincoln Tech has announced a partnership with Mazda North American Operations that gives the automaker’s dealer body the opportunity to recruit automotive technician students from Lincoln Tech’s Queens, NY, campus as they near completion of their training.
Mazda has donated vehicles and training equipment to the Queens campus as part of the agreement. Additionally, Mazda dealers will provide eligible new hires with student loan repayment, as well as one-on-one mentorship with senior Mazda technicians.
LexisNexis Touts New Recall Tool
LexisNexis Risk Solutions has launched a tool to assist auto manufacturers identify vehicle owners for safety-related recalls. The company states that the technology, called Recall Clarity, leverages records from over 10,000 data sources to help recall customer outreach teams identify, locate and contact the right owner for hard-to-find recalled vehicles. According to LexisNexis, Recall Clarity can meet the specific campaign outreach needs of an automaker by offering options around email addresses, mobile phone numbers and secondary home data.
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Study: Annoying Alerts Threaten Customer Demand For Safety Tech
Some alerts on advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) are so annoying that many drivers disable the systems and may seek to avoid them on future vehicle purchases, according to the 2019 U.S. Tech Experience Index Study from J.D. Power.
The firm’s research indicates that 23% of customers with lane-keeping and lane-centering systems complain that the alerts are bothersome. This ranges from just 8% for one domestic brand to over 30% for a couple of import brands. For these owners, 61% of them have disabled the system. Only 21% don’t consider the alerts annoying.
Additionally, within the category of owners who want the feature on their next vehicle there is variation, with ranges from 63% for those who consider the alerts bothersome to 91% for those who do not.
The firm contends that this is a major concern for automakers that want to market the technology and pave the way for highly automated vehicles in the future. Kristin Kolodge, executive director of driver interaction and human machine interface research at J.D. Power, stressed that the technology can’t come across as a “nagging parent,” pointing out that “no one wants to be constantly told they aren’t driving correctly.”
Kolodge also noted significant differences across brands. “Some brands are succeeding at making their safety technology effective without being overbearing,” she said. “Some are good at one aspect but weaker at another, and some are struggling with both. This is why one brand has 90% of its customers wanting lane-keeping/centering on their next vehicles, while another brand has just 59% of its customers saying the same thing.”
Overall satisfaction with new vehicle technology ranged widely across the vehicles studied. The best-performing vehicle was the Kia Stinger (scoring 834 on a 1,000-point scale). The overall average was 781. The lowest-scoring model came in at 709.
The study measures owners’ experiences, use and interaction with 38 kinds of driver-centric vehicle technology at 90 days of ownership. The major categories analyzed in the study were entertainment and connectivity, collision protection, comfort and convenience, driving assistance, smartphone mirroring, and navigation.
Collision protection had the highest score (813) among the six categories measured with smartphone mirroring (789) coming in second. This was followed by comfort and convenience (787), entertainment and connectivity (782), driving assistance (768), and navigation (744).
Following are additional findings from the study …
• Apple and Google taking over? 69% of respondents said they have Apple CarPlay or Android Auto in their vehicles. According to J.D. Power, this is starting to jeopardize future sales of automakers’ factory-installed navigation systems, as 68% of owners with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto want factory-installed navigation on their next vehicle, compared with 72% of those without Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. This is a significant future profit loss for the automakers, the firm points out.
• Built-in apps not meeting user expectations. The attribute for “ease of using built-in apps” was the lowest-performing attribute in the entertainment and connectivity category (7.63 on a 10-point scale). Among the 29% of owners who have discontinued the use of built-in apps, 46% indicated that they “do not need it” and 18% said they “have another device that performs the function better.” Apps on external devices are a competitive threat, J.D. Power contends, and it’s imperative that automakers ensure intuitiveness and ease of use.
• High satisfaction drives recommendation and repurchase intent. Owner satisfaction with vehicle technology strongly determines whether they will recommend or repurchase the brand, according to the firm’s research. When overall satisfaction was greater than 900, 75% said they “definitely will” repurchase the same make again and 95% said they “definitely will” recommend it. Automakers looking to drive loyalty need to provide a highly satisfying tech usage experience, J.D. Power advises.
“Consumers are still very concerned about cars being able to drive themselves, and they want more information about these complex systems, as well as more channels to learn how to use them or how and why they kick in,” Kolodge said. “If they can’t be sold on lane-keeping — a core technology of self-driving — how are they going to accept fully automated vehicles?
“Dealers remain a partner in the process of helping translate to consumers what these technologies bring to the table, but consumers still need that element of trust that systems are going to kick in when they’re supposed to. It’s essential that the industry recognize the importance of an owner’s first experience with these lower-level automated technologies, because this will help determine the future of adoption of fully automated vehicles.”
The 2019 U.S. Tech Experience Index Study was based on a survey of over 20,000 owners and lessees. The study was fielded between February and July 2019.
People Watching 9/9/19
• After 13 years, Peter Balmes and TBC Corp./Midas International have parted ways. Balmes was vice president of design and construction. He oversaw day-to-day operations for the construction department at TBC, including new building construction, building and retail design, remodels, and more.
• Honk Technologies — a company that connects drivers, towing companies and insurers — has named Rochelle Thielen as its executive vice president of partnerships, a newly created role tasked with leading the development of partnerships in the roadside assistance technology market. Thielen was Honk’s vice president of marketplace operations.
News Briefs 9/9/19
• Franchisee Galena Companies has acquired five quick lubes in New Jersey that are now operating as Valvoline Instant Oil Change (VIOC) service centers. Galena now operates 31 of the 33 VIOC shops in New Jersey.
• RepairPal reports that its RepairPal Certified network has reached a new milestone: its 2,500th auto repair shop.
• Jack Williams Tire & Auto Service Centers has launched a mobile tire installation program called “Jack’s Mobile Tire Installation.” The company has over three dozen locations across northeastern and central Pennsylvania.
• Bolt On Technology has launched a new website that includes a portal allowing shop owners and technicians to access their customer account, training and business management content.
• A recent upgrade to Mitchell 1’s TruckSeries repair software includes enhanced wiring diagrams with intelligent navigation that takes users directly to specific component diagrams with the related wires automatically highlighted.
• TTN Fleet Solutions has entered into a strategic marketing partnership with Diesel Laptops. The move allows TTN to provide diagnostic tools and equipment along with related support and training to the towing and repair professionals within its network.
• Heavy-duty vehicle lift company Stertil-Koni will again sponsor National Lift Week, which will take place Oct. 7 to 12 in North America.
• ALLDATA is now a “preferred partner” of the Collision Advice Legacy Group Cooperative, an organization that works with Axalta’s customers to elevate the performance and profitability of its members. The group also works to leverage the buying power of its members on select products and services.
• Mitchell International has merged its glass claims, repair and replacement offerings into the Mitchell cloud platform to create Mitchell Cloud Glass. The new point-of-sale software is designed as a replacement for Mitchell GlassMate.