Auto-Lab Lands Master Franchise Agreement For Texas
The Houston-based Communitas Auto Group LLC, a recently formed Texas corporation, has purchased the rights to become the exclusive master franchisee for Auto-Lab Complete Car Care Centers in Texas. The franchise business will operate under the Auto-Lab of Texas label and be responsible for all locations that are opened in the state.
This deal serves as Auto-Lab’s entrance into the Texas market. Auto-Lab has more than 30 franchised and corporate locations in Michigan, Indiana, Iowa and Florida.
The Texas group intends to develop company-owned locations, as well as support independent franchisees. Immediate plans call for opening two locations within the first year, likely both in the Houston area. Once these stores are established, CAG plans to expand to other major metro markets in Texas.
The CAG team is primarily led by Mike Humphrey, a managing partner in Tanglewood Investments, a private equity firm that has substantially sold all of its operating companies. CAG also will be supported by Ben Litalien, founder and principal of the specialized consulting practice Franchise Well. Litalien has spent more than 20 years developing franchised businesses, including Exxon Mobil’s On the Run markets.
Myers To Carry Bosch Wheel Service Equipment
Bosch Automotive Service has announced a nationwide distribution partnership with Myers Tire Supply. The pact calls for Myers’ nationwide distribution network to carry the full line of Bosch Wheel Service products, including wheel balancers, tire changers and brake lathes.
Discount Tire Opens First Store In Iowa
Discount Tire (Scottsdale, AZ) has opened, in Davenport, its first Iowa store, expanding the company’s national footprint to 27 states. Discount bills itself as the largest tire and wheel retailer with more than 860 locations across the country.
New Revolving Credit Facility For Snap-on
Snap-on Inc. (Kenosha, WI) has entered into a five-year, $700-million multi-currency revolving credit facility that terminates in September 2018. The new facility amends and restates a $500-million multi-currency revolving credit facility that was set to terminate in December 2016. As of Sept. 27, 2013, no amounts were outstanding under this facility.
Point Of View: Smartphone Key To Our Connection To Consumers
There is no single subject in our culture today getting more attention than health care and where that industry is heading. The politicians aside, there is much to talk about on the subject beyond insurance systems and government programs. Probably, the most profound discussions are centered on where technology may be leading the medical profession, where things are going regarding how consumers interface with the system. What we are on the threshold of is digital health care – a paradigm-shifting health care delivery system that seems too good to be true, and literally ready for launch right now.
Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute and chief academic officer of San Diego-based Scripps Health, is leading the effort. And, last January, NBC News did an extensive report on what is going on there and what it could mean to all of us in the not-too-distant future. And, as the NBC Rock Center segment stated in the intro of the report, it all centers on “how your smartphone may change medicine, including warning you of a heart attack.”
Topol, labeled by many as the foremost expert in the exploding field of wireless medicine, said in the NBC report that billions of dollars are wasted every year for screening and unnecessary medications because people are “being treated like a cattle herd” in the frantic fee-for-service, litigation-happy world we live in. Topol expressed the view in the January TV report that a third of drugs prescribed are a “total waste” and mass screenings represent “medicine dumbed down” by treating everyone the same.
For Topol and the experts working on what he calls the iDoctor project, the future of medicine will be built around the smartphone – and the technology already exists for countless diagnostic and treatment devices that will allow medical professionals to exam, test and treat patients remotely through the now omnipresent smartphones we all carry. Blood tests, ultrasounds, EKGs and other diagnostic tools can easily be in the hands of patients, directly connected to medical professionals, giving the health care delivery system more flexibility, more efficiency and a reduced overall cost, while giving all parties access to an effective system that serves all parties in the system better.
Further detail on this subject isn’t necessary here for the sake of our discussion. But, if you want more, click here to see the entire NBC report.
The reason I raise this example is a simple one, and one that is both intuitive and rational.
The independent automotive aftermarket – and specifically the vehicle service sector – is quickly moving toward a potential paradigm shift that will effectively change the future of how this critical industry interfaces with the American consumer. The key piece of the puzzle – connectivity – is now in place with today’s smartphone technology. And how we, as an industry, get ourselves plugged into the system will determine our future and how we are positioned to be of service to future car owners.
Like it or not, this was a key driver in the Right To Repair fight and continues to be of concern as we move forward now with no currently declared system that gives us a truly functional place in the process between vehicle telematics and the potential service and repair community.
Right now, mostly in the background, a lot is going on in developing technology and systems that guarantee us a place in the connectivity system and that, most importantly, gives the American consumer a real choice in where they get their vehicles serviced. That gives us an opportunity, and that is all we need to win the jobs and serve the consumers.
Over the course of the next year or two, things will move quickly at times, and the system will begin to take shape, both technologically as well as in putting the pieces in place to give us access to today’s vehicles and today’s vehicle owners.
If you listen carefully, you can almost hear the paradigm shifting.
Gary A. Molinaro
AMRA Develops Web-Based MAP Standards
The Automotive Maintenance & Repair Association (AMRA) has made its Motorist Assurance Program (MAP) Uniform Inspection & Communication Standards (UICS) available to its members via the Internet. Traditionally, UIC Standards have been available in a downloadable, printable document format. Now, AMRA/MAP has reformatted its familiar conditions, codes and procedures into a searchable database, which is available to technicians of AMRA member companies via a secure link.
The new electronic version, the e-UICS, functions like a web browser. A member tech or service advisor can type in a search term for a familiar automotive component to have all MAP conditions, codes and procedures for that component display on the screen. And, each page is printable so that it can be shared with a consumer.
In related news, AMRA has added a new MAP-qualified training program and assessment test to its online offerings.
Autoshop Solutions Debuts New Marketing Tool
Apex, NC-based Autoshop Solutions Inc. has launched a new marketing tool for auto repair shops called Autoshop Mail, which combines postcard mailings with an online marketing campaign.
The Autoshop Mail direct mail program sends out postcards, equipped with phone tracking numbers for ROI measuring. It then integrates it with an online marketing campaign. Customers and new leads who receive the postcards are directed to a mobile-compatible landing page on the shop’s website for more information. Then, using the Google Display Network, ads matching the shop’s direct mail postcard and branding will follow the new lead around the Internet, helping the shop stay top-of-mind and accessible for further engagement.
Federal-Mogul Launches App For Shops
Federal-Mogul Corp. has introduced a free mobile application for automotive service providers called SmartChoice Mobile. The app includes VIN-scanning technology that allows users to capture vehicle information and access the corresponding part and repair information via the company’s FMe-Cat.com applications database. The app also provides includes a variety of lookup options, including a part number/interchange search.
Service professionals can use the app’s “Send Inspection Results” feature to compose and send a shop-branded email — featuring inspection results, a repair estimate and images of worn parts — to a vehicle owner. The email summary also includes instant-reply and callback buttons to encourage vehicle owners to ask questions or authorize repairs.
A “Chat with a Pro” feature connects shop professionals with ASE-certified technical specialists at the Federal-Mogul Technical Education Center. The app also includes a link to Federal-Mogul’s library of technical information and latest news.
Kukui Partnering With ClearMechanic
Kukui Corp., a developer of marketing software for the auto repair industry, is joining forces with ClearMechanic, an inspection software program that allows shops to “visually sell” repairs with photos and videos.
Kukui’s software provides data on how much business a shop owner’s marketing channels are generating. By partnering with ClearMechanic, Kukui will provide its customers with another option to include in their marketing toolkits. ClearMechanic’s applications let technicians perform vehicle inspections from smartphones and tablets and then share inspection photos, video and diagrams, offering visual proof of repairs. Inspection findings, including photos and videos, are stored permanently for follow-up marketing.
Solera In Deal To Buy Into Identifix’s Parent Company
Solera Holdings has signed a definitive agreement to purchase equity interests in Service Repair Solutions (SRS) from an affiliate of the private equity firm Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe. SRS is the parent company to Identifix, iATN, MPI and Auto Point. The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including Hart-Scott-Rodino clearance, and is expected to close in the quarter ending Dec. 31, 2013.
The combination broadens Solera’s reach into the mechanical repair market, both aftermarket and OEM. Solera is a global provider of software and services for the automobile claims processing industry.
This comes a few months after Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe announced a deal to buy SRS from another private equity group, Warburg Pincus. Now, Solera has agreed to purchase at least 50 percent of the joint-venture shares for roughly $289 million. Solera will have the right to call Welsh Carson’s joint-venture shares, and Welsh Carson will have the right to put its joint-venture shares to Solera.
Solera will have operational control of the joint venture, and Tony Aquila will be its chairman.
Parts & People Publishers Launch Education-Focused E-Newsletter
The publishers of the Parts & People newspapers have developed a monthly e-newsletter targeting educators at NATEF-accredited schools. Copies of Automotive Educator began hitting email inboxes this summer. Circulation is now focused west of the Mississippi, where Parts & People has the strongest presence, but could expand to other regions in the future, Publisher Lance Buchner said.
“Parts & People has worked closely with schools for 30 years,” Buchner said. “This gives us a way to formally pass on articles and information to educators in our field.”
Editors were finding that they couldn’t fit all of the industry’s plentiful education news in their print editions. At the same time, there’s been a surge in recognition for the importance of automotive education and an industry push to open communication with schools, Buchner said. So, the timing for an education-focused e-edition seemed opportune, he said.
The newsletter isn’t a commercial venture yet, but Parts & People may eventually look into advertising or partnership/sponsorship opportunities with manufacturers, associations and maybe even four-year schools, Buchner said.
Newsletter topics will include coverage of association news, including from the North American Council of Automotive Teachers; industry trends affecting educators and their students; accreditation updates; forward-looking initiatives; student competitions and events; and scholarships and grants.
“I feel that a good share of students never know about the opportunities available to them,” Buchner said.
Parts & People is the primary operation of the Automotive Counseling & Publishing Co. The Denver-based company publishes monthly print editions for the parts and service industry in six regions: Mountain, Midwest, River Valley, Southern California, Northern California and Northwest. — Sarah Hollander
Over $260,000 In Scholarships Funded For 2013-2014 Academic Year
A record-setting 250 awards totaling more than $260,000 were presented through the Global Automotive Aftermarket Symposium (GAAS) scholarship program for the 2013-‘14 academic year. The University of the Aftermarket Foundation funded 115 of the 250 scholarships. The GAAS Scholarship Fund — supported by attendees at the annual event, its donors and sponsors — funded 69 awards, 10 of which were funded through a grant from the University of the Aftermarket Foundation. State aftermarket groups and other industry organizations funded an additional 76 scholarships. Awards ranged from $500 to $5,000.
A total of 35 students received multiple awards in 2013, including two students who received three awards and one who received four awards. The full list of 2013 scholarship recipients has been posted to the scholarship website alumni page.
In its 16-year history, the GAAS Scholarship program has presented more than $1.80 million in awards to more than 1,800 students. Online applications are being accepted now for 2014 scholarships. The deadline is March 31.
Care Car Council Offers Wider Exposure For Fall Car Care Events
October is Fall Car Care Month, and the Car Care Council urges shops, stores and other industry organizations planning community car care events to register their events on its website. Events registered on the Car Care Council’s website will be promoted through its various social media platforms. In addition, the council has a map feature at www.carcare.org/car-care-events to help motorists locate vehicle check-up events in their area.
NASTF Fall General Meeting To Be Webcast
The entire NASTF Fall 2013 General Meeting will be webcast live, Wednesday, Nov. 6 on the NASTF website, www.nastf.org. The broadcast will begin at 4:00 pm (Eastern Time) and will conclude at 7:30 pm. No registration will be required, and the webcast will be free when accessed from www.nastf.org.
Viewers will have the ability to pose questions or make comments throughout the course of the webcast. Topics already scheduled for the meeting include counterfeit tools, OEM tools, vehicle security and education.
Q2 Parts & Service Results For Major Auto Dealer Networks
All of the publicly traded dealership groups that we track posted higher year-over-year parts and service sales in the second quarter of 2013. The highest percentage increase came from Group 1 Automotive, where revenue was up 18.4 percent. The largest company that we track in this area, AutoNation Inc., reported an 8.9-percent increase in service, parts and collision revenue.
Click here to view our chart.
Jiffy Lube Names New President
Steve Ledbetter is the new president of Jiffy Lube International. Ledbetter replaces Stu Crum, who left to become president of Bridgestone Retail Operations.
Ledbetter was director of business to consumer key accounts – North America at the Shell Oil Co., Jiffy Lube’s parent company. He and his team managed large-volume installer customers for the Shell lubricants business. Ledbetter, who joined Shell in 1999, also has served in a variety of leadership positions in finance, business strategy and sales.
Vermont Shop Owner Elected Car Care Council Women’s Board President
Amy Mattinat, president of Auto Craftsmen, is the new Car Care Council Women’s Board president. Auto Craftsmen is an independent auto repair sales and service center in Montpelier, VT. In addition to managing the business, Mattinat writes a monthly car care newsletter and a magazine column called “Under the Hood,” is the author of “How to Buy a Great Used Car,” and teaches women car care clinics on a regular basis.
Mattinat, who will serve a three-year term as the Women’s Board president, has been a board associate for seven years. She also is a member of the Automotive Expert Advisory Panel and Rotary International, and an executive board member of the Central Vermont Economic Development Corp. In 2012, Mattinat was the Women’s Board Shop Owner of the Year.
UTI Chairman John White To Retire
John White will retire as an executive officer and chairman of the Universal Technical Institute (TUI) effective Dec. 9. However, he will continue to serve as a member of UTI’s board of directors. White, 65, has served as chairman since 2005.
News Briefs 10/9/13
• The CAA South Central Ontario auto club plans to sell its 13 car care center locations across southern Ontario. All shops will remain open as the group actively seeks bids.
• Wheel-service equipment manufacturer Hennessy Industries has launched a line of auto lifts under its BaseLine by Coats brand.
• MaddenCo’s Tire Dealer System now includes Carfax QuickVIN, which allows users to retrieve the year, make, model and vehicle identification number of vehicles by entering the license plate information.
• Innova Electronics Corp., a developer of automotive diagnostic tools and equipment, has added unlimited access to AutoCheck vehicle history reports from Experian Automotive to its RepairSolutions web-based service.
• AudaExplore is now a corporate member of the Automotive Service Association (ASA).
• MACS Worldwide, working with Automotive Video Inc. (AVI), can now provide technicians with a variety of training courses that can be viewed online at www.macsw.org or purchased on DVD.
• Virginia has selected Argo, Electude USA’s automotive e-learning system, for the state’s high school automotive curriculum.
• ASA-Midwest now offers student memberships. This free offering is available to students enrolled in high school, vo-tech or college automotive technology programs in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, Arkansas or Oklahoma.
• MAACO has acquired the Canadian master franchisor rights from Gary Dohring, who is retiring. MAACO Canada has 26 locations. MAACO plans to grow the brand in Canada, and has set a goal of doubling the current unit count in three years.
• Germany’s DEKRA, which bills itself as the world’s largest automotive testing organization, is entering the Asia-Pacific region by acquiring a majority stake in VTNZ, said to be the leading automotive testing service provider in New Zealand.
• ASA Automotive Systems is celebrating its 25th anniversary.
Event & Trade Show Briefs 10/9/13
• The Carquest Technical Institute will present two training sessions during the Automotive Service & Repair Week (ASRW) Conference Program. They are on service readiness and sales improvement through vehicle inspections.
• ASRW will address health care reform changes in a session titled “Healthcare Reform: 2013 Decisions for the Employer” on Friday, Oct. 18 during the ASRW Conference Program. ASRW runs Oct. 16-18 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas.
• The Automotive Maintenance & Repair Association (AMRA) and Motorist Assurance Program (MAP) will hold their fall membership meeting Nov. 4 at the Treasure Island Hotel in Las Vegas. The event is being held in conjunction with AAPEX and the SEMA Show.