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Ford has made quite a stir recently with their new aluminum frame F150 pick-up truck. And why not? It’s an innovative idea that has origins in sound logic. Aluminum is much lighter than steel. It’s actually about half the weight of an equivalent quantity of steel. So if an automobile is manufactured with an aluminum frame, instead of steel, you should see much greater fuel efficiency. While the benefits to an aluminum frame vehicle are quite obvious, many people wonder what are the possible drawbacks.
One company interested in the drawbacks to an aluminum frame vehicle is General Motors. In fact, they recently introduced several commercials that are airing on-line and other locations that delve into the downside of aluminum vs their traditional steel frame Chevrolet Silverado trucks. GM’s argument is that while steel weighs more, it is more durable, tugged and reliable.
Their new commercials featuring former NFL great, and current broadcaster Howie Long points to a study that was conducted showing that when a low speed crash occurs, the time frame and costs involved are exponentially greater on the Ford aluminum body truck. GM hired an independent firm to perform the tests. GM says that repairs took 34 days longer and cost $1700 more because of the complexity of servicing aluminum frame vehicles vs steel. Their argument is that because aluminum repairs require specialized tools and equipment, most auto body shops are not qualified to service aluminum body autos. This leaves you with only one option, the dealership. And then once you do get those repairs done, it is significantly more costly because of the expense of this specialized equipment, materials, along with the training required of the technician, as well as the complexity of these repairs. when you factor in that a typical contractor needs his truck fast, these extra 34 days could cost him much more than $1700 if he’s out of his valued truck for a month. They also mention that it could possibly increase the costs to insure these trucks, because of the higher repair costs.
This debate is sure to go on from here, as technicians from all over are weighing in on this matter. We also hear that GM is actually planning on coming out with an aluminum body truck as well, so if there are so many problems with it, why would they come out with one as well. Perhaps, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em? As the government mandates more strict fuel efficiency standards every year, there may be no choice at some point. Yet another example of well intentioned government regulations costing tax payers more dollars.
Another more humorous video shows GM unleashing a Grizzly bear in a room with people, and they have to choose which cage they want to escape to, a steel frame cage, or an aluminum cage. Guess which cage they chose?
Check out one of the videos below –
Repeat problems can be a big hassle for many auto shop owners. All shops see them. But how do you deal with them? How you deal with them is the most important factor in retaining your loyal customers. After all, you risk your customers seeing you as unwilling to repair a problem, or worse yet, incompetant. If you don’t resolve the issue fast, you will not only lose that customer, you will likely lose many other potential customers due to word of mouth.
Always treat a comeback as a priority. Never tell the customer that they’ll have to wait until another job gets done first. remember, they were there before the current customer.
Follow up with the customer the very next day after you have resolved the problem. Don’t wait later than that or you’ll forget. You’ll be amazed at how much goodwill it builds with the customer. It shows that you really care about them.
Take care to document all actions taken. This can aid you in continued troubleshooting of this problem as well as other problems. Not only that, but it can help you isolate a potential common problem. Perhaps you received a bad batch of auto parts from a supplier. Perhaps you have a technician who is performing a task improperly, and needs re-training. Good record keeping will help you determine it more quickly, saving you time and money.
And ultimately, isn’t that the bottom line?
The jokes about people deciding on which car to purchase based on how many cup holders it has aren’t that far off after all.
According to a recent study, these accessories factor in to the consumer’s decision making process more than you would realize. Recent research from Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) shows that options offered account for increasing sales at auto dealerships.
Some of the more popular accessories that are influencing consumers were sunroofs, high end sound systems (Now you know why the guy in front of you can’t hear you when you’re honking your horn) and Navigation systems (we need to know where we’re going). Probably the most popular is specialty tires and wheels. The craze is sweeping the nation. You’ve seen them out there. They seem to be everywhere. The huge, aggressive flashy rims with the skinny low profile tires are most popular in many urban areas. In many cases, the rims and tires you see on the streets are more expensive than the car itself! It’s all about making a statement we guess.
These accessories can help the auto shop owner increase his profits. All these specialty tires require a new fancy high performance Tire Changer and wheel balancer.
These trends are custom made for shop owners to raise revenues in an increasingly difficult business atmosphere. Garage owners who don’t take advantage of these situations when they arise are destined to fall behind the competition.
The quest to find an alternative AC refrigerant for automotive Air conditioning systems is growing legs as GM is the latest auto manufacturer to announce that it will be using a new refrigerant, HF-1234yf, in many of their main auto models. The move is going to happen in 2013, as numerous models will make the shift, including mainstays such as Cadillac, Chevy and Buick cars.
The new refrigerant is HF-1234yf, and has been created by Honeywell.
Manufacturers are searching for a more environmentally friendly alternative to R134A, which has been in use for nearly two decades. This new refrigerant is 97% better for the environment. It is proven to have lower lifetime GHG emissions than HFC-134a or CO2. It also requires only minor modifications to current vehicle AC systems, compared to some other new refrigerants, which require a higher pressurized system.
Before R134A, R-12 was the refrigerant of choice for decades. The new refrigerant breaks down much quicker than R134A, which means less ozone depleting properties. Auto manufacturers are scrambling to come up with viable alternative to meet new, and increasingly strict EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) regulations on greenhouse gas production. The EPA just recently approved the use of this new refrigerant in February 2011. So the next time your car is up on the Garage Lift at the local auto shop, you may be a candidate for this new product.
Auto shop owners and car dealership service department heads have a major consideration when it comes to liability insurance. There are the obvious coverages that you will purchase on your liability policy, such as incidents that happen on the premises, whether it be damage to a customers vehicle caused by a careless service technician, or a piece of machinery that malfunctions, such as a car falling off the Two Post Lift.
Every shop has had a claim or two over the years. But there are other possibilities that you need to be prepared for. For instance, What happens when your technician takes a car out for a test drive and he gets in an accident? What happens if you send the car to another shop to have them perform a service that you don’t cover? Are you covered while it is in their possession? Furthermore, what happens if the technician who drove it has a DUI or a suspended license because of multiple speeding infractions, and then he gets into an accident? You need to be aware of your employees driving records. If they are behind the wheel at any point, you need to check on their driving record. Ultimately, it comes back to being your responsibility.
What about if the car malfunctions because of a real, or perceived error in the repair that your technician performed. You need to protect yourself. Make sure you’re covered for any possibility, because your business can be irreparably harmed by just one unfortunate event.
It can be tempting for auto shop owners and consumers alike to take the cheap route and purchase inexpensive aftermarket replacement parts. There is no shortage. There is a glut of these parts that have come from questionable sources and are readily available for purchase in any number of venues. Many of these aftermarket generic parts are typically of an acceptable grade of quality. However, there certainly are more than enough horror stories of sub-par quality parts that have caused their share of headaches.
Why should you go with only quality name brand parts? Reliability, Warranty and support, and Safety.
When you have a customer’s vehicle up on your Two Post Lift, you don’t want to shortchange your customer and your reputation.
How can you be sure the parts you are purchasing are a premium quality? The number one rule is to buy a brand name that you know. There is probably no more important factor.
Information. Never has there been access to more information than today in the age of the Internet. You can find out anything about everything these days. Don’t forget about trade magazines too.
Word of mouth. Employees, business associates, and even competitors may have experience with parts that you don’t.
When getting their automobile serviced, consumers should ask their local garage what replacement part they are planning on installing. Insist on high quality name brand parts.
It is just as vital for shop owners. Do not risk your reputation on inferior parts. Your reputation is your most prized possession as a local business. Lose it, and you’ll see profits wither away, and customers that used to be familiar faces suddenly stop coming back.
Automobile Accidents can be a stressful event. The last thing you need to worry about after a car accident is fraud perpetrated by unscrupulous repair shops or tow truck drivers.
The NICB (National Insurance Crime Bureau) has recently put out a checklist to help the unwary accident victim from becoming a victim once again to these dishonest predators.
One of the most common occurrences would be a tow truck driver showing up immediately after you’ve gotten in an accident, without you calling them. They listen to police scanners and jump in their trucks the second they hear of an accident. They’ll tell you they work with your insurance company and that they can take care of the repairs without you having to worry about finding a shop to pick it up. The problem is, you don’t know anything about these guys.
The NICB warns that, while most shops and tow truck operators are honest and hardworking, there are plenty of nefarious operators out there who are just waiting to take advantage of this type of situation.
Once you’ve agreed to let them take your car, you can fall prey to all kinds of tricks. They will charge you fees for any and all kinds of things they can think up. Did they store your car in their lot? There’s a storage fee. Did they put your car up on an Automotive Lift to inspect it? Theres an inspection fee. Did they process any paperwork? There’s a processing fee. Plus, they will do anything they can to get you to have them perform the service. If they towed your car to their lot, but you want your auto shop to perform the work, they will jack up their fees well beyond what is reasonable and customary.
This happened to me about a year ago after I got in an accident that caused a significant amount of damage to my truck. I had the tow truck driver bring it to his shop, with plans of having him transfer it to a different body shop later. Once he found out he wasn’t doing the repairs, he got very angry and jacked up the fees to ridiculous levels. The insurance company said that this was not uncommon and that they would not pay such an unreasonable rate.
The NICB warns that if law enforcement did not call them to the scene, do not use the tow / wrecker company. Use the company the police recommend, or contact your own local shop. Even if it will take longer for them to get out to the scene to pick up your car, it will be worth it in the long run. You don’t want to be paying for these rogue operators to outfit their garage with new Automotive Equipment because you were taken advantage of.
What about you? Have you had any similar experiences? Share them with us by commenting below.
Part Three of a three part series –
Get rid of dead wood. If an employee isn’t working out, get rid of him. If you want to give to charities, great, but do it in your personal time. Don’t blow money on an unmotivated employee. Especially in this labor market. There are plenty of hard working people out there who would give anything for a good stable job. If you have an employee who you have spoken with time after time, and he still hasn’t corrected the problem, you’re only hurting yourself by keeping him.
Training. Make sure your technicians are trained in the latest hot trends and services. If they stagnate, customers will move on to more modern, up-to-date garages. If you only have one tech trained to do alignments, what if he has a car up on the Automotive Lift and suddenly has to go home for a family emergency? Who’s going to take over? You need to have a back up plan.
Poll your customers. Send out a questionnaire by mail, or if you have a web site, ask them to visit it on their receipt and complete it. This can provide you with valuable insight into what you may be lacking. There’s nothing like looking at a situation from a fresh perspective from the outside. It may hurt to hear criticism at first, but it can be healthy for the long term prospects of your business.
Public relations. There are ways to get your name out there with local causes that allow you to offer something to the local community and receive good will from it as well. Maybe there’s a fundraiser for the local library or playhouse. These are great opportunities to sponsor an event and not only get your name out there, but build a relationship with the community.
Many of these ideas can work in any number of business types. Applying these practices can help your auto shop not only save money, but also create revenue in brand new areas. Do you have any ideas we haven’t hit on? Post a comment below.
Being in the automotive service equipment sales business for over 14 years now, we’ve seen a lot. One trend we’ve been seeing more frequently lately is the self service auto shop.
This is an interesting idea that we think will catch on more and more in the future as car owners who want to save money. It should also be popular with those who like tinkering on their own cars, but don’t want to invest in all of the expensive equipment that is necessary to be a full service shop.
Sometimes it’s just a case where a car owner used to work on his own car back when vehicles were simpler to repair, and they grew out of touch with all of the modern technological advances. Sometimes it caters to the customer who used to work on his car, but during better economic times in years past, deferred that work to the professionals, but now that money is more scarce, they would prefer to go back to working on their own vehicle.
Whatever the reason, these shops are springing up all over the country.
Case in point, a recent article in the Charlotte Observer points to a garage in north Charlotte aptly named, “Fix It Yourself Garage”.
The great thing is, if you are fairly proficient at some of the common aspects of servicing a vehicle, but need supervision, they will walk you through it, assuring that the job is done right, and best of all, at a much more reasonable price. Typical pricing will run about $20 per hour, and includes disposal of fluids. Plus, you can bring in your own parts to save even more money. Sure beats the $80 per hour you find at the car dealership, doesn’t it?
Plus, with less new cars selling these days, these older vehicles out on the roads need more service than ever. The average vehicle age has worked it’s way up to over ten years old, vs 8 years back in the 1990’s.
Now, the average Joe can have access to full service Car Lifts, along with all of the best auto shop tools and equipment on the market, including hand tools, parts washers, Tire Changers, brake lathes and more. Basically, you can have a fully outfitted auto shop at your disposal anytime you want. And you’ll get expert instruction as well as be able to meet with others with similar interests. The one concern for owners of these kinds of shops is liability. Insurance could tend to be a prohibitive cost.
Keep an eye on this trend. We predict this trend will expand.
Whiskey is the latest Bio fuel ingredient that will be available for vehicle consumption in Europe. Scottish scientists at Edinburgh Napier University have done research in the area of bio-fuels recently and came up with a Whiskey based bio-fuel that shows promise. The fuel is actually made from the by-products of the alcohol, not the alcohol itself. Like Ethanol, it can be used in gasoline engines that do not have to be modified in any way, as long as it’s mixed at a rate of approximately 15 % with gasoline.
Many distilleries produce tons of the by-product that go in to this biofuel, so it stands to reason that this could be a cost effective answer for everybody involved.
The EU will require bio-fuels to account for 10% of fuel sales by 2020, so this is a viable option that shows true promise. Professor Martin Tangney, who is the director of the bio-fuel research team at the university said, ” While some energy companies are growing crops specifically to generate bio-fuels, we are investigating excess materials such as whiskey by-products to develop them. This is a more environmentally sustainable option and potentially offers new revenue on the back of one of Scotland’s biggest industries”.
Obviously, using by-products that would normally need to be disposed of, instead of using brand new crops allows for a much more cost effective option, that could make bio-fuels catch on more in other countries, such as in the USA.
The next time your vehicle is at the auto shop, up on a car lift, don’t be surprised to see their gas pump advertising a whiskey – based bio fuel additive.