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Shop's specialty in Mercedes-Benz, BMW service drives continued investment

Thursday, May 25, 2017 - 07:00
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“Fortune favors the bold” goes an old Latin proverb, so when an independent Mercedes-Benz-oriented repair shop in Waltham, Mass., was sold to a dealership, three visionary individuals took it upon themselves to create a new one: European Auto Solutions (EAS).

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As one-third of this partnership and service director of EAS, Ed Owen was a service advisor at the old shop when the dealership took over. “They loved our customer following, but (said) we weren’t ‘selling urgency,’” he wryly notes. “I just didn’t want to be in the car business if that was the case. Stroke of luck: one of our big customers had taken a big buyout from (his corporation) and wanted to do something entrepreneurial.”

At a Glance:
European Auto Solutions
Edward Owen and Scott Penney
Owners
1
No. of shops
11
Years in business
6
No. of technicians
13
Total no. of employees
9,600
Square footage of shop
9
No. of bays
48
No. of vehicles per week
3.6 million
Annual gross revenue

Along with another technician from the old shop, the trio recognized — as per their website —“the shortage in the Boston marketplace of a truly independent repair facility that delivers the highest caliber of service at a competitive price.” Therefore in July 2006 they opened a shop where the parking was admittedly sparse but the facility itself quite large at 9,000 square feet.

Properly capitalized and staffed, they built a technical foundation focused not just on any German make, but Mercedes-Benz exclusively, although they would add BMW later. “Our belief in doing one marque at a time is like the medical field where you have a specialty,” says Owen. “There aren’t any general practitioners anymore, it’s all specialty stuff, and with the amount you have to invest in the software and the tools, it’s really hard to be a full service for the line without investing heavily in it.”

And Owen used this to EAS’s advantage in marketing and customer service efforts. “Waltham is a pretty big city,” he confides. “In fact it’s got a lot of mom-and-pop automotive places because you can repair cars without a special permit.” Historically associated with the start of the American Industrial Revolution, Waltham still supports this impresario spirit.

“That favored us for location,” he reports, “but I went to every one of those shops in town and just introduced ourselves by saying we’re not competition. We have scan tools, so instead of taking that Mercedes to the dealer and having them charge an hour or two every time to read a code, we’re happy to do it for half that, even less. Instead of creating animosity, we worked at a partnership. At some point a lot of the shops were saying ‘I don’t work on Mercedes; you need to see these guys.’” 

Within three years EAS had outgrown its original facility. To find a new one they once again networked through the client base. “As luck would have it, one of our first customers was a realtor who had found a property through an acquaintance,” says Owen. A 10,000 square foot building on about 2.5 acres, the facility was only four years old, sporting such modern conveniences as radiant floor heat and gated security.

“Nothing else could compare to it,” Owen remarks. “But we were still growing the business and weren’t big enough to take this (property) on — the price tag was a little bit out of our reach, and this was in 2010 when no one was lending. But we thought we could do it; we put together a package and went to the bank, and they said ‘maybe.’”

Within a year the EAS partners convinced the bank to say yes, but it was still a big step for the company. “When we got the parking lot [paved], at that time we were doing probably 30-35 cars a week, and for a lot that size that was basically nothing,” Owen recalls. “I thought, ‘we’ll never fill this.’ Of course now we’re doing between 55-65 cars a week and the parking lot’s always full.”

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