Mike Warshauer. His is a classic story of apprenticeship, advancing to craftsmanship, culminating in ownership. From the 11th grade on he’s been involved in automotive repair, starting off by sweeping floors, eventually working his way up the ladder to become the lead tech and shop foreman of Rising Sun Motors in College Park, Md., before finally buying out the business with his wife Denise.
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Foresight has been a feature of Rising Sun Motors since its inception in 1977. “We started primarily on imports,” Warshauer recalls, back when virtually no one else worked on Asian cars — hence the name — and this gave them a handy heads-up on technology coming down the pike.
“In ’78, Nissan had fuel injection on their 280ZX,” he relates. “But when GM started doing the computer controls [in the late 80s], it changed everything for everybody. They were the first to have codes and things of that nature, where you could get scan data, diagnostics — they were way ahead of everybody on that.”
Since Rising Sun Motors now covers all makes, there are no questions when it comes to hardware; if it needs to be bought, he’ll buy it. “You can’t do it without (the right equipment),” Warshauer states. “These cars are designed to be diagnosed in a certain manner, and all of the literature you get is written for you to use that tool. If you don’t have it, it’s all smoke and mirrors; you can’t do it.”
Warshauer also reports being an early adherent of seminars. “I’d say since 1980, if a seminar came along, I went to it. I’ve even gone to the same classes two or three times, but I always pick up something that I miss. I try to get my guys to have that same attitude, because you’re not going to wake up one day and know this stuff. You can try and read it out of a book, but I find this difficult unless you have somebody there to ask questions of.”
As it turns out, ATI’s corporate headquarters are about 15 miles away in Linthicum, Md. “I was at a seminar there a couple weeks ago,” Warshauer says, “and one of the things they talked about is the first time a person comes in they’re a client, the second time they become a customer. I’d like to think that we have lots of customers; we have some who have been coming here for 30 years.”
Like many shops, one way Warshauer builds on this customer base is with a reward system. “If they refer someone to us, we will mail them a $50 coupon,” he explains. “And every time they come in they can have what we call Rising Sun bucks that are in $20 increments. We actually emboss them with a notary-style stamp so they can’t be copied. Depending on how much they spend, they get these discount coupons for their next visit. I’ve had customers come in and pay $300 to $400 worth with these coupons.”