A fledgling chain of repair shops out west says it wants to make tire sales easy and profitable for independent repair shops.
Grip Auto & Tire – the brainchild of automotive publisher Dean Washington and tire industry executive Mort Koch – now has five locations in the lower mainland of British Columbia.
The stores, in Cloverdale, Coquitlam South, Langley East, Langley West, and Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows, were designed to offer consumers a simplified way to buy tires and automotive service, backed with roadside assistance.
Washington, who serves as company president, says the goal is to have 50 locations up and running within five years.
“We’re bringing the tire sale to the independent repair shop,” he says. “In the past, local independent repair shops have sold tires, but not in a meaningful way. To do a tire quote would typically take them between 15 to 20 minutes. With our proprietary software, it takes them under a minute.”
Washington says the goal of the company is to help independent shops make money on the two most universally required automotive services: oil and tires.
“They are the number one and two replacement components on a vehicle,” he says. “It’s all about keeping your customers’ vehicles on your hoist, as we all know.”
Shops that sign up with Grip Tire will have access to a wide range of management resources, many of them developed by shop owner Russ Hudson of Hudson Auto Care in Langley, B.C. These include management training, operational assessments, workflow systems, and a loyalty rewards program.
“We’ll shortly be bringing in a call centre so that a centralized person will do all the follow-up calls, as well as booking the next appointment,” says Hudson. “That will be the foundation of a maintenance program aimed at keeping customers coming back. We’re trying to make it simpler for the franchisee. We’ll take on that role of making follow-up calls, verifying that everything has been done correctly and that people are happy.”
Grip Tire also plans to offer roadside assistance to loyal customers through a third-party provider.
“Customers will get a card with an 800 number on it, and a PIN number,” Hudson says. “If they need a tow, or run out of gas, or get a flat tire, a quick phone call will get a tow truck out to them.”
He says he’s designing systems based on tactics he has learned at a number of management training seminars throughout his career.
“I’m having a blast. I’ve been doing this a long time but the last eight months have been pretty exciting!” he says.
Washington, an automotive publisher with titles that include RPM magazine, Performance Plus, and Trucks Plus, says the company was originally conceived as a bolt-on tire program for existing automotive service shops, but the concept was quickly expanded to provide management tools for automotive service as well.
“The tire part was great. But the more we talked, the more we agreed shop owners needed a full system. The big boys – the dealerships – are coming after their business,” he says. “We saw the need to have a full program that would give them a chance to survive and, quite frankly, put the systems in place that give them an exit strategy as well, where the owner is not the service advisor, where the shop has a presence in the community as a brand, and where someone could come in and take over without necessarily being mechanically inclined.”
Washington says the company was designed to expand nationally.
“We’ve secured agreements across the country, so we’re set for growth. We’re ready to go,” he says.