Jump to content

Subaru Specialty shop

Recommended Posts

We are a general repair shop operating in a large mountain West city. The shop has been in business since 1964. Four bay shop soon to be six. We have a second small two-bay shop. Both locations have a high demographic of Subaru owners. We are in the process of moving towards becoming a 100% Subaru service and repair. I welcome all thoughts and ideas on the following questions and them some.


1. Has anyone attempted and or succeeded at converting from general repair to specialty?



2. Best practices in specialty marketing. I must launch this fast?



3. How to handle telling folks we will no longer be servicing their vehicle?



4. Specialty technician recruiting ideas. How do I get guys out of the dealer?



5. Any Subaru specialty shop owners out there willing to get together? I will come to you.



Thanks in advance.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Alan, I recently read an article in Ratchet and Wrench about a shop owner that has done what you are thinking about. Specialization is a good idea, I also agree with xrac that you do not necessarily have to close the door on your current customers. You may want to give this article a read and possibly reach out to this shop owner. Just a thought! Good luck. Here is the link!!



  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Why the move,


There is a large amount of registered Subarus in the city I'm in. There does not seem to be anyone focusing on the market in any real way. Great techs are very difficult to hire and keep. Better quality control, efficiency, cost control, and diagnoses. They are relatively simple vehicles. We can bring in solid B guys, which are easier to find and train them in-house. Our main Shop has six small bays the other one has two small bays, big vehicles don't work out well. I have worked some good part deals with Subaru suppliers, I can hold more margin on better parts. Tech efficiency is big. When my guys are on Subarus they run at about 110% on the general repair they are at about 75%. Marketing, I believe it's essential to have a very clear message on who we are and what we do. Is it possible to be to be clear that we do general repair and Subaru? I'm considering doing one marketing campaign for Subaru and one for General. I'm split between focusing on moving both areas forward at the same time. The other thought is to focus on Subaru marketing and development until we have enough volume and then switch. I don't really want to give up that general repair revenue.


Thanks for your amazing input.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Alan, hope you are doing well!


I would suggest that you keep working on all makes as you are doing now. If anything you can start to weed out the trouble clients and be more selective. At the same time create a marketing and branding plan to target subarus. You can absolutely be a "specialist" and work on other makes especially when there are no other strict specialists in your area.


As you know we are Euro specialists however we are in the process of possibly opening another shop focued on general repair. I think that the general repair market has the advantage of being more flexible and scalable. What if for some reason people stop buying subarus? Then you would have to change the whole shop once again to service other makes. You already have a core group of great clients and I am sure there are a bunch that don't drive subarus. If I were you I would not alienate them and still try to attract like customers even if they don't drive subarus.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would simply market yourself to Subaru drivers with your advertising but don't reject the general repair work. Once the scooby circle learns you can do head gaskets cheaper than the dealer your bays will be full forever. I've thought about hiring a guy to just do Subaru head gaskets and that's it. We don't do them because our business is based on 10 cars a day in and out, we don't have time to spend all day on one car.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have always hesitated to specialize because I have always served a large variety of customers. In my auto parts and machine shop business, we served everybody from do-it-to-yourselfers, racing, garages and service stations to large construction, trucking, industrial, quarry, and mining concerns. Plenty of times we would be align boring something like a Detroit V-12 block and 2 machines down the line an outboard block was being bored and honed. All the money from these jobs was deposited in the same bank account, so I did not want to turn any of them down.


With that said, each person thought that we specialized in the particular job that they needed done, and we DID SPECIALIZE in that job because we performed it with care and precision. I believe what Alfred said is true: Advertise that you service and repair Subarus and you will have plenty of them to do.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Like an itch, this is one of those feelings that are not satisfied until you scratch it.


If you want to specialize in Suby's just add eye candy signs that you specialize in Subarus, declare yourself an expert and work hard at it until you are one.


I wouldn't cancel out of general repair just yet, because of the cash flow crunch that usually follows going into a niche market.


But like any experience, until you have worked out the numbers and set the expectations of what would be an acceptable return for your time and capital, you will not be happy until you are either out of business or comfortable profitable.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Like others have already said, advertise that your a specialist, but don't turn away other work. I opened up as strictly a Lexus/Toyota shop. While that was fine and business was growing, I consistently heard from my customers that their husband/wife/son/daughter/friend drives something other than a Lexus/Toyota and wants to bring it to us. For the longest time, I would turn them away. Turns out, I was missing out on a lot of money. I still advertise/market us as a specialty shop that focuses on Asian vehicles, but I no longer turn work away unless it's something I just don't feel comfortable dealing with.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would proceed with caution. I started in 1989 as a Volvo specialist. It was great for many years for most of the reasons you stated, you can make more on parts because you can usually lower your purchase cost, you don't need to invest as much in equipment or information systems, less time is usually wasted on diagnostics, your techs can usually turn out a lot more hours doing the same jobs over and over again, and you can increase your turn around time. You also become know as the experts which can help reduce marketing costs and help with SEO. But for us, things started to change in the mid 2000's. Volvo's became more and more reliable and routine maintenance was reduced considerably. Volvo's popularity and sales also started to slow and the new class of Volvo owner's did not seem to understand the need for regular maintenance. They were buying Volvo's because they heard "Volvo's last forever" and were usually shocked when problems arose after driving for 70-100,000 miles without doing more than a few oil changes. When I say few oil changes, 15,000 intervals were not uncommon. By 2010, we were starting to lose money. Along with many other Volvo specialist, we then realized that we had to make the transition to a General Repair Facility or at least other vehicles if we wanted to survive. One guy was a Volvo/Saab specialist. On top of having to deal with the slowing Volvo business, he had to deal with the loss of Saab. Our business is still about 60% Volvo, the rest is General repair. It has taken us until last year to start making money again. Another fellow Volvo specialist went through a similar situation. He has a large operation, >10 technicians. He got into General Repair but one make in particular took off and is now about 60% of his business and probably responsible for most of his profits. He talks about how he would love to specialize in that one make but after what happened with Volvo, he said he would never put all his eggs in one basket again.


You say there are a lot of registered Subaru owners. As we first started our transition from Volvo Specialists, we thought it would be best to keep some focus so we chose Toyota/Lexus because there are so many around here and a lot of our customers were buying them as they could no longer afford them. This never got much traction. We did start bringing them in but soon realized Toyota was a very different class of car. Most Toyota owners are economy minded and are reluctant to spend a lot of money repairing them. Toyota's tend to require less repairs, and unlike Volvo's a most European cars, you can take a Toyota to just about any non-specialists.


If you are thinking to yourself that you can always get the customers back if you need to, you may find it harder than you think. Over the years we sent many non-Volvo's to other shops. I image like us, you would never refer a customers to another shop unless you believed they were going to get treated well. Once that customers starts going to the other shop and is treated well, given good service, and builds a relationship with them, why would they come back to you. To this day, we see a lot of our old customers in the parking lot when they take there car to the shop next door or the one across the parking lot that we recommended them to. These were long time customers that we built personal relationships with.


My suggestion would be to focus on growing the Subaru business and leave the other part alone. If the Subaru side starts doing well, stop promoting the General Repair side. If you get busy enough, you can stop taking on new non-Subaru customers. We now call ourselves Volvo Specialists and General Automotive Repair.



  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

      It always amazes me when I hear about a technician who quits one repair shop to go work at another shop for less money. I know you have heard of this too, and you’ve probably asked yourself, “Can this be true? And Why?” The answer rests within the culture of the company. More specifically, the boss, manager, or a toxic work environment literally pushed the technician out the door.
      While money and benefits tend to attract people to a company, it won’t keep them there. When a technician begins to look over the fence for greener grass, that is usually a sign that something is wrong within the workplace. It also means that his or her heart is probably already gone. If the issue is not resolved, no amount of money will keep that technician for the long term. The heart is always the first to leave. The last thing that leaves is the technician’s toolbox.
      Shop owners: Focus more on employee retention than acquisition. This is not to say that you should not be constantly recruiting. You should. What it does means is that once you hire someone, your job isn’t over, that’s when it begins. Get to know your technicians. Build strong relationships. Have frequent one-on-ones. Engage in meaningful conversation. Find what truly motivates your technicians. You may be surprised that while money is a motivator, it’s usually not the prime motivator.
      One last thing; the cost of technician turnover can be financially devastating. It also affects shop morale. Do all you can to create a workplace where technicians feel they are respected, recognized, and know that their work contributes to the overall success of the company. This will lead to improved morale and team spirit. Remember, when you see a technician’s toolbox rolling out of the bay on its way to another shop, the heart was most likely gone long before that.
  • Similar Topics

    • By Joe Marconi

      Premium Member Content 

      This content is hidden to guests, one of the benefits of a paid membership. Please login or register to view this content.

    • By carmcapriotto
      In this episode, Hunt tackles the pressing issues facing the housing market in 2024, discussing the impact of interest rates and the real affordability of homes.
      • Interest Rates Surge: Exploring how doubled interest rates are drastically affecting monthly payments.
      • Affordability Crisis: Delving into how rising home prices are outpacing income growth, making home ownership a distant dream for many.
      • Economic Insights: Analyzing the mismatch between the growth in home prices and stagnant wage increases.
      • Future Risks: Assessing potential market corrections and their consequences on homeowners and the economy.
      Thanks to our partners, NAPA TRACS and Promotive
      Did you know that NAPA TRACS has onsite training plus six days a week support?
      It all starts when a local representative meets with you to learn about your business and how you run it.  After all, it's your shop, so it's your choice.
      Let us prove to you that Tracs is the single best shop management system in the business.  Find NAPA TRACS on the Web at NAPATRACS.com
      It’s time to hire a superstar for your business; what a grind you have in front of you. Great news, you don’t have to go it alone. Introducing Promotive, a full-service staffing solution for your shop. Promotive has over 40 years of recruiting and automotive experience. If you need qualified technicians and service advisors and want to offload the heavy lifting, visit www.gopromotive.com.
      Paar Melis and Associates – Accountants Specializing in Automotive Repair
      Visit us Online: www.paarmelis.com
      Email Hunt: [email protected]
      Get a copy of my Book: Download Here
      Aftermarket Radio Network
      Click to go to the Podcast on Remarkable Results Radio
    • By carmcapriotto
      Thanks to our Partners, NAPA TRACS, AutoFix Auto Shop Coaching, and Today's Class In this groundbreaking episode, shop owner Brin Kline undergoes a first-of-its-kind 360-degree review by his team. The session unveils insights into leadership, stress management, communication, team dynamics, and the importance of training. Through candid discussions, Brin and his team explore opportunities for growth and improvement, highlighting the value of feedback in enhancing leadership skills and business operations. Brin Kline, Shop Owner, Assured Auto Works, Melbourne, FL Carlos Mercado, Lead Technician Matt Cusick, Technician JD Winkler, Service Advisor Jeremy Good, CSR
      Brin's Review Plan (00:02:12) Brin discusses his long-standing plan for a 360-degree review, expressing excitement and nervousness about the process. Initial Employee Feedback (00:05:17) Employees introduce themselves, discuss their roles, and provide initial feedback on Bryn's leadership and communication style. Brin's Leadership and Recognition (00:06:42) Employees share their experiences with Brin's recognition and feedback style, highlighting his quiet but supportive approach. Brin's Problem-Solving and Approachability (00:08:53) Employees discuss Brin's willingness to solve problems and his approachability in addressing their needs. Innovation and Motivation (00:11:01) Employees acknowledge Brin's encouragement of innovation and positive influence on their professional growth and motivation. Direction and Advice (00:12:27) Employees affirm Brin's clear communication about the company's direction and his availability for advice and guidance. Conflict Management (00:14:50) Employees discuss Brin's role in managing conflicts and providing support for resolving issues within the team. Celebration of Wins (00:17:16) Employees share their experiences of celebrating wins as a team, highlighting Bryn's support for acknowledging successes. The small wins (00:18:04) Brin and the team discuss the importance of celebrating small victories in the shop and recognizing the challenges in the automotive industry. Celebrating achievements (00:21:20) The team emphasizes the significance of acknowledging and celebrating achievements, even small ones, in the shop to boost morale. Trust and company culture (00:22:06) The discussion revolves around the high degree of trust within the company and the value of the company's culture. Access to training (00:23:58) Brin's commitment to providing access to training for the team, including support for attending conferences and joining training programs like Toastmasters. Stress management (00:28:26) The team discusses how Brin proactively manages stress within the company and encourages employees to take time for themselves. Opportunities for collaboration (00:34:25) The team shares experiences of collaborating with Bryn to improve customer experience, policies, and procedures, highlighting Brin's encouragement for collaboration in problem-solving and diagnostics. Brin's Reflection on Feedback (00:36:20) Brin reflects on feedback and the importance of long-term thinking and motivation for his team. Brin's Training Approach (00:37:17) Brin discusses his approach to training and empowering his team to make decisions, emphasizing the importance of open communication. Brin's Leadership Improvement (00:38:17) Employees provide feedback on areas where Bryn can improve as a leader, including stress management, setting deadlines, and communication. Brin's Reflection on Employee Feedback (00:44:55) Brin reflects on the feedback received from employees, acknowledging the areas for improvement and expressing gratitude for their input. Brin's Acknowledgment and Praise for Employees (00:49:12) Brin acknowledges and praises his employees for their work, expressing gratitude and trust in their abilities. Thanks to our Partner, NAPA TRACS NAPA TRACS will move your shop into the SMS fast lane with onsite training and six days a week of support and local representation. Find NAPA TRACS on the Web at http://napatracs.com/ Thanks to our Partner, Auto-Fix Auto Shop Coaching Proven Auto Shop Coaching with Results. Over 61 Million in ROI with an Average ROI of 9x. Find Coach Chris Cotton at AutoFix Auto Shop Coaching on the Web at https://autoshopcoaching.com/ Thanks to our Partner, Today's Class Optimize training with Today's Class: In just 5 minutes daily, boost knowledge retention and improve team performance. Find Today's Class on the web at https://www.todaysclass.com/ Connect with the Podcast: -Follow on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RemarkableResultsRadioPodcast/ -Join Our Private Facebook Community: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1734687266778976 -Subscribe on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/carmcapriotto -Follow on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/carmcapriotto/ -Follow on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/remarkableresultsradiopodcast/ -Follow on X (Twitter): https://twitter.com/RResultsBiz -Visit the Website: https://remarkableresults.biz/ -Join our Insider List: https://remarkableresults.biz/insider -All books mentioned on our podcasts: https://remarkableresults.biz/books -Our Classroom page for personal or team learning: https://remarkableresults.biz/classroom -Buy Me a Coffee: https://www.buymeacoffee.com/carm -The Aftermarket Radio Network: https://aftermarketradionetwork.com -Special episode collections: https://remarkableresults.biz/collections            
      Click to go to the Podcast on Remarkable Results Radio
    • By Changing The Industry
      The Basics of Owning An Auto Repair Shop - Advocacy Over Sales in Auto Repair
    • By carmcapriotto
      Matt Fanslow and Chris Jones discuss the similarities between sports and business, focusing on talent development, leadership, and team dynamics. The conversation covers the importance of creating a winning culture, being open to new opportunities, and the impact of long-term thinking versus short-term decisions. They also touch on the role of leadership in fostering a supportive environment and the parallels between a football team's offense and defense with the front and back of the shop in auto repair.
      Show Notes
      The parallels between sports and business (00:00:40)  Mark Cuban's practicality and work ethic (00:01:11)  Examples of underestimated talent in sports (00:11:13)  The importance of work environment (00:15:42)  Players leaving toxic environments (00:17:19)  Players restructuring contracts (00:18:39) Finding talent beyond high draft picks (00:22:21)  Building a winning culture (00:26:00)  Isaiah Thomas and the New York Knicks (00:32:13)  Aging Player Syndrome (00:34:35)  Creating an Environment for Talent to Succeed (00:35:52)  Impact of Compensation Structure (00:37:15)  Respect for Time and Collaboration (00:39:28)  Leadership and Culture in Sports and Business (00:40:37)  Cultural Impact of Key Players (00:43:24)  Leadership and Passion for Winning (00:47:42)  The comparison between football and shop management (00:48:25)  Managing and improving shop performance (00:50:36)  Evaluating talent and maintaining a positive culture (00:54:51)  The role of the coach in shaping the team's culture (00:58:45)  The intense competitiveness and dedication of Michael Jordan (01:03:05) Draymond Green's Incident (01:05:17)  Warriors Culture (01:06:32) Durant's Leadership (01:07:30)   
      Thanks to our Partner, NAPA Autotech napaautotech.com
      Email Matt: [email protected]
      Diagnosing the Aftermarket A - Z YouTube Channel HERE
      Aftermarket Radio Network: https://aftermarketradionetwork.com/
      Click to go to the Podcast on Remarkable Results Radio

  • Our Sponsors

  • Create New...