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Are you ready to sign up and become a Hybrid Shop?


Joe Marconi

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Joe, it is very cool technology. I did look into it, but I just did not see enough potential for me in southern NH. I have not had a customer with a battery failure that was out of warranty yet. Also there is now some aftermarket availability on these batteries.

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I think my family and I might have been among the first handful of shops to sign up as Hybrid Shop franchisees. My son and his wife heard the initial pitch at the ATI Superconference two years ago and were sold on the underlying concept. Later that year we attended the initial training that was held at Curry Automotive in Northern Virginia and stroked a check for the down payment. That summer our equipment was delivered (they do offer financing) and Dr. Mark Quarto came to our shop with Bob Curry who is now President of the operation and trained us. We have an exclusive agreement for a 25-mile radius, which really gives us the southern half of Virginia and North Carolina because there is not enough hybrid population nearby to support another shop.

 

The battery conditioning process really works, except for Hondas. We were seriously disappointed early in the game to find that Honda batteries would appear to condition, only to come back in a few weeks with codes for pack degradation. Turns out the Honda batteries are technically inferior. Add to that the fact that they have inadequate cooling that causes them to be damaged during normal operation. Toyotas, GM, Ford, on the other hand are very robust and reliable and respond well to conditioning. Bottom line is that the Hybrid Shop process produces a reliable, balanced documented battery that operates at approx 95% of original capacity. I have yet to see an aftermarket battery, including the dealer replacements, that can make that claim. The margins on this work are, well, fantastic. Add to that the fact that this is very clean, safe work that techs love.

 

But the real benefit is that this brings a whole new population of customers to your shop. Hybrid owners, more than any other segment of the driving population, have felt that they are shackled to the dealer for all of their repairs and maintenance. We now have a steady stream of hybrids coming to us for routine maintenance and repairs.

 

The Hybrid Shop management has been supportive, but hands-off. They don't place any demands on us that are typical with a full franchise (this is a fractional franchise). Technical support is excellent. Dr. Quarto and his staff at AR&D are extremely well versed in all of the technical aspects of this process and respond to tech queries very quickly. They offer (and expect you to attend) SAE certification training in hybrid/electrical technology.

 

I was talking to another shop owner who was considering joining and the subject of the cost of the equipment came up. I tossed out the current figure and he said "Huh, that's an alignment machine!" He was right - most of us consider that a necessity and we make it happen.

 

Anyone considering doing this who wants to talk one-on-one about our experience can email me at [email protected] and I will provide my cell phone number. I'm just thankful that I'm not going to wake up tomorrow an find that my competitor down the street beat me to this opportunity

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I've talked to the Hybrid shop people many many times. I even attended a class on using their equipment to refurbish the battery packs. Very likely this will be something to think about. They did do a case study to see how many hybrids are in my area and their numbers came back very strong. So, I did my own checking, calling dealer friends, and sales people. The numbers I came up with were totally different. In fact, the number of sold hybrids was half of what they showed.

 

The next thing I did was check with the service departments at some dealers. Very few service calls on the batteries or the regenerating systems.

 

My opinion; "This is with out a doubt a great concept. However, I don't think there is a market large enough yet (in my area) to invest that much money into it. The mile radius guarantee they offer sounds great, but what it states is that they will not put another hybrid shop within your area, but that doesn't stop a competitor to open up a hybrid store from another company doing the exact same thing next to yours."

 

If I was younger, and had the ambition to stay in this biz for another ... say 20 years ... I might consider it. But, for the time being I believe there isn't enough market for it unless you're in a large city area with lots and lots of these cars.

 

An example for ya; I had a hybrid (Honda) in a few weeks ago with codes for a failing battery pack. The car had over a 100k on the odometer. Once I gave him a quote (a very low profit quote too) the owner couldn't see putting that much money in a car with that many miles, even though I did my best to explain to the owner that the engine doesn't have that many miles on it. There has to be a change of attitude by the consumers out there that a car with 100k is worn out and worthless when it comes to these hybrids resale value. (that includes banks and insurance companies).

 

FYI - O'Reillys is selling recond. batteries at a price similar to the refurbished hybrid shop batteries too.

 

Is it worth the 69k? That's a big question... As fast as technology changes I'm also concerned about how long their equipment will be viable and not become obsolete. Hard to dish out that much cash. I'm waiting to see some return of investment dollars before I do anything.

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THS did give us an estimate of the hybrid population in our franchise area. I think it was a little bit optimistic and I don't have any idea where they got the data. We are not overwhelmed with hybrid business, but it has turned into a nice profit center for our shop.

This conditioning process only works on nickel metal hydride batteries. Toyota and others seem to be locked into that technology for at least the near future. Some of the new EV / HEV vehicles are starting to use lithium ion but it's going to take a long time for that technology to populate the market. In the meantime, Prius batteries are aging rapidly and Prius owners seem, more than other car owners, willing to spend big chunks of money to keep their little babies going. One of the first cars we did was a Gen 1 Prius that we converted to gen2 cell packs and replaced the transmission to the tune of 3500 dollars on a car with 250,000 miles on it.

Our Honda customers seem to be split 50 / 50 on their willingness to spend 2800 dollars to put a new battery in their car, but we have done a few of them.

You could go broke and crazy trying to second guess your customers' willingness to spend large amounts of money on their car. You give them the estimate and wait for the answer. Sometimes the answer will surprise you.

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  • 1 month later...

I work on hybrids, no membership fee. Prius batteries last what, 150k-200k miles? Dorman makes a reman, takes an hour or so to install. Simple really. No forklift or electrician needed. I think when hybrids first came out there was a lot of mystery, now anyone with YouTube knows you take out the fuse and the bolts and your done.

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Alfredauto is correct. Anybody with tools can remove/install a hybrid battery, but any shop that goes into this without safety training and equipment is facing a major liability. Keep in mind these are lethal voltages we are talking about. When you turn off the master switch, the car is supposed to self-discharge - but does it? If not, those lethal voltages are still there.

 

With THS you get that training and more. Training covers control systems, inverters, DC to DC converters as well as drivetrain and battery theory. A week of theory and practical for your techs plus you get to send a tech to SAE cert training. Then you have ongoing access to expert support people.

 

As regards aftermarket batteries, I challenge any aftermarket supplier to let me run one of their off-the-shelf units through the THS testing process to document whether it is in balance and capable of supplying rated power and energy. Every battery I condition comes with documentation to show that it is performing at 95% of new specs. Also, these batteries discharge while sitting in storage. The battery should be charged to 60% of full capacity just before installation.

 

It's analogous to engine replacement. An aftermarket battery is like a used engine from a junkyard you trust. A THS battery is like a remanufactured engine from a reputable machine shop/supplier. Each cell pack has been tested for total performance (not just voltage) just prior to installation. That performance is documented and the warranty is backed by a nationwide chain of THS shops. The THS process and equipment let you control the quality of the product you are installing.

 

There is a lot of discussion on this forum about providing value for our customers. This is a classic example.

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      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.
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