Planning a new business around a growing consumer trend -- and possessing the skill set to make it work -- are two key components of successful entrepreneurship.
Stockton, Calif.-native Jorge Santiago hopes he has what it takes to make a go of his new business, Toyo of Stockton, which opened Oct. 7.
Santiago believes his is the first independent auto repair shop in the region to work exclusively on hybrid vehicles, in particular those manufactured by Toyota, Lexus and Scion.
"If you look across the Valley, there is no other shop which offers hybrid services," said Santiago, 29, who spent a decade working at two Toyota dealerships earning certifications as a Toyota master mechanic and hybrid master technician.
A hybrid vehicle combines an electric motor with a gasoline engine primarily to improve fuel economy.
The Toyota Prius is probably the most well-known example of a hybrid vehicle, and Santiago believes it is also "by far the best. Major repair expenses are very rare. People buy it because they want to save money on gas. You can get 40 to 50 miles per gallon compared to the average car with 20 miles per gallon."
The personable Santiago said he was motivated to give up a well-paying career in Phoenix and return to his hometown to spend more time with his two children, ages 6 and 5, while they are still young. To get into business for himself, he sold his house and cashed out his 401(k) retirement fund.
Among his expenses, he spends $5,000 a year on computer software from Toyota, which keeps him current on all the issues surrounding hybrid vehicles.
He hopes to persuade hybrid owners in particular that they don't have to always return to the dealership for maintenance and repairs. As an incentive, he charges $50 less per hour for labor -- $80 as compared with $130 -- and offers a 12-month, unlimited-mile warranty on all repairs.
"I'm also linked in with the dealership and only use Toyota parts," Santiago said.
Right now, Santiago is the only employee of his business, working as the mechanic, service adviser, answering phone calls and doing all the paperwork. Instead of working on 15 to 20 vehicles a day, he prefers to work on just three to five a day, giving him time to get to know his customers.
"I spend a lot of time with customers. I may close at 5, but I will stay till 8 if you like. My main thing is to build a relationship with customers. Eventually, I will have to hire some help," he said.
Santiago is sharing a garage with an established shop, Prestige Auto Body, until his business grows larger. His hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, with Mondays by appointment only. Information: (209) 390-4507, toyoofstockton.com or email@example.com.
Copyright 2014 - The Record, Stockton, Calif.
It has been a very busy winter for car repair shops.