The Right Tools for the Business

April 6, 2012
Customers' needs guide a shop's tool investment

Curry’s Auto Service has nine locations in northern Virginia, all owned by the company’s founder Matt Curry. We visited the Chantilly location, which manager Allan Harlan told us has been open for 10 years and is the oldest location in the group. Prior to joining the staff, Harlan said he had been a customer for five years, “but never felt like a customer. We don’t close the doors here; you can go out and see the shop.”

Full coverage

He started visiting Curry’s when he was modifying his Volkswagen GTi. “I like performance, and of all the other shops I visited, Curry’s is the only one that had the GIAC performance software for VWs, so I was here a lot.”

In fact, a large portion of the shop’s business is European models, but Harlan says they work on everything. “On any given day we might have a Porsche Turbo in one bay and Mom’s minivan in the next.”

That’s one reason for the wide assortment of tools and equipment in the shop, particularly scan tools.

“I don’t know if we have every single one, but there’s nothing we can’t do. I have Autologic, VAG-COM, Tech II, The Brick, Genisys, some factory scan tools … I don’t have to go to the dealer for anything. In fact, that’s what separates us from the other independents. We are the dealer alternative. I can do anything the dealer can do, and probably better.”

Full training

Harlan considers the dealers his only real competition because there are at least ten dealerships in the area, half of them in a ‘dealer park’ directly behind his shop. But he obviously knows that tools are only part of what he needs because he described the company’s investment in technician training as “considerable.”

Techs also have the opportunity to choose the training they want. “We recently sent one (tech) from each location to California for training with World Pac. One likes German cars so he took lots of Audi and BMW training.”

They also get training from Autologic, Denso and other companies as arranged by their parts suppliers. “We buy training passes from them that allow us to send techs six times a year to different training events.”

Full service

Depending on work load (they’re busier in spring and summer), the shop has either five or six ASE Master Techs. They also have three very busy lube techs who sell a lot of BG Products using fluid exchange machines provided and maintained by BG.

When mounting tires, every tire is balanced using the load force roller on their Hunter wheel balancer (they’ve found a lot of bent wheels that way), and every tire is inflated with nitrogen at no extra charge, just because that’s the way they do it.

Matt Curry opened his first one-man shop only 13 years ago. Three years later he was in the Chantilly location, opened his fourth location after four years and has opened four more locations in just the past two years. His investment in tools, shop equipment and technician training has played a big part in making it easy for his customers to choose him over the dealership without sacrificing capability or quality of service.

Manager Allan Harlan thinks Matt Curry’s business model just might be his most important tool.

Top Ten Tools

  • Technicians.
  • Telephone.
  • Hunter Engineering Road Force wheel balancer.
  • Hunter Engineering alignment equipment.
  • Kaeser air compressor.
  • BG fluid exchange machines.
  • Oil dispenser pumps.
  • Scan tools (Autologic, Tech II, VAG-COM, Genisys).
  • Strut compressor.
  • Customer shuttle vehicle.
About the Author

Jacques Gordon

Jacques Gordon is the former editor-in-chief of PTEN and Professional Distributor magazines. His background includes 10 years as an automotive technician and 10 years in Tier 1 suppliers’ engineering labs testing gaskets, fuel injection systems and emission control systems.

He continues to stay abreast of the latest technical developments through editorial research and technician training seminars. He holds an ASE Master Technician with L1 Certification and a Master Hybrid Technician certification from ACDC.

Jacques has been writing for aftermarket magazines since 1998, and he has earned a reputation as one of the best technical writers in the business. He is a winner of two American Society of Business Press Editor awards and several company editorial awards.

He is currently the video script writer for the CARS Training Network in Ontario, Canada.

Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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