Repair Shop Newsmaker Q&A: George Witt

Jan. 1, 2020
George Witt is the owner of George Witt Service, Inc. in Lincoln, Neb.
George Witt is the owner of George Witt Service, Inc. in Lincoln, Neb. He is a veteran of the automotive business, with more than 30 years of experience as a technician and as a dealership service advisor, service manager and parts manager. Witt strives to provide customers with quality service and educate them about their vehicles. Witt is also a paid consultant to several new car dealerships, and has given talks to industry groups across the country. Most recently, he was recognized as a certified instructor for the Automotive Management Institute (AMI), for which he has developed classes in service marketing and service advisor skills. Witt is a passionate proponent of education, and travels around the country teaching other shop owners and service advisors how to run a successful business.

What is the most underperformed and overlooked preventive maintenance measure that consumers need to have performed on their cars?

I believe the most underperformed prevention is a comprehensive vehicle inspection done by a qualified technician on a regular basis. The reason I say this is that my experience shows that many auto service outlets are selling with an agenda, rather than addressing themselves to the actual needs of the car and the consumer.

For example, there are far too many "flushes" being sold because a business bought flush machines to increase its sales and return on investment. I've sent a young woman to different places to get an oil change just to see what technicians would say her car needed, and was horrified by the results. The car in question had tires on it that were severely dry rotted in the sidewall area and stabilizer bushings that had fallen out. In eight visits to eight different shops to price oil change services, not one technician recommended tires or stabilizer bushings, yet these items were clearly needed. One tire store told her she needed the transmission fluid flushed, but didn't mention anything about her tires.

My experience inspecting cars is that there are a lot of things the average car legitimately needs. If a technician shows the car owner what is wrong, it can be an easy way to increase sales and return on investment. Print some "inspection sheets" to sell inspections, or come up with a short, easy inspection you can do on the cars that are in your shop. In too many cases, techs are selling the work they like to do and ignoring the things they don't like to do.

Why is this maintenance going unperformed?

I can only guess, but it may have to do with a shop's service advisors not wanting to go to the trouble to make a proper estimate and present the options to the customer. Perhaps they get some push back from the customer. But seeing is believing. So if you can just take the customer back to the car and let him or her see the corroded battery cables and cracked CV boots, or feel the soft spots in the hoses and the loose suspension parts, you'll have an easy sale.

Better computer programs and parts lookup can help make estimates easier, also. It may be because shops are trying to have one service advisor take care of four techs and that's just too much work for one advisor.

Are brand names a big issue for your customer? Or, are they focused more on the bottom line and getting the repair done as quickly as possible?

This will depend entirely on the shop's market position. Quality shops will have no problem selling quality parts. In fact, the better shops don't really care about the cost of the part. They've learned that quality parts fit the car and install easily and last a long time. Quality parts represent the lowest overall cost and the greatest value. Saving money on parts is false economy if the part takes too long to install or doesn't work and has to be redone.

Cheap parts are one of the greatest threats to our industry right now. The parts companies think we want cheap parts and the reality is just the opposite. The tech forums that I read show techs are concerned that "what used to be in the box isn't in the box any more." This causes great alarm among shop owners. We can't rely on some brand names to be a quality part any more. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't.

For this reason, my shop hardly buys any parts locally due to poor quality. We buy nearly all OEM or OES (Original Equipment Supplier) parts. They fit, they last and they work. It's too bad, because I have four of the biggest names in retail parts within a half of a mile from my shop, yet I have an extensive OEM/OES inventory that I use to fix the cars in my shop.

The worst part of this whole dilemma is that the better the part, the more profit it will generate. The cheaper the part, the less profit. It makes no sense to me that there isn't a line of parts dedicated to quality first for the professional shop.

As parts become more sophisticated, and the replacement of parts become less frequent as a result, do you find your business adversely affected? Have you had to adjust your business strategies accordingly?

It's true that we replace fewer parts today than we used to. However, there are many more technical aspects to a car today. Now, we have anti-lock brakes, vehicle stability controls, air bag systems, computer controls, computer networks, evaporative emission systems and on and on to repair or maintain.

The wide availability of factory tooling and factory information has made it easy for any shop to work on virtually everything they want to work on and not have to send things to the dealer anymore.

Training is more available than ever; all you have to do is go when it's offered. There's a lot of on-line training available from the manufacturers, as well.

The shop that dedicates itself to the "hi-tech" side of the repair business can be much more profitable than the shop that focuses on the generic stuff.

Many consumer reports show that women often take car of the car maintenance for their families. Do you have any specific training or strategies in place to help your technicians and counterstaff communicate more effectively with women and/or to garner more business from women?

You bet. I write a monthly newsletter to my customers. I include simple car tips for each season, new developments in the industry, informative articles about maintenance and let them know about convenience and quality features of my shop. It really makes the phone ring and sets us apart from other shops.

I also have a woman service advisor on the front counter. In addition, I hold a "Make Friends With Your Car Class" for women several times a year. It's a big hit with my customers and lets them know I respect women and want to work with them.

I have "kid sized" chairs in the write up area. Kids are magnetically attracted to things their own size and have to sit in the chairs. This keeps the kids busy long enough to let Mom have her car written up. I have a toy box in my customer lounge, two kid-sized recliners and a kid-sized card table. The kids love coming to George's, and Mom can get a break while the kids entertain themselves in the waiting area.

Do you market any services specifically toward women, or employ any specific techniques to gain women's business? Is so, explain.

We track 16 individual maintenance items, based on time and mileage. On the bottom of our repair order it shows the date and miles each was last done and the date and miles it's due to be done again. Items that are okay are in black, those items due soon are in green and items due now are printed in red.

We not only track the standard stuff, we also track wiper inserts (every 12 months) and battery replacement as a maintenance item every three years. Why wait until it quits?

Sponsored Recommendations

Access Carside OEM Repair Data with MOTOR TruSpeed

Now available on all Autel MaxiSYS Ultra Series tools, MOTOR TruSpeed Repair delivers expanded OEM service and repair data within days of being published by

ADAS Case Study: From 10 Calibrations a Month to Over 10 A Day

Originally published by Vehicle Service Pros, March 26, 2024

Autel MaxiTPMS TS900: 3-in-1 TPMS Tablet

Originally published by Tire Review, April 4, 2024

Ask The Expert: The Basics & Benefits of Bringing ADAS Calibrations In-house

Originally published by Vehicle Service Pros, March 26, 2024

Voice Your Opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Vehicle Service Pros, create an account today!