The state of Tennessee boasts a variety of iconic wonders, not the least of which is a shop that’s nestled just west of the incredibly majestic Blue Ridge mountain range. American & Import Auto Repair is located in Johnson City, a town steeped in the state’s legacy.
For those readers interested in history, William Bean, recognized as Tennessee’s first colonizer, built his cabin along Boone’s Creek near what is now Johnson City in 1769. The city was founded in 1856 by Henry Johnson as a railroad station dubbed “Johnson’s Depot,” serving as a major rail hub for the Southeast.
Today, the area boasts a population of over 63,000, with a healthy mix of both domestic and import vehicles. Johnson City was ranked by Forbes as the “#14 Best Small Place for Business and Careers” and #5 in Kiplinger’s list of the 10 least expensive cities for living in the USA.
American & Import Auto Repair, founded in 2003 by Tim and Kim Smith, offers a general range of automotive service for all makes and models, including European makes that other shops tend to shy away from.
Educating customers and promoting the business goes hand-in-hand. One of the special events that has helped to increase business is an annual Ladies Car Care Clinic (sometimes held twice each year). As owner Tim Smith noted, “This is a big hit and has proven to be extremely popular. Each clinic is attended by 15 to 20 women who are interested in learning about their vehicles and gaining an insight into vehicle maintenance and service. Each clinic runs for two to three hours, with four stations dedicated to specific areas such as how oil changes are handled, undercar inspection, how to jump-start a battery, etc. At the end of the clinic, we then coach the attendees to perform various services on their own vehicles.”
Tim notes, “We follow the golden rule... treat others as you would like to be treated.
“We take the time to educate our customers in terms of what services are required and why. We provide full customer service including providing loaner cars, customer pick-ups, driving them home or to work, whatever is necessary for their convenience. We strive to make their service and repair experience as painless as possible.”
Where do you buy your parts?
“Our primary parts source is Federated. In fact, we were the 2016 Federated Shop of the Year. We also buy from NAPA and WorldPac when necessary. We try to avoid buying from dealers as much as possible, limiting dealer parts purchases to 5% to 10%. They’re trying to take our customers, so we use them as little as possible.”
Tim bases all parts purchases with quality as the number one priority. “Price is always an important variable, but quality is first and foremost. We do not cut corners when it comes to replacement parts.”
What influences your parts buying decisions?
Rank from 0 to 3, with 0 having no influence and 3 having the greatest influence:
Brand name recognition 2
Promotion in racing 0
Perceived quality 3
“We try to read and research to stay informed.”
What do customers want/expect from your shop?
“Great quality repairs and friendly informative staff,” says Tim. “We go the extra mile to help our customers fully understand what a job entails and why a specific service or repair is needed so that they have a better understanding of what they’re paying for.”
What is your approach to technician training?
“We expect our techs to take advantage of training on a continuous basis. They attend most of the local and regional training sessions that are available. Yes, that requires an investment in time, but we’re professionals and constantly strive to keep updated on all of the latest systems and diagnosis/repair techniques.”
How Auto Service Professional magazine benefits your business:
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