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Empowering Auto Care

Looking Under the Hood of the Auto Industry

Keeping your car on the road requires many moving parts (both literally and figuratively) to work together in harmony. We spoke with leaders from several different facets of the auto industry about what motorists can do to save time and money, and maintain peace of mind while keeping their vehicles running smoothly.

Steve Proetz

President of Operations, CarShield

What are some steps people can take to protect their car?

It’s important to perform all of the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance. While that’s a good way to prevent many issues from occurring unnecessarily, it’s also important to protect your vehicle with a vehicle service contract. That’s because most breakdowns happen after the factory warranty ends. If you have coverage from CarShield, you will be protected after the warranty expires.

When choosing a mechanic, what are things drivers should take into account?

Two things drivers often consider when choosing a mechanic or repair technician are price and convenience. But they should also think about the quality of the work being provided. With CarShield, one of the best features is that you can use any ASE Certified Mechanic that you want. You can even return to your dealership for repairs. The best part is that you’ll only have to pay your deductible on covered repairs.

How do people decide what coverage they need for their vehicles?

We help drivers with that. Once we get a few basic details about the customer and their vehicle, we are able to build a custom plan to suit them and their driving needs. Not every driver is the same, yet we always strive to get them the best possible coverage. In fact, one thing many drivers don’t realize is that even if they are outside of their factory warranty, we can often get them New Car Protection that offers the same level of coverage as their previous warranty.  

Ford McAlexander

Sales Program Manager, Lucas Oil

How does the way you take care of your vehicle affect its performance?

Although changing your oil may not be the most exciting aspect of owning a vehicle, it can be one of the most important responsibilities you have as a vehicle owner. The oil in your vehicle is responsible for many parts of your vehicle’s performance including its fuel efficiency, engine performance, and overall long-term health.

All major motor oil manufacturers have a philosophy on what makes the best motor oil but fortunately consumers have an organization that sets oil standards called the American Petroleum Institute (API). The API certifies if an oil meets a certain specification and viscosity, like today’s specification called SN Plus. If you see a circle with API in the center of it, like a donut, that means the oil meets a certain specification. Your vehicle owner’s manual will specify which API oil your engine requires.

What are some signs that a car is underperforming because of a lack of maintenance?

There can be all sorts of red flags that may arise in a vehicle due to poor maintenance. One common red flag is that your oil-level indicator light regularly flashes meaning the oil level is low (you may also see oil on the ground beneath your vehicle). This means you have some sort of leak within your engine oil system.

Although it is worrisome, it doesn’t necessarily mean your engine needs to be replaced or have major repairs. We suggest using our Engine Oil Stop Leak or Heavy Duty Oil Stabilizer in those cases, since our product helps prevent minor leaks and improve thermal stability in the oil system. These can solve those minor issues and reduce wear on your engine as well. Other indicators can be a general decrease in performance or mileage, where we would suggest using a fuel additive in addition to an oil additive.

What should people keep in mind when changing the oil in their vehicles?

There shouldn’t be too many issues when changing your oil, however, you should first review your owner’s manual if your vehicle requires any specific product specification and the engine’s required oil viscosity, including its API specification. An owner’s manual will also share helpful tips regarding fluids if you live in a particularly cold or warm area.

Next, you should consider your vehicle’s mileage. There are high-mileage motor oils and oil additives that are designed specifically for your older engine to help improve its performance. After you have completed your research and made your choice of oil, consider using an oil additive. Oil additives are similar to vitamins for your body. The oil additives help improve performance of any motor oil, whether conventional or synthetic.

Paul Faletti, Jr.

President and CEO, NCM® Associates, Inc

What would be your advice to young people looking to pursue a career in retail automotive? 

Regardless of your industry of choice, select one in which you have a passion for the product or service you are representing. At a minimum, you have to truly believe in what you are doing. Your superiors will notice and so will your customers. The residual effect of this passion is that you’ll enjoy your time in the role, better absorb the experience and knowledge of others around you, and turn a job into a career with opportunities for progression.

What are some major steps someone in business can take to be successful? 

From my experience, there are two key pieces of advice that will open doors for you, and they are: 1) Be a great listener, and 2) treat each person as your peer. Business is all about human interaction, and you’ll win every time if people see that you are interested in them and you treat them with respect. 

How can a business prepare for tough economic conditions? 

If you want to be prepared for tough times, you need to ensure this goal is a component of your daily operating procedure and not merely an exercise in preparation. When times get tough, those who have actively and intentionally prepared will excel and separate themselves from the pack. If you want to be a leader in tough times, plan to prepare each and every day. 

Matt Bernhard

Head of Sales, OnDeck Capital

What are the most important financial factors someone should consider before starting a small business in auto care?

Starting an auto care business comes with some fixed upfront costs. Before starting, put together a plan for what you’ll need and how much capital you have on hand to invest in your business. Make sure you have enough funding to outfit a garage and get the necessary certifications (i.e., state agencies, EPA).

Additionally, you’ll want to budget for purchasing replacement car parts and other inventory up front. If you need to borrow to cover the initial investment, make sure you explore all of your loan options, from your bank to online lenders. 

Once you get your business up and running, you’ll still need to keep funds on hand to manage your cash flow — for example, some of your customers may pay by invoicing or you may order inventory in bulk.  Make sure you can manage the day-to-day and take advantage of opportunities.

Do you have any tips on how small business owners can best manage their finances?

In general, one of the best ways to manage your finances as a small business owner is to expect (and prepare for) the unexpected. Things are always going to come up when you run a small business, whether that’s a piece of equipment breaking down, a slow month, or just managing your cash flow. Having easy access to funds — through a line of credit, for example — can make these unexpected expenses less disruptive.

What questions should an auto repair business owner ask themselves when considering a business loan?

When considering taking on financing, there are a few questions you’ll want to ask. Do you know what your ROI (return on investment) will be? What is the payback period on the investment and can you match that to the loan terms?  This will help you figure out what type of loan is the right one for your business.

Additionally, you should check with your lender to see if they report your payments to credit bureaus, which helps you build your business credit profile. A strong credit profile helps with future borrowing, vendor agreements, etc., so working with a lender that reports your payments (as OnDeck does) can really help boost your credit file health.

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