Community Auto Care

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Giving back and supporting the local community is a huge benefit for service providers and their customers. Photo Huw Evans

Giving back can pay big dividends for service providers.

While our industry focuses on supplying parts and servicing and repairing vehicles, the term “auto care”, in some ways is a misnomer. In essence, the industry really is about people. And how successful your business is tends to come down to whether people like you and trust you and by extension, how that impacts their decision to work with you for their auto care needs.

While having a loyal customer base is something every service provider aspires to, cultivating new clients is always an essential part of the business. And often, that requires effective marketing to differentiate yourself from your competitors.

Standing apart

In today’s environment, going the extra mile and providing value that sets you apart is often a very effective way to not only attract new customers but also retain them.

Doug Reevey, Owner-operator, Autotec NAPA AUTOPRO, Saint John, N.B. Photo Huw Evans

At Autotec NAPA AUTO PRO in Saint John, New Brunswick, Owner-operator Doug Reevey has utilized a number of different strategies to promote his business. His perspective is perhaps different than most since he prefers to support his customers through loyalty programs and incentives, instead of largely relying on awareness and outreach marketing campaigns.

“We felt it was important to partner with well-known, established brands,” he explains. A good example includes the store’s arrangement with CAA and Aeroplan, which provided discounts to customers who were CAA members and point rewards for frequent flyer members every time they paid for service or repair work. 

When the frequent flyer program was no longer available due to corporate realignment changes, Reevey says the concept had proved both sound and popular with customers, and so decided to partner with a local restaurant to provide customers with gift certificates to that establishment for spending a specific amount of money on vehicle servicing and repairs. The result helped both the service centre and also the restaurant, indirectly promoting business within the local community while providing added value for customers of both establishments. “It’s not something we actively promoted,” Reevey explains, “But it has served as a great tool for referrals because it starts conversations and provides support for that restaurant as well as Autotec.”

Significant difference

At the Midas location at 221 Mapleview Drive West in Barrie, Ontario, Owner-operator Anil Kumar has also taken an active role in the local community. “When we first acquired this location, we looked at ways to get involved,” he says. One initiative was to work with the local food bank, whereby one dollar from every oil change the shop performed was donated to the food bank. The program has been very successful, and Kumar says that when he’s able to present the food bank with a cheque, it provides a real change in perspective knowing that every little contribution helps—accumulating to make a significant difference in the lives of people within the local community.

Other initiatives include donating packages and gifts for volunteers to deliver to families and single parents in need as well as providing turkeys to people during Thanksgiving and the Christmas holidays, including using a refrigerated truck to deliver them. Kumar says that supporting the community is essential, especially in today’s environment where many people are struggling with the high cost of living.

Besides working with the local food bank and giving back via charitable donations and initiatives, Kumar says that customer appreciation days have also been a great way to build visibility for his business in the community. 

“We do these events on a regular basis,” he explains, “and everyone’s invited.” His Midas location has hosted car clubs and community events and even puts on complimentary neighbourhood barbeques where anybody can stop by. “Even if somebody is walking down the street nearby, they can come and join us and we’ll give them a hot dog and a coffee,” says Kumar.

He provides courtesy cars to his customers when their vehicles are being repaired, and is also involved in donating vehicles to families that need them. Kumar recalls an incident where during a conversation with a customer at his shop, he heard about a family that was going through some tough times and needed a vehicle. The family was invited to the business, with the idea of purchasing a used car, and ultimately were surprised when a vehicle was presented to them, fully inspected and ready to go, with one year’s complimentary maintenance at no charge. Another customer whose vehicle was considered too far gone to properly repair also received a courtesy car. 

Brand and business 

These kinds of initiatives demonstrate the importance of giving back and supporting the community and reflect positively on the business and the brand it represents.

At the Midas corporate level, Mark Pereira, Division Vice President for Canada, explains that the organization actively supports its franchisees in giving back to the communities in which they operate. “It’s always something that’s been important to us as a brand,” he says. A good example is Project Spark, a corporate-wide initiative across Canada and the U.S. where Midas franchisees and their teams assist families facing difficulties by providing them with the gift of safe, reliable transportation.

“We’re always happy and willing to do things like this, and it just goes to show you that there’s a face to every shop and active involvement in the local community,” Pereira explains.

He notes that there’s a reason why a Midas facility is located in a particular neighbourhood and that despite the corporate branding, every facility has its own, unique personality.

“We always encourage our shops to do what they can to be involved in the community because when you give, it always comes back in spades to any business owner,” says Pereira. “Whether you happen to own a bakery, a restaurant, or an automotive service centre, if you support and are involved in your local community, that community in turn will support you. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.”


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