Hans Wittler’s Second Family Shop Bounces Back with Class
Roger and Andreas Wittler learned both sides of auto repair from their father, under the hood and behind the counter. Since opening a second location just before COVID-19 hit, they have learned to adapt to survive. Thankfully, they had the right automotive repair information software to help them recover.
“Three months ago, I thought I would lose everything,” says Andreas, Vice President of Hans Wittler’s Automotive. “COVID nearly put us out of business but now it’s keeping us in business.”
With fewer people buying new cars, drivers take more care to fix their cars, he notes. That trend, plus some smart business decisions and shop management software, have helped his auto repair shop thrive.
Meet Hans Wittler’s Automotive
Hans Wittler and his wife Christel moved to the United States from Germany in 1958. As a factory-trained technician, he worked at a dealership, with a focus on Porsche, Audi, and Volkswagen.
In 1975, Hans decided he wanted to offer a higher level of personal service. He set up Hans Wittler’s Automotive in Albuquerque, New Mexico based on his own ideals for a quality service experience.
For 24 years, Christel and Hans billed their shop as the best place for German auto repair in New Mexico. Andreas remembers helping out by answering phones at the shop by age 12.
When Hans died in 1999, his sons took over the family-run operation.
Over the past six years, they changed their focus to high-tech modern automobiles, including BMW, Mercedes and Mini. Soon, the shop was running at full capacity. The brothers added Shop-Ware to their workflow in 2018 to keep track of all the cars coming and going.
Riding the roller coaster
For the first few years, Andreas admitted he kept his head down and kept working “in the business.”
“We owned it but we were kind of working for ourselves,” he noted. He joined a 20 Group and met other shop owners trying to transition to be more hands off. His 20 Group included Shop-Ware founder and CEO Carolyn Coquillette.
Through the group, Andreas met a business coach, whom he hired to work with more closely. Those skills came in handy during a a crisis he couldn’t predict.
In 2019, Andreas found a great location for a second shop and leapt at the opportunity to buy the building. He would run the new shop while Roger would take over the original site, with eight staff at each location.
The renovations took longer than expected but the shop finally opened in late 2019. At first, a slow trickle of customers barely kept the shop’s three auto techs busy. Then COVID led to lockdowns that kept everyone at home for months.
“We were on thin ice during COVID. Lucky enough, we are catching up,” Andreas says. “It’s been a roller coaster. I want fewer highs and lows so we can get to an even keel.”
These days, the shop’s five auto repair techs are back in action.
What business advice helped his auto repair shop?
“You have to expect accountability from your employees, set goals and make sure they know you’re paying attention,” Andreas says.
“I help out a bit but I’m not pulling out engines or anything. You cannot do that. You’re just going to burn out in no time flat. You have to have some kind of structure for someone to come in and work for you. Otherwise, they will burn out and leave you.“
At this point, Andreas is halfway through his three-year plan and pleased with the progress he’s made. “The education never ends,” says the man who left his sociology degree behind to work with his family.
The role of automotive repair information software
Four years ago, Andreas invested in Shop-Ware after getting frustrated with a “user-unfriendly” automotive repair business software.
“Everything was difficult,” Andreas recalls. “With Shop-Ware, you can go in and add an employee in about two seconds. When we first set it up, I tinkered around for 30 to 45 minutes. By then, I had everything done that had to be done.”
He marvels at how fast the platform changes to keep up with the times.
“Everything is intuitive. It makes my job easy, especially hiring. I send them a link and they log in themselves. It’s also easy to teach people how to use it without tech support. To me, that’s the most important thing. That’s what I love about it.”
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