The Next Gen Launches a 2nd Shop with Auto Repair Software
The first generation
Almost 40 years ago, Akio Tsuchida came from Japan with a little money in his pocket. He started working on Toyotas in high school then a garage where his mentor sold him on the American dream. Seven years later, he bought his plane ticket to America.
Young Aki went to work for an independent garage in Gardena, where he met his future business partner Mas Masuda. After two years, Toyota Corporate hired him to work at Carson Toyota. Meanwhile, the duo worked nights and weekends on friends’ cars to save up enough to open Tokyo Automotive in 1978. That Buena Park location that still stands today.
In 1987, they expanded into the eastern Anaheim area, opening a 7-bay location in the city of Placentia. Aki’s wife Kimiko also worked at the shop, taking care of the books, the cleaning and the techs.
The second generation
Tatsu graduated with a degree in business administration then worked at Jackson Hole and Mammoth Mountain resorts to “experience life.” Next, he moved to Japan to teach English and connect with his cultural background.
“In 2008, I returned with full intentions to take over the shop,” Tatsu says. “I started wrenching for Dad, not making many changes and getting a sense of the shop.”
However, a records crash in 2014 sped up his plans to make the shop his own. Of course, that required adding a shop management system. “It was time to replace the DOS and hand-written work orders,” Tatsu says. “My parents weren’t computer savvy and couldn’t keep up with the software for auto repair shops.”
For a while, Tatsu tried to wrench and do service writing so he hired his first service writer. At the time, Tokyo Automotive relied on a clunky shop management system that would crash if techs uploaded eight low-quality photos. Meanwhile, Tatsu met and “rubbed elbows with shop owners who were doing it right” via ASCCA and a 20 Group. That group included Shop-Ware’s auto shop management software founder and CEO Carolyn Coquillette.
In 2019, Tokyo Automotive had a record-breaking year and crossed the $1-million mark, even with the old clunky software. After that, Tatsu sought out the best auto repair software and switched the shop to Shop-Ware – then COVID hit. Even though sales dropped 21 percent in 2020, he describes it as “the perfect time to go paperless and contactless.”
“It’s amazing how much better Shop-Ware is by leaps and bounds than my old system. I don’t have to tether computers and attach them to a mainframe,” Tatsu says. “With my old system, ROs and inspections went out in separate emails. Shop-Ware them together in a seamless way.”
Adding a second shop and the best auto repair software
For years, Tatsu had seen older shop owners retiring and selling their shops but asking for too much for them. However, the right one came along in Costa Mesa and he bought it on March 14. Of course, he immediately set it up on Shop-Ware.
With the second shop, he has added eight more bays and the option to put in three more lifts. He kept the same four techs and single service writer but sees a distinct difference between the two locations. The Costa Mesa shop gets a lot more walk-ins with an average RO of $260 and car count ranging from 170 to 290.
To compare, his original shop has an ARO or $1,200 and car counts of 70 to 100 high-quality customers who buy everything suggested. As the best auto repair software, Shop-Ware makes it easy for him to stay on top of his auto shop’s KPIs.
“I love that I can manage both shops from one computer,” Tatsu says. “I’m happy with how it works without customizing it to my shops. It’s plenty dazzling as it is.”
With new customers, the Tokyo crew tends to find many items overlooked by other shops. As a result, they use digital vehicle inspection 2.0 also known as DVX™ (Digital Vehicle Experience) to show them what’s wrong.
“I’m very blunt with them,” Tatsu says. “We are not the cheapest shop and we fix everything while we’re in there.”
Beforehand, he spends five to 10 minutes getting to know customers and what they need. “That lets people meet us and get to know who’s working on their car,” Tatsu says. “It also drives a wedge between us and the cheapest shop.”
Even if they leave with a high bill, they submit great reviews, he adds. And 40 percent of them come back for more.
The family legacy continues
Tatsu’s parents still come into the shop every day so it’s still very much a family business. Also, on his homepage, he features a video of his daughter Kiyone doing an oil service in an oversized shirt.
At the end, she tells viewers “If you don’t have the tools to do it or the time, let my dad do it.” Will there be a third generation taking over the shop? We’ll have to wait and see if she or her brother make the leap.
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