Welcome to Wilhelm Auto Repair & Service Centers Arizona
Shop Profile: Destiny Destination
“I didn’t want to have anything to do with it,” maintains Chris Garman, even though he ‘s co-owner of the Wilhelm Automotive chain of service centers in metropolitan Phoenix. “I wanted to be so far away when I was a kid it wasn’t even funny.”
Started in 1928 by Joe Wilhelm, Garman’s grandparents took over in 1978 what was then a single shop in Peoria. They had five sons, all of whom participated in the business; by 1988 Garman’s father began the process of expansion when he opened a second store.
“On the weekends I’d go up to the shop and I would do anything and everything I could do not to actually touch a car,” Garman recollects. “I’d have to pull weeds, sweep and clean up.”
But Garman was destined for the industry. “I was off at college when my uncle Thom approached me in 2000 with an opportunity to work for the family business and go to school at the same time. I didn’t really have any intentions of being a part of the management structure.”
At this point Wilhelm Automotive had three stores, and it wasn’t long before Garman realized he was actually enjoying the work. First he was in charge of the marketing; within a couple of years he was doing the books; by ’05 he was general manager of the company. He finished his MBA, but by now Garman was fully on board, eventually becoming the company’s president.
“There is no average day,” laughs Garman. “My duties include all the planning and budgeting, all the financial authorization, overseeing all of our HR and marketing, as well as our operations manager. Everything else on the support side of it is fully my responsibility. Thom is the Chairman of the Board, so he makes sure I do my job.
“It’s challenging,” he notes. “Working with the family is not always easy. But I take some pride in being part of the third generation.” His father has since retired, but under Garman’s supervision Wilhelm Automotive began expanding again, more than doubling in size as four more locations were added-- and one more is currently under construction.
“We don’t grow quickly, at least by our standards,” explains Garman. “We try to be smart about it. It’s not like we’ve set a mandate; we don’t want two stores every year for the next 10 years. We’ll look at opportunities, and when they make sense we’ll be ready, by making sure we have the staff internally to operate these facilities. Those people are then responsible for running each shop like it’s their own; we give them a lot of autonomy to make decisions. We also like to be involved in our communities by hiring employees from within each one to help be a part of it.”
So what’s the company’s model for expansion? “I can’t divulge that,” Garman exclaims. “That’s the secret sauce! But I can say that we look for areas of growth where the city is expanding. We look for opportunities where we can fit into a community that has the right demographic, and that’s key. We don’t want the super-wealthy, we want a good mix of middle income, middle class Americans who see value in service—that’s our niche. We’re not the cheapest guy on the block, we’re certainly not the most expensive, but we feel that we provide an above-average level of service and value to our customers.”
To oversee this growing enterprise, Garman used to meet regularly with shop managers and “talked a lot,” but about a year ago he decided to create the post of Operations Manager and promote from within. “His responsibility is to work with the stores to make sure they have everything they need,” he reports. “We support them centrally; we have a marketing person, a bookkeeper and a human resources person, all of who help and support each one of our locations with anything they may need.”
It’s roughly around this time that Wilhelm Automotive also began experimenting with various forms of marketing. “We’ve always done a pretty healthy dose of (promotion),” notes Garman, “but after I joined a 20 group last year, I found out that I don’t spend as much money as some other guys that do as much volume as we do.”
Wilhelm Automotive does a fair bit of internet, and have always done direct mail for existing customers, but now they are willing to try some new things. “We make sure that we have in place the ability to measure and track how effective our campaigns are,” Garman explains. “We stick with the things that work, cut and trim the things that don’t, and figure out what we’ll try next year. We’ve done some newspaper articles, some television sponsorship last year; the newspaper worked for a period of time.”
Sometimes the company wants to get into a specific market, like hybrids/electrics. “It’s not a huge percentage of our market; 5 percent, maybe a little more,” Garman reports. “But in 2013 it was less than probably .1 percent, so it’s growing and we want to be a part of that. There’s no real hybrid training on the market, so we partnered with a company called the Hybrid Shop, bought into the rights to their franchisees here in Phoenix. What came of that was training support. We’ll continue to market for that segment in 2015 and beyond.”
And has Garman ever gotten over not wanting to deal with cars? “When I go into the shop I’m allowed to shake hands and smile; they don’t let me touch anything because they fear I’ll break it,” he laughs. “But I love the industry; it’s been a really rewarding experience for me. Now that I’m 38, looking back, at the end of the day it’s a decision I certainly don’t regret.”
And he certainly looks forward to when the company will be 100 years old—in just 12 years.
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Wilhelm Automotive Receives Customer Service Honors
Peoria, Ariz.—Wilhelm Automotive, the Valley’s oldest family owned and operated automotive repair business, was honored with the award for Superior Customer Service by automotive service industry information technology provider Kukui, at their industry awards event this past January.
"The team at Wilhelm Automotive surpassed our highest expectations. They utilize our platform to the fullest, and provide only the best customer service to their clients. We are proud to name them the winners of Superior Customer Service for the 2015 Kukui Industry Awards,” said Kukui CEO Todd Matthews Westerlund.
For 87 Years, Wilhelm has made their customer’s satisfaction their number one priority. From the beginning, the company’s mission has stated: The heart and soul of our company is people. Our actions at any given moment will reflect our commitment to each other, our customers, our families, our company and the communities in which we all live and work, in our on-going pursuit to be the absolute best automotive repair facilities in Arizona.
“At Wilhelm, we work hard every day to ensure we have gained our customers’ respect and trust in our work, and we back up that effort with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. We treat our customers like family, and they have paid us back with their loyalty over our many years in the Valley,” said Wilhelm President Chris Garman.
Wilhelm Automotive is a family- owned and operated award-winning automotive repair and maintenance business that has been serving the Valley since 1928. Wilhelm has always made community support a top priority by being involved with organizations such as St. Mary’s Westside Food Bank, TheaterWorks, Peoria Center for the Arts, Girl Scouts and the American Cancer Society. Wilhelm currently has seven locations in Tatum Ranch, Litchfield Park, Peoria, Goodyear and Surprise, and Arcadia/Phoenix. Additional information can be found at our website at www.wilhelmautomotive.com
About San Jose, CA based Kukui: With a rich history in information technology, Kukui provides businesses with a custom website platform and software solution that integrates with each organization’s Point of Sale (POS) system. This empowers each of Kukui’s clients with quantitative data showing their monetary return on investment, the number of new clients based on their POS system, statistics revealing their customer retention rate, and areas to improve business through the tracking of phone calls and appointment forms.
Our Feature in Ratchet + Wrench!
Wilhelm Automotive was recently featured in "Shop Views" of Ratchet + Wrench, a magazine that showcases strategies and inspiration for auto care success. The feature gives you a look inside the vintage lobby of our Peoria location's lobby.
Check out the full article by clicking here!
We here at Wilhelm Automotive are extremely proud to be featured in the nation's leading source for complete auto care coverage, and hope that the article provides some interesting insight to our business!
Wilhelm Auto to Host Back-to-School Drive to Support Homeless Youth Connection
Peoria, Ariz.—Wilhelm Automotive, the Valley's oldest family-owned and operated automotive repair business, will host a back-to-school drive at each of its seven locations to benefit Homeless Youth Connection. Homeless Youth Connection's long-term goal is to provide homeless teens with basic needs and services as they make positive, life-affirming choices toward becoming responsible, productive adults.
Homeless Youth Connection was founded in 2009, and supports more than 140 homeless youths in the West Valley area. The Homeless Youth Connection continues to provide basic needs, medical care, guidance and educational assistance to homeless students in the West Valley. HYC students attend high schools throughout the West Valley and are motivated and committed to receiving a high school diploma.
“Wilhelm is always looking for ways to support our community throughout the year, and we're pleased to reach out to offer help to teens in need right here in our own neighborhoods,” said Wilhelm President Chris Garman.
“One of the best ways we can ensure our customers can trust our services and expertise is by continuing to have the most knowledgeable and well-trained technicians in the state,” said Wilhelm President Chris Garman.
The community is asked to donate new items including:
- Thumb drives/flash drives
- Toiletry items such as body wash, shampoo, deodorant, etc.
- Feminine hygiene items (pads preferred)
Donations can be made at any of Wilhelm's seven Valley locations. The Back To School drive will start the week of July 21, and customers that make a donation will be offered coupon good for $15 off any repair service at Wilhelm Automotive locations. Find our more about Homeless Youth Connection at http://www.hyconnectionkids.org
Wilhelm Celebrates Second Franchise Location off Thomas in Phoenix
Wilhelm Automotive, a family owned and operated auto repair business, has opened a second franchise location at 52nd Street and Thomas Rd. in Phoenix and has scheduled a grand opening celebration for October 22, 2013. A formal ribbon cutting is planned for 10 a.m. with a public celebration to follow until 1 p.m.
WE’RE CELEBRATING 85 YEARS OF SERVICE!
This year marks the 85th Anniversary of Wilhelm Automotive’s service in Arizona, making us the oldest family auto repair shop in the Valley! We’re proud to have stayed in business for more than eight decades, due in large part to you, our loyal customers! Click here to learn more about our history and be sure to check back often for special 85th Anniversary offers all year long!
Scottsdale Airpark Is The Home For Sixth Shop, First Franchise
Wilhelm Automotive, a family owned and operated auto repair business, has opened the doors on its sixth location and first franchise location in the Scottsdale Airpark. The North Scottsdale auto repair shop has been open since December 2012 and celebrated its Grand Opening on January 24.
WILHELM AUTOMOTIVE PUTS EMPHASIS ON TRAINED TECHNICIANS
Every year, Wilhelm Automotive, a family owned and operated automotive repair business, makes sure that its technicians are certified to be the most reliable and knowledgeable automotive repair employees available to their customers. They do this, in part, by having their technicians certified by the non profit Institute of Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). Wilhelm Automotive currently has seven locations in the Valley, and all of the locations have at least three master certified ASE technician.
As the oldest auto repair service company in Arizona, we have been taking care of our friends and neighbors in the Valley for 85 years. Family owned and operated, all of us at Wilhelm are dedicated to giving you top quality automotive service—service you can trust.
Our ASE certified technicians work with state-of-the-art equipment and the latest technology to provide you with service and repairs you can depend on, mile after mile.
Don’t wait for trouble to occur. Contact us today for your free 60 point Auto Safety Check. At Wilhelm Automotive Service Centers, there’s no charge for peace of mind.
Wilhelm Automotive named a national Motor Age TOP SHOP
In its annual ranking of top automotive repair facilities, Motor Age magazine has recognized Wilhelm Automotive as one of the top ten best shops in the country. Wilhelm Auto was the only shop in Arizona among the top ten.
Motor Age, a monthly trade journal supporting independent automotive service providers by providing professional information, made the announcement of their fourth annual Top Shop winners this week. According to Motor Age, Wilhelm ‘demonstrated strengths in marketing, technology in the repair bays, customer relations and community service, among other attributes.
“We are thrilled to be nationally recognized for the values we uphold in our business every day. For 81 years, our customers and team members have been the heart and soul of our company, and we constantly strive to be the absolute best automotive repair shop in Arizona. We are especially proud that we have accomplished this as a family business for three generations,” said Chris Garman, Wilhelm Automotive General Manager.
The Top Shop selection process included the review of a thorough application that included a company profile, visual tour and information about Wilhelm Auto’s history, mission, employee philosophy, customer service and community service, among other areas. Wilhelm ranked seventh among the other repair shops from around the nation.