Welcome to Wilhelm Automotive Arizona | Phoenix Auto Repair
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's 7th Location Now Open
Peoria, Ariz.—Wilhelm Automotive, the Valley’s oldest family owned and operated automotive repair business, celebrated the opening of its 7th location in the Northwest Valley on May 6, 2015. The shop, located at Happy Valley and Lake Pleasant Parkway in Peoria provides full service auto repair and is a certified Hybrid Shop location to meet the needs of hybrid automotive customers. Special guests from Peoria City Council, the Peoria Chamber of Commerce and Peoria Mayor Cathy Carlat were in attendance.
The Happy Valley location will be the most green store Wilhelm has built, and will feature a solar-paneled roof, LED lighting and an electric vehicle charging station.
Wilhelm Opens Happy Valley/Peoria Location
“We did a thorough energy study of this location and we have state of the art features for energy efficiency,” said Wilhelm Automotive Board Chairman Thomas Gyder. “We expect the Happy Valley store to have a zero energy footprint,” Gyder said.
The shop also offers 10 service bays, fresh, hot coffee and the comfortable, homey customer waiting area that is part of Wilhelm’s signature look. “We have been looking for the right spot in the Northwest Valley for our next location for a few years, and we’re pleased to be moving in to the very busy Mountainside Crossing center in Peoria. We started in this city with our first location 87 years ago, and we’ve enjoyed seeing it grow into a thriving family community,” said Wilhelm President Chris Garman.
The store, located at 9715 W Happy Valley Rd, Peoria, AZ 85383 can be reached at 623-299-9750. Detailed location information and special opening offers can be found at http://wilhelmautomotivehappyvalley.kukui.com/
In the future Wilhelm Automotive hopes to open one or more locations throughout the Valley. Their other stores are currently in Phoenix/Arcadia, Tatum Ranch, Surprise, Litchfield Park, Goodyear and their original store in old town Peoria.
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, Happy Valley/Peoria, and Arcadia/Phoenix. Additional information can be found at our website at www.wilhelmautomotive.com
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, North Scottsdale, 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.