When I was a kid our local auto mechanic was a well-known fixture in the community. Being a mechanic was considered a good, stable, well-paying job that had a future in it. People would always need car repairs so long as there were cars, and that seemed like as sure a bet as being a family law attorney, where people will always fight over kids and money.
I drive an older car. I have a 1994 Lexus LS400 and it inevitably needs a bit of love from the local mechanics. The transmission went out a few thousand miles ago, of course it was on a Saturday and I was thinking that meant no repair shops open til Monday. But I was wrong. I put in the Google Maps a search for a local transmission shop and up popped Master Transmission on Lincoln. They opened at 8:00 a.m. on a Saturday and I was able to get my car towed there.
The owner, Carlos Pineda is a bit of a bear of a man who came bounding out to meet me and asked what was wrong. I told him, and he took the car for a spin around the block and came back with a diagnosis that I wasn’t thrilled with, I needed to replace the entire thing because that’s just the way they make them these days.
It would be about 5 days before I had my car back, and a few thousand dollars, but it came with a one year guarantee and my car was running just fine again. Later that year I took it in to Lexus for a complete physical and they noted that there was some slight transmission leakage, so back to Carlos I went and he honored his guarantee and fixed the problem.
If you’re like me, you use the air conditioner a great deal in traffic, and will notice over time that the cold isn’t as cold as it used to be. That coolant can lose its effectiveness, but for a few hundred dollars and half a day the great guys at Morris Automotive on Colorado Blvd, were able to recharge the system and now my car is like a meat locker.
My regular mechanic is Greg at Morgan Auto on Pico across from the Trader Joe’s. I like having a regular mechanic who knows me and my car.
The man is able to give me honest work at a reasonable price, and as much I love the bagels and coffee at the Lexus Dealership, I don’t think I’ve ever had the same serviceperson. It’s the little things in life that make it nicer.
When I call Greg and ask if I can get in for an oil change and a checkup, it’s sorta like going to my barber, Brian at Tel’s across from Virginia Avenue Park. The ease and comfort of seeing an old friend just makes the pain of paying for repairs just a little bit less.
Greg has been my mechanic for years now and I don’t have to explain everything to him. I’m going to miss that when either I no longer drive, or he retires. His retirement may happen sooner than I’d like, since the city is doing everything they can to eliminate the auto repair shops in our town.
The grunge and mess of repairs don’t seem to fit with the master plan for what is to be our little city by the Bay.
The future of repair shops is bleak at best, and the city isn’t the only factor in killing this industry. The auto industry and the insurance industry are actively trying to put the small repair shops out of business as well. The auto industry does it with designs that make it financially unfeasible and almost impossible to repair and or replace parts. That way you are forced to buy bigger and bigger composite components, rather than individual pieces.
From the insurance industry side, they are all about the dollars and cutting costs. I had another Lexus before this one, and was T-Boned. The body of the car on the passenger side was crushed in, but the engine was fine, the driver’s side was fine, but the damage was done to lower frame, and with a unibody design it couldn’t be repaired, so the insurance company wrote me a check and scrapped the car. I still cry over that. Loved that car.
Our world is changing, not always for the better. Some things are improvements, air bags for example, but others just create more waste, and kill jobs. Over the next decade you’ll see fewer and fewer repair shops, and of course you’ll need them less, because your car is more likely to be replaced rather than repaired.
It’ll be a sad day when the last repair shop closes, but hopefully there’ll be a replacement industry for those jobs. I just have no idea what it will be, and if it’ll have the charm and familiarity of my old school repair place.
If you have good idea for a story, or know of a company that is innovating in some novel way that should be brought to a wider audience, please drop me an email at DAVID@SMDP.COM and let’s see what the future is looking like.