In this exclusive Q&A, we learn more about the AAMCO Transmissions and Total Car Care franchise opportunity from Brian O’Donnell, the company’s Senior VP of Franchise Sales.
Franchise Chatter (FC): Tell us about AAMCO.
Brian O’Donnell (BO): Known for more than 50 years as the world’s leading transmission expert and for its know-how with complex vehicle systems, AAMCO’s network of locally-owned and independently-operated automotive service centers employ the latest technology. Our expert technicians diagnose the most complex issues, fix them right the first time, and back it with a nationwide warranty.
AAMCO was named to Entrepreneur magazine’s 2017 Franchise 500, ranking top of its category for the third consecutive year. Additionally, AAMCO has been consecutively ranked on Franchise Times’ Top 200+ for the last three years.
The world’s largest branded chain of transmission specialists, AAMCO has nearly 650 franchised automotive centers throughout the United States and Canada, and we are proud to have served more than 45 million drivers since 1962.
FC: Fifty years is a long time to be in business. What do you attribute the brand’s longevity to?
BO: Without a doubt, our dedicated franchise owners, managers, and expert technicians are the difference-makers in their communities when consumers are deciding who to entrust with their automotive care needs. That’s one reason why AAMCO has made significant investments to simplify the business model, increase profitability, and help franchisees win more of the market share.
One of the most critical business decisions the company has made over the last decade or so was to focus on electrical diagnostic training. Transmissions have become more and more computerized over the years, and AAMCO technicians have the ability to properly diagnose the most complex systems on the vehicle. Properly servicing today’s vehicles begins with an accurate diagnosis.
Today, AAMCO specializes in more than just transmissions. Engine performance problems can impact the transmission’s performance, so we now have the technical expertise to repair complex issues in the entire powertrain system.
FC: What are some consumer trends AAMCO is seeing in the auto industry?
BO: For the majority of Americans living on a modest budget, owning and maintaining a vehicle is putting a strain on their finances. A recent AAA survey showed that 64 million U.S. drivers would not be able to pay for an unexpected vehicle repair without going into debt. On top of that, CarMD’s 2017 Vehicle Health Index showed average vehicle repair costs in the U.S., including parts and labor, rose 2.7 percent in 2016.
In 2015, AAMCO began rolling out a robust consumer financing platform that gives customers the option to apply for financing for their automotive repair services via their web browser or mobile device. Customers have access to multiple lenders through a single application to help cover repair costs beyond their budget. As a result, more consumers can get their car repaired and back on the road.
The consumer financing program is a win-win because it improves the franchise owner’s sales and the customer’s overall experience. If they have to fix their powertrain system, they don’t have to feel the burden of paying for it immediately. They can do it at a pace that works for their budget.
FC: What kind of training do you have in place for both franchisees and employees?
BO: We established a state-of-the-art training platform called AAMCO University in 2014, and it leads the auto repair industry in training and ongoing education. In fact, AAMCO has been named to Training magazine’s 2018 Training Top 125 for excellence in employer-sponsored training and development programs. AAMCO University has also been recognized by Chief Learning Officer’s LearningElite program as one of the top 100 training companies alongside PwC, Johnson & Johnson, and other leading businesses.
AAMCO centers training at the highest levels are seeing 15 to 20 percent sales increases. Our franchise owners and employees have access to more than 300 courses with expert instructors, ranging from basic shop safety to master-level diagnostics and transmission rebuilding, and have completed over 22,500 courses.
These modules are offered in classroom, online, and interactive settings. The training helps with recruitment of the most talented technicians, who have access to courses that will help advance their skill sets and careers.
FC: Do you need to be a mechanic to own an AAMCO franchise?
BO: We want to partner with good business people who are passionate and committed to taking care of customers. Some of our training is designed to help familiarize franchisees with automotive repair, but that’s not where our energy is focused with owners. Franchisee training is focused on building teams, managing the business, and winning customers.
An AAMCO owner’s job isn’t to build transmissions; it’s to build teams of employees who work together and leverage their own individual expertise to serve customers.
FC: What are the brand’s expansion plans domestically?
BO: AAMCO recently announced 18 new service center locations with new and existing franchisees across the country. This includes cities such as Los Angeles; Queen Creek, Arizona; and Katy, Texas to Teaneck, NJ; New Orleans; and Miami. In addition to these openings, we are targeting select cities in Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, and Pennsylvania to continue to fuel national expansion for the remainder of 2017 and into 2018.
FC: How is the outlook for the automotive aftermarket industry?
BO: Parts stores and the auto aftermarket are going to reap the benefits of increased car counts. Similar to the growth of multiple tablets and laptop computers in households, the typical American family is going to have a car for each member of the household. People love their vehicles and depend on them as a daily part of their lives, so that will continue to fuel the industry’s growth.
FC: What is on the horizon for AAMCO?
BO: AAMCO will continue to focus on strategic initiatives for long-term expansion, including operational training, technology advancements, financing, and national partnerships. It’s these multiple revenue streams, combined with our ongoing initiative to “win the internet” through a series of marketing efforts and our commitment to our strategic initiatives that give our franchisees the competitive edge.