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“There’s a pent up demand for hybrid and electric vehicles,” said Curry. “In order to keep up with the future you need to be in the business.”
Prior to launching The Hybrid Shop in 2013, Curry and his wife Judy owned Curry’s Auto Service in Northern Virginia since 1997. Over the years they expanded their auto repair business to include 10 shops.
During this time Curry purchased eight Toyota Priuses to use as customer shuttles and learn more about hybrids. After talking to Dr. Mark Quarto, a Ph.d electrical engineer with GM for 28 years who specializes in alternative fuel and hybrid technology, Curry soon realized that HEVs were very different from traditional automotive design.
The Currys sold their retail stores to Monro Muffler Brake in 2013 and opened the Hybrid Shop, which is headquartered in Gainesville Virginia. Just one year later they have 39 franchises across the U.S. and are looking at further expansion nationwide and around the world. They recently attended the SEMA show in Las Vegas to continue to educate the industry about their business.
In addition to selling full franchises, the Hybrid Shop offers fractional franchises to those who own existing automotive repair and tire facilities and want to add a hybrid component. New owners and their technicians go through a four and a half day training session in Wisconsin.
“We teach them how to diagnose, maintain and repair everything on a hybrid vehicle,” said Curry. The franchise includes diagnostic tools, training, branding, marketing and sales support. “It is a comprehensive system that teaches them everything about hybrid vehicles.”
Once a shop is operational, the Hybrid Shop profiles them on their website, which Curry said generates more than 300 leads a month to their dealer network.
“We actively drive traffic into their stores,” said Curry. “We drive car count revenues and profits.”
He said that while running his prior business they always prided themselves on their marketing and branding ability.
“That’s what allowed us to grow from one store to 10 in 15 years.”
Another main component of the Hybrid Shop is the battery conditioning that is offered to customers. Working closely with Chief Technical Officer Dr. Quarto, the AR&D team developed an exclusive technology only found at The Hybrid Shop that can restore a hybrid’s battery to over 95 percent of its original performance.
Since hybrid batteries have a 100 percent failure rate, Curry said the only option available has been to replace the battery at an average cost of $4,000.
“We can condition the battery for about a third of the price of battery replacement so it saves the customers thousands of dollars, it makes the repair shops thousands of dollars, and it’s better for the environment.”
Curry said by conditioning the battery every four to five years or every 80,000 miles, it will keep the vehicle running at maximum efficiency, keep the gas mileage up and the performance of the vehicle working properly.
“We are revolutionizing the Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) industry by making repair and maintenance as cost-effective and eco-friendly as we possibly can,” said Curry.
The Hybrid Shop received a 2014 Stevie People’s Choice Award for Favorite New Products and the 2014 Stevie American Business Award. The Hybrid Shop announced on Nov. 19 that a Northern Virginia investment firm that manages approximately $4 billion in assets, has invested in the company. Funds managed by the firm now own 38% of THS.
We are proud to announce this investment in THS by a leading, multi-billion dollar firm,” said CEO Dave Crawford. “The fact that a multi-billion dollar investment firm would want to invest in an early stage company serves as affirmation of our brand, business model, and future potential as well as recognition of our success to-date in our ongoing efforts to achieve a position of innovation and fast-growth in the rapidly-evolving hybrid and electric space.”
Dave Carney, owner of Hillside Auto Repair, purchased a fractional franchise in March as an addition to their shop.
“I think it has provided the most amazing opportunities that I’ve seen in the 30 years that I have been in the industry,” he said.
The Torrance, California-based company had limited industry training and didn’t feel they had enough knowledge about this growing industry. After sending five employees to the Hybrid Shop’s training, Carney said he could dispatch a hybrid to any one of them and they had the skill sets to be able to diagnose and work on it.
“I’ve never seen such an energized, motivated employee in my entire life in 30 years of business as these employees came back from this hybrid training,” he said. “It was extensive. It was a lot of hands on and they came back and had a lot of confidence.”
Carney has found that business comes in spurts and the hybrids that need conditioning are the earlier ones on the road. He predicts that as the number of hybrids increases, they will be working on at least one per week, if not three or four.
“What the Hybrid Shop did for us is it gave us the confidence to venture into this area of the unknown,” he said. “My expectation is that a year from now, once we get a little experience under our belt, we will be the knowledge base of everything hybrid in our community in Southern California.”
Rich Hoffman, owner of Hoffman Tire Pros in Fayetteville, Georgia, purchased a franchise in June. With no prior knowledge of hybrids, Hoffman said that he saw great potential for hybrids in the future.
“I like to stay on top of technology and I like to be ahead of the curve,” said Hoffman, who has owned his business for 38 years. “I did some research and felt like the hybrid was here to stay and the Hybrid Shop has the advantage that nobody else has.”
Hoffman estimates that he currently does 35 percent tire work and 65 percent service at his eight-bay facility, which he can also use to work on hybrids. He recently built a 10 foot by 20 foot “clean” room for the hybrid equipment and to service and condition the batteries.
“Any service facility can do the job,” said Hoffman. “You just need to have, I feel, a separate place to work on it.”
In addition to the training offered by the Hybrid Shop, Hoffman has learned a lot from staying in touch with other dealers in the network. The dealers recently met for a roundtable discussion during SEMA where they established a dealer advisory council.
After hearing many wives’ tales about working on hybrids, Hoffman said, “the hybrid is not as difficult as it sounds as long as you have the training and knowledge and respect what you are working with.”
“It’s an opportunity to differentiate yourself from the competition," said Crawford.
He added that with the mandated CAFÉ standards from the federal government, all new vehicle fleets must average 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.
“The traditional internal combustion engine as we know it today will not be able to meet this objective which opens the door for hybrid technology. Fast-forward 10 years from now and the hybrid business is going to be huge.”