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November Interview: Technology with Seth Thorson

Technology is always changing and seemingly advancing at faster and faster speeds each day. While the innovation is fascinating, it can at times feel like a harpoon to the automotive repair industry as much as it is a life vest.

Matt Henry

How can independent shops compete with rising technological needs and systems? Should you fight to always be the first to employ new technology – or will that harm your shop just as much as being the last to adapt would?

These questions may seem scary – and rightfully so – but they don’t have to be. To help us look at the issue of upcoming complications and technological changes, we talked with Seth Thorson, owner of Eurotech Auto Service in Minneapolis.

You’ve likely heard of Seth, as he’s not only an extremely successful shop owner but one of the top BMW trainers in the country. Many shop owners in the industry recognize Seth as a leader in the industry, and even more so when it concerns changes coming to the industry. Which is why we reached out to find out his thoughts on the matter and are sharing those below.

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Industry Changes with Seth Thorson​

Give a little information about your shop and background.

“I got started in this business in 1999 after high school and have not looked back.

I came to Eurotech in 2005 to buy out the owner as a sweat equity deal. I bought him out at the end of 2012 and have since doubled shop sales from 1 million to 2.5 million dollars, as well as launched a second location that’s on pace for 1.5 million next year. We also have a 5-year growth plan for 2-3 more locations.

Eurotech specializes in German and Italian cars and is a “young” shop with our average staff being around 28 years old. We have a strong culture and believe in training and teaching our people leadership and letting them shine.”

What are some of the biggest changes coming to the automotive repair industry?

“Electric cars and EVs are coming. This will change some dynamics since these types of vehicles will still need service, so we will need to change and adapt to that.”

How has your shop prepared for these changes?

“We are continually training staff and investing in new technology, including owning a few cars that are just for testing as well.”

Do you think all shops should begin investing in new technology to prepare for more cars with ADAS and the like?

“Short term, I think shops should sit tight and see where this goes. Long term, this will be a dynamic process and include many shops updating their technology.”

What would you say are the pros and cons to preparing for these changes early on?

“The biggest pro would be getting early market share, but the con would be investing in technology that is short term and not being able to capitalize on that investment in the short term.”

Are there any changes that you see a lot of talk about that you don’t think will have as big of an effect on independent repair shops?

“I see a lot of talk about consolidation happening and seeing less and less small shops because of the technological changes. I don’t think that electric cars will kill all of our business as many are predicting.”

If you could give other shop owners only one piece of advice about preparing for industry changes, what would it be?

“Stay on top of trends, get to training, keep learning what is coming. Know your numbers and be ready to make moves as things come along, whether it be additional locations or investing in new technology as required.”

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We appreciate Seth taking the time to answer our questions and think he had some great insights on the changes coming to the automotive repair industry. While many of the changes (electric cars, ADAS, etc.) have been dubbed as potential killers of the industry, the changes are happening much slower than first anticipated. This means your shop has time to prepare and adapt!

Like Seth mentioned, you don’t necessarily want to rush into investing into all of the technology. Much of the new tech will likely be short-term as changes continue to happen to the EVs and ADAS systems themselves. However, it’s never too early to begin thinking about what investments your shop would need to stay at the top of its game in future years.

Thanks again for reading our November newsletter and keep an eye out for next month, which starts our second quarter. We’ll be focusing on auto shops today, beginning with a focus on millennials and younger generations. Make sure you’ve signed up at www.leadingedge.theautomotiveinstitute.com and let us know what topics you’d like to see covered!

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