Fixed Ops Journal – February 2016 - (Page 29)

FIXED OPS JOURNAL " "You don't get a job at an office building and need to bring your own computer, your own phone and your own pencils." SONIC BLAST STEPHEN HOOKS, Sonic Tools ■ Tool company works with dealers to provide freebies to techs M ore debt is the last thing graduating service technicians need after two years of school and as much as $30,000 in tuition bills. But before most technicians can land a good-paying dealership job, they have to spend $6,000 to $12,000 on a fully stocked toolbox. Stephen Hooks, CEO of Sonic RICHARD Tools, wants to change that. Sonic, a new provider of Fixed Ops Journal professional mechanics' tools in North America, aims to disrupt the business model used by Mac, Snap-on, Matco and others. First, Sonic won't sell tools through franchisees who visit dealerships in delivery trucks in assigned territories, says Hooks. Sonic's tools are ordered online, and replacements are sent for next-day delivery. More intriguingly, Sonic thinks dealers can use the promise of free tools - its tools - to recruit and retain technicians. "You don't get a job at an office building and need to bring your own computer, your own phone and your own pencils. So why are we putting the burden on young guys trying to make a living with their hands? Why are we putting them in massive debt?" says Hooks. Sonic is introducing programs that would enable dealers to buy discounted tools that can be given to graduating technicians. "The plan is solidified, but as you could imagine, each dealer or dealer group is different, so we are able to be flexible within their organization's requirements," says Colby McConnell, Sonic's head of marketing. Several established tool companies offer sizable discounts on toolboxes to graduating students, but tool costs still reach thousands of dollars, says Mark Davis, program manager for automotive at Seminole State College north of Orlando. Sonic, which set up shop in September in Auburn, Ala., is the North American branch of Sonic Equipment, of the Netherlands. Sonic's tools, mainly made in Taiwan and Germany, carry a lifetime warranty. Hooks knew that the company would have to try new tactics to compete in North America. He's had some early successes. Sonic is the official hand tool supplier of the International Motor Sports Association's racing series. The company also supplies tools to the CJ Wilson group of Mazda stores in Illinois and California, and to Wilson's motorcycle dealerships. CJ Wilson, dealer principal, says he bit on Sonic's plan to help dealers subsidize tools for technicians because he believes it will help him recruit and retain technicians. TRUETT "Anything you can do to incentivize people to get started and take that risk to go to technical school in the first place - we can say, hey, once you get out of there, we can train and set you up with tools and you have something to keep you around," Wilson told Fixed Ops Journal. General Motors and Ford expect their combined dealerships to be short at least 15,000 technicians by 2020. Other automakers see similar shortages at their dealerships. Between 2014 and 2024, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts employment for technicians will grow 5 percent. With many dealerships now storing tools in wall systems instead of rolling toolboxes, it makes sense for stores to provide the technicians' tools. Wilson says he is buying Sonic tools for his stores with wall systems, and will give tools free to newly graduated technicians. But he hasn't yet figured out how the tools will be awarded. For example, how should his stores cover tools for veteran technicians who already have their own? Certain tools are required for each level of certification. "We'll come up with several levels," Wilson said. Davis thinks the free tool idea is a good one, but he said that some technicians want mobility, too, in case a better job offer comes along. Says Hooks: "We are not trying to change the world tomorrow. But we are trying to do some things differently. And we are trying to put some power in the hands of the techs at the same time as saving these guys a good bit of money - money that needs to stay in their pockets and their families' pockets." ■ You may email Richard Truett at rtruett@crain.com. FEBRUARY 2016 PAGE 29

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Fixed Ops Journal – February 2016

Editor’s Letter: Welcome to Fixed Ops Journal
Service Counter: Tracking fixed-ops numbers
Legal Lane: Court cases that affect you
Mobile mechanics: Do shop-free technicians threaten your business?
Mark Smith: A fixed-ops-focused dealer aims to change the industry
Adding capacity: Sales spur FCA, Subaru dealerships’ fixed-ops growth
Richard Truett: Toolmaker targets new techs
Designed for service: A look at a Minnesota dealership’s makeover
Weekend work: Service extends to Saturday, even Sunday
Tech exodus: How outdated policies worsen the tech shortage
Before Xtime: The origins of widely used scheduling software
Older parts: Toyota, Ford respond to older cars on the road
5 minutes with: Ford’s Toney, Toyota’s Laukes
Shop Talk: One question, multiple service directors
Fixed in Time: A look at service of yesteryear

Fixed Ops Journal – February 2016

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