Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - 41

FIXED OPS JOURNAL

SHOP NIGHT

Niello Audi of
Sacramento, Calif.,
allows service
technicians such
as Gary Schmitt to
repair their own
vehicles when the
shop is closed.

 Letting techs fix their own cars in dealer shop: Morale builder or liability?
STEPHANIE HERNANDEZ McGAVIN

N

foj@autonews.com

iello Audi encourages its service
technicians to feed their passion
for vehicle maintenance after the
workday ends.
That's when the Sacramento, Calif., dealership invites techs back to the shop to work on
their own cars and trucks.
The service bays and tools, including the
hoist, are at the techs' disposal when the shop
is closed to customers - on weekday and Saturday evenings and Sundays. They can repair
personal vehicles and those of immediate
family members at no charge.
All of the Niello group's 14 dealerships permit the practice. Dealership executives say it
enhances loyalty and job satisfaction among
technicians. But critics contend it adds to a
dealership's potential liability without financial benefit.
Gary Schmitt, a Niello Audi technician,
says he may use the shop after hours twice a
month or every weekend for a month, depending on the job.
His projects range from routine maintenance, such as oil changes, to pulling out the
powertrain and changing a head gasket on his
sister-in-law's Ford Escape.
Using the dealership's shop for the head
gasket job, Schmitt says, "was a huge benefit,
because I couldn't have done that at home."
Matt Phelan, general manager of Niello Audi, says such "shop nights" used to be common in the dealerships where he worked.
"When I was a young guy, I remember that
the techs were allowed to do that," Phelan told

Moonlighting

Should a dealership let its service
technicians use its shop and tools to
work on their vehicles after hours?

Pros
 Boosts techs' morale/loyalty
 Builds vehicle maintenance skills
 Supports employees and their
families
 Provides safe, professional work
environment

Cons
 Exposes technicians to potential
safety risks

 Increases potential dealership

liability
 Dealership gets no financial gain

Fixed Ops Journal. "This has been around for a
long time."
Phelan, 54, says the after-hours program
was popular at Niello Audi when he joined the
dealership eight years ago.
"It's shop culture," Phelan adds. "It breeds a
positive attitude."
Letting techs work on personal vehicles after hours may have gone out of style because
of growing concerns about safety and liability
among dealerships, says Rob Gehring, president of Fixed Performance Inc., a fixed ops
consulting firm in Huron, Ohio.
"What if there's an injury or equipment failure and no one is on-site to witness it or get

involved right away?" Gehring says.
Gehring agrees that shop nights can build
loyalty among a dealership's technicians. But
if a tech is hurt or a vehicle is damaged, he
warns, the dealership could get the blame.
"I've seen examples, personally, where
these gentlemen's agreements happen and
everybody is OK with those," he says. "But
when it turns ugly, it's too late."
Phelan says he lost a close relative in a service shop accident. He insists that he and his
employees are "proactive" and "hypersensitive" to workplace safety.
Niello Audi's service department has safety
procedures that all techs must follow even
when they work on their own vehicles.
For example, he says, they must open a repair
order for a personal vehicle, so that they are covered by employee insurance if they are injured.
No tech has damaged a personal vehicle
while working after hours at Niello Audi, Phelan says. But if that were to happen, he says, the
techs understand that they, not the dealership, would bear responsibility.
Schmitt says he feels safer working on his
truck at the dealership than at home.
"We have access to all the equipment and
the facility here," he says. "I'm grateful I have
the opportunity."
Phelan says the after-hours program displays "utmost respect" for Niello Audi's technicians and is an important part of his dealership's culture. "It makes their life easier," he
says. "They're going to work on cars - it's just
the nature of being a technician.
"We just want to make sure they're happy and
taking care of themselves and their family." 

DECEMBER 2017

PAGE 41



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017

Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017
Contents
Editor’s Letter
Service Counter
Legal Lane
Big verdict
Ho-ho-ho
Battery charge
Price is right
Tomorrow’s techs
Selling accessories
SEMA dreams
To the rescue
Profit Builder
Richard Truett
On the line
Letters
Real time
Feedback
After hours
Efficiency expert
Longer lasting
Shop Talk
Five Minutes With
Fixed in Time
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Intro
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Cover2
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Contents
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Editor’s Letter
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - 5
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Service Counter
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - 7
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Legal Lane
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Big verdict
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - 10
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - 11
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Ho-ho-ho
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - 13
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Battery charge
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - 15
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - 16
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - 17
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - 18
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - 19
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - 20
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - 21
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Price is right
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - 23
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Tomorrow’s techs
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - 25
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - 26
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - 27
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Selling accessories
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - 29
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - SEMA dreams
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - 31
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - To the rescue
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - 33
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Profit Builder
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Richard Truett
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - On the line
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Letters
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Real time
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - 39
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Feedback
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - After hours
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Efficiency expert
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Longer lasting
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Shop Talk
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Five Minutes With
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Fixed in Time
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Cover3
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