Over the last two years, there have not been as many cars on the road as usual. Carmakers had entire lots of full of brand-new cars that either could not be sold due to global chip shortages, or the demand wasn’t there. While sales haven’t gotten back to pre-pandemic levels, buying has increased.
Mechanics and other after-sales service providers came together during the pandemic by sharing tips, tricks and most importantly, were able to establish themselves as an essential business, allowing them to remain open.
We spoke to Kevin Kormondy of FullSpeed Automotive about the rise of electric vehicles, the need for philanthropy and much more.
RP: How did FullSpeed and your brands fare during the pandemic, and did you learn anything from a leadership perspective during that period that you have baked into your company or operations?
KK: At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, FullSpeed Automotive immediately turned to work with our two franchise advisory councils – one for our Grease Monkey franchise organization and one for our SpeeDee Oil Change & Auto Service franchise organization – and found immense value in this. Our management team met no less than weekly with both sets of franchisee representatives, and were able to obtain real-time input into how the various states and municipalities were dealing with regulations and restrictions.
Through these councils, we were able to coordinate our grassroots efforts to see that our industry was deemed an “essential business” by governmental agencies so that we could keep our doors open.
We were also able to effectively communicate the opportunities for financial assistance from the Small Business Administration (SBA) and other agencies. We helped our franchisees preserve cash flow by giving extended terms for their payment of royalties and advertising fees as well as rent abatements and deferrals where possible.
For FullSpeed Automotive, the pandemic underscored for us the great value of maintaining a strong franchisor/franchisee connection through active franchisee advisory councils where we work hand in hand in delivering to our centers every needful tool to survive and to thrive no matter the headwinds.
As with most companies, the pandemic also taught us how to sharpen our skills in delivering powerful virtual training and support to the field during a time when travel and face-to-face meetings were limited.
RP: Why is it so important to your brands to help others and engage in charitable causes?
KK: As business leaders, we feel that we should be involved in the local communities which surround our units, and to do our part to help those communities where possible. Even though we are a national chain, we want to be known and treat our guests as local.
Most of our units are owned by local franchisees who live in their communities and believe it’s important to engage in local charitable causes.
In celebration of her grand opening (FullSpeed Automotive’s 700th store grand opening), Dana Leitner, our franchisee in Garden Grove, CA, and FullSpeed Automotive, joined forces to partner with a tremendous charitable organization called Bracken’s Kitchen, based in Orange County, CA, to feed 700 people.
RP: Are there any international territories that you currently aren’t in, that you feel you need to be?
KK: We currently have units in four countries outside of the U.S., and are focused on helping the master franchisees in those countries to grow our brands. Just last week, we opened another SpeeDee unit in Torreón, Coahuila, Mexico, bringing the total number of SpeeDee units there to 32. We also have units in China, Columbia, and Saudi Arabia.
With so much opportunity still left in the U.S., we are currently focused primarily on domestic development efforts as well as on the four international countries we are already in.
RP: Are you at all worried about the impact of electric vehicles on mechanics and many of those who currently work in the automotive industry?
KK: We are embracing the increase in electric vehicles and working on ways to service them as well. Although pure electric vehicles do not need oil changes, they do still need many of the other services that we provide such as brakes, tires, flushes, lubrication, and much more. Many electric vehicle owners are finding that batteries have issues as well, and will need to have them serviced in the future.
To put electric vehicle counts in perspective, there are currently 279 million combustion engine vehicles on the road in the U.S. Last year, there were only 1.3 million electric vehicles on the road in the U.S. That’s such a small percentage of the overall vehicle population, and one that will take time to build momentum.
RP: Do you have any concerns about saturating the domestic market – or is there still a considerable number of territories that are not being adequately served by your brands?
KK: We feel that there’s a lot of green space open and available for new locations all around the U.S. With more and more people gravitating to the suburbs, many areas throughout the country are experiencing tremendous growth, and are in need of our services.
RP: What does your growth strategy look like for the next three-to-five years?
KK: First, we want to expand our franchise footprint nationally; second, we are looking to acquire units and convert them to one of our two amazing brands, Grease Monkey and SpeeDee. By doing that, our short-term goal is to get to 1,000 units by the end of 2023. We just opened our 700th unit in January, and we are on the path to adding approximately 150 units this year.
Another part of our growth strategy is rebranding and reimaging our current units as we develop what we call our “Store of the Future.” The store of the future is a holistic approach that involves state-of-the-art technology, improved curb appeal that communicates our service offerings, and improved speed of service, all with the goal of enhancing our guest experience.
We are excited about the development and testing of these new processes and systems.