‘We feel like we got our number one draft pick’
Industry veteran Dave Crawford has taken on a new role as chief executive officer of The Hybrid Shop LLC (THS). In addition to overseeing day-to-day operations and management, Crawford will focus on expanding the THS network of franchise locations servicing all-electric and hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs). THS founder and former CEO Matt Curry will continue to oversee the company’s evolution in his new position as chief visionary officer.
“We are growing very fast and we needed somebody who has experience building franchises and more industry connections than me,” says Curry, who founded THS in 2013 after selling his 10-store dealership based in Gainesville, Va., Curry’s Auto Service Inc., to Monro Muffler Brake Inc. “Dave has tons of contacts, is very well-respected in the industry and has the experience building franchises. We feel like we got our number one draft pick.”
There are currently 23 dealers and 37 locations in the THS network, with several more dealers set to launch in the next two months. “Our goal is 60 dealers by the end of the year,” says Curry.
THS also is expanding internationally with locations in Canada and possibly Australia opening by the end of 2014 or early 2015. The company is aiming for 200 locations by the end of 2015.
“We already bring a lot of value in terms of added revenue, profits, car counts, marketing and branding,” says Curry. “We want to be the gold standard in the hybrid market franchise and add real value to our dealers, and I think Dave is the next step in doing that.”
Crawford’s four decades in the industry include 11 years with the defunct American Car Care Centers, where he was director of marketing. He’s also served as vice president of marketing for Merchants Tire in Manassas, Va., and owned a retail tire and service business.
Before joining THS, Crawford honed his franchising experience at American Tire Distributors Holdings Inc., where he was vice of operations for its Tire Pros dealer network. He joined Tire Pros in March 2008 when it was the franchise program of AM-PAC Tire Distributors Inc. By the end of that year, Tire Pros had a new owner, ATD, and close to 180 franchise locations. At the 2014 Tire Pros National Dealer Business Conference in February, ATD executives placed the number at 560 locations owned by 408 dealers.
The Hybrid Shop began franchising hybrid servicing technology, training and marketing support to dealers in the spring of 2013. “Servicing hybrids is a great opportunity for dealers to add on to their existing business,” says Crawford.
Hybrids make up about 4% of all the vehicles on the road. The hybrid market is expected to grow 10% in 2015 with substantial growth projected for the next five to 10 years. Crawford says automakers must turn to alternate technologies such as HEVs to meet government-mandated fuel economy standards in 2018 and 2023. “Dealers who are not servicing hybrids could potentially lose car count, sales and profitability depending on their marketplace.”
In North America, the West Coast from southern California to Seattle is a dominant market for hybrid electric vehicles. The East Coast from Boston to Florida is also strong, and in the Midwest, major cities such as Chicago, Kansas City, Memphis, Dallas and Houston have strong potential.
The technology and training in high-voltage battery pack charging and conditioning was developed by Mark Quartero, Ph.D., who is chief technology officer of Automotive Research and Design LLC, which is a partner in THS.
Overcoming the learning curve and raising consumer awareness are the biggest challenges for dealers servicing hybrids, according to Crawford. “We help with both by providing dealer and technician training at our training center in Wisconsin. We also provide marketing support to assist with building the awareness and to drive new customers.”
For more information on the THS dealer network and the equipment, technical training and marketing support it provides for dealers servicing hybrid vehicles, visit www.thehybridshop.com.