by Debbie Briggs
What some shop owners might consider a negative has actually been a positive for Weathers Motors, Inc. in Media-Lima, PA. At its current location since 1922, the business started as a repair shop, servicing Model T Fords and Packards, but now repairs any make and model of vehicle. For many years, Weathers Motors was a new car dealership selling and servicing Chrysler vehicles.
“We started out with Plymouth, then transformed into a Dodge dealership also doing repairs,” says third-generation Owner Larry Weathers III. “Then in June 2009, Chrysler went through bankruptcy and cut 789 dealers out of the network. We were one of the dealers that got cut. But repairs have continued from 1922 to now.”
Losing the Chrysler franchise, Weathers says, actually worked in the shop’s favor since it’s now free to work on all makes and models. Add to that a large customer base, and the business is still going strong all those years after Larry Weathers Sr. started the shop.
“My grandfather (pictured in the third photo) was just so fair and honest from day one,” Weathers says. “His honesty brought people back. People talked about it and by word of mouth told other people, and then they would come here, too.”
Weathers Motors is now providing service to fourth-generation customers. Those kind of long-term partnerships are key to the success of any shop, and with the transition to an independent repair facility, Weathers says the shop’s partnership with local family-owned parts supplier, Berrodin Co., was vital to its success. Berrodin Co. is one of the charter members of the Federated Auto Parts program distribution group, a member since 1985.
“Working with Federated member Berrodin has been great — great parts value, availability and outstanding service,” Weathers says. “Parts deliveries are very efficient and dependable. Berrodin has been very helpful with monthly specials, on-time deliveries, clinics, expert counter service, and they respond to questions and problems quickly; they provide great customer service and quality products.”
It’s no surprise that the excellent customer service Weathers Motors has come to expect from Berrodin is the same top-notch service they offer their own customers.
“We have been able to deliver a quality product to our customers, efficiently and effectively,” Weathers says of the shop’s affiliation with Federated and Berrodin. “There are no problems with parts returns or faulty parts. The time that a customer’s car is down has been held to a minimum.”
Federated ‘Shop of the Year’
It should come as no surprise that out of hundreds of nominated shops, Weathers Motors, Inc. was chosen as Federated’s first-ever “Shop of the Year” award winner. Federated was looking for a top shop to honor for its knowledgeable, professional service technicians, along with superior customer service and repairs.
“It was quite an honor and a surprise to be selected out of the entire country,” Weathers says, adding that he’ll definitely promote the honor in his advertising and on his website. “This is an award that leaves an impression on people.”
Both critical to winning the inaugural top shop award and providing quality repairs is a staff of seasoned technicians who know how to repair a vehicle right the first time. Add an attractive benefits package and positive work environment, and it’s easy to see why the shop attracts new talent mainly through referrals and word of mouth.
We employ four full-time technicians and one part-time technician,” Weathers says. “All are ASE-certified and have GM, Ford, Chrysler, Honda and Toyota training. We treat employees fairly, and we stay competitive with current pay scales, we keep the shop safe, and offer a 401K and profit sharing plan and health benefits.”
Among the criteria for the inaugural top shop award was active involvement in the community with a track record of achieving excellence. Weathers Motors more than fits the bill, with involvement in several local groups, including the local Middletown Business Association and the Pennsylvania Automotive Association.
“We also belong to the Rotary Club of Media and sit on the Board of Riddle Memorial Hospital, Neumann University and the Red Cross,” Weathers says. “We’re active in Boy Scouts and the local high school sports and music programs. They all help to integrate us in the community and promote goodwill.”
In addition to being well known in the community, Weathers says the shop attracts customers by cable TV, internet and direct mail — and by treating customers with respect.
“We keep them by giving them great service at a great price,” Weathers stresses. “We do not oversell, we do not do work that doesn’t have to be done, and we recommend work and ask for approval.”
Consistent specials for oil changes, with combination pricing along with other services, are very popular, and tires are offered at a very competitive price. Rebate programs on select parts and a quarterly direct-mail program that goes to all customers in targeted zip codes also works well.
“We also drop customers off and shuttle them where they need to go,” Weathers says. “We try to really listen to the customer and be flexible in their needs and accommodate them.”
In addition to more traditional ways to keep customers coming through the doors, Weathers says a strong internet presence has given business a boost. Social media is something shops can’t afford to overlook.
“Our website from award-winning designer Dealer.com acts as our billboard, and we also regularly post on Facebook,” Weathers says. “We post service specials, and people do click on them and bring their vehicles in. We’ll also post service tips, such as the importance of oil changes. It’s an image builder, and it makes people think about their car.”
So what’s been the secret to Weathers Motors’ longevity? According to Larry Weathers, it really comes down to happy customers.
“The number one thing is having qualified technicians,” he concludes. “Right up there with that is parts availability and the quality of parts — good parts and having them delivered on time. Customers want their cars back quickly. You need great communication between the tech, the service advisor and the customer.”
It’s been a winning combination for this long-running shop — one that’s worthy of an industry accolade like Federated “Shop of the Year.”
Green Is Good
Weathers Motors Inc. believes in instituting “green” initiatives and it has been a plus for the shop and the environment.
The shop recycles all plastic, cardboard, glass and oil, plus it uses a shop heater to recycle waste oil. “Recycling has raised the awareness level of how important it is to protect our environment,” says owner Larry Weathers III. “It sends the message in-house and to customers that we are responsible business people.”