CLEVELANDRad Air Complete Car Care & Tire Center is getting a foothold in the growing hybrid vehicle market with the launch of a Cleveland Hybrid division at its 12 northeast Ohio locations.
Each of the locations will feature Cleveland Hybrid signage and all the technicians have been trained to handle hybrid and electric vehicle (EV) repairs, maintenance and remanufactured replacement batteries, the company said. The Parma Heights, Ohio-based dealership has five master hybrid technicians who have taken an additional 40 hours of hybrid training.
We have been training our staff on hybrid and electric vehicles since 2005, said Andy Fiffick, Rad Air president. Hybrid and EV owners can face challenges when attempting to get their cars repaired or find replacement batteries. The goal of Cleveland Hybrid is to offer an affordable alternative to the pricey services offered by traditional dealers.
Rad Air has invested about $100,000 in training, equipment and hybrid vehicles used for training, Mr. Fiffick said.
The firm claims Cleveland Hybrid is Northeast Ohio's first repair shop trained and qualified to maintain, service and repair hybrid and electrical vehicles at a fraction of the cost offered by other providers. Currently Rad Air locations service about two to three hybrid vehicles per week on average, he said.
In the Cleveland market, the hybrid owners are very far and few between. There are only 2,600 registered hybrids in Northeast Ohio, Mr. Fiffick told Tire Business.
Yet, he added, there is no doubt that these services are needed in our area, noting that hybrids are great for the environment and for gas usage, but getting them serviced has been a real hassle for car owners.
The launching of Cleveland Hybrid provides these car owners a new source for affordable, expert repairs and replacement batteries that will save thousands of dollars. Cleveland Hybrid offers the same benefits as all Rad Air locations.
Mr. Fiffick called the Cleveland/ Northeast Ohio area a very small market, but it's a very niche market because those clients are very, very in tune with their vehicles, what is needed to take care of them and very finicky on who touches their vehicles. It's almost like a little cult. They ask lots of questions, they know everything about what you're talking about so you have to talk the talk and walk the walk to be able to deal with them....
I think we're in at the ground floor and we're going to continue to grow the market as fast as the market will grow.
Rad Air has been servicing hybrid vehicles for years but up to this point has generated business through word of mouth. Now under the Cleveland Hybrid division, the company is marketing directly to hybrid owners.
I purchased a list of all registered hybrid owners in the state, and (to) all the ones in Northeast Ohio we are sending a monthly mailer and we have a Cleveland Hybrid website, Mr. Fiffick said.
It has been paying dividends. We're doing twice as many hybrids now than we did just six months ago. So the word is spreading. But again it's a very small market.
The neat part is, if we get the hybrid vehicle in the client's home into our shop, they get to know us, they see who we are and they get to like usand then we get the rest of the family's other vehicles. So the hybrid may be a gateway to gaining new clients that we don't have now.
The next phase for the Cleveland Hybrid operation is to install public EV charging stations within the next six months outside every Rad Air location, he said.
The biggest challenge for the dealership was the fear factor of the technicians, Mr. Fiffick noted.
You hear so much negativity that you could basically get killed or really injured working on a hybrid.... They came in with that fear and now the fear is subsided once you learn the technology and you know how to work on it.
The dealership noted that its new division seeks to provide the fast, friendly, community-based service and clients can expect honest advice, no pushy sales tactics, free loaner vehicles and an excellent warranty.
Meanwhile, Rad Air recently signed a multi-year extension of its marketing sponsorship of the Summit Racing Equipment I-X Piston Powered Auto-Rama in Cleveland.
The deal, which includes the presenting naming rights, runs through the show's 50th anniversary in 2016.
Rad Air became the presenting sponsor of the 2014 show held last March at the I-X Center in Brookpark, Ohio, near Cleveland. The tire dealership also is the lead sponsor of the show's Vocational/Technical School Challenge competition, during which students troubleshoot and fix vehicles with pre-determined failures in timed competitions.
The company also will sponsor the show's Celebrity Spark Plug Challenge, featuring two competitors who will race against time to see who can change a spark plug the fastest and correctly.
The 49th Annual Summit Racing Equipment I-X Piston Powered Auto-Rama Presented by Rad Air Complete Car Care & Tire Centers will be held at the I-X Center, March 20-22, 2015.
Rad Air's store count includes nine franchised outlets.
To reach this reporter: [email protected]; 330-865-6127. Twitter: @kmcarr