CARLSBAD — It’s not surprising in the wake of the recession that luxury car owners are holding on to their vehicles and avoiding the expense of a new one.
First-time entrepreneurs Greg Stellman and Ryan Carpenter are benefiting from this trend. It’s a win-win.
Three years ago they went out on a limb and quit their jobs as factory-trained technicians at a local dealership to launch Carlsbad Exclusive Auto.
Today their service center provides complete diagnosis, maintenance and repair services on Mercedes, BMW and Porsche automobiles.
“The first year and a half was a little scary,” Stellman said. “Now we’re seeing some light at the end of the tunnel.”
Stellman says his shop offers the identical services of a dealership short of selling cars and performing factory bumper-to-bumper warranty work.
“We have the same level of diagnostic equipment and tools,” he said.
The cost of a diagnosis is a flat $95, even if it takes 16 hours to identify the problem — which has happened.
Afterward customers are briefed on the condition of their vehicle and provided with a list of repairs in order of priority.
“We’re fair,” Stellman said. “If you try to get customers to do things they don’t need, you might be able to get away with it for a while but we want to make sure they keep coming back.”
At times Stellman has had to advise customers to stop pouring money into their vehicles altogether.
“Sometimes they listen, sometimes they don’t,” he said. “The older cars tend to be sentimental — it’s not always about the money.”
Their largest market segment is women, many of whom bring male relatives or friends along for moral support on their first visit.
“Then they come back alone,” Stellman said. “I like when women tell us that their boyfriend or husband said, ‘Yeah, they are good guys.’ That has helped because today we have loyal women customers who tell their girlfriends about us.”
Stellman said he immediately recognized the value of locating the business on Auto Center Court because his neighbors provide many complementary services.
“People can come here and get a rental car,” he said. “They can also get their car detailed, have their windows tinted, or get their windows repaired or replaced.”
To save money on repairs, Stellman and Carpenter offer these recommendations:
“Watch your tire pressure so they last longer,” Stellman said. “BMW and Porsche tires aren’t cheap.”
In addition, it is important to adhere to service recommendations in the owner’s manual and not allow repairs to accumulate.
“If customers let repairs snowball it’s going to be expensive,” Carpenter adds. “You don’t want to pay for it all at once.”
Stellman and Carpenter share a love affair with automobiles that began as children. Both graduated from the automotive technology program at Universal Technical Institute in Phoenix.
“At school, they had a lab where I learned how to diagnose anti-lock braking system of a Mercedes,” Stellman said. “I liked the quality of equipment. I’ve always been drawn to top-notch quality.”
Carpenter, on the other hand, prefers BMWs.
“They’re easier to diagnose and simpler to work on,” he said. “They’re more straightforward.”
After meeting as factory-certified technicians at a dealership, the men realized they shared a passion for cars in their private time as well. They began offroading and attending offroad races together.
Stellman explains that job stress eventually caused him to lose his interest in cars outside of the workplace.
“Since starting my own business I got the love of cars back,” he said smiling.
Carlsbad Exclusive Auto is located at 1060 Auto Center Court. They are open from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays. For more information, call (760) 476-9632 or visit carlsbadexclusiveauto.com.