German-Motorcars' Specialty Is Also Its Strength
By Leona Dalavai Scott
Despite the language barrier, immigrant family succeeds and creates a niche for itself in the German automotive service market.
Name: German Motorcars Inc.
Location: Tampa, Fla.
Size of shop: 4,000 square feet
Number of years in business: 22 years
Number of employees: 3
Number of repairs per week: 10 (not including oil changes)
Projected annual sales: $300,000
Web site: www.German-Motorcars.com
Why German-Motorcars is an ASA member: "Nationwide support from a strong organization willing to work for and with its members." - Maik Tessman, president and shop foreman
You know German-Motorcars, an ASA member shop in Tampa, Fla., is doing something right when it still has one of its original customers from when it opened 22 years ago. The shop, which specializes in servicing Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Porsche and Ferrari automobiles, began as a one-bay facility and now has three bays.
Ever since the family - consisting of retired shop owner Bernd Tessmann, his wife, Lisa, and son, Maik - immigrated to this country in 1986, they have been in the business of fixing cars.
At the time, Maik (pronounced "Mike") was still in school so Bernd and Lisa ran the shop, repairing all types of German vehicles from Volkswagen to Mercedes. In Germany, Bernd had earned his mechanical engineering degree, which included automotive repair certification. Despite his excellent training and educational background, English was a problem. Bernd struggled with the language as he faced indignant customers who told him flatly, "If you can't speak English, you can't work on my cars."
Bernd forged ahead, delivering quality work time and again, which won the loyalty of his growing customer base. Within five years, the business grew to the point where he hired two German technicians while Lisa ran the administrative end of the business.
|Seated in the waiting room of German-Motorcars is the Tessmann family, from l-r: Bernd (or "Bernie"), Maik and Lisa.
In 1992, the Robert Bosch Corp. named German-Motorcars Inc. as a Bosch Authorized Service Center. A few years later - in 1995 - Maik graduated from high school and was awarded a scholarship to a local vocational school to study automotive service. However, wanting to specialize in German makes of cars, the scholarship became void because the vocational school considered most European - German cars in particular - too complex and expensive to train on.
So Bernd decided to train his son himself, along with training support from Bosch. After three years of intensive training, Maik became one of Bosch's prestigious master automotive technicians - the first one in Florida and the second in the United States at the time.
Currently, Maik is running the business after Bernd was forced to retire as a result of hearing loss incurred during WW II bombings when he was a toddler. Retirement has allowed Bernd leisure time to work on wife Lisa's new car. Its first outing was a rally with the local Mercedes-Benz Chapter, to which he belongs. He is also a member of the Society of Automotive Engineers.
|For its commitment eco-friendly practices, the shop received the Green Star Award from the Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) of Hillsborough County in March.
German-Motorcars recently received the "Green Star" award from the Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) of Hillsborough County. The goal of the "Green Star" program is to help the automotive repair industry go above and beyond environmental compliance through Best Management Practices and Pollution Prevention strategies. "Green Star" is a voluntary program that the EPC, with support from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) and the Florida Automotive Trade Association (FATA), initiated to help auto repair facilities become better stewards of the environment.
"We like to make every effort to use eco-friendly practices," said Maik. German-Motors Cars was only the ninth shop in the county to receive the environmental honor - quite an accomplishment considering there are 1,200 service and repair shops in Hillsborough County.
Maik says the shop is content when it comes to the growth of the business. With approximately 10 repair orders per week (not including oil changes), it only schedules work by appointment. It has faced some setbacks in the past with retaining qualified technicians who left German-Motorcars to work for a dealership.
So for now, Maik handles most repairs, with Bernd stepping in occasionally to help.
|German-Motorcars prides itself on its technologically advanced equipment that it uses to service cars. Nussbaum lifts, Beissbarth wheel machines and Bosch test devices are just some of the equipment found in its bay area, which is the same equipment that manufacturer facilities use.
Since 2003, German-Motorcars has seen an increase in the number of electrical issues and repairs that it handles. One monumental project it handled was an electrical harness replacement on a 1997 S500 Mercedes-Benz, which took 85 hours to complete! It's specialized repairs like these that show why the shop can only handle a few repairs at a time.
Maik says that customers like making appointments as it often allows them to get their car back the same day that they take it in for servicing. It also enables the customer to talk to the person directly involved in repairing their vehicle, which is something he says can get lost when a business grows too quickly.
German-Motorcars' marketing consists of word-of-mouth and mailing postcard reminders for service. Looking ahead, Maik says the shop plans to work more on electrical system issues, which has always been the backbone of the business, along with exploring issues related to alternative fuels.
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