2023 Author: Eric Donovan | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-11-27 05:39
The Pit-Stop workshop chain is on course for growth. In the next "five to seven years" the company wants to have 750 branches in Germany, as managing director Gerd Hartmann of the Autogazette said.
The workshop chain Pit-Stop wants to get away from its cheap image. «Cheap alone is no longer enough. The customer demands value for money,”said managing director Gerd Hartmann of the Autogazette. "At the moment we still have the cheap image, but that should change under my leadership," added the manager.
In addition to an image change, Hartmann is also focusing on growth. “We are currently opening 35 to 40 new branches a year. In the future, however, we want to accelerate our growth,”said Hartmann. In order to be represented nationwide in Germany, around 750 branches would have to be opened. To achieve this number, you need "about five to seven years," said Hartmann. Pit-Stop currently has 400 branches across Germany with 1,400 employees.
Cheap alone is not enough
Autogazette: Mr. Hartmann, you have set out to rid Pit-Stop of its cheap image. But doesn't the customer come to you precisely to have their car repaired at low cost?
Gerd Hartmann: Certainly the customer comes to us to have his car repaired cheaply by us. But cheap alone is no longer enough. The customer demands "Value for money", he is looking for an inexpensive offer. In the future we want to make it clear that Pit-Stop offers first-class performance and impeccable service at fair prices. At the moment we still have a cheap image, but that should change under my leadership.
Autogazette: Why is this image no longer enough for you?
Hartmann:It is no longer enough because we don't want to grow through networks but through existing branches. We have to gain market share from other areas, such as authorized workshops. But we also want to secure a higher proportion of customers in the commercial sector, i.e. the fleet business.
Autogazette: When you think of Pit-Stop, you also think of the three boys with the slogan «Jo, Jo, Jo». Will there be a different advertisement from you?
Hartmann: Yes, it will. The strategy with the three guys worked, so it would be criminal not to let them perform again. But we have to change the perception of these three screwdrivers. They have to become three master mechanics. Our three pit stop guys have to grow up now.
«Have launched the FFF program»
Autogazette: That means that the entire chain of branches has to grow up. So will something change in the appearance of your workshops?
Hartmann: Just to say that we need a change of image would be too easy. We have to get better in many areas. This also includes the external appearance of our branches. I don't want glass palaces, but attractive rooms in which our customers and employees feel equally comfortable. The service portfolio and service at Pit-Stop are really first class, but some of our branch buildings need renovation. That is why we have launched the “FFF” program….
Autogazette: … what does that stand for?
Hartmann:It stands for “Fit for Future”. This includes a well-kept, tidy workshop that assures the customer that his order will be carried out properly and accurately. “Fit for Future” is a program that is primarily aimed at our employees, because it is they who ultimately guarantee the success of Pit-Stop. Together with the employees, we want to work out in workshops how we want to develop in the future. What good is the best strategy if we don't have our employees behind us? In parallel to these measures, we will be working on a new marketing strategy. For this we find support from our new Marketing Director Fabian Seelenbrandt.
Autogazette:Do you sometimes feel like you are in a backyard workshop when you visit some of your branches?
Hartmann: No. Because that would be doing the organization that Pit Stop built in recent years injustice. It is simply the case that the strategy with its current appearance was intended. I started to create a different appearance.
Autogazette: You currently have around 400 branches. How many of them need to be spruced up to meet your needs?
Hartmann:I can't say for sure yet. We are currently analyzing what our standard branch should look like. An architectural office commissioned by us will use a specification sheet to examine what needs to be done at the existing branches. One thing is certain, however: It must always be clear to the customer that he is entering a master workshop. We have long since met many of our requirements - but they are not yet very firmly anchored in the consciousness of our customers: master workshop, OEM quality of the installed parts, guarantee commitments.
It will be a million dollar
Autogazette: According to your current level of knowledge, how much investment is necessary per branch?
Hartmann: I can't foresee that today. I have not yet visited all 400 branches. While in some branches a new ribbon or an exterior painting is sufficient for 5,000 euros, in other branches significantly more has to be done. But I definitely know one thing: in total, it will be worth millions.
Autogazette: So you are currently on a roadshow through your branches?
Hartmann:In fact, in the past weeks and months I have visited numerous branches and spoken to many employees, some of whom have been with the company for a long time and for whom Pit-Stop is more than just an employer. I took away a lot of valuable tips and suggestions from these discussions. For the redesign of the branches, on the other hand, we commissioned an architecture office, which will visit all branches in the next two months in order to then submit proposals for the redesign.
Autogazette: How quickly should the suggestions then be implemented? You are under time pressure.
Hartmann:No, we are not under pressure. Nevertheless, we want to implement the suggestions as quickly as possible. The changes should be completed within three years. For example, the branch with the highest contribution margin comes first.
Autogazette: Are your employees ready for Fit for Future?
Hartmann: We have flexible and highly motivated employees who don't shy away from innovations. Still, we all have to do a little more. The management is responsible for ensuring that everyone at Pit-Stop can keep up with the pace that we set - and with 400 branches and 1,400 employees, this can definitely take some time.
35 to 40 new branches per year
Autogazette: In order to be represented across Germany, you need around 750 branches. Is that the number you want to realize?
Hartmann: We are currently opening 35 to 40 new branches per year. In the future, however, we want to accelerate our growth and it will take around five to seven years to reach the number you mentioned. But you have to be careful with the growth, because a head office also has to cope with such a number.
Autogazette: What is important for you to grow, more branches?
Hartmann:Not exclusively. It's a third mix: first, the network, second, commercial customers, here fleet customers, and third, the displacement of authorized workshops and car dealerships is also of great importance to us. We have neglected organic growth in the past and focused too much on the existing branches.
Autogazette: You want to do a third of your business with fleet customers. It is currently just six percent. Such an increase is very ambitious …
Hartmann: I don't mean a third equal to 33 percent here, I related the statement to the value of the tasks. But if I look at my colleagues from the companies, then 20 percent is my benchmark.
Autogazette:How is that supposed to be achieved?
Hartmann: With the measures that we have already mentioned: for example, a positive appearance of the branches, value for money, organic growth, more intensive training of our employees and other innovations. An employee's name tag may seem ridiculous on its own, but in total it makes a huge difference.
ATU by no means better than pit-stop
Autogazette: Why is ATU even better than Pit-Stop?
Hartmann: ATU is by no means better than pit stop. With regard to our core business, quick repairs, ATU is not a competitor because they have a different business model. ATU, for example, has 15 lifting platforms, we have five. ATU can be found almost exclusively in industrial areas, we are present in the city and near large supermarkets in mixed commercial areas. That alone is a differentiating factor. In addition, we do not offer any accessories trade. But we don't want that either. We want to make the best possible use of our 400 branches in order to achieve a high contribution margin. Of course we look at competitors, but here the authorized workshops are our competition.
The interview with Gerd Hartmann was conducted by Marc Leimann and Frank Mertens
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