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While CEO of a major regional auto-repair chain in Tucson, Jeff Artzi became convinced there had to be a better way to serve customers than the traditional auto-shop experience.
In 2014, Artzi launched his auto repair company, Oro Valley-based OOROO Auto, around providing a better workplace culture and using technology to provide a more efficient customer experience.
Today, the company has three Tucson-area shops that have been offering mobile repair service for several years and recently launched a subscription-based maintenance program, with plans to expand its footprint regionally.
Artzi said his company’s “high-tech, high-touch” approach has the potential to fundamentally change an auto-repair industry that has in many cases failed to respond to the needs of customers and employees alike.
He described the time-honored dance car owners go through to get their cars fixed: booking an appointment, driving to the shop, getting a diagnosis and bill estimate and either waiting for repairs or arranging rides home and back.
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“This is an industry that is not known for its culture, internal culture, and it’s not known for its customer experiences, as you well know if you own a car,” said Artzi, who served as CEO of the Tucson-based auto-repair chain Brake Masters from 2008 to 2013. “It’s just not fun, and it isn’t fun internally either. People typically aren’t treated well in our industry — they’re hired quickly, they’re discarded quickly. And culture is an afterthought.”
Artzi said he started OOROO because he didn’t feel like he could make the disruptive kinds of changes he had in mind at Brake Masters, which at the time had 90 locations from Texas to California.
“That’s with no disrespect to the people at Brake Masters — they’re great guys,” said Artzi, who holds an MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business and studied for his CPA certification at the University of Arizona.
“But I wanted to do something different, and the only way to do that is to build a culture from the ground up.”
To form a base for his startup company in 2014, Artzi bought an existing auto shop in Oro Valley and named it OOROO — simple adding an “o” before and after “Oro” — as an eye-catching name signifying the company was something new in the industry, he said.
The company has since added shops in Green Valley and in February, in Vail, and also offers mobile service with a fleet of three service vans.
For its 25 employees, which include auto techs with decades of experience, OOROO offers above-industry pay, health benefits, paid time off, a 401(k) retirement plan with a company match and weekends off.
Artzi’s wife, Sara, handles all the human resources and customer-service matters for OOROO as “Chief Feel Good Officer.”
“We operate in the auto care industry but take our cues from technology companies and hospitality at the intersection of high tech and high touch,” Artzi said.
OOROO Auto’s attention to company culture and customer service has helped it win two Better Business Bureau awards for ethics, two Tucson Metro Chamber Copper Cactus Awards — one for small-company Best Place to Work in 2020 and an Innovation Award in 2018 — as well as an Arizona Daily Star Reader’s Choice Award and other accolades.
The company promotes a fun and energetic workplace atmosphere, and Artzi said he took his initial cues from companies like Southwest Airlines.
OOROO didn’t start offering mobile repairs until 2018 but it was always in the company’s business plan, Artzi said.
“It’s a business model that we’ve been working on from day one and the mobile component comes right out of our mission statement. It’s about expertise, safety, care and convenience. So of course, we’re going to take our services to where people work or live.”
The idea of mobile auto-repair service isn’t new — such services have long been offered mainly by independent mechanics or small shops — and limited emergency services such as battery and tire repairs are commonplace.
But the major repair chains have largely been slow to adapt to changing customer needs, Artzi said.
Now, driven by technology and, to some degree, the growth of on-demand home services in general related to the pandemic, mobile auto repair is starting to take off nationally.
Several well-funded startups, including RepairSmith and YourMechanic.com, offer mobile service essentially by providing an online platform to schedule service with local independent mechanics and handling pricing and billing.
The value of parts alone used in mobile auto repairs of cars and light trucks rose from $265 million to $487 million between 2016 and 2020 — growing more than 20 times faster than the value of all parts sales to auto shops and mobile techs combined, according to Lang Marketing, an Indiana-based market research firm that tracks the market for aftermarket parts used for many common maintenance and repair jobs.
“Millennials, who as the generations change become the primary buying force in the aftermarket, are much more inclined to use mobile repair than for example baby boomers or Generation X,” said Jim Lang, president of Lang Marketing, adding that millennials are much more likely to shop online in general.
“The pandemic helped because people didn’t want to go to a service shop and sit in a waiting room,” Lang added. “Some of that has subsided, but more importantly now with the increase in gas prices, there will be an uptick in mobile repair among consumers because they don’t want to drive to get an oil change performed if that service can be performed in their driveway.”
For regular OOROO customer Bethany Fernandez-Pogue, it’s a matter of time and convenience.
“It’s a lot easier for me to work from home, so I can work, they show up and then its a five-minute conversation where I can give them the information about the vehicle, then I can go about my day while they do what they need to do,” said Fernandez-Pogue, who works as an analyst for Southwest Gas and lives on the Northwest side.
“No rides, no taking 30 to 45 minutes out of my day to drive over there,” she said, noting that her mother referred her to OOROO after a having good experiences at its Oro Valley shop.
Artzi acknowledges he has some well-funded, established competition for mobile services, such as RepairSmith, which came out of an incubation program backed by Mercedes-Benz in 2018 and raised $42 million in venture-capital funding last year.
YourMechanic Services was founded in 2012 out of Silicon Valley’s Y Combinator and has raised more than $40 million from investors including actor Ashton Kutcher.
But Artzi said those companies have had trouble keeping up service and quality, he said, noting that RepairSmith no longer serves Tucson and both companies have had mixed reviews.
Subscribing to success?
In November, OOROO launched a service subscription program which allows customers to pay one monthly fee per vehicle — $19.95 per domestic car and $29.99 for European imports — and receive a suite of standard auto care services, including up to three oil changes annually, wiper blade and filter changes and a 10% discount on all other repairs.
The “Happy Car Club” also includes a three-year or 36,000-mile warranty on parts OOROO installs, and enrollment in the company’s 3%-back rewards program for purchases and referrals.
OOROO has worked with some major local employers, including ADP and Geico, to allow access for mobile repairs in their employee lots, especially during the pandemic, Artzi said, adding that employers could potentially subsidize subscriptions to the car-maintenance club as an employee benefit.
Looking ahead, Artzi said the company plans to expand both its shop and mobile operations, with at least one more shop in the Tucson area and future expansion into Phoenix and beyond.
But Artzi said amid new offering and expansion, the company will always maintain its customer-focused mission.
“The critical piece is, the thing we talk about in our huddles, is that we can never forget to focus on the car right in front of us — we call them ‘human transport machines’ because we don’t ever want to forget that there’s going to be a human being that’s going to be driving this car, with a car seat in a the backseat and spouse beside them.”