Firm Ends Auto Service Hassle

September 16, 2002
| By Katy Rent |
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GRAND RAPIDS — Maximizing time and money are priorities in all aspects of everyday life. And when it comes to the car you drive and transport your family in, you want to be able to maximize time and money while staying safe.

To this end, three friends started Wheelz Automotive Sales and Leasing, and Service on Wheelz, located at 2455 29th St. SE. The two branches work together to save business people time and money by creating unique partnerships with other members of the automotive industry.

Wheelz Automotive Sales and Leasing matches people with cars by searching out exactly what the customer wants and bringing it to them from wherever it may be. Service on Wheelz operates under the same philosophy but matches cars and people with service. The business works with various service shops to fix each specific car ailment.

The leadership trio, comprised of Chris Hoexum, Scott Butz and Aaron Plafkin, touts experience combined with a personal touch.

“We know each of our customer’s names, first and last, and in some cases their spouse’s and children’s names,” said Plafkin. “And our customers like that; they like that we are right there and they can trust us.”

Plafkin concentrates on Service on Wheelz, while Hoexum and Butz run Wheelz Automotive Sales and Leasing.

All three came from backgrounds in automotive work and understood what element was often missing from a transaction.

“Customer service, in this industry, is really non-existent and for a long time we wanted to start our own business and provide customers with the service they deserved and should be used to,” said Plafkin. “We provide service and we are concerned and completely devoted to return customers. If we help a customer, we expect to continue helping them with all of their cars. And all of that is dependent on how we treat them — and it should be nothing short of the best.”

What the three set out to do was create partnerships with area mechanics, oil, lube and filter professionals, body shops, glass specialists, etc. to form a company that could do it all.

Each service shop still operates on its own, while working with and accepting business from Wheelz.

“Having worked with numerous people in the automotive business I feel I know the best place to take your car for transmission work, the best place to take it to have your sunroof replaced and the best place to take your car to have the oil changed,” said Plafkin. “It is a win-win situation for both of us really. Us, because our customers go through us to get there, and a win for them because we are bringing the business right to them.”

The same goes for the sales and leasing side of the business: Hoexum and Butz can provide any new or pre-owned vehicle that a client is looking for.

“Many times a customer will go into a showroom and know they would like a silver 2002 Saab with specific amenities. Well, if the dealership has a black, 2002 Saab with those amenities they may try and talk them into buying that car,” said Hoexum. “Here, we don’t have a large inventory, so we can order a car exactly as you like it and meet all of your preferences.”

The partners say they are similar to a car and service headhunter group.

“When you are looking for a job, you go to a headhunter that has an array of jobs and can find the perfect fit and the best of what you are looking for,” said Hoexum. “Here, you tell us three things you want on a car and we will bring them to you. The same with service: We are going to take the car to the best place possible for each thing that needs to be completed.”

Upon receiving a car from Wheelz, the customer will need to service that car on a regular basis, which is where Service on Wheelz comes in.

For a customer looking for service on a car and not needing a rental car, there is a onetime fee of $30 plus the cost of service. For service on a car with a loaner car, there is a onetime fee of $50 plus the cost of service. This fee pays for Service on Wheelz to pick up the car, take it in for service, have the service work completed and then return it. If a loaner car is needed, it eliminates a daily loaner car fee and the headache of trying to find alternate transportation.

A yearlong service plan also is available. With a loaner car the fee is $275, and without a loaner car the fee runs $160. Plafkin noted that while this might not be cost effective for a single person with one car, for a family with two cars the fee will more than pay for itself over the year.

Communication is key to Wheelz and Service on Wheelz, and the three men keep customers informed about every step of the repair, service and search process.

Another area Wheelz is looking to get into is airport shuttle service. While Wheelz does offer a loaner car option, a perfect time to have a car repaired often can be while the customer is out of town.

“Everyone is busy these days, especially those that work, have a family and want some time to enjoy themselves,” said Plafkin. “We can have a customer call us and say, ‘I am leaving on Monday and coming back on Wednesday. Could you take me to the airport, take my car in and fix it and then pick me up?’ That way they are paying zero for parking, there is no need for their spouse to wake up at 6 a.m., get the kids up and drive to the airport, and the headache is taken away.”

Wheelz also will pick up a car when the owner isn’t home, get it fixed and then return it to the owner’s house.

“We would like to grow and expand to get to that higher level, but we still want to stay small and have a hands-on approach so we know what is going on — and so does the customer,” said Hoexum. “We will focus on that and keep that personal touch.”           

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