The automotive industry has always been on the cutting edge of innovation, from Henry Ford’s development of the modern assembly line to recent advancements in self-driving vehicles. As a result of the technologies now being built into vehicles, modern mechanics have to be more than just “good with their hands” to competently service today’s advanced cars and trucks.
“You need to be half mechanic and half computer technician,” said Andrew O’Donnell, the newest addition to the team of licenced automotive technicians at Loop Auto. “You need constant education, constant courses, reading, research and a lot of money. You have to stay up to date with all the latest tools and equipment. It requires constant upgrading mentally and mechanically.”
Owned and operated by former IT specialist Hank Zhang, Loop Automotive is a great example of the high degree of expertise required to successfully operate a modern automotive repair shop. Zhang and his team are not only fully licensed and insured automotive technicians; they also build and drive GT-series race cars when they’re not staffing the three service bays at the Bedford-area garage.
“I received my BA in IT at Dalhousie, but racing cars was always a dream of mine,” said Zhang, a Chinese immigrant whose business has become the repair shop of choice with the Chinese community in Halifax. “That’s what got me into the automotive industry. It’s all about the dedication.”
In the two years since opening Loop Automotive, Zhang said he has drawn from his IT background to constantly integrate new technologies into the operation. From accounting software and digital invoicing to internet-based tracking and storage of customer service histories, Zhang says all efforts are designed to help make the business more efficient while improving customer service.
“For example, we keep everything in the Cloud,” said Zhang, who leads a team of seven at his Bedford location. “We use a lot of technologies in the workplace. We talk to customers through Wechat, Kijiji, Facebook and Google business. We use computers to post pictures on the internet of the work being done and the parts being used, so it’s more transparent for the customers.”
Another aspect of the business that Zhang says separates Loop Automotive from its competition is the attention to details when conducting repairs.
“We only use the best materials and we always do work by the book,” he said. “If you get a brake job, we clean and lubricate every contact surface with materials that costs $30 a can. You’re not going to see the difference right away, but you will after you drive a while. We make sure every detail is taken care of. And we always want to offer the best price, which is why we price match and offer discounts to new customers.”
Given the time of year, Zhang says it’s important for drivers to come in for their annual preventative maintenance to help get them safely through the harsh winter driving season.
“The most important thing right now is to change your tires. Get your winter tires on to make sure you’re safe. The second thing is to apply undercoat to help protect the bottom of the car. Even if your car is five or six years old, it is probably already starting to rust. Spray it with undercoat will help prevent it from spreading and protect it from snow, ice and salt.”
Loop Automotive is currently located at 415 Bluewater Road in Bedford. Zhang says he is planning to open a second location in Prospect in the New Year. For service, call (902) 832-9867.