AP NEWS

A new approach to auto service

July 23, 2018 GMT

The lobby at Service First Automotive looks like a comfortable waiting area at a suburban dentist’s office. While they wait for an oil change or to have a tire replaced, customers at the soon-to-be-opened business at 2044 S. Mason near Highland Knolls can sip complementary Starbucks coffee at an iPad bar — the Wi-Fi is free — or watch their kids climbing about in an indoor glass-enclosed play area.

This is not your grandfather’s garage.

Nathan Pruski, one of the co-founders of the Houston-based company, said they are excited to open up the center in Katy - their fifth in the Houston area. He was confident their business model will change the way people think about having their car serviced.

“It’s often a long unpleasant wait, ending with anxiety about whether you made the right choice,” Pruski said. “Instead, we built our business around a service-first attitude, transparency, expertise and amenities that all combine to make you feel comfortable, empowered and satisfied.”

Walk in and you’re immediately greeted by a customer service representative who will begin the process of determining what level of automotive service you require. One side of the 10,000 square foot business dedicates three lanes to oil changes, inspections and the like. Comprehensive full service diagnostic and auto repair services can be taken care of on the opposite side of the quiet lobby.

“We can do everything on a vehicle. We’ll have the brightest minds in the entire city in our repair center,” said Thomas Piland, one of the managers at the Katy business. “The goal is to be a ‘one stop shop’ for all your automotive needs. We want you to be able to come to one place and one place only and know we can handle everything on your vehicle.”

He said they completely reject the “high pressure” style of business.

“You’re not going to be pressured. You’re not going to be told what to do,” Piland said. “We’re going to provide every option for you and we’ll let you make the decisions.”

In addition to being “pet friendly,” Service First Automotive in Katy also has a special fenced-in “bark park” on site for dogs.

“You’re going to feel comfortable here. And if you’re here for a long time, we’ll go ahead and buy you lunch,” said Mike Lemley, another service manager at the business.

The Service First Automotive staff said they use state of the art technology to offer customers “digital inspections” of all the services they provide. Their certified mechanics will take digital images under the hood to better explain to the customer what part is being serviced or in need or repair. If you don’t know the difference between a socket wrench and a U-joint, they can email the digital report to a trusted family member or friend who might be a bit more mechanically inclined.

“We are excited to change the way the Katy area thinks about their experience of going to have their car services,” Pruski said.

The mark their new opening in Katy, Service First Automotive will offer 25 percent off all oil changes from July 16 through Oct. 16.

Within the next year, the company plans to have a total of 13 locations in the Houston area and at least 12 in Dallas-Fort Worth.

mike.glenn@chron.com