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Young Owner Gets it in Gear

Broomfield, Colo.-Having dreamt of owning his own shop for more than 20 years while working as an ASE Master-certified diesel technician in California, Eric Gibson finally pulled the trigger in January of 2017 when he bought Fifth Gear Automotive, an established shop in Broomfield, Colo., with a good reputation that was up for sale.

“When my wife (Erika) and I decided to move to Colorado to be closer to family, She told me ‘It’s now or never,’” Gibson said.

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This January will mark his second year of ownership, and while he said gross profits have remained steady and efficiency has increased, it hasn’t all been blue skies and rainbows.

“There have definitely been some ‘let’s not do that again’ moments,” he said, “but I’ve learned from each one.”

The shop now employs three ASE-certified technicians, a lube Tech and two service advisors, About half of what it had before, but is achieving the same gross profit, Gibson said, attributing the increased efficiency to organization and the cleaning up of long neglected areas in the shop that were affecting output.

For example, he worked with his NAPA rep at University Auto Parts, Matt Rogers, to completely re-organize the shops parts room and clear out old inventory (which he said NAPA took back and credited him for). He also isolated the shop’s Autologic, Autel and Solus scan tools to a specific area for easier access and return; worked with his lube distributor, SC Fuels, to orchestrate the installation of larger lubrication tanks and organize them into vertical stacks for space saving efficiency; and refurbished the front counter, adding more space and installing dual monitors on each computer for his two service advisors.

He also partnered with AutoVitals and instituted digital inspections; each technician now has a tablet at their bay which they use to photograph needed repairs and communicate internally with service advisors.

Overall, though, Gibson said his focus has been upholding the shops excellent reputation and taking care of, not only the existing customer base, but his new ones.

“I bought an independent business because I didn’t want to be a cookie cutter franchise owner. Where’s the fun in that?” Gibson said. “Yes, there were some challenges with customers who were loyal to the previous owner, but we’ve done very well over the past two years retaining most of our customer base.”

A relatively young owner at 40 years old, Gibson has developed a stylish new sign for the business, added some new Colorado-styled metalworks to the waiting area and keeps a Fifth Gear Automotive branded drift Trike in the shop. “I’ve tried to make it my own brand, something that people will come to trust and perhaps even enjoy doing business with,” he said. “I always keep in mind I’m going to see my customers at the grocery store and have empathy for what they’re going through when they come in — it goes a long way. For ‘parking lot’ jobs, such as replacing a brake light for free, I ask myself, ‘What is changing this brake light really worth to me in the long run?.’”

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He relies on NAPA, O’Reilly Auto Parts and World Pac as his main aftermarket suppliers, but since taking over he’s also increased the shops diesel repair footprint and said that 40 percent of his business now comes from diesel maintenance and repair. Because of that, he set up Fifth Gear as an Alliant Power distributor.

“I discovered Alliant Power in 2003 when I was a technician replacing injectors on 7.3 Powerstroke engines. We couldn’t find anybody in the aftermarket back then that was reliable, so we’d always have to buy them OE,” Gibson said. “One day my supplier at the time told me he’d just received some new injectors from Alliant Power and I took a chance on them. I’ve never looked back. I’ve had almost no issues in the 15 years I’ve been using them and every time I have, they’ve taken care of it without issue.”

The shop is an approved diesel emissions testing facility and has a dyno bay, equipped with a Rotary lift and a Mustang Dynamometer, in house. Gibson said one of the challenges he faced while striving to increase his diesel repair business was finding qualified staff.

“I had to go on a recruiting hunt, but I’ve got a good team now,” Gibson said. “Between all of us, there’s not much we can’t fix.”

He sends his technicians to training at NAPA, O’Reilly Auto Parts, Diesel Forward, and also uses AVI On Demand online training. The shop is also involved with Warren Technical Institute, and lets top-performing students come and job shadow his technicians throughout the week. “We’re doing everything we can to find ways to incorporate training into our day-to-day and also do our part to shelter in the next generation of technicians,” Gibson said.

He added that, as the shop continues to work on all makes and models, including luxury foreign imports such as Mercedes-Benz, BMWs and even Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans, he’s had to learn how to manage himself for the good of the business, even if that means throwing in the white towel on a job that isn’t profitable, something he’s not “wired” to do.

“I got no quit in me,” he said. “So going from technician to business owner, it’s like now I’ve got one hand under the hood and one on a keyboard. The technician in me wants to solve every problem no matter how much time it takes, but now I have to start thinking about, ‘Is this good for my business?’ It’s taken me about two years to learn where that line is.”

Monthly Archives: March 2020

5th Gear Auto Earns Esteemed 2014 Angie’s List Super Service Award

5th Gear Auto Earns Esteemed 2014 Angie’s List Super Service Award

Award reflects company’s consistently high level of customer service 5th Gear Auto has earned the service industry’s coveted Angie’s List Super Service Award, reflecting an exemplary year of service provided to members of the local services marketplace and consumer review site in 2014. Check our reviews at "Only about 5 percent of the Automotive companies in the Colorado / Denver Metro Area have performed so consistently well enough to earn our Super Service Award," said Angie’s List Founder Angie Hicks. "It’s a really high standard." Angie’s List Super Service Award 2014 winners have met strict eligibility requirements, which include an “A” rating in overall grade, recent grade, and review period grade; the company must be in good standing with Angie’s List, pass a background check ... read more

5th Gear Auto Wins 2015 The Broomfielder Talk Of The Town Award

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Every year the readers of The Broomfielder™ magazine select their favorite businesses in dozens of categories via an online survey called Talk of the Town. 5th Gear Auto came out on top in the voting and is the "Talk of the Town” this year! The Talk of the Town issue of The Broomfielder™ featuring 5th Gear Auto is sent to 35,000 mailboxes throughout Broomfield and North Westminster on or around Monday, November 2nd. Congratulations to 5th Gear Auto on being recognized by our readers as one of the Broomfield area’s best! Broomfield’s only community monthly publication targeting the active family, The Broomfielder™ has been published since 2001. Delivering theme-driven editorial, business information and community news, The Broomfielder™ is an excellent vehicle for promoting your local business to the area. Reflecting shopping patterns, each issue is directly mailed to over 30,000 homes and businesses in Broomfield and North Westminster

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5th Gear Auto Voted 2019 Nextdoor 2019 Neighborhood Favorite

Only 1% of all businesses are voted as a Nextdoor Neighborhood Favorite, and 5th Gear Automotive is one of them! Voted Neighborhood Favorite 2019, 2018 and 2017. Hello Neighbors, we are the local auto repair shop you can trust for all of your car and truck repair needs. But don’t take our word for it, ask your neighbors. VISIT US ON NEXTDOOR