We’ve all been there.
Your car makes a weird noise, so you take it to the local shop. After mechanics look it over, someone tells you what the problem is — but invariably, there’s a spate of other problems apparently waiting to be addressed.
So, your $100 tweak just became a thousand-dollar repair.
That’s not the way it works at AAMCO of Maricopa. Owner Tony Murell, who purchased the franchise on North John Wayne Parkway last year, has been in the automotive industry for nearly 30 years. And he knows many motorists hate that dreaded trip to the mechanic.
“We want people to trust us that what we’re telling them about their car is true, and that it’s the right thing,” he said. “We want it to be the same kind of relationship people have with their doctor, where they trust that the person giving them advice has their best interests at heart.”
At most garages, if a repair is estimated to take six hours but the mechanic can do it in four, the shop still bills for six hours. Part of those savings is passed on to the mechanic as commissions, which gives them an incentive to work fast — but not carefully.
“We don’t pay any of our employees on commission because we don’t want them to take shortcuts on a job or overcharge the customer in any way,” Murell said. “I probably don’t make as much profit as I could by doing things that way, but I can sleep at night. There’s no incentive for my employees to do any work that’s not needed.”
That sort of straight-forward approach came from where the 52-year-old cut his teeth during a four-year stint in the U.S. Coast Guard. He fell into the mechanical specialty by accident.
“My interest in cars started before my military service, but because I’m color blind, there were only certain jobs I could do in the service and one was in the engineering department working on vehicles in what they called the ‘Auxiliary Gang,” he said. “We worked on small boat motors for fast boats, deployable boats, as well as hydraulics for hoists and cranes. It turns out that a transmission is essentially just a large hydraulic motor, so I got an early education on how transmissions worked, and it stuck with me.”
After leaving the Coast Guard, Murell installed car stereos, then co-owned his own custom car shop. After selling that to his partner, he moved to Florida and worked in the automotive salvage, recycling and scrap metal industry for 20 years.
He and his wife of 10 years, Jeannie, moved to Arizona from Michigan in 2020, and he sought a new business opportunity.
AAMCO gave him a list of available locations and the closest one to him was Maricopa.
“I didn’t want to have to build something from the ground up, and I really liked the idea that AAMCO is the only national chain that specializes in transmissions,” he said. “We’re not a tire shop, not a brake shop, not a quick oil change place where there are a lot of competitors around. AAMCO is the only one doing transmissions.”
It wasn’t just the opportunity to work on transmissions that sold him on the AAMCO opportunity, though. He realized Maricopa would be a great place to own a business.
“I bought AAMCO because of the location in Maricopa,” he said. “The city is growing so fast, and it isn’t going to stop any time soon. You can go into some areas up in the Valley where they have peaked in terms of their potential, but here it’s a clean slate, a growing city, and businesses can grow with the city.
“Also, people are friendlier here than in the Valley. Most of them are more laid back and down to earth than those in Phoenix, so it’s easy to do business in Maricopa.”
While transmissions are AAMCO’s specialty, they’re not the only service Murell’s shop offers.
He said he provides all aspects of car maintenance and repair with the exception of tires and alignments. But he still loves working on transmissions.
“Transmissions today are more complicated than ever before,” he said. “Since the invention of electronics, transmissions have become less durable than their non-electronic counterparts. Just the simple aspect of the number of speeds is a huge factor.”
And while the transmissions he works on may be more complicated than ever, his philosophy isn’t.
He also sets their hours in a family-friendly way, he said.
Murell only keeps the shop open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. so his staff can spend time with their families.
“It’s important to me that we do it this way,” he said. “We realized we can get by working a few less hours. Nobody wants to work six or seven days a week. People need time to spend with their families, and to rest and recharge so we get the best performance out of them when they’re here. We probably make a little less money by doing it that way, but our employees really appreciate it and are loyal because of it.”
The November edition of InMaricopa Magazine is in Maricopa mailboxes and available online.