Untapped Niche 2010

The Untapped Niche Of Green Aftermarket Auto Care

By Rissy Sutherland


Going green is a major step to take, but it’s the right step for businesses, their customers and the planet.

In late 2007, Honest-1 Auto Care hired a market research/strategic marketing agency to help discover an untapped niche in the aftermarket auto care and maintenance industry. Results of the research project revealed that consumers wanted an environmentally responsible company to provide their car repair and maintenance needs.

There was a void in the auto-care market for such a company, and Honest-1 made the strategic decision to fill it by going green and providing what consumers wanted.

By August 2008, every Honest-1 Auto Care shop was Environmentally Sustainable Actions Certified (ESA). The ESA Certification is implemented by the company through its own standards for pollution prevention, recycling and resource conservation. To demonstrate the brand’s commitment to going green, Honest-1 Auto Care launched an exclusive line of auto care products that combine leading edge technology with innovative additives.

Initially, there was some concern among franchisees about moving to an eco-friendly positioning because they felt comfortable with the existing position of Honest-1 as an honest and female-friendly business. Another concern was the cost to operate as an eco-friendly business. As it turned out, the incremental expense was nothing substantial because it was mostly substitutions and  changes in business practices. The new positioning helped to engage customers more closely to the brand and increase their loyalty. Same-store sales are up 10 percent this year over last year.

 

honest autocare 2 2010Girls planting trees.
Photo Courtesy of: American Forests

The biggest impact on franchisees was the ESA program, which spelled out what would be expected of them as they operated under the new business model. The franchisees had time to review and assess the program, and Honest-1 Auto Care executives visited each store to ensure they were ESA certified. Every franchisee is required to update their certification when significant updates to the program or system are needed.

Communication was the key during the transition process. Communication among franchisees, between franchisees and the franchisor were equally important. Honest-1 also convened a board of advisers, which sorted out all of the benefits and potential pitfalls. The board gave the franchisees a voice in the matter. Franchisees communicated their ideas and concerns, and Honest-1 executives responded to them.

So far the response from the franchise community has been very positive, and customers have also provided strong, positive feedback. Both groups are attracted to the cause Honest-1 is supporting, as many share the same values in their personal lives that Honest-1 believes in as a business.

Because any company that “goes green” has to demonstrate to consumers that its efforts are sincere, Honest-1 formed a partnership with American Forests, a leading nonprofit organization that plants trees for environmental restoration. As a franchise system, Honest-1 has jointly committed to planting 40,000 new trees to reinforce the company’s promise to be the most eco-friendly auto repair and maintenance chain in the nation. Honest-1 Auto Care is currently the only auto repair franchise chain to enter into a year-long agreement of this magnitude with American Forests.

It’s important to remember that companies that don’t practice what they preach will be called out by consumers, especially those who identify themselves as eco-friendly.

Rissy Sutherland is senior vice president/operations for Honest-1 Auto Care, based in Scottsdale. More information is available at www.honest-1.com