In 1959, when most auto repair shops were still offering a broad variety of services, Anthony A. Martino opened a shop that specialized in automatic transmissions, dubbing it AAMCO Transmissions (an acronym for his name). The shop's first year in business proved to be an overwhelming success, and the Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, company began franchising in 1962. Some 18 million transmissions later, "[The automotive services industry is] very specialized," says AAMCO's vice president of franchise development Jack Wilki. "Brake, fast-tune and muffler specialists work in each other's favor because consumers are now used to going to specialty franchises for service."
In the 1960s, says Wilki, investors were buying AAMCO franchises because they offered a proven system and training that would provide extensive support. The resulting benefit for today's approximately 710 AAMCO franchisees? "Our name recognition in America today is 93 percent," says Wilki. "We've spent probably half a billion dollars on TV and radio advertising alone"--much of it as pioneers in the use of celebrity spokespeople and athletes.
Even with AAMCO's estimated systemwide sales of $450 million in 1997, it takes more than a big name to bring customers back year after year. "Training is incredibly important," says Wilki. "Over the years, we've learned what works and what doesn't and how best to teach it to franchisees and their staffs."
Perhaps the biggest key to AAMCO's franchising success, however, is building relationships between the franchisor and its franchisees. "Relationships were always important," says Wilki, "but today we're realizing that when a franchisee comes into the system, he brings a lot to the party."
Technology also rates high in AAMCO's overall scheme, allowing the franchisor to communicate more efficiently with franchisees and provide valuable support to AAMCO dealers throughout the chain. And AAMCO's evolution continues, says Wilki. "I don't think we've explored all the options," he says. "We're always trying to better our personal best