by Yolanda Vazquez
Electric and hybrid vehicles attract an exclusive, yet growing group of buyers. But with advanced powertrains and complex technology, servicing them can be a burden, on your wallet and the environment. Well Yolanda Vazquez has found a garage where green motoring isn't just a specialty, it's a lifestyle.
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: San Francisco is a hotbed for hybrids. In fact, recent numbers show it's one of the top selling markets in the country for hybrid vehicle sales. With so many cars and taxi cab fleets on the road, it's no surprise that business is booming for this Bay area garage, dedicated to hybrid vehicle repairs.
CAROLYN: I had no idea whether this was going to work, it was an experiment, and if it would succeed, then fantastic.
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: When Carolyn first opened Luscious Garage in 2007, the idea of a shop dedicated to hybrids was virtually nonexistent. Well clearly that's not the case anymore, with vehicles like these becoming more mainstream. Over the past five years, Luscious Garage has seen a huge increase in their customer base. Thanks to their expertly trained team of automotive technicians, a steady flow of work orders, and constant queries from customers.
CAROLYN: It's just this little battery, and that's the whole issue, its that they don't have a traditional cranking battery, because the car doesn't crank.
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: While she's pleased with the services her garage offers, and the positive reputation they've built in the community, Carolyn Coquillette is more focused on the unique repair space she's created. One that incorporates green business practices and environmentally friendly philosophies.
CAROLYN: We like to think that we've done the same thing to the auto repair system as the hybrid has done to regular cars. and that's being green, high tech, and cutting edge.
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: For starters, Luscious Garage is aesthetically pleasing,with a wood barrel roof, and exposed beams. The waiting area is more lounge like, with cozy seats and a free wifi connection. To conserve energy, lights are only turned on when they serve a purpose.
CAROLYN: We actually have all these lights on solar sensors, that you can't really see from up here, but one of these skylights has a solar sensor, that actually will control when the lights turn on and off, according to ambient light, so the light's don't have to be on if we don't need them.
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: Large green plants help filter the air, and this 3000 gallon tank harvests rain water from the roof. This helps reduce fresh water consumption. Recycle bins for all kinds of materials are in constant use, and as Carolyn shows me…
CAROLYN: so here they're saying its eco-power, eco-friendly motor oil. Um, but its entirely the specifications that we require for these cars. It's very hard to have a consumer based economy and yet not have an impact on the environment. And that's where we've taken the approach of we're not saying we're green, per say, we're really less brown. The idea is that you're trying to constantly do the least amount of damage that you possibly can.
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: And instead of the traditional service advisor setup, customers talk directly to their technicians about their repairs.
CAROLYN: It's a much more cooperative thing, where you actually get to see your work order,and any information we've gathered on it.
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: It also contains a complete history of the car's service records for review, and online appointment scheduler, and a novel way to pay your bill. You simply sign and take a picture as proof. And will then be emailed to you, not printed out, thereby reducing the use of paper by the shop.
MARK: It's funny, I kind of consider Luscious as much of a tech kind of focused business as it is environmental business.
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: Customers like Mark Duro appreciate the inviting atmosphere and top notch service they provided for his 2008 Prius.
MARK: I've had good and bad experiences working with various mechanics, but really never have I had one where over such a long period of time, it's been so consistently good.
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: She's hopes others will embrace new kind of repair shop culture, and implement some green changes along the way.
CAROLYN: and I would love to see increased transparency, reduced environmental impact, general, just ethics throughout the industry, and we want to do that with the carrot, right, we're trying to create a successful business, that everyone else is going to want to emulate. That's really the goal.