14 Key Questions

What is so special about the automotive service business?
The industry track record of the last eighty years has been excellent in terms of economic opportunity. The reason for the industry’s long-term success rests in the fact that the American public is largely dependent on automotive transportation and, as a whole, is very concerned about motoring safety, comfort, economy, and dependability. In turn, the maintenance and repair of automobiles has been described as a “Basic Need” business and can be compared to other necessity industries such as food, clothing, and shelter.

Why will the automotive service industry continue to prosper?
New cars cost a lot of money

  • Large numbers of consumers are deciding to avoid another round of car payments as long as possible.
  • The average age of cars and light duty trucks in use currently exceeds 11.3 years and continues to increase each year.
  • The number of miles per vehicle odometer exceeds 100,000 miles.
  • The number of light vehicles in use during 2013 exceeded 255 million in the United States alone and continues to grow.
  • The complexity of consumer lifestyles and scarcity of personal time continues. Increasing numbers of people just don’t have the interest, the ability, or the time to repair their own vehicles by themselves.

Why is the automotive service industry attractive to small business entrepreneurs?
There are three fundamental reasons:

  1. No dependency on minimum wage labor.
  2. Limited hours of operation (no 16 hour days) and Sundays.
  3. The attractive business economics associated with a service business.

What services and products are standard at Merlin 200,000 Mile Shops?

Merlin shops offer all the products and services of the traditional automotive repair shop or tire store plus a proprietary maintenance program known as THE DRIVE FOR 200,000™ that not only covers vehicles through the manufacturer's warranty period, but to 200,000 miles and beyond. Merlin services include (but are not limited to) the repair, service, or replacement of components relative to brake, exhaust, steering & suspension, lubrication, wheel alignment, air conditioning, tires, cooling, starting/charging, ignition, fuel, and other automotive systems.

What's the difference between Merlin and the other undercar service chains?
There may be several answers to this question. One might be that our trademarks allow us to “own” the vehicle longevity service category. Or because we concentrate much of our efforts on individual shop success as evidenced by the fact that the average annual sales per Merlin shop statistic continues to grow each year, and that it is much higher than several much larger national competitors.

Perhaps it is the way we go to market and our overall business philosophy. (We focus on building long-term customer relationships instead of maximizing one-time sales transactions). We lead in developing innovative customer retention and relationship building strategies such as our exclusive DRIVE FOR 200,000 and 200,000 Mile Transferable Warranty, and Merlin's Exclusive 200,000 Mile Tire Warranty. Or that we provide “new thinking” programs to attract, keep, and reward employees. Or because we are not the biggest. Or, maybe, the answer is that we do not approve everybody as a franchisee, nor are we a good fit for every applicant’s life strategy.

The best answer, however, is the one you determine on your own as a result of your observations during our initial meeting, as a consequence of your independent research, and as a conclusion from your discussions with Merlin franchisees (and, perhaps, competitors). Your answers to this question are far more important than any of ours.

What will the franchise cost?
The initial franchise fee for a single shop is $30,000. The Merlin equipment package costs approximately $150,000, and opening inventory amounts to $30,000. Start-up expenses and working capital will typically bring the initial investment to about $252,000. Up to 80%, or sometimes more, of the initial investment can usually be financed.

How much up-front cash is required to secure an individual franchise?
In most cases, a qualified candidate will need a minimum of $50,000 in cash. However, the exact amount will depend on the background of the individual, his or her financial resources, and overall business plan.

What special qualities does a Merlin franchisee need to successfully operate a shop?

  • High energy level and good work ethic.
  • Ability to concentrate and follow a system.
  • Good verbal communication skills.
  • Basic understanding of business economics.
  • Sales and marketing aptitude.
  • Ability to hire, lead, and motivate employees.
  • Integrity.

Why is dedication to the customer so important?
Because, quite frankly, Merlin shops are not in business merely to fix cars. Our purpose for being is to satisfy the needs of our customers. Cars do not have dollars. People do. Without a large base of regularly repeating customers, sufficient sales levels do not happen. Successful auto service business owners must be focused on and dedicated to serving customers in order to build that base. They must be willing to do whatever it takes to create strong customer relationships.

How much money can I make?
Not a lot at first. The answer depends on several considerations.

  • The amount of energy and time you will put into your business.
  • The degree to which you follow and execute the Merlin operating system.
  • Your ability to recruit, develop, and lead employees.

In other words, your profits will be determined by how quickly you grow your business, to what extent its sales volume exceeds a “cash flow break even point,” and to what extent you are effective in controlling expenses. It depends on you and how consistently you apply yourself and implement our operating system. Only you can answer this question. At our initial meeting, we will give you sales statistics as well as the tools and introductions with which to research the business economics and determine the profit potential. Your discussions with existing Merlin franchisees will be instrumental. However, just the sheer number of Merlin shops suggests that reasonable profits are possible.

Where would my Merlin shop be located?
Merlin shops are generally located in high growth areas that are being “under served” by the competition. We currently have a limited number of approved locations from which you may make a selection. If you have a location of your own or one available to you, we will be glad to evaluate it. Selection of a site is always subject to mutual approval.

How soon can I be in operation once I have been accepted as a franchisee?
Location is the determining factor. On a new and “contract-controlled” location, construction usually can be completed in 120 to 150 days, subject to building permits and zoning requirements. In the case of an existing operation, this time period could be as little as 75 days.

I would like to know more. What is the next step?
First, fill out our online request form by clicking on the button below. In turn, if we sense a potential fit, you will be contacted to set up a personal meeting. During this meeting, mutual goals will be explored, and detailed information will be exchanged. Such a meeting is purely exploratory and does not obligate you or Merlin 200,000 Mile Shops in any way.


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