McNeil’s Auto Care, with two locations in Sandy, and Riverton, Utah, has been named the 2020 NAPA AutoCare Center of the Year. Owner Pete McNeil and his team have been loyal NAPA customers since 2003 and are staunch supporters of the AutoCare program.
McNeil’s Auto Care opened in 1982 and added a second location in Riverton in May 2019. Both locations are Gold Certified. Pete McNeil’s father Mike founded McNeil’s Auto Care and started the business specializing in Volkswagen and Audi, later expanding to include most makes and models.
Pete McNeil joined the family-owned business, taking the reins in 2005. He said, “I wasn’t involved in the business for the early part of my work career. After graduating from the University of Utah, I worked in the golf industry for 16 years, followed by many years in the food service industry, eventually becoming a district manager for Sysco,” he said.
“Twenty years ago, my father who is a Master Technician, asked me to sit in on a meeting with the NAPA AutoCare group when he was moving the shop from Midvale to Sandy. With a strong business background I understand the importance of a national brand identity and I knew that would be especially important when McNeil’s shop moved to a new location.”
That’s when McNeil’s Auto Care became part of the NAPA AutoCare program. “Consumers are looking for someone credible and trustworthy to take care of their automotive maintenance and repair needs,” McNeil continued. “The NAPA AutoCare Center brand carries a lot of weight and I felt it would help further our brand strength.”
McNeil Believes in the AutoCare Program
McNeil said he’s a firm believer in the NAPA AutoCare program. “I’m always reviewing what’s available. There are so many programs and new ones are always being introduced. The challenge is taking advantage of everything that’s included,” he said.
He said the NAPA EasyPay card that provides six months of interest-free financing for its card holders has been good for business. And because McNeil’s AutoCare Centers are both Gold Certified, customers benefit from the 36-month/36,000-mile warranty on parts and labor.
McNeil likes the SmartSign digital menu board not only because it educates customers, it reinforces the shop’s image of being up to date with the latest technology. Technology at McNeil’s Auto Care also includes DVI (digital vehicle inspections) which they have been using for almost three years.
“Our techs perform the digital vehicle inspections on tablets and the results can be sent via text message or emailed to customers,” he said. “In addition, communication between techs and service advisors is 100 percent digital, done via tablet or laptop. We are also currently paperless at our shop. We’re working with one of NAPA’s affiliate partners to be able to offer our customers a secure payment option through both email and text messaging.”
A Fresh Point of View
Because of his background McNeil looks at the automotive repair business from a fresh point of view.
For example, an accepted and popular practice when looking for a service writer is to hire a former automotive technician. However, McNeil found service writers with a wealth of automotive repair experience often tend to give customers their own repair advice rather than waiting for the technician’s recommendations. “I took a gamble and chose to hire good sales and customer service people,” he explained. “I hired Troy Christiansen, a former specialist for Hummer on the sales and accessory equipment side, as a Service Advisor. Today, Troy is our Service Manager.
“I’m a big proponent of empowering people and listening to our team of employees who believe in the mission of the company and want to improve our industry. A few years ago, Jake Sorensen, a Master Technician here, and I discussed our frustration with the lack of qualified technicians. I suggested to Jake that we should create our own Technician Apprentice YearProgram. I applaud Jake for spearheading a state-accredited technician apprenticeship program that allows apprentices to earn a paycheck and earn their ASE certifications at the same time.”
In 2018 McNeil’s Auto Care expanded their Sandy location to 16 bays to accommodate their partnership with local schools for continued growth of their Technician Apprenticeship Program which served as the foundation for the National Apprentice program launched by NAPA AutoCare in the fourth quarter of 2019.
“The first three graduates of McNeil’s Apprentice Program are still with our company,” McNeil added. “Rex Lee was our first apprentice graduate in 2018 and has since earned his ASE Master Technician certification. Our second graduate has become one of our highest producing technicians to date, and the third is our ‘Lead’ Fleet Technician for our tow company, overseeing 29 trucks.”
Supporting the Industry and the Community
In addition to the apprenticeship program, McNeil’s AutoCare is heavily involved in the automotive industry. McNeil and his team dedicate time to judge Skills USA competitions and dedicate bays in the business to training. McNeil’s received the 2018 AAPEX Award for Business Partner of the Year from the Canyons Board of Education and Administration for their partnership with local schools to educate and train aspiring technicians.
McNeil’s Auto Care is also ranked No. 1 in customer satisfaction by AAA, and is a top 2 percent performing tow company out of 4,500 independent contractors. Jake Sorensen, McNeil’s lead technician, was named the 2019 NAPA/ASE Technician of the Year, as well as the 2019 Ratchet & Wrench All-Star Technician of the Year.
In addition to heavy involvement in the automotive industry, McNeil and his team find time to give back to the local community. Pete and his wife volunteer to cook for their church at the Church Youth Conference, have raised over $1,000 at a car wash fundraiser benefiting Sparta United, a local youth soccer club, and supported Sandy Pride Day, an annual event to beautify the city of Sandy. They’ve also donated to the People Helping People (PHP) fundraiser, and the Havana Nights Fund Charity, and Angel’s Hands Foundation. McNeil’s Auto Care recently donated a van to a deserving couple after the husband was paralyzed following a bicycle riding accident two months after they were married.
Pete McNeil’s support doesn’t stop with his own community. He believes in and has donated time and money to the Zambia Scholarship Fund (ZSF), a non-profit, organization based in Brigham City, Utah, that works to improve education in some of the poorest areas of Zambia, Africa.
NAPA Salt Lake District Manager Brad Christianson, said “McNeil’s AutoCare Center is a business whose integrity, customer service skills, and expertise in their field make them a leader in the community. I am confident they will always represent the NAPA AUTO PARTS and the NAPA AutoCare brand with pride.”
Vice President NAPA AutoCare Jason Rainey added, “McNeil’s Auto Care is not just an asset to the NAPA family, but to the aftermarket industry as a whole. Congratulations to McNeil’s Auto Care, the 2020 NAPA AutoCare Center of the Year!”
More than 90 years ago, the National Automotive Parts Association ("NAPA") was created to meet America’s growing need for an effective auto parts distribution system. Today, 91% of do-it-yourself customers recognize the NAPA brand name. We have over 6,000 NAPA AUTO PARTS Stores nationwide serving all 50 states with a unique inventory control system that helps you find the exact part that you need.