“We are proud to announce Lynn Austin at Austin’s Auto Repair Center in North Mankato, Minnesota, is the 2021 NAPA/ASE Technician of the Year,” said Jason Rainey, Vice President NAPA AutoCare.
The Technician of the Year award honors an outstanding individual who has risen to the top of the profession in the NAPA AutoCare system. Austin joins an elite group of more than three dozen technicians who have received this award that was first presented in 1982. “We’re confident Lynn will represent NAPA very well in the upcoming year,” Rainey said.
A Technician First
Growing up, Lynn loved fixing his miniature slot cars. As he got older he learned more about vehicles from his brother-in-law. “He and I had lots of fun fixing cars,” Lynn said. “I bought my first car in 1972, a black ’64 Chevy SS with 100,000 miles on it. That gave me a lot of firsthand experience about maintenance and repair.”
Following high school, Lynn went on to pursue a degree in Automotive Service Technology at Dunwoody College of Technology in Minneapolis. “During the summers I worked as the oil change boy at a local shop. And when I graduated I got a job as a technician at Crown Auto. Then it was on to the local Dodge dealership where I was a technician and a service manager.
“In 1979 my wife Darla and I leased a gas station with a three-bay garage. That’s when we became affiliated with NAPA,” said Lynn. “We were at that location until 1987 when we revamped an existing lumber yard into a seven-bay repair shop in North Mankato which is where we’re located today.”
Lynn earned his first ASE certification in 1975 and went on to become an ASE Master Certified Technician. He holds 15 ASE certifications today. “I’m a big believer in training and have taken about every course NAPA has ever offered,” he said. “Customers understand the importance of having a well trained technician work on their car, so seeing that ASE certification gives them peace of mind.
“I’ve always been a technician first and a business person second, so I recently turned over the shop’s business operation to my son-in-law Justin Yungerberg and I’m now devoting my time to working on vehicles.”
In addition to servicing vehicles that come into the shop every day, Lynn enjoys restoring classic cars. “It’s not only important for them to look good, they need to be mechanically sound as well.”
Putting the Customer First
Lynn has always believed in always doing what’s right for the customer and strives to provide exceptional service every day. “There’s never a need to sell someone something they don’t need. If there’s an issue I call the customer to discuss it, often on my own cell phone,” he said. “Open communication is key. It builds trust and strengthens relationships.”
In addition to training and experience, it’s the little things that make Lynn stand out as a mechanic. One of the things he’s known for is putting a smiley face on the coolant recover tank to remind his customers how full it needs to be.
Especially today, oil changes are further apart, so by reminding people where to check for coolants until their next oil change, it provides reassurance for the customer—and for Lynn—that the car will be looked after until he sees it again. “Even after a car has changed ownership it’s kind of fun when I open the hood and see a smiley face. It lets me know I’ve worked on that car.”
Even though Lynn has more than 40 years’ experience in the automotive industry, he remembers being the new guy on the block and is committed to helping grow the next generation of technicians. The local high school offers a beginning automotive program and South Central College in North Mankato offers programs in automotive service as well as auto body and collision. Lynn volunteers his time at both schools, participating Mankato Area Career Day as well as Career Exploration Day at South Central College talking to students interested in the automotive field.
Lynn is also a member of the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF), an the quality of technician training programs nationwide.
In addition, he has worked with the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts on merit badges related to auto maintenance. “Two of the Girl Scouts who came to those workshops at the shop several years ago not only learned how to change the oil, they went on to become service managers,” he said. “It’s a great feeling to share your profession with kids and get them excited about this field.”
In his community Lynn volunteers annually with Habitat for Humanity, Pedal Past Poverty Fundraiser, the Kiwanis Christmas Lights display at a local park, and the Mankato Area BMX Races. At his church, he mentors youth, is a member of the choir, and more. After his church purchased a bus to take groups to various activities, Lynn pursued several ASE certifications in school bus repair. “That allows me to maintain the bus and fix any problems that might come up,” he said.
An Extra Inch
Mike Bath, General Manager of Owatonna NAPA DC said, “Lynn believes that the strength of the Automotive Service Excellence is in how you deliver repair service excellence on a daily basis. For over 40 years in the auto repair industry, he has always strived for the highest level of repair excellence. But Lynn doesn’t just talk it, he is a shining example of this commitment; he has been an ASE Master Technician for over 40 years.”
Lynn has found if you tell someone to stretch their arms above their head and try to reach the farthest they possibly can and told it, they will stretch as high as they think they can. But, if you tell them “give me another inch,” you will see how they can push their limits that extra inch. Lynn encourages students, youth, fellow technicians, and himself to push “that extra inch.”
That philosophy has served Lynn well over the years. He and his shop were voted “Best Auto Mechanic” and “Best Independent Repair Shop” in the Mankato/North Mankato area nine years in a row. In addition Lynn reached a spot among the top five NAPA/ASE finalists several years and a row, and has now received the 2021 NAPA/ASE Technician of the Year honors. Congratulations Lynn Austin!
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.