The new start-up moves vehicles from owners to shops for services and back again.
There’s a new automotive concierge service in town and AutoMech.io wants to be the go-to gopher (‘go-for’) for all car care needs.
AutoMech was founded by Dhruv Chadha, a car-loving Seattleite and masters student at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. When Chadha moved to Seattle to work at Microsoft, he got into the local car scene.
While he enjoyed his 6-year job at the tech giant, Chadha wanted to pursue a higher degree of education. When he was admitted to business school at the University of Chicago, it was time for a big change.
“When he started business school, I quit my job and that gave me a way to do something new,” Chadha said. “I always wanted to do something with cars and technology together.”
Chadha knew he wanted to use technology to make car owners’ lives a little easier, but it took a while to develop his idea.
“I was walking home one day from a gig in Chicago, and I called my brother-in-law and asked him ‘what if there was a service that could come pick up your car and get it serviced while you are at work?’,” Chadha said.
His brother-in-law is a busy doctor and said he’d use that, as a family member takes his vehicle to the shop when at work.
That’s when Chadha decided to pursue any driver, rather than tailoring to automotive enthusiasts.
AutoMech is a concierge service that delivers a vehicle from the owner to the shop and back again.
Drivers shopping for mechanical work will see two prices, an independent shop quote and a dealership estimate. Those looking for specific services can get those from shops they know and trust, such as APC Auto Spa in Woodinville.
Eight months later, AutoMech is expanding from their Chicago base and into the Seattle area. Though it has not been without sacrifice.
“I drive a Volkswagen Golf TSI,” Chadha said. “I sold my Nissan GT-R two months ago to fund the startup.”
The Nissan GT-R had been his dream car. He had taken it to local GT-R meets and found friends among the local community. And, with many car people, it wasn’t just a car to him, it was something more.
“It was the hardest thing for me to do, but it gave a lot of my network the signal that I was serious about what I’m doing,” Chadha said. “Giving that up has helped me push myself harder because I’ve given up something big.”
While it has been a difficult shift, it’s been good for fundraising his first start-up. According to Chadha, his network’s wallets started opening up when they saw he sold his car for the venture. After starting AutoMech in Chicago, Chadha knew where he’d want to expand.
“I’m in Chicago only for business school, and so I don’t have the network like I do with Seattle,” Chadha said. “Start-ups are more in tune with technology, and Seattle is that place to be. People know there are delivery-based services using apps, and that’s why we focused towards the push into Seattle.”
As AutoMech started to migrate back west, the natural returning point was Seattle.
Dhruv worked with local auto shops and bringing them under the AutoMech umbrella.
“I’ve known Dhruv a couple years,” said Seth Thomas, owner of APC Auto Spa and a Seattle-area partner of AutoMech. Thomas had installed Ceramic Pro protective film on Chadha’s vehicle prior to a cross-Canada road trip, though they first met at a group for Nissan GT-R owners—prior to both selling their cars, though for different reasons.
“Fall 2017 was our first discussion about AutoMech coming to Seattle and us being a launch partner for their detail services,” Thomas said. “I was impressed, the demand exists from a customer experience.”
AutoMech connected with Audi Seattle for mechanical work and other services, along with APC Auto Spa.
“The greatest part is that for most services, the fee to use AutoMech is paid for by the service provider,” Thomas said. “All our services are available with AutoMech, including hand washes, window tint, clear bra and full details.”
Being able to have AutoMech pick up their car is another option for customers who already utilize APC Auto Spa’s services, Thomas added. Customers can drop off their cars and leave, chill in the lounge, use an APC Auto Spa courtesy car, and now they can also use the AutoMech concierge service.
APC Auto Spa is another start-up in the Seattle area, so the partnership is beneficial for the businesses and customers. According to Thomas, helping others is helpful for his business.
“We have serviced a few customers,” Thomas said. “From a service provider standpoint, it’s great. We know exactly when the car will be delivered and what the customer is looking for.”
Chadha’s customer expansion plan not only includes an online and mobile presence but also connecting with people on the ground where his services would be utilized, such as in office or apartment complexes. Face to face is a good place to assuage consumer concerns about insurance, too.
“The car is covered when in our hands,” Chadha said. “We pay a lot of money for insurance, but we want to make sure our cars are taken care of.”
Not only are the cars covered under AutoMech’s insurance, but Chadha hand-picks the mechanic shops and delivery drivers utilized by AutoMech. There is a driving test for any potential delivery hires, along with a background check and rigorous hiring process.
Chadha worked with Allstate on vehicle software that tracks a driver’s driving habit, such as speed, location, direction, and more. The software is available for anyone to use so long as they agree to send data back to Allstate, and Chadha is working on integrating it with AutoMech’s application.
“Not only can you see where the driver is, but you can see how fast he’s driving,” Chadha said. “It’s on the roadmap.”
The roadmap is staying local, for now, too. Chadha plans on expanding services within the Eastside and Seattle regions before heading on to other metropolitan areas.
To check out the services that AutoMech offers in your area, check out their website AutoMech.io.
Photos courtesy of Dhruv Chadha and Seth Thomas.