Dealers' #1 source for auto industry news, content, coaching & analysis

Mobile service startups transform car service, capturing dealership attention

A wave of innovative startups is challenging the status quo by offering mobile repairs and maintenance for cars just about anywhere. These disruptors have caught the eyes of industry giants like Ford, AutoNation, GM and Firestone, which are also enhancing their mobile service offerings to meet new consumer demands.

The acquisition of RepairSmith by AutoNation for $190 million underscores the industry’s recognition of the value these mobile service companies bring. Ford likewise, expanded its mobile service capacities last May.

By embracing mobile service models, dealers can broaden their offerings and cater to a wider audience, including those who may not have purchased their vehicle from their dealership.

Bryan Frist courtesy of Yoshi Mobility

CBT News recently interviewed Bryan Frist, the CEO and Co-Founder of the mobile service, growth-stage company Yoshi Mobility, to learn more about mobile service innovation and what car dealers stand to gain from these services.

CBT News: Take me from idea to inception to where Yoshi Mobility is now. What has the journey been like?

Bryan Frist: We started the company in 2015 in the age of Amazon. While consumer behavior had been changing for the prior 10-20 years, we have seen a real acceleration towards delivery services, across industries, since starting the company. Things like grocery delivery, for example, all of the sudden became popular again and investor dollars started to flow into the space at large. A lot of the stuff that everyone’s very much used to today was novel just five years ago.

So it was Amazon and the shift in consumer preferences that led to this idea of mobile vehicle maintenance services. While at Harvard Business School, my co-founders and I were looking at industries that had not been touched by innovation. We stumbled upon the gas station model and the simple idea was, could we create a better experience for customers as an alternative to going to the gas station? A very simple idea in an old and antiquated industry that had not seen innovation in over one hundred years.

Our overall mission then, as it is now, is to make car ownership and management frictionless. That sums it all up. In everything we do, we ask ourselves, how can we make car ownership and management frictionless for our customers?

What we have found most recently in working with fleets, car dealers, and delivery companies, is that they have a lot of the same pain points that consumers feel.  For example, they could pay someone to go take these cars one at a time offsite to get them serviced, and fueled up, and washed, and all that stuff in the traditional model. Or they could have us come and do a lot of these services on-site. And so we have a bunch of partners where we do exactly that. We come and service their vehicles where and when convenient for them.

Booting operational efficiency

Mobile service startups are not just an added convenience—they are a possible strategic advantage for retailers. By adopting mobile service solutions, dealerships can enhance their operational efficiency, reduce overhead costs, and offer services that align with modern consumers. 

For auto retailers, the benefits are multi-fold. These mobile services allow dealerships to:

  • Increase touchpoints with customers
  • Offer personalized service experiences
  • Reduce the logistical complexities of traditional service models
  • Free up fixed operations labor and resources
  • Reduce wait time for service customers

CBT: A lot of the time, the fixed ops department in the dealership tends to handle some of those maintenance components. Are you finding that dealers are coming to you and partnering with you to put those fixed ops resources elsewhere?

BF: We work with dealers across multiple states. We’re currently in 12 states and we have dealers literally from California to Tennessee. We work with them in different ways. One is we’ll do new car arrivals. This is the most basic, where they come in on a flatbed, there’s 30 vehicles, they drop them off, and we’ll fuel them up. Making that delivery frictionless.

The biggest value we see there is the labor cost savings and streamlining of operations. You don’t have to have someone ferrying the cars back and forth to the gas station. Also, the liability, we hear a lot about. I talked to one car dealer owner, and he said one of their guys backed up a brand-new, really expensive car into a wall. So, it’s these basic, basic things that logistically, we can eliminate.

With the new car arrivals, we’re also starting to get into inspections, which is really interesting—PDI inspections. We do this both with dealers as well as major mobility players, like Uber. In those mobility use cases, we help onboard new drivers by inspecting their vehicles in a quick and efficient way. We actually just completed a Tesla Cybertruck inspection for a Turo driver earlier today in San Diego.

But back to the dealerships, a lot of these companies have parts and delivery groups that are delivering parts across different dealers, and we work a lot with those on the fueling and service side. There’s loaner fleets too. We service many of the loaner fleets across dealerships. Our partners find that our service is just much, much more efficient and the labor savings speak for themselves. You save on the cost of the porters, you’re not having to do the stuff that really puts the assets in liability.

Adapting to eco-friendly cars

As the industry gravitates towards electric vehicles (EVs) and new automotive technologies, the adaptability of mobile service models becomes even more crucial. These services are uniquely positioned to cater to the evolving needs of EV owners, offering on-the-go charging, maintenance, and support. For dealers, this means staying ahead in a rapidly evolving market, ensuring they remain relevant and appealing to a new generation of car buyers.

CBT: How do you see this kind of slow evolution to electric or eco-friendly vehicles? Do you guys have plans to adapt your business to that?

BF: We’re spending a lot of time on this. My co-founder Dan Hunter is our Chief EV Officer. He’s on the NFPA board, which is shaping a lot of the regulation around EV mobile charging. 

For us, it was never about just gas. We have never seen ourselves as a gas company. We want to make car ownership and management frictionless so that covers a wide range of services. We are energy agnostic. In fact, today we provide charging to our customers in different capacities and have a lot of exciting things to announce this year on that front. We believe that we can play a key role in helping the industry accelerate to an emissions-free future.

When considering EV maintenance, there is a lot of opportunity and tires serve as a prominent example. Manufacturers have found that tires on electric vehicles tend to wear out about 20 percent faster than those on gas-powered vehicles. Given this, EV owners are in the market for new tires more often than owners of gas-powered vehicles. That’s where our team comes in to assist those EV owners from tire purchase to installation.

Forward-thinking technology

The rise of mobile service startups marks a significant shift in how we approach car maintenance, signaling a move toward more convenient and responsive solutions in the automotive industry. Companies like Yoshi Mobility are leading this change by offering services that adapt to the fast-paced lifestyles of consumers and the evolving landscape of the industry, particularly with the growth of electric vehicles. This trend is not just about convenience; it’s a reflection of the broader evolution in automotive care, where flexibility and adaptability are becoming increasingly important.

CBT: What makes automotive unique in your perspective, to build a technology forward solution like this?

BF: I always tell our team, behind AI, the energy transformation that’s happening right now in the automotive industry is the biggest thing that’s happening in our generation. And to play a role in that, it truly is a once in 100-plus year opportunity. And so, that’s what’s so inspiring and intriguing to us. That’s what we’re super excited about.

We started with this idea, could we change the way that people get gas, which happens to be the most frequent pain point for the average car owner. As I mentioned, the traditional model had not seen innovation since its invention in the days of Henry Ford. There’s still a lot of pieces of the automotive industry that are very antiquated, to be honest, and that excites us. To bring more options to our customers across the country.

We don’t see ourselves as being direct competitors to service shops, or dealers, or anything. We actually see ourselves as augmenting the offering and giving consumers and fleets options. We would actually recommend that you still go into the dealer for certain things and we have partnerships that make that hand off seamless. But some of the smaller things, we can take care of them. And from what I hear from our partners, this allows them to focus on the bigger ticket items. We take care of the small and frequent things, which keeps dealer service bays open for more comprehensive services.

Stay up to date on exclusive content from CBT News by following us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Don’t miss out! Subscribe to our free newsletter to receive all the latest news, insight and trends impacting the automotive industry.

CBT News is part of the JBF Business Media family.

Related Articles

Manufacturers In This Article

More Manufacturer News

Latest Articles

From our Publishing Partners