Saturday, March 19, 2011

So, Why Saabs?

No pictures, no technical writing, just words here.

The reason I'm writing about this is because I've fielded the same question from every new client I've worked for since I started here in Pittsburgh. "Why SAAB's?," they always ask. I usually just reply with something like "They're all I know."

Mechanically, they really are. Sure all engines and such work the same and the technology that ran the first Model T ford is still present in the function of the modern engine, but there sure has been a lot of other stuff bolted to/around it since then.

I've been thinking about this question to myself more and more lately.

Specializing on a niche gives me a lot of satisfaction. Sure, I like SAABs and they're basically all I've ever driven, but I certainly don't "love" them. They're great value for the money and dollar to dollar you'll never own another car with as many features as your SAAB, which makes them a tempting buy, but at the end of a day, it's just an organized structure of bolts, wires, fabric, and metal.

I'm very much not your average mechanic. While I've been fascinated by mechanical things my entire life, I never really planned on having a trade skill as a profession. I have a Bachelor's in Political Science from West Virginia University, and had full intention of completing law school... but the modern cubicle/desk lifestyle seemed so un-fulfilling. Daunting repetitive work that's all part of an information based economy that can easily be transfered or phased out... no thanks. I take comfort in knowing that you cant turn a bolt over the internet, so the trade skills are safe. Most of my friends I graduated with are realizing now how generalized and unmarketable their college-acquired skill set really is, and the outlook doesn't seem to be getting any better.

I can't imagine life without the day to day joy of physically fixing or creating something with your own hands. Hearing an engine start after fixing a tow-in, or fixing a problem that's been bugging people for years in only a minute or two... that kind of satisfaction I just don't get anywhere else. Joke about plumbers cracks and people who have jobs with names on their shirt all you want, but they probably have a much more prospective and lucrative job market than someone with a four year degree.

Every other mechanic seems to view a SAAB as a problem, whereas I always viewed it as a challenge. I like challenges. I pretty much live for them. I race bicycles for that reason as well... and I enjoy the hardest races the most, because anyone can do the easy ones. I see a lot of botched jobs that come in that are obviously done by someone that either doesn't care about the quality of their work because they know as long as the cars rolls out the door they're going to get paid, or they just no longer have a desire to get any better at their job and learn something new. Sometimes, I think they just cannot think outside the box. Some SAAB stuff is kind of "quirky," but would make sense to any average person with mechanical knowledge if they would just change their perspective a bit and take the time to look at it from a different viewpoint.

I do find it upsetting, because this kind of stuff is what drives people to sell their cars. Owners are forced to believe that SAAB ownership is just a problem or an inconvenience simply based on the ignorance of those who they are having work on their car. Often, by the time people find me online or get a business card, they have already dumped so much in to their cars at places who had no clue what they were doing or overcharged them to the point that they feel they're in too deep to invest in the work I suggest that the car actually does need to get it running reliably.

I'm getting so much of a workload now that I'm going to have to start being selective about who I work for. If your interest is solely fixing your car as cheaply as possible and you want something for nothing, find another guy, I'm not interested. Maybe I didn't give you the cheapest quote you received for a job, but I bet they're not using genuine parts or they're cutting corners somewhere else. I'm way cheaper than the dealer by a long shot in every way for better quality work and the same parts, and I'm not going to get any younger or live any longer because I'm taking time to work on your car, so I have to make it worth my time at a price that's fair to me and you... and I've found that most people have absolutely no problem paying it because they know they're getting high quality, warrantied work.

This is why I don't work for used car dealers... for the most part, they always want something for nothing and to bandage a problem to pass it on to the poor person who's getting stuck with the car. I feel so, so bad for those people.... but everyone falls victim to the quest for the $ I suppose. The used car world is full of snakes... deal with people, not dealers. Not saying that means you'll get a better deal or a better car, but individuals have consciences, whereas dealers just have money invested.

If you're honest, do good work, and have reasonable prices, the work will come, nothing to worry about there. And if all you care about is cheap... well sometimes there's a price you pay for the price you paid. See you when you get towed in.

I do good work, and I have made a lot of happy clients here in Pittsburgh. I don't know how long I'll do this or if it's my career, but as long as I have a desire to get better and faster at what I do, I'll still be turning wrenches tomorrow. Thanks to everyone who has been so easy to work with and has left me good praise online and via word of mouth. That kind of true marketing is invaluable to a small business.

So.. that's "Why Saab's?."

Take care,

Oh, and another take on it:

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."
-Robert A. Heinlein

1 comment:

Mircea said...

really liked the lines above,i just found ur blog searching for something...SaaB related of course :), will check it out often

good luck with your job!