But in 2008, a friend suggested King try software that electronically updates changing prices and supplies and puts them in a format for each customer, based on his model and mileage.
"If someone could say, 'Bud, instead of walking around a mountain for 10 miles and taking half a day, let me show you how to tunnel through a mountain in 20 minutes,' you'd say, 'It's a great deal,'" King said.
King hired eMenus Automotive of St. Martinsville, La., which provides a recommended menu of services and prices, based on the manufacturer's recommendations and the dealership's costs, for 277 Toyota models and variants. For each model, starting with the 2000 model year, it offers a menu for 10 different mileage intervals.
After receiving eMenus' input on prices, Universal Toyota and other stores can make modifications based on their desired profit margins and assessment of the local market.
eMenus gets its parts and service requirements for each model from owner manuals that it downloads from the Internet, said President Mike Sanders.
The company updates its 2,770 service menus by keeping tabs on the dealer's service, parts and labor prices, and plugging them into its template of models and mileage, he said.
For King, this is an advance because he had been trying to adapt a single operations code to all Toyota models.
For a simple oil change, he was trying to apply a requirement for a certain type and amount of oil to all Toyota models, even though many of their oil requirements were different.
The lack of model-specific codes often left King's employees with pricing discretion. They charged different prices for the same service, which created suspicion among some customers.
"A one-size-fits-all menu left our service advisers to price at what they felt was comfortable pricing," King said. "It took away our credibility."
eMenus also allows the dealership to print out an updated menu for each customer visit. King had been printing thousands of advance menus based on the most recent prices and was reprinting them every time the prices changed.
In October 2008, Universal Toyota paid $2,995 to eMenus to set up the system, and it continues to pay $495 a month to use it.
eMenus competes with other companies that provide electronic service menus, including:
-- Liqqid Express, based in Charleston, S.C.
-- ADP Dealer Services, in Hoffman Estates, Ill.
-- xTime, in Redwood Shores, Calif.