When Meineke Car Care Centers Inc. launched in 1972, it offered basics such as muffler service. Its first ads featured the slogan: "You're not going to pay a lot for a muffler."
Since then, Meineke says it has become the largest aftermarket car care franchise in the United States, servicing about 3 million vehicles a year and handling as many as 4 million visits, including repeat customers.
Meineke's 900-plus stores check and replace fluids, filters, belts, brakes and tires, and perform suspension and steering service. Its Tire Wire program enables customers to shop for tires online and have them shipped to the nearest Meineke store for installation.
Meineke is part of Driven Brands, a holding company for car care companies whose other franchises include Maaco car-painting outlets and Take 5 Oil Change stations.
Its business model has brought Meineke into ever more direct competition with franchised dealerships' service departments as well as aftermarket rivals. Its marketing tag line: "On With Life."
"Our whole business model now, and how we go to market, is to acknowledge that what consumers want today is not to have to deal with this part of life," says Danny Rivera, Meineke's president since 2014.
"So we're trying to solve that life problem for them versus, 'Yes, we can fix your brakes.' We want to take more of their business with each transaction."
Rivera is an engineer who previously worked at AutoNation, General Electric and Burger King. He led major projects to improve customer experience and install state-of-the-art technology for Meineke and Maaco before he became Driven Brands' chief information officer in 2012.
He emphasizes not only giving customers a broad menu of services, but building relationships so that they'll feel comfortable relying on Meineke as "a convenient place that they can trust to work on their car."
Meineke's rewards program, which has hundreds of thousands of members, gives customers a point for every dollar they spend, applied to their next visit or repair.
"Our customers like it for the same reason people like the Starbucks rewards program," Rivera says. "They'd rather go somewhere to get a longer benefit than just getting their brakes fixed."