WINDSOR, ONT. — Five years after establishing MyCarKeys, which competed with dealerships across the region by offering key fob replacements and repairs, Shawn Khan now finds himself working with some of those same dealerships.
“I can do in less than 30 minutes what can take someone at a dealership two or three hours,” Khan said. “It means dealerships can concentrate on mechanical repairs, not electronics, and it doesn’t keep a customer waiting nearly as long in their service center or waiting for a shuttle ride.”
It’s also less expensive for the customer, Khan said. Dealerships, he said, often charge as much as C$450 ($343) for a service he can provide for less than C$200.
That allows dealerships to be more efficient during operating hours while providing customers expert service that’s cheaper and faster, Khan said.
“I don’t see any downside to it,” said Cliff Lafreniere, dealer principal at Pinewood Park Motors in Kirkland Lake, Ont., and vice-president of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association. “I would do it if we had someone here who offered that service, but we don’t.
“We already outsource some work, such as replacing windshields and covering bumpers with plastic. It doesn’t take away a lot of business from our shop, and it’s balanced by the fact you have happy customers.”
Khan estimates that 50 to 60 percent of his customer referrals come from local dealerships, and the majority of those come from the used-vehicle business.
He said he has walk-in customers from the U.S., but no contracts with U.S. dealerships. Windsor borders Detroit, across the Detroit River.
“He’s the magic man,” said Andrew Smith, a service adviser at Gus Revenberg Chevrolet-Buick GMC in Windsor. “At least that’s what we call him around here because he’s amazing at what he does.
“He keeps our customers happy because of how efficiently and quickly he gets the job done, and a happy customer is a great customer.”
Khan’s business has shifted from regular keys and key fobs to smart keys — or proximity keys — that only need to be in the driver’s possession to open or start a vehicle.
Keys no longer can be reprogrammed and reused. Instead, Khan downloads software designed for a specific vehicle, then burns it into a universal remote.
George Bakic, used-vehicle sales manager at Provincial Chrysler-DodgeJeep-Ram in Windsor, sends business to Khan because “he’s fast and he’s great at what he does.”
“At a time when all businesses are doing their best to maximize every moment of their operating time, finding someone who can do something in less than half an hour compared to three or four hours is priceless.”
Bakic said he prefers to keep Chrysler products in-house but sends Khan keys for vehicles of other makes.
“When I send someone to Shawn, the vehicle doesn’t sit idle tying up shop time,” Bakic said. “With Shawn, the customer is in and out.”
For that low-volume work, Lafreniere said, many shops don’t have the equipment or expertise to handle the jobs, so it makes sense to outsource to someone who has both.
‘SIMPLE AND FAST’
Before businesses such as Khan’s, dealerships were required to deal with the National Automotive Service Task Force to access mechanical and programming technology to provide customers new keys, Khan said.
“It was a time-consuming and lengthy process, but now it’s simple and fast.”
Low prices and short wait times mean happy customers, Bakic said.
“These days, anything that helps our bottom line and maximizes the time we have to service our customers is great.”
Khan said he is a certified locksmith as a result of taking courses with The Association of Ontario Locksmiths.
“I wouldn’t be able to get key-cutting machines otherwise,” he said. “Their courses are for house locks but I still needed the certification to access the equipment I need for my work.”
Khan said there are no other regulations which govern the work he does.
Logically, Khan thinks his business can only keep growing. He plans to operate a mobile service to provide new keys without customers having to bring their vehicles to his shop.
“Anytime a new [vehicle] model is introduced, there are changes to the keying systems, and it usually takes about six months to acquire the right aftermarket equipment so you can offer services to new-vehicle owners. It’s a constantly evolving business, and you have to be continually thinking outside the box in order to stay current.”