ADAS Company Boasts One-Day Calibrations
Dec. 15, 2020—Scott Brown is a second-generation repair shop owner who recently dove headfirst into calibrating Advanced Driver Assistance Systems. He’s the proud owner of Cardinal Plaza Shell in Springfield, Virginia, and now a co-founder and managing member of LEVEL 5 Solutions, a problem-solving calibration company for all things ADAS.
Brown says he first learned about ADAS calibrations around 2011 when a particular Audi vehicle needed its windshield replaced, after which he says the car wouldn’t start.
“[The Audi] had to be sent back to Germany because no one knew about calibrations,” he says. “Like the wild west, there was no source of truth.”
Now, only a few months into its opening, LEVEL 5 Solutions is tackling ADAS calibrations head on—and even turning a profit.
LEVEL 5 Problem Solvers
Brown says above all else, LEVEL 5 aims to make life easier for shop owners, technicians, and drivers alike. One of the best ways he knows how to do that is by cutting down on cycle times.
ADAS calibrations can be painstaking and often take longer than traditional repairs. Diagnostic scans have to be run before the calibration procedures begin, then come the various test drives, followed by post-scans, and so on. That’s why, with each vehicle that comes through their doors, Brown says they aim for a one-day turnaround with his expert technicians’ dedication to problem-solving.
Three months into the business, he says they have been 100 percent successful in returning vehicles within 24 hours, even last month’s car count of 150, but it hasn’t come without challenges.
Brown recalls a recent vehicle that came into the shop needing a full calibration after its collision damage had been repaired. After all of the calibrations were completed perfectly, Brown says the lane departure warning still wasn’t functioning.
“My lead tech was able to do the math and determine the computer was having us put a target five inches further away than it should have been,” he says.
Three Titan Technicians
When deciding how to staff the newest endeavor, Brown says he looked to Cardinal Plaza Shell’s technicians to step up to the plate. First, he says he looked for individuals who showed dedication to the industry, not just the job.
“We wanted guys that were highly motivated and willing to invest their own time and effort,” he said.
Brown brought just three technicians to LEVEL 5 Solutions, but based off of last month’s car count of 150, you’d never know it was such a small operation. The ADAS technicians attended I-CAR courses, alignment and suspension training, and even went through the local community college to get an automotive degree, he says.
Getting the Word Out
Brown says LEVEL 5 Solutions rests perfectly between the collision repair shop market and the auto body market, meaning all of their work is referred. LEVEL 5 Solutions is not open to the public, so their work comes directly from repair shops and auto body shops.
When it came to marketing, he says they didn’t spend money on traditional advertising techniques like television ads or billboards, instead opting for the grassroots approach.
“We visit shops and explain what we do and what’s going on,” he says, even inviting other shops’ staff to tour LEVEL 5’s facility.
“It’s scary and it’s new,” he says of ADAS calibrations. “That’s why we want shops to know they don’t have to learn how to do this, because we’re your partner.”
Turning a Profit
After securing a facility, getting all necessary supplies and equipment, and investing in calibration tools, Brown says it took a total investment of $200,000. While he doesn’t recommend starting a business in the midst of a pandemic, he says it only took seven weeks for them to start turning a profit.
Each calibration procedure is different depending on the damage, make, model, and so on, but Brown says they charge an average of $125 per scan, per vehicle. For a single component calibration, he says it usually costs between $200 and $250. One of the cheapest services they offer is a standard alignment which costs $90.
Brown says pricing has been difficult to nail down due to the general newness of ADAS calibrations and the lack of accessible information. But with all of that in mind, he says “The goal was never to make a profit, it was to solve problems.”