In 1995, it was a car wash.
Today, Motor City Auto Accessories is an accessory outlet that’s well known for high-end work on luxury vehicles.
After car wash customers bought small accessories that the car wash originally carried and asked for more, owner Samir Sakhouri opened Motor City in response. Now, the chain operates the 7,000-square-foot accessory store based in Stone Park, Ill. and five detailing centers in other locations. The main store alone services an estimated 40 vehicles per week.
The store’s clientele includes doctors and local celebrities, Juan Uribe of the White Sox and Michael Jordan being just a couple.
Through word of mouth and dealer referrals, Motor City has become the place to go for owners of Lamborghinis and Bentleys, Range Rovers and Mercedes, as well as classics and hot rods.
Wheels are more than a mainstay for the shop, according to store manager John Charukian.
“As far as wheels go, I have wheels for 70 percent of cars out there unless it’s something new or unusual. That’s our specialty,” he says.
The shop also sells nearly any chrome accessory a customer might want, and does plenty of custom work too, including work that’s not often performed. Charukian mentions a set of 24-inch rims mounted on a Lexus SUV-without a lift kit.
The team of seven long-time employees at Motor City also builds custom chrome grilles for models with little aftermarket availability, and installs custom audio and video systems and engine performance parts like air intakes, exhaust systems and computer chips.
“We cater to people with odd models, and we get a lot of customer referrals just from the custom grilles we make,” he says.
A clientele like Motor City’s might seem demanding, but Charukian attributes the shop’s success to attention to detail and follow-through.
“We give something to the customer that they don’t expect. We detail the car after we’re working on it, or throw on an extra accessory. You gotta keep the customers happy when they’re spending a lot of money with you,” he says.
Of course, you can’t build a business based on nifty products and clean installs alone. The management team at Motor City has a savvy outlook on the business side of things. Charukian keeps close tabs on the inventory and staff. Twice-monthly staff meetings help the family who keep Motor City running stay on the same page and in tune with what’s going on.
“We have a meeting every other week, where we sit down with everybody and go through what we did for the week and how we can improve. A lot of the employees have been here for eight or 10 years; we don’t go through people. It’s like a family,” he says.
When it comes to inventory, Charukian prefers to err on the side of caution, and keep as much product in stock as possible-especially when it comes to the shop’s wheel offerings.
“We stock more than two or three of any one product, and we cycle through them so we reorder after every sale. That way the inventory always stays updated. We try to be pretty good about having everything in stock. A lot of times people don’t want to wait. When they come in they want it right then, and they don’t want to wait a week or two days or even until the end of the day.”
Motor City operates by the keep it simple, silly philosophy in the office. The staff uses Quickbooks to keep track of business.
“It doesn’t need to be very complicated,” Charukian says. The program handles point of sale, invoicing, the product scanner bars and more.
Motor City’s relationships with luxury auto dealers were built with care, Charukian says. They began installing small accessories for local dealers, and gradually the dealers began sending more and more customers to Motor City for wheel packages and more.
Charukian and the rest of the staff used even more care in building those relationships with the customers. The sales team takes the time to meet with each customer and discuss all the options for their vehicle-even ones they may not have already asked about-in order to create a custom package for each car owner.
“Whatever they’re looking to do to their vehicle, we go over the year and make and make a list of the accessories that are available for that vehicle. They can make a list of what they want, and then we work out a package price.”
Those customers take some Motor City business cards with them when they leave, and invariably pass them along when asked where they got their vehicle accessorized.
Motor City’s car wash and detailing centers pass a lot of customers along, too.
A solid presence at local auto events keeps the shop’s name in front of customers. With large local events like the Dub Show later this month, World of Wheels and the Chicago Auto Show, there’s opportunities to show off project vehicles even if there aren’t as many shows as in Charukian’s native California.
“They don’t have a lot of car shows here, but I noticed that every time we go to shows and take finished products, the response to our work is tremendous.”
Maintaining an Internet presence is important today, and Motor City’s web site is undergoing renovations in order to stay relevant and interesting for potential customers.
“Basically, we’re not trying to use it to sell anything-there won’t be a shopping cart. But it will be valuable if someone wants to see a gallery of vehicles we’ve done for and show what type of work we do our quality and the type of cars we get in here.
“People would be surprised by the cars we get in here. All of these people are hidden most of the year, but they come out in summer. A lot of customers own more than two high-end cars like a Rolls Royce Phantom, a supercharged Range Rover, other $100,000 cars.”
Motor City relies on its vendors and certified technicians to stay on top of technology. Vendors supply training materials and information, and technicians that are already certified can stay current with updates.
Sometimes, even the best-trained and prepared shop can run into an unhappy customer. Charukian says he and his staff approach any possible complaint thoroughly.
“We don’t just brush it off and say ‘Hey, talk to the owner.’ We find out what the problem was, what the miscommunication was, and go from there. I sit down with the owner, and he approves what I’m going to do to make the customer happy, and then I make it happen.”