For 29 years, Gene Broussard has watched a long line of car owners looking for mechanical help for their vehicles.
Broussard owns ToyoTech, and the Merced native has always loved working with cars.
"I went to trade school right out of college," said Broussard. Originally, he wanted to work with electronics, and he entered the car mechanic business at the right time. "Electronics were just coming on board in cars," he said.
Broussard started his long career as a mechanic working at the Merced Toyota dealership. For 17 years, he learned everything about Toyotas. Then he decided to branch out and started his own business 12 years ago.
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At first, Broussard stuck with what he knew -- Toyotas and Hondas. But he has expanded the car makes he services. "We specialize in Asian cars," Broussard said. The shop takes care of Honda, Toyota, Acura, Lexus, Nissan, Infiniti and Hyundai automobiles.
Broussard said he believes in personalized service, and his four employees will show a customer what is wrong with a car. "We'll open the hood, or put the car up on lifts, and show where the oil is leaking, or whatever is wrong," he said. "We'll discuss what you need, and why you need it."
Competing with dealerships and local mechanics can be tough, Broussard said, but he tries to make sure his mechanics are top-notch and his parts are the best. "All of my mechanics are master automotive services excellence technicians," he said. "We either use factory parts, or buy parts from the folks who built the parts."
The weak economy has caused some changes in the car service business, Broussard said. "People aren't getting the maintenance done on their cars because they don't have the disposable cash," Broussard said. "We're seeing them when their car breaks down."
But Broussard said doing preventive maintenance should be a high priority, no matter what the economy. "In the long run, it saves you money," he said. "You wouldn't believe the number of tires I see with the air pressure down around 20 pounds. That totally kills your gas mileage."
Broussard said he believes his training, along with the training his mechanics get, sets his shop apart from some of the chain stores. "One of my mechanics has been working with me for 21 years," Broussard said. "And we keep up our skills by using the same online training the dealerships use."
Broussard said he has no expansion plans and just wants to keep giving the best service he can.
"When you come in my shop you might pay a bit more than a chain store, but you get a lot of extras as far as service goes," he said.
Reporter Carol Reiter can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or firstname.lastname@example.org.