Well it’s about time Knibbe Automotive Repair Inc. opened a location in Cochrane.
Business owner John Knibbe said their main location, for the past 16 years in Crowfoot in Calgary, already attracted customers from Cochrane and Bearspaw because of its proximity to the city’s outskirts.
Many of his staff live in Cochrane, or grew up in the town. He added that a lot of his existing Calgary customers commute to Cochrane for work. The new location will open on February 3, next door to Lube City at 354 Railway St W.
“We anticipate that a lot of Cochrane customers will just go there,” Knibbe said of their newest location. The family-run business that boasts glowing reviews on Google says they will maintain their same level of customer service that they’re known for in the city.
A few other details make the business stand out from the rest.
Knibbe said their success has allowed them to give back to the community. Every six months or so the business has given away a free vehicle to a deserving single parent. Since the program’s launch, the business has handed out eight vehicles.
Single parents in need are nominated for the program by a friend or family member. An expression of need, in the form of a letter, is reviewed by Knibbe and his staff. The staff vote for whom they feel is the most deserving and a winner is selected.
The business is all ready for their next giveaway in Cochrane. On Friday (Jan. 10) a staff member was wiping down the driver’s side door on a white 2013 Chevy Sonic at their Crowfoot location. The car had a red ribbon affixed to the hood.
“It’s overwhelming, it shocks me,” said Knibbe of the nomination letters he reads. General manager Blair Davies said the program has received more attention since the slump in Alberta’s economy.
The vehicles are either purchased from dealerships or businesses, or in some cases they’re donated. The car is fully repaired, maintained, and comes with one year of maintenance and repairs from Knibbe's business. Often, Knibbe’s staff volunteer their time to prepare the vehicle for its future owner.
“We accept full responsibility for that vehicle for one year,” said Knibbe. In some cases the business has secured an insurance company to offer free insurance for a year.
The business also has a contingency fund for the program that pays for any new parts or other expenses outside of what their garage can provide. Cars that are donated must meet a threshold of condition. If the car is beyond its lifespan, Knibbe will sell it to a wrecker and the money he receives will go into the contingency fund.
“We’re very clear, it has to be a car that I’d want my daughter to drive,” Knibbe said of selecting a car to giveaway.
“We don’t just take any car. We’ll check the car out.”
Another program the business offers is car maintenance classes. The free classes last about three hours and take place in the summer. Their last class attracted about 20 participants that included new drivers, new Canadians and people that were just curious. Knibbe said the classes aren’t restricted to existing customers, everyone is welcome.
The classes teach drivers how to change a tire, check and top-up fluids, replace wiper blades and the basics of how an engine and brake system works. The hands-on class invites participants to a 360 degree view of a vehicle on hoist.
“We show you around the car so people become more comfortable,” said Davies.
Knibbe said the idea for the classes came from the realization that some car owners lack knowledge of basic vehicle maintenance.
“When we started this (business) 16 years ago, intuitively the whole organization is set up to accommodate the fact that this is a very intimidating process,” Knibbe said.
“It’s mandatory that when you pick up your car you must see the parts. I cannot sell you a part, if I cannot show you why it needs to be replaced.”
He said he’s not interested in taking a customer’s money. His focus is maintaining a customer’s trust and establishing a long-term relationship.
“That’s how we built this, and that’s why it keeps working.”