What do a leaking tire and an on-demand dog grooming service have in common? Both inspired 30-year industry veteran James Chen to create the startup company ASAP Tire, a mobile tire shop that comes to its customers anywhere.
“Mobile is huge right now,” Chen says. “People are getting busier and busier and have less time, so this was another way of doing it.”
Chen started to develop the idea while on a flight for a family vacation when he thought of how nice it would be if he could have his tires replaced while he was away on vacation to save time. Then, after seeing a mobile dog wash van, Chen combined the two concepts and came up with a mobile tire shop with a plan of how to retrofit all the service equipment needed into a single self-contained operation.
In order to expedite growth, Chen partnered with Cie Digital Labs (CDL), a growth accelerator tech company for up-and-coming startups. The company provides ASAP Tire with things like dedicated and shared experts in areas like app development, finance, business and IT to save money while starting up.
ASAP Tire was founded in 2012. After nearly three years of conceptualizing and making sure there was a customer base, Chen rolled out the first van to the Orange County, California area in 2015.
“For a little while, we were stuck on one van, then two,” Chen says. “Then the challenge was how do we obtain more customers and how do we scale it and make sure there’s consistent demand.”
Now, ASAP has 10 vans in its fleet across three metropolitan areas including two in the greater Washington D.C. area. In the future, Chen says he hopes to expand to other big-city-centric areas in the U.S and eventually expand the services ASAP Tire offers to be even more comprehensive.
Currently, the company sells, installs and rotates tires on-site, but Chen says someday he might want to expand their services to include batteries and oil changes if customer demand is there.
“In a nutshell: Americans are not buying any more cars than they did in, say, 2010,” Chen says. “And with the tires lasting about the same if not a little bit longer, your customer base is really the same size. So the question I pose in my particular segment is, how do we grow so we can get the largest slice of the pie available?”
The company carries mainly Tier One brands like Goodyear, Michelin and Bridgestone. It also carries up to 33-inch tires and can service up to 22-inch wheels. ASAP mainly services passenger vehicles but is working on expanding its customer base further in the fleet and commercial sector.
Technicians who perform service work are trained in-house before being sent out in the field and then spend four weeks training with a senior master technician before servicing vehicles alone.
“All of our technicians are trained to a high level because when you’re mobile, you don’t know what you’re going to encounter,” Chen says. “It could be a truck, Camry or a Porsche.”
Chen says the company is geared toward middle to higher income customers who need a time-saving option. Millennials and high-end car enthusiasts are also ones who are more inclined to take advantage of ASAP Tire’s services. Chen says the company is also seeing much higher repeat business than he’s experienced before. He said that once customers are hooked, they don’t want to buy tires any other way again, especially when they can do all the research online.
“I think mobile tire shops are going to be a big part of how people buy tires,” Chen says. “How big? How soon? I really can’t say. But I think we’ve got a solid business plan and proof of concept. We just have to continue to grow and keep moving forward.”