And you thought that dentists, cops, and lawyers get a bad rap. Auto mechanics rank right up there as a negatively viewed occupation. Horror stories abound, like the leaking water pump gasket that cost thousands of dollars — and still wasn't fixed. "There's a low level of trust with mechanics, especially for women, who often feel taken advantage of," said Rob Infantino, founder and chief executive of Openbay, a Cambridge startup using technology to demystify the auto repair process. Globe correspondent Cindy Atoji Keene spoke with Infantino about his repair booking service.
"When you think of your neighborhood auto repair shop, most are relics of a bygone era. It's a traditional industry that has yet to be disrupted by Internet and mobile. I think of myself as a technologist who is looking at inefficiencies in the process and using software to modernize the marketplace.
"It's time to take the guesswork out of car maintenance. The auto repair market is huge — about $200 billion in the US every year. The idea for Openbay came to me when I brought my car to the garage for a simple wheel alignment that should have cost around $200. Instead, my "service adviser" came back with a 12-page estimate for "necessary" repairs. I saw a big red flag. I went home and searched online for a site where I could submit a service request, compare local mechanics' prices, schedule service, and pay. But nothing like that existed, so I decided to create that product.
"We have about 24,000 shops nationwide in the database, and more and more vehicle owners are signing up every day. You can submit a service request and receive an average of five mechanic quotes — and you can also find out the shop's ratings, certifications, and even whether it has loaner cars or Wi-Fi. For me personally, Openbay is a reflection of my passion for cars. I drive — and often use Openbay for — my 2002 BMW M5. I find cars to be works of art."
Cindy Atoji Keene can be reached at email@example.com.