ToyoMasters is a name that sounds like something out of a sci-fi action movie. In Willis, however, it is a name people trust when they are needing any maintenance service or repair done on their Toyota, Lexus, or other Asian import vehicles.
The name ToyoMasters is fitting: the mechanics there are true masters of their trade. Owner Mark Strong spent almost 30 years with Toyota before he opened the business in 2016, and his right-hand man Cliff Cross is a master diagnostic technician with 30 years’ experience of his own working on Toyota vehicles.
“I started out working out for Toyota in 1987 and spent most of my time – about 19 years – working at Fred Haas Toyota. I stayed in the dealership business with the factory training as long as I could, but knew at some point I would break away and start my own business,” Strong said.
While the shop specializes in Toyota/Lexus, ToyoMasters also has customers with other imports such as Hyundai, KIA, Honda and Acura. Strong says their engineering is similar to Toyota’s, which is why he sticks with them. “I tend to stay away from European imports. I have a friend a couple of miles from here I usually refer people (with European cars) to, and he will send me Toyota work and other issues he hasn’t seen before. People come here for our expertise on their vehicle. If they have a vehicle we’re not too sure about, I’m not going to learn about it on YouTube, like a lot of other places do. That’s not how I do business. I want to understand the engineering of the car. That’s the only way you’re going to fix it, and fix it right.”
Doing things right is a core value for Strong. The business has grown from just Strong to a total of five people – four mechanics (including himself) plus Strong’s wife Tracy, who helps with the front desk part-time – and its growth can be attributed to its solid reputation. “What makes us different is the personal care we give our customers. A good price for a good job well done. That’s been my motto all along. You treat others the way you wish to be treated,” Strong explained.
“It’s the entire experience, start to finish. It’s treating people fairly and honestly. People come in here based on the reviews they read and the rapport I have with their neighbors. They come here because they trust their friend or family member who told them about us. I am trustworthy and I trust them, too,” Strong said, explaining that, unlike some businesses, ToyoMasters takes checks. “With all the factory training and experience I have, and knowing the vehicles so well, when people are describing their issues or want certain things out of their vehicles, I key into it really quickly. I know what they want and need.”
Stressing the importance of trust in the relationship, Strong continued, “I never try to capitalize on a situation. Let’s face it, everyone is on a budget, so the last thing people need is someone pressuring them into buying something they don’t need. I address what they need first, and then we talk about what they’d like to have done.”
A full-service shop, ToyoMasters does everything from oil changes and brakes to A/C and electrical work. Two of the services they specialize in are diagnostics and hybrids/electrical vehicles. “Diagnostics is the most difficult aspect of car repair right now. While the cars are very advanced and they have advanced computer systems onboard, it is still difficult to understand how they all work together and, if there is an electrical problem, how it affects all the other systems. It can be difficult to track down the actual area that’s causing the problem and that takes experience, a lot of tenacity, and the ability to stay with the problem until it’s solved,” Strong explained.
“It’s the intermittent issues that frustrate customers the most. And it seem like every time they bring it in, it’s not doing it…and then it is even more frustrating. But if they are willing to leave the car with us, we will take the time to continue to look at it, and based on the description of what they say is happening, we will try to simulate that so we can identify the issue. Then from there, once we are able to experience the vibration or noise or the electronic intermittent working of some device in the car, or how the car drives down the road, spits and sputters at certain times, then we are able to key in and track down the problem,” he continued.
People with hybrids or electric vehicles typically have a hard time finding people to work on them, but this is where Strong feels ToyoMasters shines because of Strong’s and Cross’s backgrounds working on them at Toyota. “We specialize in hybrid technology. That is a growing industry, and Toyota has expanded its lineup. Even the Tundra is coming out this year with a hybrid.” Strong expounded, “Actually, Toyota was the very first company to have a hybrid on the market. It was the Prius in 2000. They have been the leaders in hybrid technology ever since then and have continued to produce the most efficient, most reliable, problem-free, maintenance-reduced vehicles. Their hybrid systems are really remarkable. Both Cliff and I have extensive experience and all the factory training.”
Keeping up with the latest automotive technology is important to Strong, as is building and maintaining relationships with his customers. “I really enjoy it. I enjoy the conversations I have with people, and I enjoy taking care of their vehicles. As a company, and as an owner, I want to be able to give that customer the confidence, a feeling they are going to be taken care of, no matter what issue they’re having, and they can get good advice. We may not have an answer for everything, but we give them the most honest opinion of the direction they should go.”
“People will come in and ask whether they should fix their car or buy a new one, or say ‘I want to fix my car and give it to my son. What do you think about that?’ I enjoy spending time with my customers and having those kinds of conversations with them. Those are the kinds of things we really care about,” Strong said.
Strong likens his customer base to a family, “A lot of our customers know each other, so when they come in, they’ll start up a conversation, and pretty soon there’s a little party going on! It’s fun. That’s the way I think car repair should be: it should be a low-pressure, good experience for people.”
ToyoMasters is located at 11631 FM 830, Willis, Texas. For more information, visit www.ToyoMastersautorepair.com. For an appointment, call 936-701-5236.