Midas Reinvents Itself

When you think of Midas you think of mufflers.  In fact Midas was founded in 1956 as strictly a muffler and exhaust system shop, and the concept grew so rapidly that there were 100 stores in 40 states in its first year of operation.  Obviously founder Nate H. Sherman caught a tiger by the tail.  Through the years Midas became synonymous with muffler repair.  But now, nearly 50 years later, there's a fly in that ointment -- these days mufflers often last most of a vehicle's useful life.  So Midas has changed its tune and has broadened the services it offers to its customers.

"The legacy and heritage of Midas is its beginnings as a muffler shop," said Rick Dow, senior vice president, marketing for Midas, "but technology changed all that."

Dow noted that the reinvention of the Midas brand is not a new phenomenon.  Midas broadened its focus from mufflers to brake service in the 1980's, and that, said Dow, "saved the company."  Now Midas is in the throes of refocusing again to add scheduled maintenance and tires to its menu of services.

What does this mean to you as a consumer?  It means that if you need scheduled maintenance, tires, brakes or a muffler, you can go to one of 1,600 Midas stores and receive services that are backed by a national chain with nearly 50 years of history.  Because the vast majority of Midas locations are run by franchisees (many second- or third-generation owners), you will also be dealing with a local merchant with a history in the area.

It also means that you can have scheduled maintenance, which is crucial to keep your new-car warranty in effect, performed by Midas technicians, rather than at a dealership.  Midas will help you keep those important maintenance records, and the bonus is the Midas service will usually be less expensive than at a new-car dealer.

How often should you have maintenance done?  Experts recommend that you have systems checked quarterly.  Some items that need attention are oil, lube and filters; brake check; and tire inspection.  Midas has recently created a relationship with Bridgestone/Firestone, which means a full range of tires are available at all Midas stores.

"We entered into an alliance with Bridgestone/Firestone early last year," Dow said, "and it is off to a terrific start."

The addition of tires is a natural adjunct to Midas' reputation as one of the nation's most prominent brake repair outlets.  Though the stores are still best known for mufflers, brake work actually represents a much larger part of the typical Midas store's business these days.  Nationwide, mufflers and exhaust are less than 20 percent of their overall service income, while brakes are about 60 percent.  Now with the shift to general maintenance services, Dow expects those areas to grow into perhaps 40 percent of the company's overall business.

Despite the big change, Midas still means mufflers to many, and that's not a bad thing.  (Internally Midas employees refer to it as "muffler vision.")  Now when you think of Midas, the company would like you to think of mufflers, plus brakes, plus tires, plus general maintenance.  The job of reinventing a brand isn't easy.

The author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Buying or Leasing a Car, Jack R. Nerad writes frequently about auto maintenance.