Technology has helped the auto industry make tremendous strides, from fuel efficiency improvements to the promise of self-driving cars, but getting cars fixed hasn’t changed much. Seattle startup Wrench just raised $20 million to modernize that process.
Wrench employs “mobile mechanics” around the country that come to the customer to do repair jobs without a physical shop or dealership. Repairs can be done anywhere from an office parking lot to a downtown parking garage to a customer’s driveway.
Wrench has now raised a total of $40 million and serviced more than 100,000 vehicles in its three years of existence. The service is live in parts of all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Wrench plans to use the cash infusion to expand to more markets, add additional repair services and bring in new executive-level employees and mechanics. Vulcan Capital, the investment arm of the late Paul Allen, led the Series C round, with participation from Madrona Venture Group, Tenaya Capital and Marubeni Corporation.
Wrench has been referred to as an Uber for car repair, but unlike the ride-hailing giant, Wrench does not offer a marketplace matching customers and independent contractors. It employs the mechanics directly, and it offers a a one-year, 12,000-mile guarantee on parts and labor.
“Pure marketplaces work well for commodity things like driving a car or walking a dog, and it’s a great model for them,” Wrench CEO Ed Petersen told GeekWire. “But being a mechanic, these guys go to school for a long time; they spend a lot on tools. It’s a skilled position, and they need direct support.”
The company has about 270 employees, and 100 of them are mechanics.
Founded in 2016, the company is primarily known for its consumer business. However, in the last year it has quietly built up a formidable fleet business, sending its mechanics on jobs for big transportation companies. Every second a vehicle is down it costs those companies money, and Wrench says it can turn around repairs much faster than dealers or other mechanics and reduce costs by up to 30 percent.
The company wouldn’t go into much detail about its fleet customer base, but Petersen did say Wrench services Garda’s armored cars, and it is working on a pilot project with a “large delivery company.” It also works with the United States Postal Service and has deals with smaller companies such as Seattle-based mechanical contractor MacDonald Miller.
Wrench has serviced fleets for several years, but the company really kicked that part of the business into high gear in the last year. Wrench brought in April Garbusjuk, a former Oracle sales executive, as vice president of sales, and Petersen said she has been instrumental in streamlining the fleet business.
Wrench also has a logistics platform to track maintenance and anticipate repairs before they need to happen. The software platform is free for enterprise customers, and Wrench makes money on the repair jobs.
Wrench ties into a vehicle’s on-board computer and diagnostic systems and interprets error codes. It has a conversational artificial intelligence engine that learns to ask the right questions about car problems over time.
“Our dream is to be able to diagnose a vehicle without ever seeing it,” Petersen said.
In addition to its budding fleet division, Wrench has a national partnership with online used car dealer Carvana. Wrench handles the service side of Carvana’s app.
Petersen co-founded Wrench with Doug Stevens and Casey Willis. He and some of his current colleagues founded and sold Intelius, a public record search company, and TalentWise, which does background checks and other screening services.
The new round comes a month after Wrench acquired Toronto-based competitor Flix. The deal brings Flix’s 80,000 North American customers under Wrench’s umbrella. A year before that Wrench acquired Otobots, a Chicago-based company that operated a similar mobile repair marketplace.
Wrench’s primary competition is YourMechanic, a more mature company based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Like Wrench, YourMechanic has an enterprise service, but is different in that it uses independent contractor mechanics.
Petersen said the market for mobile car repair is getting bigger, thanks to the prevalence of apps that simplify major services. Younger generations expect a level of service that has long been missing from areas like car repair.
“They expect that culture of convenience; hit a button and someone will come to you,” Petersen said.