In their mid-50s, handsomely graying and gracious David and Eric are opposite sides of the same coin. David is super-enthusiastic with ideas pinging off his brain at warp speed while Eric is steady, laid back and soft spoken.
“We love this industry,” David exclaimed, while Eric added, “Believe it or not, today’s new car systems are more sophisticated than the space shuttle, seriously.”
And that’s pretty much how the interview went, each business partner picking up on the other’s comments. It was like watching a ping pong match.
Kīhei Automotive Repair & Service proprietors (left to right) David Gamberdell and Eric Bowser offer a wide range of services.
David moved to Maui from Texas in 1994, where he worked as a baker for a deli chain. He parlayed that experience into opening Coconuts Bakery in Kīhei’s Kukui Mall. When he closed the bakery, he opened Coconuts Catering plus two Mexican restaurants—Fiesta Time on Lower Main in Wailuku and Fiesta Time across from Charley’s Saloon in Pā‘ia.
Eric is from Eugene, Oregon, where he worked at, owned and operated auto repair shops for over 30 years. Moving to Maui in 2007, his plan was to get a job at a local auto repair shop for six to eight months while he studied at the Maui Academy of Healing Arts in Kīhei in pursuit of a massage therapist license.
“I became a massage therapist, but then the economy tanked,” he said. “I ended up working for that repair shop for about three years.”
The two men met through a mutual friend and discovered they were both interested in reopening a repair shop that closed in 2008 due to the owner’s illness. Their partnership was born, and four months ago, they opened Kīhei Automotive Repair & Service at the site of the former Kīhei Auto Clinic in the farthest building behind A-American Storage in the Kīhei Commercial Center, behind Tesoro gas station on the Pi‘ilani Highway in North Kīhei.
Offering customers a wide range of services including both large and small repairs, Kīhei Automotive’s technicians/mechanics are nationally ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) certified and well-trained on the best diagnostic equipment available today.
“We are experts at computer diagnostics,” Eric said. “Our technicians are really good at it and it’s a hard skill to learn. It’s easy to replace parts, but hard to figure out what’s causing the problems in computer systems.”
“All of our diagnostic equipment is state-of-the-art,” David added.
Specializing in domestic and Asian-manufactured cars, Kīhei Automotive subscribes to an information-on-demand service that constantly updates technical information about defects and recalls.
Services include oil changes, maintenance, repairs and safety checks.
“And keep in mind our $39.95 oil change service includes topping off all fluids, inspecting belts, hoses and the undercarriage, as well as airing up the tires,” David said.
“We even give customers a complimentary bottle of water,” he exclaimed.
“And we always vacuum and wash the windows,” Eric added. David chimed in saying that on major repair jobs, it’s likely the entire car will be cleaned to near detail standards.
“When customers pick up their cars, it’s probable the car will be cleaner than when it was dropped off,” he said.
And I can attest to the orderliness and cleanliness of their very large double-bay shop.
“I think the cleanliness of our shop and employees reflects the quality of our service,” David said. “And you actually see the vehicles being worked on when you enter our shop.”
When I asked if trying to understand descriptions such as, “My car is making a whoop, whoop, gerrrrr sound,” is frustrating for mechanics, Eric said, “Not at all. The more information you can give me, the better I can diagnose the problem and fix the problem. And that saves you money.”
As for the vocalizations, Eric said, “Most people are too shy to do that.”
Really? I’ve been employing that technique for years.
He also said most repairs are same-day and that they offer a pre-arranged free shuttle service for South Maui customers.
“And we also offer drop-in-anytime safety inspections, too,” David said. “And by the way, a lot of our customers get their car’s oil changed while they wait if we’re able to with our scheduling. We really try not to overbook so we can accommodate people the very best way we can.”