A lot has happened over the last 50 years, as AAMCO grew out of a single store in North Philadelphia to the industry leader in drive systems repair with over 600 locations. We’re proud of each step along the way.
Car owners began to appreciate the ease of driving with an automatic transmission in the 50’s and 60’s, moving away from the standard manual transmission which required drivers to depress a clutch pedal with one foot and accelerate with the other, while at the same time manually shifting the transmission.
At the time, very few automotive shops had the technical ability to service these new transmissions. In 1957, a Philadelphia shop owned by Anthony A. Martino had the expertise to service this new technology and led the way to the start of AAMCO. The first franchise location opened in 1963 in Newark, NJ and the rest as they say is history!
In the early 70’s, car manufacturers produced most of their new cars with automatic transmissions. The “big three” at the time, GM, Ford, and Chrysler all had different types of transmissions to support their vehicle platform requirements.
Three speed transmissions were very common, but had transmission issues very early in the vehicle’s life, so many 4-6 year old cars were serviced in AAMCO shops. To keep up, AAMCO opened hundreds of franchised shops across the country. We were also one of the first companies to offer a lifetime warranty on the work we performed, to provide consumers with the confidence to know that the transmission was fixed to last a lifetime.
A “shift” in technology occurred in the early 80’s, with manufacturers producing a new version of the front wheel drive transmission. While the technology had been around since the 60’s in larger vehicles such as the Cadillac El Dorado, this new front wheel drive powertrain was built to improve fuel efficiency.
Chrysler’s “K” car was one of the first of these vehicles to be serviced by AAMCO shops. Unfortunately for car owners, this new technology was much more expensive to repair due to the additional labor required to service the transmission. AAMCO shops invested heavily in new tools and equipment in order to service this new emerging technology.
Throughout this decade, computers and electronics were introduced into the operation of the transmission. Computers now controlled how and when a transmission shifted, and the industry had to learn how to diagnose and repair these new computer controlled transmissions. While visual inspections were still critical in the diagnostic process, AAMCO technicians were trained on how to test, evaluate, and repair both the electrical and mechanical systems.
In addition, engine electronics needed to be evaluated to ensure that the transmission was receiving the right signals. In the 90’s, an issue with electronics could also turn on the pesky “check engine light” that could be an indication of a transmission issue. AAMCO shops were trained on how to separate transmission issues from computer issues to ensure a quality repair.
In the 2000’s the vehicle mix shifted significantly as Asian and European models captured additional market share. In 2008, Toyota became the top producing car manufacturer in the world. This change in the vehicle mix created a need for auto repair shops to broaden their skills to service a wider variety of vehicles, drive systems, and technologies.
Manufacturers also added an additional layer of complexity by moving to five, six, seven, and even 8 speed transmissions to improve fuel efficiency. AAMCO shops had the highest skilled technicians in the industry and were able to offer additional services to customers such as brakes, suspension, and engine performance services.
Technology continues to influence changes in the drive systems of today’s vehicles. There are more onboard computers on today’s vehicles than were on Apollo 1. Most manufacturers now offer Continuous Variable Transmissions (CVTs) in their vehicles in an effort to further drive fuel efficiency.
Also, completely new vehicle types, like Hybrids and Electrics are being introduced to the market and making market share gains that will continue to grow over the next few decades. These new vehicle platforms will require leading-edge diagnostic equipment and training to ensure quality service continues to be delivered. AAMCO shops are servicing hybrids today and will lead the way by offering charging stations and services to electric vehicles.