Innovative Mega Recon Shop Embraces I-CAR Gold Class® Standard

06/04/2024 by I-CAR

When Swift Recon's CEO/founder Kyle Al-Rifai stumbled upon a large property in Broken Arrow, a Tulsa suburb, he was intrigued. He wanted to realize his ambitious vision and push boundaries, and here was the right place to take that leap. The former manufacturing site, strategically positioned along three major highways, boasted extensive land spanning 40 acres and a massive 140,000-square-foot building with soaring 28-foot ceilings. It was a stark contrast to Swift Recon's humble beginnings, founded in 2017 with just four employees operating out of a 2,200-square-foot facility. Fast forward through three years of significant growth, and Swift Recon employed 31 employees and was outgrowing a 20,000-square-foot facility. The surge in demand during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly from dealerships and fleet operators, underscored the need for expansion. "There was a shortage of new cars, and dealers found value for used cars. We got very busy," Al-Rifai says. He confidently embraced the decision to relocate to Broken Arrow.

A relative newcomer to the industry with a manufacturing background, Al-Rifai planned to build on his success with a mega recon shop configured with factory-style assembly line. The Broken Arrow facility offered more than twice the floor space Al-Rifai originally envisioned for his mega shop. Before committing to making the move, he weighed not just personal risk he'd be taking on, but risk to his employees. “I love my employees. I promised them secure jobs. I had to be careful about what I did next.”


Faith in a Disruptive Vision

When Al-Rifai decided to move ahead with the Broken Arrow project, he was counting on the solid customer relationships he'd built and the word-of-mouth referrals that had been doubling business every year. He had faith in his vision of “a well-oiled machine with the capacity to repair 5,000 cars per month.” And while not influencing him, several coincidences seemed to confirm his decision. A favorite was a welcome from a former customer, who, to Al-Rifai's surprise, was Broken Arrow's director of economic development. Al-Rifai recalled the silver Toyota Camry he sold to the city official, because it was the last sale he made before closing his online-based retail business, allowing him to concentrate on the wholesale reconditioning and collision repair business he was now bringing to Broken Arrow.

Any doubts Al-Rifai had about “growing into” what he believes is the third largest recon facility in the U.S. almost immediately lifted. “I got a call from a rental car company, who was not a customer at the time, asking if it was true I was opening a mega center. They wanted me to handle their Oklahoma and northern Texas regions with a volume of 1,000 cars a month.”

Swift Recon was swiftly on its way to capitalizing on its new site, which opened in January 2023. It features 15 paint booths, 90 body work areas, and 30 mechanical work areas. It is equipped with every tool imaginable for one-stop service, from sewing machines for upholstery repairs to calibration equipment for repairs involving ADAS to high-voltage tools for electric vehicle repairs. For each of the five assembly-line lanes, there is a dedicated team “sharing the common experience of repairing a vehicle from estimating to customer delivery.” Swift Recon currently has 80 employees, projected to nearly double by 2025. The ultimate goal is to operate with three shifts, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Mega Shop Has Mega Reasons to Be Gold Class

Although Al-Rifai thought of I-CAR Gold Class recognition as more meaningful to consumers, who represent only five percent of his business, he enrolled Swift Recon in Get to Gold Class at the urging of his production manager, a 30-year-industry veteran. This February, the shop achieved Gold Class status, complementing its memberships in several OEM networks, some of which require Gold Class and/or I-CAR training.

“It took some doing, but becoming Gold Class is relevant to us and our industry. Standards and processes are where I-CAR comes into play,” which Al-Rifai observes is vital to a process-driven operation like Swift Recon

“What I-CAR has done for us is open our eyes to a lot of different ways to recruit employees. It is the standard of legitimacy on both sides - the technician and the shop. I-CAR sets a standard of education and certification to complete the job correctly. If you want to be something in this industry, you train with I-CAR. When techs see a shop is Gold Class, they know it's a place where they can grow and better themselves.” He adds that his shop offers internships that can lead to jobs for students at Tulsa Tech, which uses I-CAR curriculum.


Swift Recon took advantage of an I-CAR training subscription, making training available to everyone at the shop. “Car technology and materials are changing. That's where our employees are seeing the value of I-CAR training,” Al-Rifai says. He adds that welding instruction was especially well-received. Some of the veteran welders were skeptical, but in the end, “they all felt they learned. The I-CAR instructors were great. They made sure we understood how to prepare before they arrived, so the training went smoothly.”

Unlimited I-CAR training for all is just one employee perk at Swift Recon, which has a 93 percent employee retention rate. The ideas Al-Rifai has put into place at Swift Recon not only disrupt how vehicles get repaired but how employees are treated.

“To create successful, long-term sustainable business, you have to take care of employees first,” he says. “We are a family. The customer experience will never surpass the employee experience, so we have to set the bar high. We have a very clean, climate-controlled facility. There are even personal vacs for techs to use before they leave for the day. Everything is process-driven. Everything has a place. But you don't work for the process; the process works for you. Everyone knows what's being asked of them, where to pick up and where to hand off to the next member of their team in the assembly line. Changes aren't just passed down from white collar to blue collar. Any employee can recommend changes. This is why we've grown so fast.”

To this day, Al-Rifai has never done any body work, but “I sure can move a lot of it.” With an untraditional shop owner background, Al-Rifai was not limited by collision repair conventions and was better able to see new ways to optimize efficiencies, employee satisfaction, and customer value. After six years, he says he's nearly perfected “a platform that can be flipped around to be a fleet or retail business.” When that happens, his 140,000-square-foot mega shop may be dwarfed by even bigger accomplishments.