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anybody making a living with conversions?

29259 Views 38 Replies 10 Participants Last post by  Ziggythewiz
I'd really like to know if anyone has been able to make any kind of a living with conversions and/or conversion services.... I've seen some posted, some decent sites offering services/turnkey, but not been able to tell if there is a business model that is working.

I am taking a stab at marketing in my home town, and had lots of interest, but no BUYERS of either completed vehicle(s) or conversion services.

I've noticed a number of conversions for sale in the classifieds here, but none selling anywhere near retail price + labor regardless of quality. I'd love to know whether anyone has been able to make successful sales?! on a regular basis?!
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On occasion I have had people tell me I should start making electric cars and sell them. I right away ask if they want to buy one if I build it. The answer has always been no. If anyone ever said yes I would say no because of the liabilities. There is no such thing as idiot proof. You might build several great cars then one dummy will come along and manage to sue your butt off for doing something stupid with the car that no normally sane person would even consider doing. If you are really sharp with electricity and conversions you might consider just consulting. That way you would have no initial monetary outlay and could possibly draw business from outside your town.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
On occasion I have had people tell me I should start making electric cars and sell them. I right away ask if they want to buy one if I build it. The answer has always been no. If anyone ever said yes I would say no because of the liabilities. There is no such thing as idiot proof. You might build several great cars then one dummy will come along and manage to sue your butt off for doing something stupid with the car that no normally sane person would even consider doing. If you are really sharp with electricity and conversions you might consider just consulting. That way you would have no initial monetary outlay and could possibly draw business from outside your town.
yeah.... this is kindof paralleling what I am finding locally. I have filed a new LLC to insulate personal property from conversion activity, and could get an umbrella liability policy and a garagekeepers insurance that would 'probably' protect me, but would have to have regular business to pay for that coverage..... and while there is lots of interest and appreciation of my conversion(s), I haven't had anyone ready to write a check to buy or hire in a consulting capacity. Gotta keep the day job for now. ;(

I have just put my Miata up on craigslist, and am making a serious effort to attempt a sale for profit... but I am losing faith in making this a sustainable standalone business.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Care to post the Craigslist link on this forum? (perhaps in the for sale section)
well, I guess I could... its:
http://santafe.craigslist.org/cto/3922362502.html

I had not done the general classifieds here, or pursued eBay yet since I SUSPECT that seeing the vehicle 'live', test drive, and local support will be major concerns for the non-DIY purchaser. I am thinking that the development of a LOCAL market is more the goal than a one-time sale across the country somewhere...
 

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Nice looking conversion -- I'd love to see more under the hood! I'm doing a Miata conversion myself based on the plans from evmiata.com.

Maybe try the miata.net guys -- they have regional sections that might find you a local buyer.

These types of conversions are a tough sell in general, I think, because of the increasing number of production EVs available -- but for someone who loves the Miata, or who wants a convertible but won't spend $75k+ for a used Roadster, perhaps there's a niche...
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Nice looking conversion -- I'd love to see more under the hood! I'm doing a Miata conversion myself based on the plans from evmiata.com.
I have lots of pix on my build site... follow the link in my sig. I also have a front battery support rack I pulled out from original build if you have any interest. It was designed for 12v AGMs (Optima yellowtops), and the 130ah CALBs I put in were too tall to use it. I hate to sell for scrap.... It might work if you are planning a 100ah cell build.

Maybe try the miata.net guys -- they have regional sections that might find you a local buyer.
I registered there 6 months ago and have gotten help on the Miata-specific repairs like the new soft top installation. Most of the responses I got were that they didn't like the idea of limited range and wanted to be able to taking long sunday drives.... I did get awarded 'Miata of the Month' by the editors!

These types of conversions are a tough sell in general, I think, because of the increasing number of production EVs available -- but for someone who loves the Miata, or who wants a convertible but won't spend $75k+ for a used Roadster, perhaps there's a niche...
Hence this thread.... trying to find out if any market is working for anyone. I'm planning a conversion of an old English sports car, a '62 Sunbeam Alpine, but can't tell if that will sell any better or not.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
... there are a few that do conversions exclusively.
who? wondering how they sustain a volume of sales... have to build at least a car a month to pay decent wages for one person I think.

I am curious to hear what their typical market is, whether they build on spec or 'to suit', and if they offer rental, lease, financing or just cash sales.
 

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I considered this as well, because there seems to be a lot of interest in Columbus (OH), but that also seems to be where it stops - passive interest. I haven't proactively advertised or tried to make a sale, but I have been in the community workshop building the hot rods for the past two years. People oooh, ahhh, and wow (literally just heard a "Wow!" a couple hours ago), but never even express the slightest interest in even learning more about it. I figure a real potential customer would have asked me about building one for them - nothing. One guy, who is a fellow business owner here, has a Mini with a blown head gasket that he wants to convert, but he just asks really general questions about doing conversions (Is it hard? Is it expensive?), and has never even asked me to sit down and go over what it would take, in detail, with him.

There are, however, a handful of Priuses and Volts in the parking lot on a regular basis, and I suspect that the prepackaged, easy, way rules here. In fact, in the almost five years I have been here, I have met two other people who have actually done a conversion, and very few who have thought about it.

I've also noticed that I never really hear much about cars that were converted by a "pro" shop; in the news or here on the forum. I know this is DIY, but there are people here with production EVs, and people who have purchased an already converted EV and want to upgrade or learn about them. I don't remember ever reading, "I purchased this so-and-so, which was converted by XYZ EVs, in Timbuktu. How do I..."

Finally, in comparing this whole cottage industry to the hot rod industry, from whence I come (there are a LOT of similarities): The hot rod industry is fueled a lot by people wanting to recreate the past, whereas EVs represent the future. There are a precious handful that want to recreate the past with future technology, but the field (of prospective customers) starts to get pretty narrow. With production EVs ramping up, it will be a hard sell (IMO) to get people to make such a huge commitment and investment, when there is very strong, easily obtainable, competition in production vehicles with the absolute best of the best technology. A more feasible commercial venture might be in servicing and upgrading those vehicles down the road.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
the only 'steady' business I have bumped into has been the shop in Boulder that has a franchise to upgrade the gen.2 Prius to plug-in when their stock batteries die.

I am giving this a good go in the next few months, and we'll see what happens. I am JUST starting some local advertising and plan to give an open lecture or two to see if there is a hidden market... Thing is, even if I had a backlog, I doubt I can physically put together more than 5 or 10 conversions at best per year, which still wouldn't provide much income given pricing allowing for just a couple thousand dollars margin to pay for my labor.
 

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...I am giving this a good go in the next few months, and we'll see what happens. I am JUST starting some local advertising and plan to give an open lecture or two to see if there is a hidden market... Thing is, even if I had a backlog, I doubt I can physically put together more than 5 or 10 conversions at best per year, which still wouldn't provide much income given pricing allowing for just a couple thousand dollars margin to pay for my labor.
I've decided to test the waters as well. I ran a CL ad, and will be doing some other advertising and promotional stuff.

My real master plan is parts though. Conversions are to support that. Most of the top hot rod shops have something they make and sell because, truth is, even with six-figure projects, it's usually hard to really make a profit with custom services. Providing things people actually need is a more viable way to make money, providing "wants" means finding people who have the excess to afford it, and convincing them to pay enough for it. I've been tracking this little cottage industry for a few years now, and trying to find a product niche that has the ability to actually grow. Selling a couple dozen of some low-to-moderate margin product or service per year is a recipe for gray hair... :D
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Selling a couple dozen of some low-to-moderate margin product or service per year is a recipe for gray hair... :D
I already have gray hair. ;)
perhaps with a couple good examples running around locally there will be more conversions and I can fill in with a little consulting or fabrication of plastic battery boxes, or some other piece that people need....
 

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Hi, Im new to this site, I own "electric blue auto conversions' in Walton Ks.
the question was, can any one make a living at conversions? Hell yes you can!. since 1974 I have done about 400 or more, I kept a good count since 2004 and have done 188 so far . I will convert anything I dont care what type of vehicle it is, I just finished a 90,000 lb aircraft tug,Its on my web site, www.ev-blue.com. The strangest car was a 77 caddy hearse . I also had to re-do 8 EVs from other shops last year that were done so bad it was a shame. I have pics of all of them, they shops are closed now, shoddy work gets to in the unemployment line real fast, and of course the people were over charged for the crap work that was done . I have 1 set price for ANY vehicle, then it goes up with add -ons . Im starting to get more calls from airports on TUGS and hope to end up in that area solely . I saw a post about "liabilities" .I have the customer agree that I only cover the conversion,,,nothing else, I have them sign it before I start...AND NEVER USE YOUR OWN MONEY !!! Have them send a deposit for all your parts,
 

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for Todd
the hot rod area is where I came from too, but in the late 60s, then moved on to restoring European classics in the Tampa Fla area. I did my fisrst EV conversion when the oil embargo was on in 74.
I have done "hot rods" a 50 chevy P/U, a real nice 55 chevy 210, lots of room for batteries and those cars were very hollow, not has heavy as many people think.

I have sent cars to Canada, all over the US and Europe converted ,and even a few to the Caribbean Islands
getting more power from an ICE is hard and expensive, in an EV, just stuff more cells/batteries in it . a well made controller will handle more than its rated for . I know, I have blown up some of Ryans controllers from EV source, He know what hes doing ,smart guy, knows his stuff but gear heads will never accept the EV as a real hot rod or race car, even if its quicker and faster
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I have the customer agree that I only cover the conversion,,,nothing else, I have them sign it before I start...
this is very cool news.... first real success story I have heard from a conversion shop. You must have a solid approach and good list of suppliers to get everything on time and good costs.

Digging a little deeper....

q: do you have an actual 'liability/waranty release form' you use, or have you made it all this time on handshakes without lawsuits?

q: I am assuming you have switched over from lead to lithium for all new build. would you care to share your source for batteries?

q: do you design/fab your own tranny adaptors, or sub them out? retaining clutch/flywheel, or going clutchless.... I ask since this is a big chunk of conversion cost that COULD be reduced if you fab your own.

q: do you do much if any advertisement of services, or just rely on word of mouth at this point?
 

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what do you need to know, I have some time to kill.
Same questions Dan asked:

...
q: do you have an actual 'liability/waranty release form' you use, or have you made it all this time on handshakes without lawsuits?

q: I am assuming you have switched over from lead to lithium for all new build. would you care to share your source for batteries?

q: do you design/fab your own tranny adaptors, or sub them out? retaining clutch/flywheel, or going clutchless.... I ask since this is a big chunk of conversion cost that COULD be reduced if you fab your own.

q: do you do much if any advertisement of services, or just rely on word of mouth at this point?


Plus, who is your market? Any specific demographic?

Thanks! :)
 
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