By Mike Imlay
RCTS Canada Touts Performance and Technological Expertise
The banner at the top of the RCTS Canada website reads, “Technology is the only substitute for cubic inches.” It’s a saying that the retail performance outlet has lived by since owner Reg Riemer founded it in 1996. Over the years, RCTS has worked closely with factory shops ranging from TTE-Toyota Team Europe to HKS to boost its technical and R&D credentials. In fact, RCTS has carved out a specific niche as the only licensed, fully supported HKS Pro Dealer in all of Canada.
“Reg actually started by selling HKS products out of his garage way back,” explained shop foreman Antony Ray. “Soon he had to get a building to sell them out of, and things grew. He got into tuning a lot of vehicles and then went over and did some work for Toyota in Europe and has gone on from there. We’re a Dinan dealer, too. Other than that, we just sort of do everything. Our specialty was Toyotas back in the day, and we [still] do a lot of Toyotas. At the moment, we have a couple of old MINIs in the shop, and we’ve had the engine out of a Lamborghini Countach. We’ve rebuilt an old IMC Jeep Cherokee, and we have a ’64 Dodge Polara with a supercharged 440 that comes in.”
RCTS shop manager Mike Fischer said that there’s no real typical customer base.
“We see everyone from the younger people who have bought a right-hand-drive drift car all the way up to the guys who bring in their $200,000 BMW Dinan packages and anything in between,” he said.
Everything and Anything
Whatever their backgrounds, customers come to RCTS for its leading-edge engine building, EFI software and related performance tuning. They also rely on its expertise in diagnosis and repair and its ability to fuel-inject practically any type of engine. In addition to these services, the four-bay facility is also dedicated to hands-on research and development into new automotive technologies to advance motorsports.
In fact, Riemer was involved with motorsports long before founding the outlet, and RCTS has maintained an ongoing racing presence in such competition venues as One Lap of America and Targa Newfoundland. The retailer is equipped with a parts mezzanine, an in-floor Dynojet 248E dynamometer, an electronics lab, an ASNU fuel-injector lab and a welding and fabrication shop. Like many brick-and-mortar operations, RCTS also hosts an online parts store at its website, preferring to keep its physical showroom modest.
“There’s a bit of retail space up front with two walls of product to show,” said Fischer. “And there’s a reception area where you can come in and sit down if you’re waiting for us to do something on your vehicle.”
He noted that the flow of customers in and out of the facility remains constant and even tight sometimes for the shop’s staff of five employees.
“I try to keep the work pretty constant for the guys,” Fischer said. “It’s a lot busier during the summer. You get a lot of in-and-out projects. We do the longer projects in winter, such as full car builds. When it snows in Calgary, nobody drives their toys.”
Having got its start amid the Internet explosion of the mid-’90s, RCTS found itself constantly adapting to the many ways that technology has been reshaping business over the past 19 years. Ray and Fischer view web-driven change as a mixed bag of opportunities and challenges for the shop.
“Because of the Internet, there’s access to a lot more products out there now,” Ray said. “Back [in the ’90s], you just had the people you dealt with and that was it. But now it’s a lot easier to find oddball stuff. Finding people who specialize in a product or a vehicle to help with a build is easier, too.”
On the other hand, Fischer noted that the Internet sometimes warps consumer expectations, requiring a retailer to make customer education a priority.
“There are a lot of people who read something on the Internet and figure that they’re experts with 20 minutes of reading,” he said. “A lot of times, it’s very difficult to tell them that there are reasons we don’t want to use certain products based on what we’ve seen. Nine out of 10 times they’ll say, ‘Okay, I only want to come in once, have it work and be done.’”
Ray agreed that some of the customers are unrealistic about what they want.
“We get some who come in with, say, a four-cylinder car and want 500 hp,” he said. “You just have to make them try and see the light of day. It’s not realistic. I mean, it can be done, but you want
reliability, too. You have to look at the whole picture.”
The two noted that RCTS’s demonstrated technical prowess helps gain customer trust in such cases. The retailer stands behind its experience and expertise even when it means declining potential business, because delivering on real, achievable promises is what ultimately cements long-lasting customer relationships.
“Again, on the tuning side of things, we’re [Canada’s] only registered HKS pro certified dealer,” reiterated Fischer. “Our owner has been to all the courses. We’re also the only certified Hondata dealer in the region. A lot of the other shops coming up around Calgary don’t necessarily have those certifications. They just have a dyno, and we’re seeing that a lot of things that shouldn’t happen after a dyno tune are happening.”
In fact, said Ray, many customers wind up at RCTS when the promises and work of other shops end in disappointment.
“We’re also more specialized to where we can do a lot of what I’d call oddball stuff,” he asserted. “For example, we had an 840 in that a guy was wanting to supercharge, but we don’t supercharge those because there’s just no way to tune them. It’s pointless. So the customer goes off and gets it supercharged elsewhere and is back in two years time because it’s not running right. So then we had to custom up a [computer application] to get it running. We do a lot of things like that—one-off stuff that requires a lot of research and being creative in getting things to work.”
However, added Ray, that’s the fun of a shop like RCTS.
“You’re working on everything, all different vehicles coming in,” he said. “Sometimes it can be a bit of a headache trying to work the technical side of things, but you just go with your past experience.”
Fischer echoed those sentiments, saying that he especially enjoys troubleshooting intricate technical challenges.
“When we get something that’s custom wiring, I get to do all of that, so it’s neat looking stuff up,” he said. “Sometimes you find the wiring diagrams, other times not so much. Doing all the research is cool.”
No matter how involved the project or sale, however, RCTS strives to bring a high level of respect, technological knowledge and professional service to every customer interaction.
“You treat everyone the same regardless of whether he’s a young kid just out of school or someone for whom money is no object,” Fischer emphasized. “We want to give everyone all the expert advice that we can offer, whether they come in for a $5 lug nut or a $50,000 car package.”