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AAMCO... Over 50 YEARS as one of the most trusted experts

AAMCO Transmissions and Total Car Care is one of the most trusted and recognized "automotive" brands in the country.

AAMCO could celebrate its origin on any one of three important dates; 1957, 1962 or 1963. The company's official 50thanniversary was celebrated in 2012 and 2013 because those years mark milestones - the birth of the business concept for a "chain" of transmission repair franchises in 1962, along with the company's incorporation and opening of the first truly franchised center in Newark, NJ in 1963.

 

How it all began

In 1938, Oldsmobile developed the first line of cars that featured automatic transmissions, otherwise known as "Hydra-Matic" drives. By the 1950's the automatic transmission had become a popular option on numerous car makes and models.

 

With the proliferation of the automatic transmissions came the need for specialized care and repair. Enter Anthony A. Martino. Martino was born in 1933. He grew up and became a respected technician from Northeast Philadelphia. It was while working at Milt Knapik's ESSO service station on Philadelphia's Roosevelt Boulevard and Devereaux Ave. that Tony Martino launched what would become an entire industry.

Martino saw a big opportunity repairing automatic transmissions so he rented a lift from Knapik's ESSO to do side work including transmission repair. Soon, motorists from around the area recognized Martino's expertise and brought their transmission work to the little ESSO station.

By 1957, with demand for his signature transmission repair service growing, Martino opened his first repair shop three miles from the ESSO station at 133 East Eleanor Avenue in Northeast Philadelphia. He called the shop AAMCO Auto and Truck Repair as he did engine and other minor repairs at the shop, beyond transmissions. At this time, people became aware that the AAMCO acronym stood for Anthony A. Martino Company. The name was easy to remember, but it also was a marketing bonus because of its top alphabetical listing in the Yellow Pages under auto repair, as there was no separate auto transmission category during that time.

 

The original concept

Soon after opening his first AAMCO shop, Martino realized there was more transmission work available than he could handle, so he decided to shed the total car care offerings and specialize only in transmissions. He then partnered with two friends from Northeast Philadelphia, Rich Silva and Walt DeLutz to expand operations. These two realized the rapidly growing need for automatic transmission repair service. Together, they opened several shops in the area.

 

Martino recognized that "trust" and "reputation" were key elements to attracting new customers. Realizing a customer service problem at one shop could negatively affect the reputation of others, he started selling his transmission company under different brands. Anthony's original shop moved to a bigger space around the corner at North Front Street, where the first AAMCO corporate office was to open across the street. His shop remained AAMCO. The other shops traded under separate names.

 

1962: The AAMCO brand is born

In the early 60's, franchises began growing as the interstate highway network gave traveling consumers a desire to have their "favorite brands" available while on the go. McDonald's and Holiday Inn were the major names in early franchising and Martino saw the potential in the concept. However, he lacked the business background to do it. Enter Robert Morgan.

 

Robert Morgan was born Henry Morgenstern in the Bronx in 1917. His family owned a neighborhood deli where Morgan spent his early years. However, Morgan was not born to run the family deli. Instead, he dreamed of being a professional dancer and attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and then the City College of New York. Unfortunately, World War II would put those dreams on hold.

Soon after serving in the Army in World War II, Morgan settled in Detroit where he combined his business expertise with his love of dance and opened the Robert Morgan Studio of Dance. With franchising growing in popularity with the Arthur Murray Dance Studios, Morgan franchised his dance studio concept, ultimately reaching 40 studios across the country.

By the late 50's and early 60's, Rock n' Roll music was the trend and the party was over for ballroom dancing's popularity. Franchising soon surpassed dance as Morgan's focus. He then relocated to Philadelphia where he saw the popularity of Martino's shop and the franchise possibilities for the AAMCO Transmissions.

In 1962, he approached "Tony" Martino with the idea to franchise. Morgan was the ideal partner Martino was seeking to grow his AAMCO business. The separately branded shops were then renamed AAMCO. The brand was "officially" born.

 

1963: AAMCO opens its first "franchised" center and incorporates

There is much debate over who opened the first AAMCO franchise. Many believe it is former Martino employee and current operator, Tony Manero. While he was the first operator outside of Martino to run an AAMCO center, Manero was never truly a franchisee. Manero was given ownership of the North Front Street location before moving around the corner to Rising Sun Avenue where his center still operates today.

 

The real answer is that Ivan Ginninger and his brother Jack were the first to purchase an AAMCO franchise from Martino and Morgan in 1963. Within two weeks, the center was in the black and the AAMCO franchising phenomenon was on well on its way.

John Feldman and Don Saffiotti opened the second AAMCO franchise later in 1963 in Hackensack, NJ. To make 1963 even more eventful for the brand, AAMCO Automatic Transmissions was incorporated in November.

 

A household name is created

While the business concept of a transmission repair facility was taking shape, it was AAMCO's commitment to advertising that helped create a household name and one of the most enduring brand signatures in advertising history, "Double A (BEEP BEEP) M-C-O."

 

AAMCO was also one of the first advertisers to use celebrities in its television commercials. Its first commercial, shot in the early 1960's, featured Zsa Zsa Gabor. The commercial was an instant success and started a long line of award-winning ads for the brand.

Sports celebrities including Wilt Chamberlain and Johnny Unitas followed the Zsa Zsa spots. And, soon up-and coming actors, including Robin Williams, Louise Lasser and many more, combined their endorsements with humor to promote the AAMCO brand, boosting their celebrity.

Since the beginning, AAMCO commercials are the result of a unique partnership between AAMCO and its dealers. All advertising created for the brand is crafted through a specific franchise committee focused on the creative process.

Humor was a mainstay of AAMCO advertising throughout the 70's, 80's and 90's, but the ads also communicated AAMCO's competitive offerings: nationwide warranty, diagnosis of minor transmission problems from major ones, expert knowledge of all make and model transmissions, the number of transmissions serviced, and, in the mid-2000's, the company's entrée back into total car care.

During that time, famous names like Claude Aikens and later James Brolin became spokespersons for the AAMCO brand. Brolin's much-publicized marriage to Barbara Streisand was the catalyst for media coverage on AAMCO by late night talk-show hosts, including David Letterman and Jay Leno.

The AAMCO signature "BEEP BEEP" would also become the theme for one of the more memorable episodes of Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm. In the episode, originally aired in 2000, Larry test drives Jeff's car. When the AAMCO commercial comes on, he mistakes the commercial's BEEP BEEP for the driver behind him honking his horn. To add to the humor, in the episode they are test driving a '57 Chevy, which is the same vehicle responsible for the original BEEP BEEP horn in the brand signature.

Also, during the 90's and early 2000's, local personalities began voicing AAMCO commercials on radio and TV. Names such as Tommy Lasorda, Ron Jaworski, Alice Cooper, and many more radio personalities would experience the "Double A" AAMCO service and promote their experiences to millions.

As cars became more complex and vehicle systems more interconnected, the automotive service market evolved - moving from specialist-based care to total automotive care. AAMCO changed with the market and moved to communicate its full-service capabilities to the public in the mid 2000's by partnering with the Indy Racing League and driver Sarah Fisher in 2007.

Most recently the brand has returned to its roots using humor to help deliver the message that for over 50 Years AAMCO has been repairing the most complicated part of your car, the transmission, and therefore, is the obvious choice to repair everything on your car. The signature BEEP BEEP remains prominent, as well, and the 2010-2013 ‘We Hear You’ campaign allowed the company to make light of a very real situation - consumers identifying car problems with noises - while promoting its history of reliable and expert service, and of course keeping its iconic Double A (BEEP-BEEP) M-C-O signature.

 

In honor of its 50th

To mark its 50th Anniversary, AAMCO produced two TV commercials that started airing in June 2012.

 

"We Hear You - 50th Anniversary" is the third commercial in the campaign featuring customers at AAMCO centers mimicking the noises their cars are making. In honor of AAMCO's 50th anniversary, one of the spots follows the same couple from 1963 up through today in time-appropriate age, hairstyle and dress as they come into AAMCO dealerships, make noises and get an expert diagnosis from the technicians.

"Trust" launched a new campaign for AAMCO based on the idea that you can trust AAMCO to fix the most complicated part of your car, the transmission, so why wouldn't you trust them to fix anything on your car? Conceptually, the spot pushes that simple question by demonstrating examples of people you would never trust to do the job right... in a very unexpected way.

 

Meanwhile, at AAMCO headquarters

From 1983 to 2006, the iconic AAMCO building at the City Line Avenue exit of the Schuylkill expressway welcomed Philadelphia-area commuters into the city limits. The company took the building over from Gulf Oil and spelled out AAMCO across the side of the building in two-story high letters. It stood as a familiar Philadelphia sight to motorists sitting in rush hour traffic on the city's notorious Schuylkill Expressway. Previously, the company was headquartered in Bridgeport, PA after outgrowing its original offices on North Front Street. Since 2006, the company's headquarters have been located in Horsham, PA.

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