E.C.D. Automotive Design: The Restoration Shop Tailored to the Customer Experience
Updated: Apr 16, 2019
Here you are, looking for a high-end monster that blends luxury with rugged; you think to yourself, “I want a custom built beast that is designed JUST FOR ME.” When you think of a capable, off-road vehicle that is still luxurious, you think Land Rover - perhaps a Defender 110? But you don’t want just ANY defender. You want YOUR defender. You do a quick search, and you come across E.C.D., otherwise known as E.C.D. Automotive Design.
The Land Rover Defender is known for its rugged, tough, all-terrain kind of drive. You expect mud splashes and you expect scuffs, not the luxury angle. Where a common perception locks this line of vehicles into one expectation, E.C.D. decided to burn the playbook and build vehicles that gives luxury some teeth.
Customization and luxury comes at a worthwhile price for E.C.D.’s customers. Not only is the work expertly performed, but also their customers are taken through a unique step-by-step experience with the design and build process. At each step of the way, customers receive unique milestone gifts that will keep them looking forward to their custom vehicle delivery.
Brothers, Tom and Elliot Humble, who were then later joined by their long-time friend Scott Wallace, founded East Coast Defenders in 2013. With the amount of detailed work that goes into each vehicle, most assume that these three have a background in the automotive industry, but that isn’t the case with E.C.D. As passionate car enthusiasts whose extent of car maintenance ends with at-home tinkering, they knew that the success of their business model would rely on having an incredibly skilled team and a business model that cares for and invests in the people that bring their ideas to life - their employees.
Exploring E.C.D.’s team on their website, you see small tight knit groups of two to six and can’t help but be amazed at the amount of quality that comes out of this small team. You wonder, “How did they find such a team?”
“In our face-to-face interview, we kind of play with their heads a bit,” Scott revealed, “we had to make sure they fit in with our culture, and most of them said that was a really difficult interview.” After a hands-on interview and a thorough company review, the team then goes in and votes with ‘Y’ or ‘N’ sticky notes on the potential candidate.
Once a candidate moves forward, they shadow the team they’ll be assigned to for a month, and then E.C.D. pays for their ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) certification. E.C.D. invests in their training, their books and their test. If they pass it on the first time, they receive a $500 bonus. If one of their techs becomes Master Certified in one of the eight ASE certifications, E.C.D. grants them a bonus for $4,000. It has taken Tom, Elliot, and Scott three years to finally complete this well-rounded team.
How do you construct a team of dedicated specialists who know how to own their work? What sets them apart from most body shop technicians and mechanics? It comes from the top with Tom, Elliot, and Scott’s dedication to being transparent and honest with their team.
“We have a monthly meeting called ‘The Huddle.’ We share all the numbers of the business, total visibility of the shares, profit, and performance… majority of the meeting is then about rewards and recognition. We have a Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the month, where everyone votes on whom they feel is the MVP. We recognize innovation. If someone comes up with something innovative to put on a vehicle, they get $100.” said Scott.
Recognition of hard work doesn’t end there – “We do S.M.U.G. Club (Superior Mechanics Utterly Gloating), [we make] a special t-shirt for the best department that month,” said Scott, amongst other innovations the management team has come up with for their crew.
Employees are offered healthcare, 401k, and after five years they are able to purchase equity into E.C.D. Investment and care is a two-way road for this company and the Defenders that leave E.C.D.’s doors are a reflection of that.
With this strong investment in a skilled team, you decide that this is the shop to make your dream truck and sign up as a customer. Eight to ten weeks after your deposit is placed, you receive your first package.
Bridgette Gale, E.C.D.’s Client Journey Specialist, and her team create unique “Design Box” packages that goes straight to their new clients. Here, a customer is able to get started on the options available to them. Once they have an idea of what they want, E.C.D. flies each client to either their Kissimmee, FL or Malibu, CA locations based on the client’s preference. At E.C.D.’s two locations their “front-of-house” shops give a luxurious selection experience that display the different seating options, leather interior samples, body options and so much more. Here, a client will hold his/her first, in-person design meeting with Richard Filpo, Head of Automotive Design.
Providing a similar “front-of-house” experience, the “Design Box” contains everything a client needs to know to start their Defender build:
Book on “Who is E.C.D. Automotive Design?”
Book on highlighted/featured products currently offered by E.C.D.
Teaser for design meeting
10 paint samples
6 thread samples for internal stitching
USB drive containing customized file assets dedicated to the specific vehicle they are creating. Files like photos, videos, heritage 110 photos, and a mood board to further add excitement to the design process. From these files you are able to select different brakes, brake rotors, shocks, axles, transfer cases, seating styles, body paint textures and so much more.
“Most people come into it saying, ‘oh, I didn’t know I had that many options!’” Bridgette said, “what we’re doing is giving our clients a sneak peek and to get their brains going with a little more direction.”
You pick your model, your color, your texture, and your leather. You go through each step, selecting every detail for your Defender and send in your submission. You’re flown to your preferred destination to meet with Richard Filpo and discuss every detail of your dream Defender. E.C.D. notifies you of their app – your source of information to find out where in the rebuild process your vehicle is in. And after a month or so, you receive a framed door hinge that came from the original build of your Defender, with your name displayed inside. This signifies that your Defender’s tear down process is now complete.
Father and Son duo, David & Nick Yearicks, are in charge of the Teardown & Fab Up department. Here they receive donated/purchased Defenders from clients and strip the vehicle down to its bare chassis. The younger Yearicks, Nick, started at E.C.D. first and as the workload increased, his father then joined his side.
In this department the donated cars they receive come from different walks of life. From Defenders being used for farming that are branded with company brands from over 20 years ago, to newer purchased models, David & Nick meticulously disassemble these vehicles. If the chassis is rusted or moldy, they “fab up” the chassis by clearing out the rust and mold, and then reinforce it back to pristine quality.
After Tear Down is complete, the chassis is prepared for Drive Train, headed by Carlos Garcia, Lead Drive Train Technician. In this stage, clients had picked the options for the drive train such as: Original (OE) Land Rover V8, GM (LC9) 5.3 Liter, LS3 – 6.2 Liter, LS3 Plus, Cummins Diesel, and the latest, electric model that was recently announced. “They want the drive of a BMW that looks like a monster, but [with] the inside with all the sound dampening and luxury… [it has] everybody looking at you.
You receive a third package from E.C.D. and you’ve been antsy to start driving YOUR Defender, but you know this process takes some time. You open your package to reveal a small model Defender 110 painted and designed exactly to your specifications for your true Defender. This represents that the panels and body is currently being painted. This did not curb your patience – or your excitement.
Carlos and his team move forward with installing the first of the clients’ selections the drive train. It’s during this installation stage, Doug Hostetter, Lead Painter, and his Paint & Body department, works on the body and panels in the clients’ chosen colors. Panels are sanded, primed and painted to the clients’ unique specifications. “We cannot control quality if we are outsourcing.” Doug said. In order to maintain quality and excellence, E.C.D. recognized the need to bring everything in-house. Within the last two years, E.C.D. purchased their own paint booth, which eliminated delays with third party vendors.
Every two weeks, you receive an update from Bridgette Gale, showing photos, renderings, features, options, and videos about your vehicle. You’re told that the drive train and bodywork is now complete and cosmetics will begin shortly. You open the E.C.D. app and watch their Live YouTube feed with your vehicle receiving its final touches.
Clients all over the world love E.C.D.’s live stream. Hosted live directly from their YouTube channel, and streamed through E.C.D.’s app, the camera is angled over the cosmetics area where the vehicle comes to life.
The roof is placed, the seats are installed, soft-top (water weather proof) hosed off vinyl fabric for off-roading, doors, the roll cage and more are handled in this area. The Cosmetics team is comprised of Jordan Chciuk-Davis, Cosmetic Lead, and five others. They use an in-house upholstery team, led by Hector Santiago, which reduced cost and time, getting fabrics directly from the supplier, and being able to offer clients more options.
While E.C.D. does accept restoration jobs, it’s the complete build up their clients frequently come to them for. With the chassis as the base, the Defender is built in-house and by hand, leaving every part handmade and hand-stitched.
Each department is treated as its own independent business. They can each enter Tom, Scott, or Elliot’s offices, where a taped, square outline lies on their floor, and the department head may stand in this zone and demand attention. Because of Tom, Elliot and Scott’s reliance on the expertise of the team, they practice flex management where they are told what is needed in order to complete the job.
E.C.D.’s quality is unlike a lot of other shops in the crafted work they accomplish. Because of the quality control and demand in each stage of the build, they only commission about 36 trucks per year.
From the Quality Control and Service & Warranty Depts, to Parts, Electrical, and Marketing Depts, everyone has equal say in what they need from the management and it’s through this model of transparent flex management that led to E.C.D.’s success.
It’s been twelve months after your initial deposit on your Defender. You’re notified that your vehicle is delivered. Here you receive your final “Delivery Pack” package.
Each client receives a delivery pack as the final milestone of this long and worthwhile process. Inside a uniquely branded E.C.D. bag you would find:
A lug wrench
Branded key organizer
And an E.C.D. YETI tumbler.
“When you’re purchasing a vehicle like this – it really warrants it. It’s a process, it’s a journey, and it takes twelve months. So we kind of put things into an effect that helps constant excitement,” said Bridgette, “When they sign off on their final design, it will be printed in gloss, framed, and sent to the client.”
Just before the vehicle leaves E.C.D. and is delivered to the client, it goes through one final quality control inspection by Sergei Kovalev, Head of Quality Control. If there’s an issue within any step of the build process, Sergei spots it and sends the vehicle back into the shop. If the vehicle passes the rigorous test, Sergei signs his name on the inspection plate just below the driver’s seat on the door.
You’re handed the keys to YOUR Defender. Built and tailored to just your style. You know that every inch of this luxurious beast was handmade and hand-stitched by master technicians and 33 ASE-certified technicians who love what they do and do it well. Sitting in the driver’s seat, listening to the V8 engine purr, you realize that E.C.D. is more than a custom vehicle workshop.
“I have a lot of friends that do mechanic work, and they go to do the same thing every day,” Charlie from Drive Train shared, “I ask them what did you do today? And they say, I fixed this and I fixed that. And I just grab a magazine and I just show them a picture of our truck and say, ‘I built that’… I have a little one and points to things about the show and asks me about it, and I say, ‘I do this every single day at work! It’s amazing!’”
“It’s not just the vehicle… it’s the experience… [E.C.D.] is a culture,” Bridgette said. A culture that lives and breathes in its founders, in its technicians and lives in each client every time they enter their Defender.
Wurth USA is celebrating our 50th anniversary this year. We’re dedicating this milestone as the year of the customer. We strive to recognize our employees’ customers, vendors and partners like E.C.D. Automotive Design whom we thank for letting us use their story. If you would like to share your story, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org