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DIAMOND CERTIFIED EXPERT CONTRIBUTORS IN THE Bay Area – Auto Repair – European Specialist CATEGORY

Mike Schwarzbart is a 31-year veteran of the auto repair industry and owner of Berkeley Motor Works, a Diamond Certified company since 2014. He can be reached at (510) 992-4004 or by email.

Mike Schwarzbart

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Mike Schwarzbart: Motor Workin’

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Program Reporter

ALBANY — Even after going to college to study a totally different field, Mike Schwarzbart seemed destined to return to his first love of automotive repair. “I was always a gearhead in high school,” he remembers. “In college, I majored in environmental studies but continued to do automotive work on the side. The guy I apprenticed with specialized in BMWs, and I soon developed a fascination with these vehicles and how they were put together.”

After graduating from college, Mike attempted a new field of occupation, only to eventually find himself back under the hood. “I found I could only get so far in the environmental field with a Bachelor’s degree, so I started looking into other avenues,” he explains. “To make ends meet, I started working on cars out of my dad’s garage, which eventually led to me opening a small shop, where I’ve been specializing in BMW repair ever since.”

Today, as owner of Berkeley Motor Works, Mike says his favorite part of his job is receiving positive feedback from customers. “When people see how hard we work and express their appreciation for the way we fix their cars, it makes it all worthwhile. I take pride in being one of the East Bay’s top BMW specialists. As cars get more and more advanced, the expertise of a specialist can make a big difference when it comes to getting a correct diagnosis and repair. I really enjoy being able to give our customers the best, most accurate service available.”

A lifetime resident of the East Bay, Mike says he appreciates many aspects of his local setting. “The climate is great, we have some of the best restaurants around, and there’s easy access to nature, including several mountain biking trails, which keeps me active. When I’m not working, I like going to local venues and restaurants and just enjoying what the area has to offer.” In addition to biking and sampling the local cuisine, Mike enjoys spending quality time with his daughters, Sandy and Shelly.

With regard to his life and career, Mike espouses the importance of honesty. “Tell no lies and you never have to worry about which lie you told,” he says. “In both my personal and professional lives, I’ve found that being honest, upfront, and taking responsibility for your actions is always the best way to go.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he were to retire tomorrow, Mike says he’d head out on an oceanic voyage. “I’d buy a boat and sail away,” he laughs. “I suppose I’d head to the Caribbean first and see where I should go from there.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What was your first car?
A: A rusted-out ’68 Mustang.

Q: What’s your favorite sports team?
A: The San Francisco 49ers.

Q: What’s your favorite TV show?
A: “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations.”

Q: Do you collect anything?
A: I collect refrigerator magnets from all the places I’ve visited. I have a pretty well-covered fridge.

Q: What’s your favorite thing to eat for dessert?
A: Dark chocolate.

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An Easy Way to Protect Your Fuel Pump

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ALBANY — If you’re like most vehicle owners, you want to get the maximum longevity out of your car or truck. One of the best ways to promote your vehicle’s long-term health is to properly maintain its fuel pump. If… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: Maximizing the Life of Your Fuel Pump

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ALBANY — Host, Sarah Rutan: When it comes to your vehicle’s fuel pump, one simple habit can make a substantial difference in enhancing its lifespan. Today we’re… Read more

Richard Cordes is a 40-year veteran of the automotive industry and owner of European Sales & Service, a Diamond Certified company since 2003. He can be reached at (707) 836-3960 or by email.

Richard Cordes

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Richard Cordes: A Drive To Excel

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Program Reporter

SANTA ROSA — Since he was a teenager, Richard Cordes has exhibited a drive to excel, and four decades later, that drive has culminated in an uncommon level of achievement. “In high school, I received two years of auto training, in the course of which I earned my first industry certificates,” he remembers. “After graduating, I worked at a tire shop for about a year before getting hired at a Mercedes-Benz dealership in Marin. I really enjoyed the challenge that Mercedes-Benzes provided, and during my seven years there, I received manufacturer training in advanced auto diagnostics and repair.” After spending an additional five years at a Santa Rosa-based Mercedes-Benz dealership, Richard decided to take things to the next level and opened his own shop in 1989.

Today, as owner of European Sales & Service, Richard says he takes pride in being Sonoma County’s premier independent Mercedes-Benz specialist. “When you only work on one brand of car, you get to know it really well over the years, which can make a big difference in terms of accuracy and workmanship. I’ve invested in all the pertinent training and equipment, so I feel confident in our ability to provide Mercedes-Benz owners with the highest quality service available.”

A resident of Santa Rosa (where he lives with his wife, Victoria), Richard expresses his appreciation for the diverse Sonoma County landscape. “As an avid cyclist, I really enjoy the terrain here,” he says. “Whether you want hills or flats, mountain trails or road trails, Sonoma County has it all.” Richard also enjoys keeping up with local sports, particularly professional basketball. “My wife and I are big Golden State Warriors fans and try to attend as many games as we can during the season.” Furthermore, Richard enjoys spending time with his and Victoria’s two grown children, Ryan (who works as a service advisor at European Sales & Service) and Lacy.

In regard to his career, Richard espouses the importance of honesty. “With each diagnosis we perform, we give the customer a full report so they’re well aware of the car’s condition and what needs to be done,” he says. “In addition to helping customers make informed decisions about their vehicles, I think our straightforward approach contributes to a greater sense of trust.”

When asked what his future retirement might look like, Richard says he hasn’t given it a lot of thought. “I really have no desire to retire. I enjoy having my own shop and running my business. It definitely has its challenges, but that just makes it all the more gratifying when we’re able to achieve a successful result.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What was your first car?
A: A 1956 Ford hot rod with a 392 Chrysler Hemi engine.

Q: What’s your favorite local restaurant?
A: Sushi Hana in Sebastopol.

Q: What were you most known for in high school?
A: Besides excelling in auto class, I would say sports. Even though I never tried out for the track team, I still managed to tie the school record for the 60-yard dash.

Q: Pancakes or waffles?
A: I like them both, so maybe stick a pancake in between the waffles.

Q: Do you collect anything?
A: Old wheat pennies.

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The Benefits of Specialized Auto Care

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SANTA ROSA — If you own a high-end imported car like a Porsche, Mercedes-Benz or BMW, you’ll want to make sure it gets the best care possible. A good way to do so is to take your car to a… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: Specialized Auto Care

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SANTA ROSA — Host, Sarah Rutan: If you own a high end vehicle like a Mercedes-Benz or a BMW, the expertise of a specialist can… Read more

Ralph Kirberg is a 39-year veteran of the automotive industry and president of Kirberg Motors, Inc., a Diamond Certified company since 2009. He can be reached at (650) 469-3987 or by email.

Ralph Kirberg

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Ralph Kirberg: Second Generation

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

BELMONT – While many people inherit their family’s businesses, few can call themselves “second generation” both as business owners and U.S. citizens, but that’s exactly the case for Ralph Kirberg. “My father, Juergen, was working for Porsche in Germany when the company offered him an opportunity to immigrate to the United States,” he relates. “Later, when they decided to relocate their operations base to Los Angeles, he decided to stay in the Bay Area and open his own repair shop.” As a young man, Ralph’s aptitude for his father’s trade became quickly apparent. “I used to spend a lot of time hanging out at the shop, and I really took a shine to mechanical work, which led me to join the family business and eventually take it over.”

Today, as president of Kirberg Motors, Ralph says one of his favorite aspects of his job is keeping up with industry innovations. “The automotive business is never dull because the technology just keeps evolving. It’s a new game every day, which is why staying up-to-date with training and equipment is such a top priority.”

Ralph was born in Chicago, but he grew up in Belmont and eventually settled in Redwood Shores, where he still lives with his wife, Lisa. Outside of work, he says he can usually be found either on a lake or on the slopes, depending on the time of year. “I’m an avid sailor and skier. My wife and I actually have a place in South Lake Tahoe where we spend most weekends during the winter and summer.”

After 35 years in the auto repair industry, Ralph says the one thing he’d like to convey to consumers is the importance of finding a trustworthy mechanic. “Unfortunately, our industry is known for being driven by money rather than quality workmanship, but what it really comes down to is finding a shop that has your best interests in mind. A lot of times, people choose a shop because it’s cheaply priced or conveniently located, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to get good service. Considering the cost of auto repair, it’s worthwhile to do some research and find a shop you can trust.”

When asked what his future retirement might look like, Ralph says he’ll continue to keep himself occupied one way or another. “I’d definitely take advantage of the extra time to pursue some of the sports I enjoy, but I’d also like to get involved in some type of business venture, if only for brain stimulation. I may go into retail, just because I enjoy interacting with customers so much.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What was your first car?
A: A 1970 Volkswagen Beetle. I bought it for $200, rebuilt the engine and made it look as good as new.

Q: Reality TV or documentaries?
A: Documentaries.

Q: How do you like your eggs?
A: Over easy.

Q: What’s the most memorable thing a customer has ever said to you?
A: Someone left an online review that referred to me by saying, “He’s truly a God.” I had to laugh when I read that one.

Q: Who’s your favorite movie monster?
A: The title character from “Alien.”

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Understanding Dashboard Warning Lights

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BELMONT — There are a lot of warning lights on a vehicle’s dashboard, all of which help ensure safety on the road. While some are self-explanatory, others aren’t as obvious, so it’s important for drivers to acquaint themselves with the… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: Dashboard Light Safety

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BELMONT — Host, Sarah Rutan: Ever wonder what all of those warning lights on your dashboard mean? Today we’re in Belmont with Diamond Certified Expert Contributor,… Read more

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