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?
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?
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A: The title character from “Alien.”