Autel U.S. Inc., a developer and distributor of automotive diagnostic tools, has come a long way since it was launched out of a Huntington home behind a gas station 10 years ago.
The local company, a North American subsidiary of Autel China, was established in 2011 with only a handful of staff members. It has since grown to 75 local employees, 35 remote workers, and is projected to hit $170 million in sales this year. For Chloe Hung, chief executive of the firm and a Farmingdale State College alum, the growth has been pleasantly surprising.
"We’re definitely growing a lot," said Hung, 37, of Seaford. The company has seen 15% to 30% growth every year since launching, she said.
Autel, known for a range of diagnostic products for cars — including engine code readers, a line of diagnostic tablets and tire pressure monitoring sensors — sells tools to repair shops, dealerships, and retailers like Advance Auto Parts and O’Reilly Auto Parts, nationwide. It recently added electric vehicle chargers to its lineup.
Since its founding, the company’s product lines have made an impact in the auto maintenance industry, said Ed Kizenberger, executive director of the Long Island Auto Body Repairmen’s Association, which has around 500 members locally.
"The technology on today’s automobiles requires the kind of equipment that Autel is selling," said Kizenberger.
"Some cars have technology now that requires an IT degree to understand what’s going on in an engine’s diagnostic system," he said. "The Autel equipment helps to read diagnostics and helps the industry repair these new complicated cars."
As part of Autel’s growth, Hung is now overseeing Autel’s relocation and expansion from Farmingdale into a new 50,720-square-foot, two-story facility at 36 Harbor Park Drive in Port Washington that will serve as its new headquarters.
The facility — which will house the business’ large technical and customer support team, marketing, accounting, and warehouse staff — will also require the company to bring on more staff in the coming year, Hung said
"We need more manpower and we’re planning on hiring an additional 50 people," she said.
Despite her role as a longtime employee in the company's growth, Hung — who moved to the Island from Hong Kong 19 years ago — said it’s still hard to believe how far things have come.
"I cannot believe it myself either," she said.
Hung became the company’s CEO at the start of the year, taking over the post from the company’s founder, Gary DeLuca.
After graduating with a business management degree from Farmingdale in 2006, Hung worked a series of office jobs, including a stint at an engineering firm. She took time away from work to start a family and then took a part-time job as a bank teller.
It would be soon after that her cousin, a professor at Farmingdale, would recommend a job opening as a secretary who could speak both Chinese and English.
"My cousin said, 'Look, there’s a job opportunity where you would be the secretary for this Chinese company,'" Hung said.
When she showed up to meet with then-CEO DeLuca for the first time, Hung was shocked to find only a gas station with a residence and garage behind it.
"When I went to the gas station, I asked where is Autel U.S. and they said, 'Go to the house in the back,'" Hung recalls. A bit reluctant, she went in for the interview, landed the job, and has since helped the startup grow into one of the most recognized diagnostic equipment dealers in the U.S.
"It’s a Bill Gates story," said DeLuca, 67, who left Autel U.S. at the start of the year to head Autel Robotics, the Seattle-based drone-selling subsidiary of the Chinese parent.
DeLuca, who has been in the automotive industry for decades, said the business, started in his home, first began as an independent reseller of Autel products stateside. His business was bought by the Chinese outfit, and Autel U.S. became the company’s official North American arm. Soon after DeLuca hired Chloe.
"Chloe was more than a secretary, but she ran the office," he said. Now, with Hung at the helm, DeLuca said the company and its future are in good hands.
"She’s hard-working, very intelligent, and can make rapid decisions on the go," he said. "She also knows the industry. She knows what the technicians need."
While the company continues its expansion, Hung said she hopes the firm maintains its "team dynamic" and that she can take the business to a greater level of prominence in the coming years.
"My hope is to make the company go public in the states," said Hung, who is aiming for an IPO in the next five years.