We were honored to interview Kyle Rutkowski, founder of Highline European in Scottsdale, Arizona. Now the owner of a luxury vehicle wholesale repair shop, Kyle never set out to build a business like this.
Born and raised in Scottsdale, Kyle remembers being infatuated with cars since he was a small child. He started by working on Hot Wheels and toy cars. His grandfather told him he would take the wheels off and trade them with other toy cars, effectively starting his repair shop in elementary school.
After his formal education was over, Kyle opted for mechanical trade school, where he developed true hands-on experience. Here, Kyle truly got his hands dirty for the first time, repairing real cars that hit the road.
From trade school, he landed the coveted internship with Scottsdale Porsche Dealership. Now he wasn’t just working on any old car. He was working on exotic dream cars. His dream of being surrounded by exotic cars was truly coming to fruition!
The next stop on his dream car tour was the privilege to work for the Porche racing team. These weren’t just streetcars for fancy bankers, celebrities, and realtors. These were fast, exciting goals on wheels that skilled professionals raced around the tracks of the world at exhilarating speeds. And Kyle was part of that team!
This incredible experience also put him in the circle of the Ferarri Challenge Team where he continued to develop his reputation and skill with exotic cars. He was finally changing wheels on dream cars, living his passion. He worked his way up the ladder to the very top of his field, and the view was amazing.
Enter the devastating economic crash of 2008.
Being the highest-paid technician in the company, Kyle was suddenly too expensive. He was out of work and left with only $800 in his pocket.
Kyle remembers this tough time with a little sideways grin. “I was stuck with the dilemma of paying rent or buying a project car. The child in me had to have the car. So I bought a car, fixed it up, and sold it.”
After this initial success, he was again faced with paying rent or buying another car. So Kyle bought two cars.
The sale of one car allowed him to finally get caught up on rent with a car still left to sell. He discovered he had a knack for this car-flipping game and thus began the snowball of success right from his two-car home garage.
Once again, Kyle’s reputation and demand grew, and he found himself repairing exotic cars in his garage, to the bane of his neighbors. It became quickly obvious that he could no longer fit in his home garage. It was time to find a shop!
But then there was a need to fill that shop. Not long after taking over the new space, Kyle was approached by a small exotic car dealer who needed his skills and was tired of being gouged by the big dealership repair shops.
Then there was another dealer who was referred to Kyle’s shop and another one after that. He continued to build a desirable reputation among small independent dealers. Kyle created his own niche where he could recondition and repair exotic cars at a fraction of the dealer cost.
Kyle and his Highline European team quickly outgrew their little shop and parking lot. Because this repair facility was wholesale-oriented, they didn’t need a lobby or any special client-facing rooms. All they really needed was more space.
But where could they go that would possibly have enough space? How about a nearby airplane hangar? Surely, there was plenty of room there!
Not for long! The team outgrew that space and expanded into the hangar next door.
“At one point, there were so many cars that I could have stacked them to the moon!” Kyle laughs as he tells the story of their expansion and exponential growth!
When your repair shop outgrows two airplane hangars, you’re on to something. Something big!
Highline European shared airfield space with a small independent dealer, Luxury Auto Collection. They were also outgrowing their airplane hangar! Together, they were a literal sea of luxury exotic motorcars. It was the stuff of dreams!
Luxury Auto Collection found themselves a realtor who was assisting them in a new project. They had acquired some land and were building a custom luxury dealership that would be crafted to their exact specifications.
Kyle knew that was the next evolution of his life’s work. “I was no longer looking for a place that fit my needs. I was having a place built for my needs. Which brought my dream to another level.”
Now, Kyle has his very own space, molded to fit what his team and his operation needs. He wasn’t thinking of his “someday” anymore. He was living it. But he never forgets how tough it was at the beginning to start over.
“In times of need or in times of desperation, you can never forget your dreams. My dream wasn’t to be a wholesale repair facility. My dream was to be surrounded by and work on these cars. My dream became something I created.” Kyle is a living example of driving towards your passion.
Because when you drive towards your passion, you eventually arrive.