From Humble Beginnings: How Midtronics Got Its Start

by | Jul 8, 2024 | Battery Tips | 0 comments

For anyone who’s entered the automotive service industry in the past 25 years, the name Midtronics has been synonymous with battery diagnostic testers. “Hey Bob, can you pass the Midtronics here?” might be a phrase you’ve heard said often or even spoken yourself. It seems to many that this ubiquitous brand has always been around, but it was actually established four decades ago.

Learn about how Midtronics came to be in 1984, and how it’s grown into the renowned brand it now is.

How Midtronics Was Established

Like so many of the world’s most recognized brands, Midtronics began in a small, dark space with the dream of an ambitious entrepreneur. As a young family man, Steve McShane experienced his share of business failings including Midtown Brake and Electric, a remanufacturer of heavy duty truck parts. It was after this lesson that he leased a small area in a foundry building owned by G&W Electric to continue on a portion of that venture. He had taken over as a distributor of car radio parts when Motorola walked away from it.

It was a grind, selling small electronic repair parts for CB radios and the like, and Steve’s wife Kathy was working alongside him with a two-year-old on her hip. It was a class in tenacity until Steve received word that Motorola wanted to divest their electronic battery tester business, and picking up the ball and running with it was exactly what Steve was driven to do.

Steve recalls, “To me, this was an incredible realization of my dream to produce and market a proprietary product, and with the backing of our bank I was able to secure the necessary financing. Given Motorola’s commitment to exit the business, the negotiation process was relatively straightforward.

“The resulting contract stipulated the acquisition of Motorola’s battery tester business, encompassing parts, tooling, and production equipment as well as the foundational patents on the unique technology invented by Dr. Keith Champlin from the University of Minnesota. With these foundational inventions and the help of Keith in the early years, we were able to start the innovation process that continues to this day.”

Growth Takes Time

While Steve had his eyes on a niche market that was ripe for innovation, the market wasn’t quite as accepting of what Midtronics had to offer. After purchasing the battery tester business in 1985, manufacturers were less than ready to adopt the technology Steve was developing. It took nearly a decade of meeting with industry professionals and gaining credibility for the then-current Midtronics PowerSensor tester to receive an opportunity from OEMs.

It was the foot in the door that Steve needed.

In 1994, the PowerSensor Plus became an essential tool for Ford and eventually found a home in every dealership service department in the United States and Canada. This tester helped to identify and solve Ford’s battery warranty woes, and it wasn’t long until it was every manufacturer in the industry took notice.

Midtronics’ Big Break

As Steve says it, “Innovation has become a way of life for Midtronics’ people.” That’s proven in the mid-nineties when Midtronics made the shift from analog testing to develop an industry-first digital testing solution.

Steve remarks, “In 1996, we embarked on our first breakthrough innovation with the launch of the digital battery tester invented by Kevin Bertness. The inaugural digital offering, the MicroPro, achieved moderate success, paving the way for the more streamlined Micro platform. The Micro proved to be a game-changer, revolutionizing the battery tester industry in the 1990s and catapulting Midtronics to prominence.

“Its success was such that within a decade, we had secured essential tool contracts with nearly all major OEMs globally, delivering remarkable solutions that addressed each of their specific needs. The Micro series of products introduced additional functionalities such as alternator and starter testing as well as encrypting a code to control warranties. Moreover, its sleek, modern design and ergonomic appeal resonated emotionally with customers.”

Of course, it was an accomplishment to gain the respect and acceptance of an industry that at first seemed like running into a brick wall. This was the turning point that established Midtronics as the leading provider of equipment to diagnose and service automotive batteries, but it’s far from the last word.

Innovation is the Key to Success

After humble beginnings, Midtronics has earned its place at the table in an industry that centers around batteries and supporting electrical systems. After the success of the MicroPro battery tester, Steve and his team continue to forge ahead with solutions for today and the future.

He says, “Some of the product innovations that have led to Midtronics’ success include many firsts in the industry: the first handheld digital battery tester, the first digital tester of the alternator and starter systems, the first diagnostic battery charger, the first hybrid battery tester, the first EV module balancer, the first rescue charger for hybrid systems, and the first EV decommissioning product. The company also created the first cloud-based battery management information system, the first battery warranty management system, and the first battery preventive maintenance program.”

“Our entire organization has developed a keen sense for interpreting customer needs and converting our technology into products that meet those needs. This is what I feel has been our most important formula for success. I have also learned that constantly finding ways to improve products, expand their capabilities, and invent new products can create a continuous stream of business.

“We consider every opportunity to serve a customer as an opportunity to innovate.”