Meet Your Merchant: Connecting technology, education at Hy-Tech Auto |

Meet Your Merchant: Connecting technology, education at Hy-Tech Auto

Priya Hutner
Special to the Sun
Kevin Ward, Angela De La Torre and JR Thompson run the ship at Hy-Tech Auto. Ward and Thompson plan to offer classes in order to educate consumers about servicing their vehicle.
Courtesy Priya Hutner |

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What: Hy-Tech Auto and Smog, Inc.

Location: 10745 West River Street, Truckee

Phone: 530-587-0500


TRUCKEE, Calif. — Automotive diagnostics company Hy-Tech Auto and Smog owners JR Thompson and Kevin Ward have been friends for more than 40 years.

In 1973, Ward’s father began working as a chef at the historic Rainbow Lodge in Soda Springs, which at the time was owned by Thompson’s father.

Their lives have been intertwined ever since.

Thompson is the former owner of Truckee’s Quality Automotive and Smog, where Ward worked for 12 years.

“Our objective is to assist people in making good decisions about their car.”
Kevin Ward

Thompson sold the business in 2010, and both men took some time off to pursue other ventures, only to find they missed the automotive industry.

In July of this year, they opened Hy-Tech Auto and Smog and are happy to be back working together.


Ward manages the customer service side of the business and oversees the purchasing for the company.

Thompson, who holds a degree in Automotive Technology, supervises the mechanical and diagnostic side of the business.

Hy-Tech Auto and Smog offers smog inspection and emission repairs, diagnostic services, and air conditioning and brake service. It also offers scheduled maintenance.

“Our objective is to assist people in making good decisions about their car,” Ward said.

Their specialty is to correctly diagnose problems and deal with electrical and computer-related issues of vehicles.

“We collaborate with other automotive shops in town,” Ward added. “We want to support the auto industry in our community.”

Hy-Tech Auto and Smog isn’t just about diagnostics and repairs. Thompson and Ward have a vision not only to offer the best possible service, but also to educate and empower women in and around the auto industry.


In a male-driven industry, Angela De La Torre stands apart. While most women work on the customer service side, De La Torre has her head under the hood.

A single mom with two young boys, De La Torre is an automotive technician for Hy-Tech Auto. She is the former manager of Napa Auto Parts in Truckee.

Thompson and Ward first met De La Torre when she was delivering auto parts for Napa Auto.

“I’ve always loved cars — as a small child, I was intrigued by how something so big works,” De La Torre said. “I was an equipment operator and drove a water truck and dump truck while I was pregnant with my second child.”

De La Torre, who’s currently finishing her degree in automotive technology, is weeks away from becoming a smog emissions inspector for Hy-Tech Auto. She also holds a degree in accounting and administration.

“Eventually, I hope to go back to school to be a mechanical engineer.” De La Torre said. “I am interested in new technology, hybrids and water technology vehicles. I want to explore the green movement.”

“We hired Angela not because she’s a woman,” Thompson explained, “but because she was the best person for the job.”


Thompson teaches automotive electrical theory, specialized emission classes and management at Lassen Community College. He also teaches for the state of California at the Bureau of Automotive Repair, where he instructs smog emission classes.

Both men are passionate about educating people about their automobiles. They feel strongly that they can offer women in particular an opportunity to be more knowledgeable about their vehicles.

“We want to empower women to feel comfortable when they walk into a shop,” Thompson explained.

With that in mind, Ward and Thompson plan to host a seminar for women this fall entitled “Knowledge is Power.”

The course is designed to help independent service centers strengthen their relationships with their female customers by helping women ask the right questions about vehicle care and making them more knowledgeable consumers.

The seminar will be held at a to-be-determined date in October at Hy-Tech Auto.

Priya Hutner is a freelance writer and can be reached at

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