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August 05, 2014

European publisher closes Rochester office

An European publisher of auto repair manuals told local employees this week that its Rochester office is closing following the company's decision to back out of the U.S. market.

Maidenhead, England-based Autodata originally moved its U.S. headquarters to Rochester in 2005. The company, which focuses on providing technical information for mechanics, had 15 people working at its 4,000-square-foot office at 6301 Bandel Road N.W. until last summer. That's when it cut its staff in half.

Autodata online coverThere were six people working for Autodata in Rochester until the firm let four employees go this week. Two staffers will remain on Autodata's payroll to continue to support some large contracts from home, though the office is expected to be completely closed by mid-August.

"We've had to take the rather drastic decision to close office in Rochester. It's no reflection on the efforts of the staff, who did great job for us," said Autodata CEO Rod Williams, who flew to Rochester from England to deliver the news in person.

Autodata_logoAutodata takes a different approach than similar U.S. publishers. Instead of focusing on specific models, it creates manuals based on a subject like airbags or transmissions, and then includes information for all vehicle models, including those no longer being made. The information is constantly updated. It provides up-to-date technical information for about 17,000 vehicles made by more than 80 companies, though the bulk of the manufacturers are based in England, France and Germany.

Williams says the company, which remains successful in Europe and Australia, struggled to win over the U.S. market. It had some ups during its run here, he said. This office grew from four employees in 2005 to 16 by 2007.  In the end, it just wasn't enough to make the Rochester office sustainable.

While Autodata's long-time owners did sell the company to two investment firms in May, Williams says the change only hastened the closing of Rochester.

"Sooner or later, it was going to come, unfortunately," he said.

The rapidly changing world of publishing added more challenges to Autodata's push into the U.S. The first year that Autodata made more from electronic products over printed manuals was in 2007. Since then, the industry's move to away from print has rapidly picked up speed. Print manuals shifted into CDs, then DVDs and eventually online.

"The world has moved on from books," said Williams. "By the end of the year, we'll be wholly online in Europe. We've already been completely online in Australia for many years."

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