By Robert Bravender
Someone familiar with Schneider Autohaus was once asked to name one thing unique about this Florence, Ala., facility. Their answer: survivor.
“I guess I am,” laughed founder and owner Jim Schneider — although to this day he has no idea who said it. He and the shop have been through a lot; technologically, geographically, and personally.
For starters, as the Germanic spelling of “house” indicates, Schneider specializes in European luxury cars like Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo; the German and Scandinavian marques most shops shy away from:
“I’ve been in the business for over 45 years, and I’ve worked on basically all models,” he noted, “but I’ve always had an interest in the European models to where I’ve owned a few and had training on them. My wife’s got an ’86 Saab, and I think that’s one of the greatest cars in the world, just because of the way it’s built. Back in 1986 there was really no other car like it.”
Born and raised in southern California, Schneider grew up around muscle cars. After high school he got his training for high-tech equipment from the Navy, servicing fighter jets on an aircraft carrier. Once out of the service, his appreciation for European makes began after he started working on VW’s stalwart air-cooled engine at a Volkswagen dealership.
“I also worked at an Audi dealer,” recalled Schneider. “And I just kind of formed my opinion of cars and how they…