Autobody News - Items filtered by date: October 2011

If there is one thing I find hard to deal with in this topsy turvy world of the auto repair business is the way some people will react when they are at the repair shop. It’s the way they conduct themselves at the shop when it comes time to get their car repaired.

Over the years I’ve been praised and degraded.  I’ve been called a saint and I’ve been called the devil (or worse). I’ve heard the shouting and the stuff I probably wasn’t suppose to hear (walls don’t always block sound you know). After a while you’ve heard it all before, and the attitudes that you see at the front desk become a part of the daily grind. Coping with all this is what I call; “growing alligator skin.” I try not to take things so personally, I’ll let the alligator skin handle it, and then take off my protective coat before I get back home to the wife and kids.

What gives with the need for such a thing as “alligator skin”? I believe there a several factors inherent to the automotive industry that brings on this crocodilian coat of protection.

Mistrust of the automotive repair world in general is what I believe is the number one factor; but what brings on that mistrust? Is it the incompetent mechanic? I doubt that is always the case. Is it the money out of their pockets which they were not expecting when they drove down the road to the repair shop? I believe it’s more in the hands of the unknowing consumer who reads and watches too many evening news reports on the unscrupulous business practices of the few out there that really are rip offs and not the normal operations of countless decent shops in this country.

GW&SON Auto Body in Oklahoma City, OK, was established in 1985 by Gary Wano and his son Gary Wano, Jr. Gary Senior had 17 years experience managing a local dealership post his tenure as an automotive painter. With plenty of practical knowledge Gary felt it was time for him to open his own shop with his son.

To view a PDF of this article with photos please click HERE.

Since the shop’s inception they have grown to 6 times the size of their original facility, with a 27,000 square-foot production floor. The shop now has 26 employees, including two of Gary Jr’s siblings, and a nephew. Gary Wano Jr, has also been afforded the opportunity to become nationally involved. He is currently holding and has held industry leadership positions such as a past chair of SCRS the nation’s largest association solely focused on collision repairer needs, the CEICA Repair Advisory Panel, I-Car ISAC, Co-Chaired CIC’s Anti-fraud Committee and is currently a voice for the repairer in CIC’s Insurer/Repairer Relations Committee and the Repair Standards Committee. Oddly enough, it was through this national involvement that spawned the business model that by choice limits GW&SON’s DRP relationship’s with only one insurer. The industry is constantly changing, repairers of today need the access to industry trends and all over data, says Gary Jr, GW&SON’s VP and operation manager. Gary Senior still works within the production of the shop, offering valuable insight to the production floor manager; with a business model centered on community involvement and technical training more than relying on a lot of DRP relationships to bring in customers.

“Our OEM Certifications have become a great niche for us,” said Wano Jr. GW&SON is the only Jaguar, Volvo, Mercedes-Benz and Corvette ZO6 certified repair facility in the state.

SEMA is just around the corner and many of you will be attending the trade show and SCRS repair-driven education. I am teaching a class on how government regulations will impact the collision industry right now, but for those who cannot attend, I am going to highlight my presentation here. Let’s look at the US Government  CAFÉ (corporate average fuel economy) standards. By the year 2015, the CAFÉ standard for the industry (cars and trucks combined) is 31.6 MPG (35.7 for cars and 28.6 for trucks). How will these standards affect body shops?

To view a PDF of this article with photos please click HERE.

First, cars will need to get lighter and smaller. The use of aluminum will increase. You will see more hoods, deck lids, fenders and other body parts being made from aluminum. Many aluminum hoods are double paneled with virtually no access to the back side. Most shops today do not the capability to repair this type of damage. What is needed is an aluminum stud gun.

The unit pictured first comes with the stud gun and a number of hand tools for repairing aluminum. The machine pictured second is just the stud gun with the puller. You will need to invest in hand tools because aluminum tools can’t be used on steel components because of the likelihood of galvanic corrosion. Dent Fix, Reliable Automotive Equipment and ProSpot are a few examples of companies that sell aluminum repair equipment. You will also need to invest in training. Repairing aluminum is not difficult, but there are a few techniques that need to be learned to achieve a successful repair.

You will also see smaller vehicles. With smaller cars, you will see an increase in the use of ultra high strength steels in cabin reinforcements for passenger protection. Nearly all manufacturers require full replacement of these reinforcements and that will lead to more total losses. Let’s look at Federal Motor Vehicle safety standard 216A.

by Vincent Romans, Romans Group

A half decade has passed since we started tracking collision repair organizations that generate repair revenue of $20 million or greater annually. During these past five years we have seen a remarkable amount of change, not only within the collision repair and auto physical damage aftermarket industries, but also with our U.S. and world economies.

To view a PDF of this article with photos please click HERE.

July 2010 marked the “official” start of the recovery from the 2007 to 2009 recession, but it feels like a recovery in name only for many people. Our economy has been described by many economists and media pundits as being in a “soft patch.” A growing number of forecasters believe we are at risk of a double-dip recession due to the sluggish economy and a broad spectrum of increasing dynamic, complex U.S. macroeconomic and global downdraft variables that continue to influence fundamental structural change within our business, financial and government institutions with some currently identifiable and still indeterminable impact on the collision repair, property and casualty insurance, and OEM and aftermarket auto physical damage segments.

Who will lead the collision repair industry and how those leadership companies will influence the collision repair, property and casualty insurance and related auto physical damage business segments is an evolving story that is playing out at this very moment. This evolving story can be summarized by viewing it as part of a long-term continuum involving three simultaneously active industry changing phases: Contraction, Consolidation and Convergence. We have seen both long-term historical and real time contraction within the auto repair and affiliated industries. Collision repair industry contraction is due to an increasing number of complex dynamic macroeconomic and industry-related variables including, but not limited to:

by John Yoswick

More than 400 shops were represented on a panel discussion at this year’s 2011 International Autobody Congress & Exposition (NACE) – but only four chairs were needed on the stage.

To view a PDF of this article please click HERE.

That’s because the four speakers were representatives of some of the largest multiple shop operations (MSOs) in the industry, which combined have more than 7,200 employees and annual sales topping $1.26 billion.

The four were speaking at a new forum held for the first time at this year’s NACE in Orland, Fla., a day-long session aimed at (and open to) only MSOs. Much of the content of the panel discussions during the symposium, however, could have been equally of value to the single-location shop owner who wants to expand his or her business.

During the “Lessons Learned From the Big Four” panel discussion, for example, Cathy Bonner, the president of the 47-shop Service King chain in Texas, was asked what role social media plays in her company’s extensive marketing efforts. Bonner said she thinks it’s a stretch to think that people want to “socialize” with a collision repair shop, and that measuring return on an investment in social media is difficult given how infrequently the average driver needs a shop’s services.

I mentioned social media to a body shop owner recently and, to my surprise, he was almost hostile to the concept. There seems to be a very localized group in the collision industry that really understands social media and this guy was not one of them.

To view a PDF of this article please click HERE.

“Why would I put my shop on Facebook?” he said. “I don’t have a lot of customers who are teenage girls!” I told this gentleman that Facebook and most other forms of social media aren’t being used exclusively by teenage girls. Facebook’s 800 million members aren’t all teenagers, and they certainly aren’t all girls.

Last month’s NACE meeting featured a keynote speaker, Chris Brogan, who’s a social media guru accustomed to talking to large automotive groups like those attending NACE/CARS, and the GM Dealers of Canada, for example.

What’s going on here? Why would some shops and associations spend valuable time instructing on social media while others can’t run away from it fast enough?

David Moore, the owner of CollisionBuilder.com, a company that designs web sites and develops social media plans for body shops and related businesses, has seen a recent spike in body shops getting involved in several forms of social media.