During this time period, Gary Jr. also became involved in sport compact drag racing, beginning a successful career lasting eight years during which he won several championships and set several national records. When the popularity of the sport diminished in 2008, he became involved in drift car racing, both across the country and overseas. His team became one of the best in America. A few months ago, Gary Jr. decided to step out of motorsports due to a lack of program partners, and is now able to focus all of his energy on the family business.
Since his sons became co-owners, Gary Sr. says they have “helped to take the business to another level.” The three Gardella men work closely with their shop teardown manager, Jay Crisson, to make County Line Auto Body the best it can be. Gary Sr. runs the paint shop and any other shops that are short-handed while Rich manages the office, Gary Jr. is in charge of production, and Jay manages teardown and assembly.
With his sons’ involvement, Gardella has recently begun making several big changes to his thirty-year-old business. The shop has begun using a new management system and is improving paint efficiency with the DuPont Cost Tracking System. The Gardellas have also been hard at work updating and preparing for the delivery of new shop equipment. And where better to house said equipment than a new building? Gary Sr. has a new building underway for their complex. They broke ground in September 2011, plan to continue the building through April, with a June 2012 completion.
County Line Auto Body employs thirty technicians. The shop consists of multiple buildings on one property, totaling thirty-five production bays. The newest building will add an additional 8000 square feet to the work area.
Gary Jr. adds that he “is in the process of marketing and advertising through social media and local print magazines, something County Line has not done before. Rich has been working on developing strategies for up-selling customers, which is new to County Line, introducing the shop to outside mechanical work. The only mechanical work previously brought in was strictly related to collision losses, but now the shop has a great mechanic and are beginning to introduce our customers to many more services, setting County Line up as a “one-stop-shop.”
The large shop has plenty of hardware for major repairs, including four Chief frame machines, one Celette frame machine, and one Car-O-Liner Speed frame machine. They also have two spray booths and one edging booth, along with spot, MIG and TIG welders, alignment computers, tire machines, and wheel balancers. By leveraging the size of the shop, the number of technicians and the extensive equipment, County Line Auto Body completes between 180 and 200 repairs monthly on average.
The shop is I-CAR, ASE, BMW, Nissan and GTR certified. County Line Auto Body uses DuPont paints, and though they receive a large mix of vehicles, they do not typically have problems with color-matching. Says Gary Jr., “Color matching is an area where we have put a lot of effort to excel. Like most shops, we do run into color matching issues here and there; however, one phone call to our DuPont rep, and we are able to troubleshoot and resolve the difficulty quickly.”
When contemplating current trends in the industry, Gary Jr. notes that County Line Auto Body has seen a difference in the demands of direct repair programs with a lot of their guidelines becoming stricter which, in turn, produces more work for their writers. Additionally, some DRPs are requiring cars to be torn down within twenty-four and forty-eight hours, a time constraint that places an added demand on scheduling and maintaining completion dates for previously scheduled vehicles.
As he considers the auto body industry’s future, Gary Jr. states “for many collision shops, I see it being a race to the bottom. Many shops I know of have been looking to continue and grow their relationships with DRPs. Yearly, DRPs are expecting shops to produce more, with the same monetary figure and the cycle downward continues, which is making it very difficult for many newcomers to keep up with the demand.”
County Line Auto Body is well aware of the stress caused by trying to keep up with each DRP’s guidelines as they are affiliated with DRPs for twenty different insurance companies. Gary Jr. claims, “it seems to me we get into the conversation of hiring new writers once a month because of the increase in demand, deadlines and criteria.”
Despite all the stress caused by managing so many DRPs, County Line Auto Body maintains a positive attitude as they focus on customer service and increasing contact with customers to meet their expectations. The Gardellas have even made plans to get out and see the AASP/NJ Northeast™ Trade Show, a luxury they have not previously been able to indulge in. (See related coverage this issue.)
County Line Auto Body
278 Alexander Ave.
Howell, NJ 07731