As the 1980s dawned, the collision repair industry began to see some profound changes, and some shops tried their darndest to keep things the same as they had always been.
Say No to Foreign
Some ideas die hard, like saying “no” to working on “foreign” cars. By the early 1980s, “foreign” cars had been pouring into the U.S. for more than 20 years, yet some shops still did not want to work on them---despite the fact that some “foreign" nameplates were now made in the U.S.
They complained about thinner sheet metal, difficulty matching paint, parts that were hard to get and volatile parts prices.
However, so-called “foreign” cars were becoming a larger part of the repair landscape, and the global automotive landscape was growing more homogenized. Moreover, domestic cars were becoming more like “foreign” cars inasmuch as the thickness of sheet metal, difficulty matching colors and the fact that, like “foreign” cars, most domestics were using unibody construction.
According to Ward’s Automotive Reports, import car sales were 14% of total U.S. cars sales in 1972. By 1981, that jumped to more than 27%.
Some shops tried to ignore the foreign market, but they could not do it forever and survive.
Investing and Franchising
The 1980s saw the traditional body shop business model begin to change. The empirical approach of advancing into the collision repair business---moving from technician to shop manager to owner, or passing the business from father to son or daughter---was changing to the emerging concept of investing and franchising.
A trade magazine, in the fall of 1987, announced the launch of the USAutobody Network, the latest concept in franchising body shops. The article noted...