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Tuesday, 06 November 2018 23:21

In Reverse: The Fabulous ‘50s and Mr. O’Donnell’s Invention

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An article appearing in a 1969 trade journal provided one long-time shop owner’s vision of the collision business over the past 20 years. He noted that 1949--1954 were the best years of his operation. There were few shops and plenty of work. He employed 15 body men---a huge shop for the time. Intrusion from the insurance companies was almost non-existent, and in fact, the insurance appraisers seemed most amiable.


As the industry as we know it today was taking shape, it was composed primarily of skilled auto body craftsmen---artisans who knew how to work metal. However, many lacked the leadership and professional skills to deal with the more business-savvy insurance companies and the changing landscape. They were craftsmen, not businessmen. According to a report done in 1969, almost 10 percent of those in business during the 1949--1954 period refused to change with the times and the changing industry dynamics. Instead of changing, they became bitter and frustrated, allowing the industry to be permeated with low-paying or no-paying work. This later paved the way for early industry leaders, such as Silvie Licetra, to conduct business training courses in the early 1960s, which became popular.


Then, according to the industry veteran, from 1954--1959 things started to go downhill. Insurance companies found it difficult to find good appraisers. They were ill-trained and not experienced. They became argumentative. Out of frustration, this was the period auto body associations, some around since the early 1940s, began to be more prevalent. The only problem was that those shop owners in the association would say one thing at the association meetings and do the opposite at their shops the very next day.


Shop owners began to ask insurance companies to be their “shop of choice,” setting the stage for the future DRP concept. As an incentive to the insurance companies, some shops offered a 10 percent parts discount on claims. However, many made the offer “tongue-in-cheek,” knowing that they would increase the labor charges to make up for it. Thus, the insurance company demand for parts discounts was on.

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