Tuesday, 21 April 2020 12:18

Most Shops Weathering The Storm---So Far

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Autobody News used its 19,000 shop email subscribers and social media channels to conduct a survey of collision shops across the country April 17-19,  to see how they were coping with the COVID 19 pandemic.

The majority of shops responding were independently owned singe-point shops, perhaps the most vulnerable to volatile market swings. Despite that, and a wide range of available work (most shops operating at 25% to 75% capacity), most seem to be faring reasonably well.


The majority of shops (59%) have not laid off any workers, though 21% have laid off three-quarters of their people.


Most shops have taken a number of precautions to protect employees and customers including using gloves and masks and frequent hand-washing.


It is surmised that not many shops think the pandemic situation will last very long because only 19% have taken on work other than traditional collision repair.


The majority of shops have applied for financial assistance through the government’s CARES Act, but have not received their funds yet. While the initial $349 billion alloted to the Paycheck Protection Program was exhausted April 16, the White House and Congress struck a deal April 21 to replenish it. Small business owners are encouraged to apply through their banks as soon as possible.


See graphs generated using the full survey results.


Wayne Stevens, owner of Stevens Collision in western New York, is a single-point shop, certified with FCA, Hyundai and Kia, but with no DRP arrangements. At present he hasn’t laid off any employees because he has a two-week backlog of work.


“My father always told me, ‘Take care of the people that come through your door, no matter what they want, and you’ll build your business,’” Stevens said.


Doug Hassell owns Hassell Auto Body on Long Island in New York, another single-point shop that has been in business since 1963, and has enough work to stay busy---so far.

The shop has no DRP arrangements and no dealer relationships, though they are certified by FCA, Honda, Nissan, Lexus and a few others.


“In our shop, we work for the customer," Hassell wrote. "Our customers are our friends, and we make things right for them.”


When asked how he was handling his employee situation, Hassell replied, “We had one guy that was getting ready to retire, so he took this opportunity to do just that, and gave a younger guy a chance to stay on. That was very gracious of him. Other people were in a financial situation that would allow them to take a couple of weeks off without pay so that worked out. Plus, we have shifted hours around for some people and gone to a no-overtime policy. So, it’s all worked out.”


Hassell noted there is a heavy concentration of shops in his area. Some are busy, some are dead.


One shop in northern California noted their DRP work had all but dried up, so they were knocking on doors of businesses that were still open to find work. One high-end shop in Utah has taken on some restoration work for the brands they usually handle--- mainly Porsche and BMW. And one shop in a snowbelt area has taken on more rust-repair jobs to keep busy.


Check out autobodynews.com and our monthly regional print editions to keep up with the industry’s latest developments.