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Monday, 11 May 2020 23:05

Shop in UT Discusses Billing Insurance for Disinfectants, Finds Silver Lining in Uncertain Times

Written by Victoria Antonelli
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Alpine Auto Renovation predominately repairs BMW and Porsche makes and models, as it is certified by those two manufacturers. Alpine Auto Renovation predominately repairs BMW and Porsche makes and models, as it is certified by those two manufacturers.


Autobody News followed up with Sam Plumb, vice president of Alpine Auto Renovation, a single-location shop in Utah.

Plumb responded on the shop's behalf to our survey, "Analysis of the Body Shop," and volunteered to elaborate further on his responses.


How would you describe your shop?


“Alpine Auto Renovation has 13 employees and is located in Salt Lake City, UT. We have one repair facility, and then a secondary facility with overflow space---no repairs, just additional indoor car storage. When we opened in 1977, we performed both restoration and collision repair work, specializing in European vehicles. Our focus has shifted more to collision repair, specifically BMW and Porsche makes and models, as we are a certified for those two manufacturers.”


Has the pandemic affected your productivity? How so? Have you been able to stay open?


“We had four to five weeks of backlog when the quarantine started, so we’re still working on scheduled vehicles. Next week [as of May 5th] we’re fully booked---after that, we’re not sure what will happen as far as additional work and customer scheduling. Tow-ins have dropped off almost completely. We’ve had three in the last six weeks and normally it’s not uncommon to get four or five towed in each week.”


Have you had to layoff/furlough any employees?


“Due to the backlog, and our loyal customer base, we haven’t had to furlough any employees and we’re not planning to.”


Have you implemented any changes at your shop, as far as cleanliness or other safety measures in light of the pandemic?


“Our employees wear gloves and masks when in close proximity, and we disinfect the front office every time someone arrives and leaves. When vehicles come in, we take a fresh rag with rubbing alcohol and go over the seats, center console, steering wheel, gear shifter, trim panels, handles and any other flat surfaces---and we also apply protective covers to the interior of the cars. These covers are then removed, and the vehicle is disinfected again prior to delivery.

"We document and bill insurance companies for disinfectant supplies used during repairs at intake and delivery. However, we would still take these precautions even if the insurance companies didn’t pay for it, because it’s in line with the CDC and state COVID-19 protocols. We explain to insurance companies that as an essential business, this protocol ensures the safety of our employees and customers. We cannot be expected to continue to repair cars without taking the necessary precautions, and insurance carriers should cover these charges. Many of our customers are older than 60 years of age, so it’s important to be safe, rather than sorry.”


Have you taken on any other type of work such as restoration or custom work?


“We have been more inclined to take on restoration projects, which we normally have a tough time scheduling in when our workload is consistently high. Some of the high-dollar collector vehicles can take months to fully restore, depending on the scope of the project. We have also taken on a few cars from a local race team to keep our guys busy. Now is a good time for shops to be networking and reaching out to dealers in their area to let them know they’re still working and would be happy to get their customers taken care of!"


Have you applied for assistance under the CARES Act just passed by Congress? If so, what has the response been or lack thereof? 


“We were very proactive in pursuing the PPP [Payroll Protection Program]. The moment we heard about the PPP, we gathered all of the necessary info and filled out the application. We were able to get approval within two weeks of submitting the completed application.


"When and if repair work drops off, we’ll still have plenty of work to do and supplements to catch up on in the front office. We can't just create work when so many fewer cars are being driven, but the financial well-being of our employees will not be affected.


"This is a good time for shops to take a look at internal practices and operations, reevaluate them and go back to the drawing board. We don’t often have a lot of time to really look at what changes could be made and what could be added or subtracted. No matter how scary this is, we have to look for the silver lining. I hope most places are taking time to see what they can do to make their business better.”


To learn more about how other shops across the country are faring, or find more information on the survey, check out "Most Shops Weathering the Storm---So Far."

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