Wednesday, 09 July 2014 00:00

Utah Auto Body Association President Cory Stanger Gives His View on the Industry

As the collision industry demographic shifts to younger owners, people like Cory Stanger, 30, represent a new breed while assuming important leadership roles in their respective states and on the national stage.

Stanger is the general manager at Alpine Auto Body in Salt Lake City, UT and the current President of the Utah Auto Body Association (UABA). His father Don started the shop the same year Cory was born and today runs the shops’ day-to-day operations.

“My parents ran the business together and I grew up here in this shop,” Stanger explained. “The first chance I had to help out, I was right there. I remember my dad used to have me cut cardboard into squares for him to spread body filler on the cars and that was one of my jobs at the shop early on. My father just kept teaching me new things--like how to do body work, prime, how to paint—everything one step at a time as he worked me into the business slowly. Eventually, I ended up in the front office, so it’s been a gradual evolution since I was about 7 years old. The things my dad taught me about hard work really are important and working at the shop is my heritage and something I really enjoy.”

Stanger recently took the helm at the UABA, a two-year-old professional collision organization consisting of body shop owners throughout Utah. “We formed the UABA in 2012, when a group of shops got together and decided we needed one,” Stanger said. “I am the organization’s second president and we’re really making a run at it. It’s tough out there, because we have a lot of DRP shops here in Utah, just like anywhere else. We have some DRPs at Alpine, but I don’t necessarily believe in the system. Most shops don’t like them either but realize that DRPs are a necessary evil in this industry.”

Stanger isn’t afraid of the big bad insurance companies, especially when it comes to the quality of his repairs. “I’ve come to the conclusion that in no way will I ever be backing down to the insurance companies,” Stanger said. “My goal is to always make it better for the shops and the customers, by doing proper repairs and getting paid for proper repairs. That part of the industry will never go away. The insurance companies are always going to look for places where they can save money and the good shops are always going to push to do the repairs right, and we’re always going to be one of those shops.”

Finding good, qualified technicians is a real problem in Utah right now, Stanger explained. “One of the things I’d like to change in this industry is the fact that there’s a real lack of qualified technicians here in Utah and from what I’ve heard from other shops in other states, it’s a problem that is industry wide. It’s a big concern for us, so we need to sit down and decide where these new technicians can come from. Should we invest in high school programs, junior colleges and tech schools, so that we can actually get people excited and want to enter this field? The schools in this country have forgotten about the blue collar jobs. Now they want to direct students to become lawyers and doctors in general. Sure, we need doctors and lawyers but we shouldn’t label blue collar jobs as being inferior. Part of the problems stems back to the insurance companies—we need to work harder to get paid more for what we do, so that we can pay our employees what they’re worth. Right now, if you’re on the outside looking in you’re thinking hey—I can do okay in the body shop industry. I can do well if I really work my guts out, but it’s not the easiest place in the world to make a living. So, we need to make it better for our employees and then we need to make the wages more attractive to people that are considering this industry as a viable career.   If we can help people to receive the proper training they need, I really believe that this is one of the biggest things we need to do to help this industry right now.”

Is steering by the insurance companies alive and well in Utah?

We asked Stanger.

“It has not been a personal directive of mine to go after steering and confront insurance companies about it—yet,” he said. “I often hear about steering techniques used by certain insurance companies from my customers. It’s the same old bag of tricks where they tell them things like you may pay more if you go to that shop and we will not warranty the work…on and on.  I’ve made some bold moves with some insurance companies over the years and I’ve seen a huge reduction in work coming from those insurers. I know they’re very good at what they do and they obviously won’t call it steering. It eventually becomes obvious that they’re re-directing work from my door, and I know the cause. It’s because I’m not always easy to work with from their perspective, because I push for proper repairs and then expected to be paid fairly for my work. So, I’ve seen work go away as a result, without a doubt. So, yes there is steering in Utah and it happens every day.”

Is Stanger jumping into the new aluminum transition in the collision industry? “I think it’s tough for a body shop to keep up with all of the changing technology out there, but I am happy to embrace anything that will make the world a better place to live,” Stanger said.

“Making cars lighter, in order to save fuel is admirable and I totally support it and want to be onboard for that. So, if we can achieve it with either aluminum or carbon fiber or with other materials—that’s great and we want to definitely be a part of that evolution. Only the automakers know what they’re thinking right now, and the big question I have is will aluminum be around for the long haul?”

Stanger also wants unlicensed body shops to either get licensed or stop doing business, he said. “There are definitely some body shops in Utah right now that aren’t licensed and bonded as certified facilities and doing business as usual. The rest of us are doing it right and playing by the rules and these midnight shops are taking work away from us. We are looking at solutions to this problem and in conversation with the Division of Air Quality, who may be working with us. If we can get them to make the paint jobbers to sell products only to body shops that are licensed and bonded, maybe it will make it a little more difficult for these midnight body shops to do business in Utah.”

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