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Friday, 04 January 2019 18:40

Auto Manufacturers Threaten Local Bumper Business Survival in Gilroy, CA

Written by Jacob Bourne, The Silicon Valley Voice


Faith Bumper Service has been repairing automobile bumpers from all over the Bay Area since 1975, but recent market changes are putting it on the brink of closing shop.


The family-owned business was located on Di Giulio Avenue in Santa Clara, CA, from 1994 to 2016 before relocating to Gilroy. The business was started by the father of current president Bill Foote, who works closely with his wife, Laura, as well as his son, daughter and brother. Beyond the family, Faith Bumper employs many from the community, some of whom have worked there for over 20 years. They possess special skills unique to the bumper repair trade.


While repairing damaged bumpers is the focus, Faith Bumper Service provides another indispensable function. About half a million pounds of rubber bumpers are diverted from landfills and recycled due to the business’s efforts---a number Foote estimates to be about 80 percent of the region’s total bumper waste.


“Back in the day when we fixed chrome-platted bumpers, 90 percent of the bumpers that came to us were repairable, so we kept them,” explained Foote. “With rubber bumpers, about 85 to 88 percent are not repairable.”


Foote stores these non-repairable bumpers at the Gilroy shop before sending them to a company in Texas that recycles the material for re-use as planter boxes and parking lot curbs---uses that Foote believes are just a small fraction of the actual possibilities for the rubber material.


During the height of the Great Recession in 2008, Faith Bumper Service was forced to downsize operations from 80 employees to 30. Although economic conditions are now more robust, Foote said that beginning two years ago, major auto manufacturers began trying to shut out competition from after-market sellers of parts such as bumpers, grills and fenders by dropping prices for new parts. In the e-marketplace, online parts platforms list the cheapest prices first, and insurance companies ask auto body shops to choose parts at the lowest prices. While Foote said that Faith Bumper can match the quality of a new bumper, most consumers prefer a brand-new bumper if it’s being sold at the same price as a repaired one. Faith Bumper will also match the lower prices, but being a small business, most consumers don’t even know to ask.

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