Driven Brands Holds Inaugural Conference with CARSTAR, Abra, Fix Auto USA

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Sabrina Thring, brand president, collision group for Driven Brands, spoke at the conference's opening night Sept. 28 about the company's plans to continue to grow in 2024.

Driven Brands kicked off Evolution 2023---its inaugural U.S. collision repair joint conference, gathering AbraCARSTAR and Fix Auto USA franchise partners---Sept. 28 in Florida. 

The conference runs through Sept. 30 at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Kissimmee, FL, featuring two days of education, thought provoking discussions and networking opportunities, capped off with the Fenders and Fairways charity golf event.

Before the conference got underway, three Orlando-area women and their families were presented refurbished vehicles, courtesy of the National Auto Body Council (NABC) Recycled Rides® program. GEICO donated all three vehicles. CARSTAR Collimotive Center refurbished two of them and CARSTAR Superior Auto Body refurbished one, while Jerry’s Abra in Mankato, MN, and Fix Auto Fort Myers helped stuff the trunks with much-needed items and gift cards. 

The NABC has had a long partnership with CARSTAR, Abra and Fix Auto USA, collectively presenting more than 225 Recycled Rides vehicles to military members, veterans and families in need.

The conference officially opened with Hannah Whitesides, senior vice president of paint and collision marketing at Driven Brands, serving as emcee. Driven Brands collision repair leaders Sabrina Thring and Damien Reyna took the stage to share their outlook for the collision repair network and the year ahead.

“There are three critical pillars for us to have a common vision and common goal: profitability, excellence and growth,” said Thring. “We have the collective power to continue driving this industry forward. We are in the best position to influence the changes in the field and by uniting our forces, we will continue to blaze trails in the collision repair industry space.”

Reyna shared his outlook on how CARSTAR, Abra and Fix Auto USA can continue to move forward and navigate this ever-changing industry.

“While we are making great headway on many areas of our performance, there are still several opportunities for improvement across the network,” he noted. “We’re confident that, working together, we can meet and exceed our goals for the remainder of the year, maintaining our position as America’s leaders in collision repair.”

The rest of the activities on opening night included a keynote address from was Jon Acuff, New York Times bestselling author of eight books, who spoke about facing the inevitability of change and the dilemma of pivot or panic; and a party featuring whiskey tasting, cigar rolling, axe throwing, a live jazz band and fund raising that raised more than $6,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

On Sept. 29, during a media roundtable call, Thring expanded on her comments from the previous evening.

Collectively, there are 1,031 CARSTAR, Abra and Fix Auto locations in North America, Thring said, and Driven Brands plans on continuing to add more in 2024.

Thring said Driven Brands is welcoming new owners from outside the collision repair industry, some of whom have private equity backing, as well as helping existing owners expand.

"When you invest in your people and your shop, when you leverage the resources [of Driven Brands] and engage, you’re able to scale faster and you can take that talent, trust it, and move on to the next location," Thring said. "Thee is an appetite to grow and expand; people still love this business."

Among those resources made available to franchisees are recruiting tools, to help find and hire quality technicians; partnerships with companies like asTech to provide the latest AI technology to expedite processes and ensure safe and proper repairs; and tools and training to repair the growing number of EVs on the road.

"We are encouraging owners to get more OE certifications to attract talent," Thring said. "We want to be seen as leader in [EV repair.]"

Thring said Driven Brands currently has 92 Tesla-certified shops, as well as shops certified by Lucid and Rivian, and it wants to increase those numbers. 

The conference continued Sept. 29 with keynote speaker Matt Mayberry, retired Chicago Bears linebacker and internationally acclaimed speaker; an OE panel focused on the current and future state of EVs, led by Dirk Fuchs and featuring panelists from Nissan, Lucid and Rivian; presentations on marketing and DrivenAdvantage; and breakout sessions for the franchise partners. A vendor tradeshow in the afternoon was followed by the awards gala that evening.

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