Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - 27

FIXED OPS JOURNAL

DON'T BUMP IT OFF

 Some reasons to think twice about closing your body shop

S

pending millions of dollars to
modernize a body shop is not a cost
many dealers want to take on these
days. Fewer than two in five of the
nation's franchised new-vehicle dealerships
even operate body shops.
That number could dip as new cars
become more electronically complex and as
a larger number of vehicles move to
lightweight body materials, such as
aluminum, carbon fiber and magnesium.
RICHARD
New electronic components and exotic
TRUETT
materials increase technician training
Fixed Ops Journal
expenditures, tool requirements and fixed
costs.
But at Bill Brown Ford in the Detroit suburb of Livonia, the focus wasn't
on the $2 million expense of upgrading the dealership's body shop. It was
on the need to remake the shop in order to repair Ford's growing fleet of
aluminum-bodied vehicles - the F-150, Super Duty, Expedition and
Lincoln Navigator - and the big Transit commercial van.
This month, Brown's body shop manager, Joe Hershey, gave me a

Joe Hershey, body shop manager
at Bill Brown Ford, with one of
two new paint booths that are part
of a $2 million shop overhaul.

RICHARD TRUETT

tour of the store's nearly completed renovation, in a building that was
once a movie theater.
Hershey explained the dealership's reasoning behind investing in
more bricks and mortar, adding equipment, and increasing headcount
and overhead - all at a time when some dealers are turning out the
lights on their body shops and sending their customers to national
chains, such as Gerber or Service King, or to other dealerships.
Hershey says his store would have lost too much revenue had it balked
at remodeling its body shop. Bill Brown was the nation's third-largest
Ford brand dealer by sales volume in September, the automaker reports.
"There are a variety of things a large dealership needs a body shop for,
even if it doesn't advertise that it is in that business," Hershey says.
He ticks off a few of the reasons: "Brand new cars get scraped up on
the lot. Warranty work. Maybe there's a defect in the paint, or maybe a
panel is misaligned. Reconditioning used cars. We keep about a
hundred trade-ins per month and put them on the used-car lot."
Most of the body shop's revenue comes from fixing wrecked customer
cars. Hershey said his shop has averaged between 280 and 300 repair
orders a month for much of this year.
This month, the shop had a queue of about 100 vehicles waiting for
body repairs. Hershey has kept a shift of painters and service techs
working from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. to keep up.
The shop's new layout adds 20 bays, bringing the total to 55. It has a
clean-room area for intensive aluminum-specific repairs that require
riveting and bonding.
And it has two new paint booths, one of them large enough to handle
the biggest Transit van, which is more than 11 feet tall, and the longest
F-450 pickup, which stretches more than 22 feet.
By the time you read this, the contractors' work should be finished -
final wiring and trim installation were being done during my visit - and
the dealership will have completed a project that began three years ago.
Running a body shop is demanding, Hershey says. Customers can be
angry and impatient. Insurance companies want repairs done quickly,
and they wield a lot of power over the billable items on a ticket.
Because most of the body shop's tech staff is paid on commission, the
shop must stay busy. If not, their paychecks will shrink and turnover
will increase.
So it's easy to see why some dealers are exiting the body shop
business. But Hershey thinks that's a mistake. And I think he's right.
Hershey says the last thing a dealer should do is send his customers
to a competitor. "If we go back to asking what is the price of being in the
collision business, well, what's the price of not being in it?" he says.
"If you can't take care of a customer and have to send him to another
dealership, well, maybe they just cut the lawn, there's fresh coffee and
your customer is blown away at how nice the place is," Hershey says.
"All of a sudden, maybe they just found a new home. That's not a risk we
want to take."
As vehicles grow more expensive and complex, body shops could
become more important than ever. Consumers may demand factorytrained hands, using genuine parts, to repair critical electronic safety
systems. That's a huge advantage for dealerships to ignore or give away. 

OCTOBER 2017

PAGE 27



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017

Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017
Contents
Editor’s Letter
Service Counter
Legal Lane
Dealers vs. OEMs
Parts disposal
Chicago way
Certifi ed repairs
Richard Truett
After the deluge
Labor rates
Off lease, on the lot
Paragon model
Feedback
Net benefi ts
Sometimes on Sunday
Get ready
Shop Talk
Five Minutes With
Fixed in Time
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - Intro
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - Cover2
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - Contents
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - Editor’s Letter
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - 5
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - Service Counter
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - 7
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - Legal Lane
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - 9
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - 10
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - Dealers vs. OEMs
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - Parts disposal
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - 13
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - 14
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - 15
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - 16
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - 17
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - Chicago way
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - 19
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - 20
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - 21
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - 22
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - 23
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - Certifi ed repairs
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - 25
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - 26
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - Richard Truett
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - After the deluge
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - 29
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - 30
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - 31
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - Labor rates
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - 33
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - Off lease, on the lot
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - 35
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - Paragon model
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - Feedback
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - Net benefi ts
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - 39
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - Sometimes on Sunday
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - 41
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - Get ready
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - 43
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - Shop Talk
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - Five Minutes With
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - Fixed in Time
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - Cover3
Fixed Ops Journal - October 2017 - Cover4
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