Dealership body shop business: Top earners in 2021

Susanna Gotsch, senior director, industry analyst at CCC Intelligent Solutions, a Chicago automotive repair software firm, says the increasing complexity of automobiles will require dealers who want to remain in the collision repair business to increase their investments in people, equipment and facilities to repair wrecked vehicles efficiently and properly.

“About 85 percent of 2021 model year vehicles are minimally equipped with front automatic emergency braking,” Gotsch told Fixed Ops Journal. “So, the tools and the training needed to repair even the most basic vehicle is dramatically more high-tech than what it had been even just a few years ago.

“You are going to have vehicles that require things like scanning and calibration, and there are the checks of those repairs that require significant investments in real estate because you have to have a lot of space around the perimeter of the car. So, this is one of those types of investments that requires an all-in. If you are going to do it, you have to make the proper investments,” she says.

Earlier this year at Bowman Chevrolet, Rhonda Jensen, the store’s general manager, looked at options for the dealership’s collision repair business. “I could make a case for keeping it and I could make a case for partnering with somebody,” Jensen says.

In the end, it was the store’s relationship with its customers that convinced Bowman to invest in its body shop.

“Because of our customers, wanting to keep them under our umbrella and really make a positive experience for them, we chose to keep ours open at this point,” she says. “Our customers know that if they get into an accident, they can call somebody they know and trust. They’ve built a relationship with their salesperson and their service adviser, who’ll get them into the body shop.”

But she acknowledges there have been disruptions in the last couple of years, such as parts and technician shortages and supplier issues that have made collision repair more challenging.

Jensen says the store now has a strategy aimed at solving one of the most pressing issues facing all body shops — recruiting technicians and painters.

“In service, we have a trainee with almost every tech. Now we are putting trainees with the body shop techs,” she says. “We are aggressively growing our own.”

Mike Anderson, owner of Collision Advice, says Bowman is making smart decisions.

“For dealerships, their knowledge base is more on the sales and service side — and a body shop is not really their area of expertise,” Anderson says. “But getting out of collision repair is a huge mistake. Dealers should embrace collision repair and educate themselves on how to run that business.

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