It occurred to be coming back from an auto damage assignment the other day that it was time for a REAL change in the auto damage repair and refinishing industry. I passed many multi-million dollar high-tech independent and dealership body shops all which do a great quality repair and I thought how great it was that the industry had come so far. But then it occurred to me that there was something definitely missing. Something that I think could make somebody or many somebodies a lot of money, change the way the insurance companies do business and give consumers a third alternative that really doesn’t exist today.
But as I debated on writing this I realize that there will be hundreds of my former body shop and auto damage adjuster/appraiser colleagues who will either think I am nuts or after taking a moment to really think about it, will want to kill me for even suggesting the idea because of the money they might lose. Yes, I said lose. That is unless they take on the idea.
You see, I grew up in the era of the “production paint and body industry” during the 50;s, 60’s and 70’s. Yes the industry that made famous by the likes of Earl Shibe. Although, Earl would have only wished of having the kind of facilities I worked at. My father who was probably without apology the best painter ever to lift a Binks or DiVillibus spray gun utilizing pressure pot technology, with a an atomization 3 feet wide and a constant PSI of 150 lbs and methods 2 stage painters have no clue about today, taught me everything I know. By the time I was 15 years old working for the company he managed for over 30 years, I was painting 15 to 20 cars per day! Yes that is correct sir or madam, PER DAY. Contrary to popular belief and urban legend, paint was not mixed with water or cars not sanded or chrome not removed and painted over. It was simply what Henry Ford made famous……..it was a production line or assembly line technology. Moving the product constantly forward in a straight line to completion.
In the 60’s and 70’s the Insurance carriers loved it! Rarely a supplement, vehicles were not tied up for weeks at a time and rental cars weren’t even an issue. Because everything worked like a well tuned instrument, cars went in on time and came out on time.
The other issue is that the consumer was able to keep his vehicle longer because he could get his older car “refreshed” after it was paid for. After all, when a top of the line complete overall paint job of the same original color could cost less than $100.00, why wouldn’t the consumer want to think twice before becoming indebted just to buy another vehicle?
In the 60’s and 70’s people did think twice and realized they had a third choice. They didn’t have to just trade in the old rattle trap for a new car and they didn’t have to go to the traditional body shop where they would also be financially strapped. They could take only one week’s salary at most and make the OLD car look BETTER. Oh it would never be new again with all the mileage but you could get by for a while and feel good while driving it.
It’s time for something old to become new again. We need to RESURRECT the production paint and body shop. It could help the economy tremendously. I know the President and the likes of the major automotive manufacturers will be unhappy to hear this but the people could use a break. Imagine being able to get your vehicle painted starting for under $100.00 again and you could get it back in 48 to 72 hours body work (for which the consumer would pay extra) included? I believe we would have a winner…….in fact I am certain of it.
Unfortunately like so many trades that have been lost in this country, the production body shop trade has virtually vanished. Yes, Earl Shibe, Maaco, Facto-Bake and Econo are sparingly still around throughout the country but they have been relegated to less production and simply cheaper traditional body shops. They may get three to five cars completed per day after having those very cars tied up in repairs for weeks.
There are problems in attempting to revive this very needed industry, 1) Money, obviously, 2) an enormous amount of space (about the size of an entire automotive dealership….not just their body shop but the entire dealership), 3)EPA regulations and ultimately 4) trained employees. There are very few REAL production painters, tapers, sanders, primers, and body techs left. I laugh when I go into some body shops today and see the painter’s helpers who should be called the painter’s hinderers moving at a snail’s pace or watching a painter paint with runs all over the car and say he’ll fix it when it’s sanded at the other end. What a waste! Time wasted and money lost. It’s time to bring back the real production shop. If anyone is interested out there and for the right fee I’ll show you how to do it. It can be done. I would Like to see a comeback.