When was the last time you visited neighborhood pharmacy? Not to disclose my age, but I remember getting a cream soda at the local pharmacy. Those days are over. Yesterday my medical insurance company told me that I can only pick up my medicine from Walgreen’s. Large corporations such as Rite Aid and Walgreens took over the pharmacy business. They are huge well financed corporations with locations all over United States and ability to give deep discounts and make agreements with major medical insurance companies. Small, one location, neighborhood pharmacies just could not compete. They are gone for all practical purposes.

Such is not the case for restaurants. Small mom and pop diners are able to coexist with such giants as Denny’s and Norm’s. Gourmet, one location Pizza places are able to make a good living located right next to a large chain’s like Dominos. Small local bistros are thriving right next to Applebee’s.

What about auto body shops or what they are called these days, automotive collision centers? Large corporations and huge consolidators have been buying smaller shops all over the country for the past several decades. It is a trend that has been picking up speed with intermittent success. M2 Collision Centers filed for bankruptcy in 2005 after buying and operating a significant number of big body shops in Southern California. Today’s consolidators are much more experienced. They are well financed and well organized. They have the ability to buy in balk cheap and sell cheaper. They are structured to give deep discounts to insurance companies, who have become a major source for collision work in recent years.

My personal experience with one consolidator showed me that they are hard to compete with and they might be here to stay. Moving my shop from Burbank to Pasadena last year, I was hoping to retain a good majority of my business because of close physical proximity between old and new locations. I went down to talk to my partners at Community Chevrolet. I have been doing business with those guys for the past fifteen years. It was a handshake contract that was based on mutual respect and trust. During our meeting I was informed that Caliber Collision Center approached Community Chevrolet and proposed that all ten of their big shops would buy parts from them in exchange for giving collision business to a local shop. It was an offer that Community could not refuse since their parts selling business was going to skyrocket. It made dollars and cents. I simply could not compete with that.

Still I believe there is a value in an independent, neighborhood body shop where an owner knows your name and personally greets you and asks you about your family. For example, I have been working on Mr. Joe Baldino’s vehicles since 1990. I have fixed his father’s car, his wife’s and his children when they got to be old enough to drive. He recently offered me his vacation home in Hawaii. When Joe brings his vehicle for repair, he does not ask me about an estimate. He tells me to call him when it’s done. He knows he will get exceptional repair along with personal service at a fair price. This cannot be accomplished at a corporate shop.

So, can the lesser sized independent shops survive and thrive among gargantuan corporate collision centers? Only time will tell.

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The new Ford Mustang was first introduced to the driving public on April 17th, 1964 at New York World’s Fair. It was dated year 1964 and ½. With sleek sporty design and long hood Mustang created a “Pony Car” class of American automobiles and an army of diehard fans. They are called Mustang enthusiasts in order to avoid labeling them fanatics. Fanatics, they are ready to go to any length to restore their prized fifty year old American classics to original, mint condition. Those restored beauties are worth much more than what they were sold for originally.

I have a personal experience restoring 1965 Mustang and painting it candy apple red for a local enthusiast a few years ago.” I’ve been dreaming about owning this beauty ever since I was fifteen years old,” said 52 year old Bobby Jackson:” I don’t care how long it takes it’s got to be perfect.” Bobby helped to make sure that it turned out as perfect as possible by personally going out and buying every nut, every bolt and every part the pony required. After almost a year in the shop and a lot of TLC it was ready to be showed off at Toluca Lake’s Bob’s Big Boy on Friday night.

 

Last week 2015 Ford Mustang was assembled on the 86th floor of Empire State Building as part of New York International Auto Show. Its eye catching designs inside and out continues the rich tradition of American Mustang the car that has been in production for 50 years without a break. While obviously different from its predecessors, 2015 Mustang still has a distinct look. However most other features such as aerodynamics, engine, transmission, suspension along with a lot of new electronics have been redesigned and vastly improved or just added. Something that caught my eye is that 2015 Mustang will finally get an independent rear suspension. The new Mustang also has twice the anti-dive and twice the anti-squat characteristics of the old pony. Revised front suspension is said to improve steering precision and front traction. If you are not a fan of spending your hard earned dollars on gas for 8 cylinder muscle car, new Mustang rolls out a turbo charged 4 cylinder engine on top of traditional 6 and 8 cylinder versions.

2015 Ford mustang is scheduled to be in dealer’s showrooms across the country by October of 2014. Why don’t you take a new pony for a ride and see for yourself.

Special! Summer Promotion!

Posted: April 10, 2014 in Body Shop News

By Andrei Volkov

Summer CouponOne of the most dangerous times during the year for your car is the Summer. The extreme heat and direct sunlight hitting your car can and will slowly cause serious harm to your paint. Even leaving it in a scolding hot parking lot on a particularly hotday can be quite bad for it. While these dangerous aren’t very prevalent, over time they can become very serious.

 

So, during the Summers we have made it customary to offer a coupon to help our customers keep their cars safe from the sun! Starting May 1st, if you show up at our shop with this coupon in hand (all you need to do is print it out!) and have a job costing more than $1,000, we’ll give your car a FULL detailed cleaning for free! This should keep your car safe for at least a month or two, guaranteed!

By Andrei Volkov

 

Before Toyota

 

Every week, without fail, someone shows up at the shop telling us that they HAVE to get three estimates, because THEY told them to. I think the most important thing to me to note here is that no one has to do anything. But, that aside, who are they to tell you to go get three estimates? Be it your dad, your uncle, your grandmama, the guy who hit you, the insurance company, whoever, three seems to be the magic number of estimates that people always want other people to get.

 

Now, what if you know about cars, enough that you can comfortably know when and where you’re getting a good deal. Or what if you have a really trusted friend or family member with a body shop? What if you don’t really care about where the car is fixed at, or you don’t have the time to get three? My advice: don’t. Don’t get three estimates. The reason for this is simple: you are being forced to work for someone else. The person telling you to shop around is actually having you shop around for them. You’re doing unpaid work! Unpaid work for the person who is responsible for getting your car fixed.

 

As often as I hear ‘they told me to get three estimates,’ I also hear ‘they want me to go to another shop.’ The most important thing to realize in these situations is that the other person, be they the person at fault or an insurance company, is NOT the boss of your vehicle. You are, and you by law are allowed to take your vehicle to whatever body shop you want. The other party is not handling the repairs for your car they are just handling the payment, they can not guarantee a good job. The next thing to realize, is that by law, you only need one estimate. ONE ESTIMATE IS ALL YOU NEED. Even if the CEO of the insurance company called you and told you that you HAD to get 3 estimates, by law, you only need one so he can be ignored.

 

For the last twenty years or so my father has been handing out flyers with little facts on them, and I think it’s about time I brought those facts to a digital outlet. These aren’t groundbreaking or secret, by no means, but there are plenty of people who don’t know them, or so it seems.

 

  1. The Law does not require you to get more than one estimate.
  2. You are not required to use any particular shop. You choose the body shop to perform repairs.
  3. There is a difference in body shops. A lower estimate may overlook details like aligning the front end, aiming the headlights, etc. It’s your car…make sure it’s repaired to your satisfaction.
  4. You are the only one who can authorize repairs on your car. Don’t sign any releases until you’re sure that the insurance company will cover the cost of the repairs.
  5. Be aware of the “appraisal clause” in your insurance policy. If the insurance company and the body shop cannot agree on what the repairs should cost, this could provide a means of fair settlement.
  6. You should know that your car is being repaired for you as the owner. You are expected, therefore, to be able to pay for the repairs upon completion. To avoid paying with your personal check, arrange to have the insurance company releases signed and back to the paying company in time for them to get a check back to you. If a lienholder is named on the check, be sure to get his endorsement. By making these arrangements in advance, you will help the repair shop to get you back on the road in a minimum of time.

 

So next time some jerk who hit you is pushing you to get three estimates, or if your insurance company is trying to steer you somewhere, arm yourself with the facts and remember that you have rights, you have options, and you can do as you like!

A Model X showing off it's doors.

A Model X showing off it’s doors.

 

Up and coming car behemoth Tesla will be releasing its new model X a little later this year, and we here at Hilton Auto are incredibly excited. With only a single model the company has been able to revolutionize the entire auto industry. Clever design choices have made for one of the best vehicle designs in modern history.

 

For those unfamiliar with Tesla, they are a unique ‘modern’ car company. I put modern in quotes because it is difficult to describe what a modern car company is, really. The three major manufacturers in the USA (Ford, GMC, and Cadillac) have been designing and selling 95% of American cars for almost 90 years now. I’m also pretty certain that at least one of the companies at one time or another has advertised that it is a ‘modern’ company, working for the modern person. But, just because they claim that, it does not make it true.

Tesla is ‘modernizing’ the industry, because not only is their product modern (some could argue it is revolutionary, though personally I do not agree) they are attempting to change the way automotive business is handled. Rather than going through dealers, Tesla works directly with customers to get them the car they want, an idea so shocking that the state of New Jersey is actually planning on banning the vehicle.

 

The current Tesla Model S comes with a variety of features. It’s a 4-door sedan with a large Ipad-esque touch screen computer in the front console, up to six seats, and with the engines attached to the wheels, both the front and back can be used as storage compartments. The cars can be charged at home or for free at a Tesla charge station. The cars interior and exterior have the look and feel of the newest luxury cars.

 

The newest model of Tesla is a Sports Utility Vehicle, the Model X. The Model X will feature the same style of engine from the Model S except they will be on both drive axels instead of just one. The rear doors, looking like seagull wing doors from a DeLorean DMC-12, are called ‘falcon wings,’ and open upward instead of outward. The second row seats can easily slide forward and backward, allowing easy access to the rear seats/trunk from the doors. Finally, like the Model S, the X is all battery powered; has no tailpipes or any sort of emission system. This is the future of family vehicles, finally fully realized.

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We’re a little late to the party but the auto industry is finally making major plays on the digital and internet stages. It’s been standard practice to have a website for any business for almost fourteen years now, but since websites generally just give information or allow you to place online orders they’re essentially phones without having a to deal with a person on the other end. Thanks to social media and the technological leaps in portable technology the way our customers interact with us is changing.

 

Pictures have been increasing in pixel size, cameras have been decreasing in physical size, and these two combinations have made things like Snapchat and Instagram incredibly accessible and thus wildly popular. Well we’re making use of these technologies in a couple of ways. Taking pictures and having a way to send them easily means now we can write estimates for minor damage without ever having to see a car. While this isn’t entirely recommended since there is always the chance of internal damage, and pictures don’t get the message across entirely, it’s a step in an interesting direction.

The newest innovation which really sticks out is now the ability for our customers to track their repairs. Thanks to the great folks at CCC Information Services, we can now have our customers look up not only the status of repairs online, but also see pictures of the process. Not every body shop will be participating in this, but at Hilton Auto Collision we’ll be doing our best to make sure our customers can check up on their cars right from the comfort of their own homes.

 

Now for my personal favorite: tablets. Tablets have been around since the mid-nineties but did not get very popular until around 2007, and are really just computers that use touch instead of hardware for interaction. This difference is invaluable, since it allows for the tablet to be portable. Thanks to its portability anyone can use it anywhere, easily, and unlike laptops they don’t have long start up times (they usually just stay on) and due to the simpler technology going into them, large amounts of fans, bulky casing, and other computer necessities are not required.

With all of this in mind, it is easy to see the future which is coming, and I for one look forward to it. Our body shop has recently received its first CCC approved tablet and when it is set up we will be writing estimates outside by our customers’ cars, right next to them, in real time. This gives a more open, less restrictive environment for both us and our customers. No longer will customers sit idly by staring uncomfortably at the unknown of the computer screen. Instead we’ll be right by you, going over the vehicle step by step as we input it into our device.

 

My father told me that in the early nineties, body shops stopped hand writing estimates and switched to computers. The change was made to make things more streamlined, to boost production, and to lower the chances of getting inflated estimates. An unintended consequence of this is it seems to have also separated customers from the body shops. A technological shift is happening right now which has the potential to remove this unintended problem. Thanks to the internet, social media, and tablets, no longer do we keep our customers out; we can now open our doors wide and let them in.

Texting and Driving Must Stop!

Posted: February 25, 2014 in Automobile

TnD

There is something out on the roads, a great evil that is looming. One so powerful it strikes fear into the hearts of men, one so dangerous it puts lives at risk. And, the worst of it is, most of us have done it at some point. This is the scourge known as texting and driving. According to the statistics gathered by the state of California, in 2011 23% of all accidents involved cell phones. That percentage is split into texting, dialing, talking, and reaching for the phone. With phones causing 1 in 4 accidents, they are a very serious matter.

 

A large survey found that the biggest culprits were teens. 34% of that group says that they do in fact text and drive, and that’s just the ones willing to admit it. I say willing to admit because while only 34% admit they text and drive, 77% of all teenagers and young adults are confident in their abilities to text and drive at the same time. This number jumps down to 55% with adults. Having half of the adult population being comfortable with having their eyes off the road for large periods of time is quite disturbing. A few seconds may not seem like a long time, but it is relative to the speed that the car is going. In the 5 seconds that your eyes are off the road, at 55 mph, you would have roughly gone the length of a football field.

 

There are many methods being put in place to get this issue under control but so far the effects are minor. Ten states entirely prohibit cell phone use and 39 prohibit it for texting purposes. A few states such as Arizona and Florida have no laws regarding cell phone use. Since the large culprits are young people efforts have been put into technologies to help parents keep them on the right track. The Drivecam, something out of George Orwell’s 1984, provides real-time feedback of the vehicles driver so you can track your kids everywhere. AT&T’s ‘Drive Mode,’ an app which locks the phone until the destination is reached. Finally there is the ‘Text-Free-Driving Pledge,’ which you can find here http://www.textinganddrivingsafety.com.

 

Remember, texting and driving is incredibly dangerous no matter who you are. Some texters are willing to become hypocrites, they’ll see another driver looking around their car for something and say ‘that guy is unsafe, he isn’t looking at the road’ but when their phone vibrates they almost have an instinctive need to look. We must use common sense and wisdom to combat this, and we must pass these values to new drivers. If we want our roads to be safe texting and driving must stop!

 

Source: http://www.textinganddrivingsafety.com/texting-and-driving-stats/

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Aftermarket is described as “any market where customers who are searching to buy one product or service are likely to buy a related, follow-on product.” This simply means aftermarket products are made by other manufacturers outside of the original one, and are not directly affiliated with that manufacturer. The quality and legitimacy of these products has significant ranges, from cheap ‘knock-off’ purses which are coming apart at the seams in swap meets, to unofficial iPhone accessories available for purchase at the Apple Store. A case purchased for an iPhone not made by Apple is an aftermarket case.

 

Just like generic drugs flood pharmacies a year or two after the original drug becomes available, aftermarket parts have become a huge part of the auto industry. A friend of mine recently destroyed the bumper of his Toyota Camry and he asked me whether or not aftermarket was ‘bad,’ and I gave him a response similar to the paragraph above. His next question was “well, how are the aftermarket parts? Are they the cheap knock-offs or the iPhone cases?”

 

Aftermarket automobile parts range in quality quite drastically. You could order a part and have absolutely no problems, or, in the case of bad bumpers, you’ll find the plastic molded and warped in such a way that it doesn’t fit. Sometimes it does fit but it’s not stable, or the bumper sticks out somewhere ruining the smooth design of the car, leaving an unwanted eyesore. A lower risk is in CAPA certified parts. The Certified Automotive Parts Association performs dealer-style tests, testing resilience, flexibility, dimensions, and many others factors of each aftermarket part they receive. This guarantees that pretty much all CAPA certified parts are as good as dealer parts. Common sense dictates this isn’t always the case and you should still check your new part for any deformities or problems and be sure to ask for an exchange in the event of any problems.

 

After this my buddy gave it some thought. Since his car was almost sixteen years old and the paint had faded quite a bit he decided that he didn’t give a damn what it looked like as long as he and the inner structure were protected. This is the quintessential use of aftermarket parts: they have to fit you and your situation. Another example is a business using aftermarket parts for its damaged work vehicles, where aesthetics don’t matter but the safety of the vehicle and the driver does.

 

Then there are cases that are not as positive, such as your insurance carrier who is paying for a repair on your brand new vehicle insists that aftermarket parts replacement is in your policy. Those cases sometime end up in court

 

Whatever the case may be, now that you are armed with knowledge, you can make a decision whether aftermarket parts is the right option for you. Remember it is your vehicle and your  decision.

 

 

 

Our expert detailer George taking care of the last steps of the refinishing process

Our expert detailer George taking care of the last steps of the refinishing process

In California your car is much more than just a tool for getting place to place. It is seen as an extension of the driver, with each car being just as unique as the person behind the wheel. There are even some people who claim they are able to tell everything about a person just by looking at their vehicle. A long time ago, in fact over a hundred years ago now, Henry Ford said that you could get the Model T in any color, “as long as that color is black!”  Thankfully this is no longer the case. With thousands of colors to chose from, various tints for windows, rims ranging from all sizes, hilariously small to outrageously huge, and all sorts of other options and decorations available, it’s easy to see why the car has become so personal.

Certain technologies become more fragile as they grow in complexity, which is as true in electronics as it is in car paint. The more personal our cars become, the more we want to take care of them. The perfect fusion of these two ideas is best represented in what is known as the detail job. In short it is the complete cleaning, polishing, and waxing of the entire vehicle. But, it goes deeper than that. For instance, when a detailer uses special compound to buff your paint, he’s not just removing stuck dirt and light scratches. The compound actually mixes with the paint and increases its longevity and quality. There are plenty of people who do this on their own, but in Southern California you’ll find all the detail shops packed. Not only are people trying to keep their babies clean, they’re also trying to keep them protected.

Modern car paint is made from a special blend of chemicals and water, and is referred to as ‘water-based.’ It is an environmentally friendly spray paint, applied in special booths, and has an incredibly wide range of colors. Most cars come with two major layers of paint, the colored paint and a ‘clear coat.’ As its name suggests, the clear coat is not visible. Its purpose is to take as much damage before that damage reaches the actual paint. Damage comes from a variety of sources, the most major one being the weather. Long periods of direct Sun exposure and being covered in snow on incredibly cold days can permanently damage your cars paint, by either causing it to peel or turn a different color. Dangers to just the surface of the paint include oxidation and scratches. Deep scratches can cause very serious problems. The car paint does more than just make your car look good, it protects it. If you have a scratch deep enough to expose metal, that metal can rust, and could eventually rust out an entire panel.

With there being a demand for detailers, a large supply has popped up. While there are plenty of detail shops and licensed at home/mobile detailers, there are also many who operate without licenses, or even basic training. One should always be cautious and wary of what they are purchasing and who they are purchasing from. This includes car dealers themselves! Dealerships offer ‘clay protection coats as an add on to the vehicle price , just like power windows or navigation system. jobs.  In reality clay coat on your vehicle is nothing more than a glorified deatail job

A big thing to consider  is whether or not you’re getting enough bang for your buck. Dealers will charge you an arm and a leg and most of the time you’ll end up getting a good enough job, if not sub-par. With car washes you run the risk of subpar jobs and they definitely don’t  give each car the attention it needs. The easiest option is finding someone close to you with a detailer they trust, though that doesn’t guarantee the detailer knows what they’re doing. Always use caution and common sense when looking for good service! There are also online options such as yelp, and the reviews can lead you in the right direction.

The best type of detailer is the kind with a deep passion for what they do and attention to detail, and I can find a no better example than our shop’s own George Nieto. George treats every customer’s car as if it was his own, going through every nook and cranny and never missing a single step to make sure the car is just right. He holds a large amount of intimate knowledge regarding cars, paints, and detail supplies, so he always knows what car needs what and how much of it. He fully stands behind his work, and so do we. We wanted to offer our customers the best in both quality and protection, and thanks to George we can. If you find yourself in need of detail, especially when Spring and Summer start coming around, come by and let us take care of you. We promise you won’t be disappointed!

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With a recent move to Pasadena I get a lot of phone calls from Burbank customers. Surprisingly or due to my sincere desire for exceptional customer service approximately 75% of them are willing to go to Pasadena to get their vehicles repaired. But Pasadena is only 15 miles away from Burbank, a relatively short ride on the freeway. How far would you go to get the repair and customer service you deserve?

Former Los Angeles resident Mark Duncan drove his prized Porsche, 911 Carrera convertible all the way from Las Vegas to get repaired at Hilton Auto Collision Center. “I wouldn’t have it any other way!” exclaimed Mr. Duncan who moved to Vegas last year exploring a business opportunity.

Driving on Nevada highway Mark ran his valued speedster over something and cracked his bumper and radiator.” I didn’t even have to think about it,” exclaimed Mr. Duncan when he called me about his problem:” I already called my insurance company. I want you to take care of my baby.”

And I did just that. Aside from six thousand dollars bumper special ordered from Germany repair went smoothly. A month later Mark was back behind the wheel of his shining white cabriolet. “You did a beautiful job,” said Mark when I met him at a function in Burbank the day after he picked up his car:” It even feels like it has more pep and it drives better.