Posts Tagged ‘Auto Body Repair’

Blending adjacent panels

Blending adjacent panels

A long time patron of our establishment who is a professional photographer came by our shop last week to show me his new vehicle, 2015 sparkling silver, grey Honda Odyssey. A proud father of three lovely, young girls he really needed this sleek minivan for his soccer mom duties. He came by to share the joy of this acquisition with his favorite body shop guy, but as soon as he got here, he started to look at his new Honda in a funny, confused way.

“Is there anything wrong with this picture?” he inquired looking intently at the back bumper of his van. Paying attention to details for a living the man noticed that the bumper on his vehicle was a shade darker than the rest of it.” How could this be?” he continued with concern in his eyes:” Did the dealer sell me a new car with a repaired bumper? Did I just buy a lemon car?”

“Take it easy,” I said:” let me see if I can shed some light on your problem.” Actually I found that one of the leading automotive paint manufacturers, PPG addressed this problem in their press release. They cite four causes for color variations.

A color can vary depending on the surface on which it is painted. For example, the evaporation rate for solvent varies over metal or plastic. A longer rate gives a flake pigment additional time to” float” and can darken the face of the color.

The body was painted on the production line at the factory while other parts such as bumpers were painted at another location using a different application method.

Slight adjustments can be made during application creating a darker or a lighter color or causing metallics to lay down differently.

Light reflects differently on curved and flat surfaces causing the appearance of a color shift.



Modern collision repair shops have to be very mindful of this problem because there is nothing like an unhappy customer who thinks he got short changed. Complaints range from – they didn’t use factory paint to paint my bumper to – these guys just don’t know how to match the paint.


In real life it is a complicated process to create a perfect match. At times the same formula paint code could be several different shades depending on where the vehicle was originally painted. Paint manufacturers recommend that paint technicians spend additional time to match colors and to use spray out test panels before spraying a bumper as well as blending adjacent panels to create a perfect match. For example to paint a rear bumper on a candy apple red Toyota we had to spray adjacent quarter panels to get desired match. Please refer to the photo.


Of course, recommended procedures generate additional cost. Consumers and Insurance companies often cringe at additional costs. We hear vehicle owners saying things like I just want to paint my bumper, not the whole car. And we hear insurance adjustors simply telling us that their company policy is not to pay for that.


So what is the solution to this problem? It is to keep everyone involved educated and informed and to let sophisticated 21st Century consumers make an informed decision on how to paint their vehicle based on facts. This article is a first step.





Daewoo Leganza

Daewoo Leganza

They say in order to sell a product you have to put it into customer’s hands. Similarly in order to sell a car you have to put consumer behind its wheel. At least that was the idea when Korean automaker Daewoo Motors brought a line of reasonably priced vehicles to sell in United States. Three different models; Lanos, Nubira and Leganza were introduced to a saturated American auto market in 1997.

The marketing idea was simple and seemed brilliant on paper. Daewoo would give anybody a vehicle to test drive for 90 days for free. You could either buy the car or give it back at the end of 90 day test drive period. The idea was that once you are driving this car it becomes yours and you will find a way to keep it. It really sounded like a fantastic and innovative idea at a time. My nephew who was attending Moorpark City College bought his first new car, pewter Daewoo Leganza like that.

In fact a great number of students signed up for test drive. Unfortunately not all good ideas work in real life. Technically not being responsible for their vehicles for the first 90 days kids thrashed their vehicle within first thirty days. Many first time drivers who were able to get the car that way got in accidents and a great number of youngsters just thrashed their vehicles and then returned them. In short this brilliant market plan was a complete disaster.

Five years later Daewoo Motors disappeared from American auto market. This morning I saw beige, 2000 Daewoo Leganza with fading paint job at my mechanic’s shop in Pasadena. I haven’t seen on the road in years. “It’s a piece of crap,” complained Mike:” You can’t get any original parts for it.” That’s a fact unless you have connections in Korea.

Not all Korean automobiles are crap. Two other major automakers from Korea, Hyundai and Kia have been enjoying ascending popularity in the American Auto market as of late. But Daewoo was just one of those ideas that never materialized in United States.

DSC09167 DSC09170

Twenty first century brought us the invention of a smart phone, social media and much increased expectations of superior customer service. The big round world called earth has gotten much smaller. For example I can communicate with my cousin in Germany over Skype as if he was next door.

More and more I get requests from our customers for repair estimates for their vehicles to be made just from photographs that are sent via email or text from their phones. A trip to the local body shop to get an estimate on minor repair to the vehicle takes time. Time is money. Why not get an idea of what it would cost from the photos? Isn’t that one of the reasons they invented a smart phone?

It seems like a great idea. So why do I discourage customers from doing that? Because unless you are a professional photographer and know a lot about shades and lighting and right angles, pictures might be misleading.  Bringing up that point I usually get a response:” I just need to get an idea of what it would cost. I want hold you to it.”

This puts me in a conundrum.  On one hand I would like to make you happy and accommodate your request and save your valuable time, on the other hand I am concerned that the idea you would get from photos could be far from reality and thus create a conflict.

Imagine getting an email from me that based on your photos the repair should cost you about $500.00. You are happy. It is less than you expected. You schedule a repair and drop off the car at the body shop. Next day you get a call or email stating that the part actually needed to be replaced not repaired and the cost of repairs is $1500.00 and not $500.00. Your first is – this guy is a crook!

Now through no fault of my own, instead of gaining a loyal customer because of a special service I was willing to provide, I lose a client, but more than that I get an unhappy motorist who most likely will bad mouth my establishment.

“But I explained to you how inaccurate virtual estimate could be based on a photo and you told me you will not hold me to it!” explanations become meaningless when a consumer feels that he has been wronged by a body shop. One negative comment is worth ten positive ones.

What is the solution? After careful consideration I decided to offer mobile estimates. If you are really strapped for time and are willing to pay a little for the service, we will be offering mobile estimates beginning in January, 2015. We will come to your home or office and prepare a professional estimate using a tablet technology. The estimate will be promptly emailed to you. Of course an estimate is still only an estimate, because you never know what you will find once the vehicle is taken apart, but this will ensure maximum possible accuracy. The fee charged will be refunded when you bring your vehicle for repairs.

I need your feedback. Would this be of benefit to you? Please let me know.

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.

seriously it's a sweet building

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