2020 has been a rough year for Queenslanders - even if the bars were open sooner.

While the state’s early success in quarantining COVID saw many companies continue unaffected, many others saw their business hit by the inevitable tourism downturn.

“There are a lot of accidents up here with tourists on roundabouts. And driving on the wrong side of the road,” laughs Corey Croft, office manager at ASR Collision Specialists. “So, understandably, we’ve been hugely affected by the lack of tourism.”

For instance, the Cairns bodyshop, situated right by the airport,  went from an average of 75 cars a week in February, down to about 30 on premises. Meanwhile, the number of quotes had dropped from 120 down to about 40 per week.

In something of a silver lining, the 35-year old company finished construction on a major expansion to its premises.

Founded by Garry Gilholm in 1978, Airport Smash Repairs (as it was then known) has grown from a single site to a multi-tiered business, with its ASR Prestige brand launching in 2015, and Prestige Paint last year.

In 2019, ASR was bestowed with the James Cook University Business Excellence Award, recognising its overall achievements, but focusing specifically on its customer service.

Handling upmarket vehicles such as Porsche and Audi, ASR Prestige captures almost the entire demographic in Cairns, with the nearest comparable bodyshop in Townsville.

In May, ASR opened the rollers on its new paint shed, in which they installed a new Pan Spraybooth. “We’ve got two compressors as well so we’ve always got a standby,” says Croft. “And we’ve got a wheel re-alignment system next door.”

When the roof went up on the new paint shed, the team at ASR decided to reconfigure the entire site, moving the delivery shed to the opposite side of the complex to allow for a better customer experience and repainting every structure to match the new branding.

While the Prestige brand has its own shopfront, designed in the language of the modern European dealership, Gilholm believes it’s those old-time values that account for ASR’s longevity.

“There’s still a country feel up here in Cairns,” says Gilholm. “People like dealing with local businesses. And that’s why some of the bigger corporates can’t hold on.”

It’s with that manner of service in mind that Croft and Gilholm designed their onboarding process, where a customer service officer will greet the client in their car, take their details and direct them on their merry way.

“Our customer service officers have a laptop, and they meet customers outside,” says Croft. “They often pull in and they don’t know where to go, they don’t know what they’re doing, and so we want to make that first interaction easy.”

Once their car is taken into the estimators bay, customers are guided into the lounge where tea, coffee and bottled water is available. We’ve got wifi in here for customers to use if they need to wait fifteen minutes to half an hour,” says Croft. “But if it’s any longer than that, we give them a business card and they can drive down the road and get a coffee.”

And thankfully, it looks as though 2020 was merely a blip on an otherwise upward trajectory. And while times are still undoubtedly tough - especially for a business with a big new investment and 23 staff on their books - everyone’s hoping things’ll get better soon.

judges' comments

Sam Street

Rebranding, a dedicated prestige area and a firm eye on the future makes this a business poised for the next decade at least. ASR has probably been one of the hardest hit repairers in the area Covid-wise but the team have taken it in their stride.


Judge Powell

ASR keeps getting bigger and bigger – with separate paint and panel areas plus a dedicated aluminium repair facility to cater for those Jaguars, Land Rovers and the occasional Porsche.

shop stats

size: 2100m2

type of work: All types

staff: 24

Cars per week: 75-80

OEM: Jaguar Land Rover

comments powered by Disqus