Judging by Zoom is working well except for the motion sickness factor for the judges.
We kicked off on Thursday afternoon from my house and the first couple of shops we ‘zoomed’ were just up the road. In fact we could have driven to our first port of call Q West Collision in the time it took to get connected - Mouhammed and Joanna Dandan were Zoom virgins.
We decided to judge Victoria and New South Wales at the same time as we thought that some of the Victorian shops would be a bit quieter given the lockdown. Everyone there was struggling with the mask wearing but on the whole the shops we spoke to were very positive with a healthy ‘it is what it is’ attitude. However, it’s clear that this second lockdown is likely to be more damaging than the first one. Here's a round up for the businesses we talked to on our first day and half of judging. Photos have either been provided or are from previous visits - and they are scarce as we weren't there to take them in person.
Q West Collision NSW
This is a new shop which handles ‘out of scope’ work for a number of insurers and volume shops in the area. In just six weeks from taking the keys, Q-West is up and running. I visited last week when it had just opened. I visited the shop just as it opened a few months ago where the plan was to rent out the front section to a gym as the place was so huge Mouhammed didn’t think they would need it. He had also reserved a section of the workshop for mechanical. Neither of these plans transpired as the shop has been so busy, they need every square centimetre. Even through lockdown there was still more than enough work.
Parramatta Smash Repairs NSW
We haven’t visited this shop for a few years when they were just beginning to refurbish. The shop is absolutely enormous as is the car park out back. The business has invested in a new Lowbake paint room, and a smart, well laid out workshop. They have also created a standalone workshop for Mercedes-Benz with a separate area for their BMW and Lexus workshop. It’s a top notch facility.
Pat’s Bodyworks VIC
Moving over to Victoria we were given a tour of this well presented business, which has a huge yard out the back. It’s a productive shop that manages 25-30 cars a week with just six technicians. There’s some diversification in the business with some restoration and not just of cars. The second lockdown has seen a significant drop in volume.
Dianne and Pete Ruggeri created one of the most gorgeous boutique shops ever but has handed it over to their children. They love the industry too much to ‘go fishing’ so have set up a Mercedes-Benz dedicated facility around the corner and it is stunning - just in a more corporate fashion that the previous business. They are total perfectionists and even the fridge in the lunch room is Benz grey and sports the logo.
Second generation repairer Ian Bower has been carving himself out a tidy ‘empire’ around Newcastle and is also entering the Best MSO. Bower showed us his latest shop - a new build covering 2200m2. The business is Toyota approved and does mainly fleet and insurance work. The corporate green maybe to bring to mind another MSO but the Bower family has used the it for many years. This shop specialised in drivable and medium hits and repairs around 60 cars per week.
Coburg Super Finish Vic
This is ultimate family business - the second generation of two brothers, a sister and an impressive menagerie of animals. Firmly embedded in the local community Coburg benefits from fiercely loyal clientele who are thoroughly educated on choice of repairer. It’s great to see a family so happy in their work and proud of their business.
IQ Autobody VIC
Jason and Sandra Noach have created a profitable niche in drivable repairs. Their relationships with dealers have led to the creation of AutoX a dealer-sold membership product which means that large scratches, damaged wheels and small dents are covered by AutoX and they bring their cars to IQ Autobody for repairs or IQ comes to them with its mobile units. This new facility is stunning. As many of the repairs are ‘while you wait’, the Noaches have created industry-leading customer facilities. The workshop is just as stylish.
Berwick Motor Body Repairs VIC
Another well established and large facility in Victoria with a separate factory for express repairs. Berwick is Toyota approved and usually repairs around 45 to 55 cars per week including heavy structural. The business is proud of its turnaround times which greatly improved once the fast track factory was established.
Fix Auto Sunshine VIC
Fresh from its sophisticated rebrand the team at Fix Auto Sunshine has really embraced being part of the Fix Auto family and is excited for the future of the business. The business was established in 1969 and second generation John Gebing and his wife Nicole took over in 2017. It’s not often you see a home built ‘chassis bench’ - and it’s huge.
LA Autobody VIC
Another second generation business going strong. Clearly passionate both about the business and cars the team repair race cars for the Porsche Carrera Cup. They have recently moved to a bigger factory across the road from the original business. There’s some diversification with windscreen replacement, ceramic coating and detailing, wheel repairs , leather and trim repair as well as electrical and calibration. It’s a nice tidy workshop and spotless paint room.
Boutique Autobody VIC
Super smart boutique shop with plenty of space and nice big bays. All the cars are covered when they aren’t worked on and there’s not a spec of dust visible. Boutique is an I-CAR Gold shop and also Holden approved. Ross Spataro is a total perfectionist and very proud of the quality of repairs the team produces.
European Auto Refinishers VIC
The Degan brothers were rocking their masks, but have been hard hit by the second lockdown and have their technicians on four days a week. It’s a big shops specialising in prestige and is very well equipped. Sadly the brothers lost their father a year ago and they have taken over the reins of the business.
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