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Automotive Paint Supply Shop’s Alternative Paths

The best way to avoid business downfalls is to be proactive. It is just like with our health. Your doctor probably told you that it is much easier and cheaper to treat your body and mind as top priority than to deal with illnesses piled due to bad habits and negligence. Well, business health is no exemption. If you run a shop or a warehouse for automotive collision repair industry, this article is for you.

Threats of the industry

Paint supply in the automotive refinishing industry is a mature and saturated industry. In most of the parts of the world, it grows at a rather moderate pace, and, therefore, doing business becomes more and more difficult. Competition is very high and profits are shrinking. Additionally, international groups buy one shop after another. Consolidation is ruthless and imminent threat to the independent body and paint suppliers. In parallel, supplying automotive paint requires more investment in training, expensive equipment and fine-tuned stock management. Thus, regardless of what state your market is in now, it would be wise to safeguard your future by not putting all the eggs in the same basket. I strongly advice to broaden your products offering and enter one or more from the below mentioned industries.

Industrial paints

Probably the closest product range to automotive paints are the industrial paint systems. Usually the automotive coatings producers can supply mix systems for the light industry as well. Additionally, if you trade automotive paint, then it will not be a big issue to master the niceties of any industrial coating system. However, what is the target market for the industrial coatings? You will be pleasantly surprised how many potential customers are out there. Agricultural machinery, metal construction workshops, various machine shops, sign makers, contractors, you name it. Examples of such mixing systems are Selemix (PPG), Lechsys (Lechler), Ivat, Alcea, Rembrandtin (Helios) and many others. Imagine that with a good industrial mixing scheme you have a mini paints factory at your disposal. Just change binders…

Marine and yachting coatings

If you are lucky to live by the sea, ocean, river or a big lake, then there is a great chance to offer marine and yachting coatings. Whether it is a small fiberglass boat, sailing boat, commercial ship or a mega yacht, they must be protected, refurbished and maintained. The scope of the products include antifouling paints, epoxy primers, topcoats, cleaners, polishes and a great deal of the auxiliary products. Keep in mind that sometimes there is seasonality factor in this industry.

Furniture and wood coatings

It doesn’t matter which country you are in, there are always furniture factories somewhere close to you. Believe it or not, but wooden tables and chairs are painted in a similar way with the car. A painter needs abrasives, spray guns, masking tapes, personal protection products and coatings of course. Even if you decide not to invest in a stock of wood and furniture coatings, there is still a great number of consumables you could sell to this market.

Detailing products and car wash supplies

Detailing shops spring up like mushrooms after the rain all over the place. As people get more educated how to protect their vehicles’ appearance, the demand for the detailing products is growing. Among the products you probably already have on your shelves are polishing compounds, pads, microfiber wipes and polishing machines. Earn new customers by adding shampoos, dressings, washing machines and greater variety of the cleaning products, and you will see your sales growing from the completely different customers pool of hobbyist and professionals.

DIY and construction paints

I have seen many customers of mine, who grew up their range to a full size hardware store with paints, tools and accessories needed for any household. It is a big move, I must admit, because the whole philosophy of the store will must be altered. Selling automotive paints is primarily a B2B business model, while a hardware store carries a big variety of the goods aimed to the non-professional customers or B2C. It is very important to understand the difference. On the other hand, if the collision repair business is declining, then it is a one-way road to enlarge your offerings and target much bigger customer base.

Conclusion

I strongly believe that any entrepreneur should keep his or her eyes open for the new opportunities. The above-mentioned list is not an exhaustive one, of course. There could be many more other related or completely unrelated industries one could consider. The main takeaway from this humble article is that it is much better to stay tuned for an additional revenue, and, who knows, it may turn out a saving vest in difficult times.

Ceramic coatings from the painter’s point of view.

Undoubtedly, ceramic coatings, or nano/glass coatings, have taken the automotive aftermarket by storm. Let me refer to these products, by generic term “ceramic coatings” further in the article. Dozens of brands have appeared, and each of them claims the best results, ultimate gloss and protection, which lasts for years. Some colleagues of mine, those who are not coming from the detailing business, but from regular bodyshops, have been asking my opinion about ceramic coatings. From my humble opinion, ceramic coatings came here to stay, and there are some very decent brands, which deliver on their promises. Vehicles treated with such coatings look better than new, are easy to wash, and such a treatment raises the overall vehicle’s value. However, I do believe that not all the customers need ceramic coating, and that there is a big information gap. I hope to clarify some questions and bust some myths in this article.

What is a ceramic coating?

Ceramic coating is a liquid polymer based on SiO2 silica, which is applied to clean and polished vehicle clearcoat. The bond between the coating and clearcoat is not chemical, but mechanical. It means that there is no chemical reaction between the coating and the paint/clear.  The particles of ceramic coatings usually are much smaller than the pores of a paint/clearcoat, therefore they penetrate the paint film, and when cured, create a strong bond on nanomolecular level between the coating and automotive clearcoat. This is why many brands add the term “nano” to their products description.

Lasts forever?

Ceramic coatings are not permanent, but semi-permanent, meaning that after some time, which varies from producer to producer, it will wear off and loose its properties. In order to prolong the protective properties, a customer will need to visit a detailing shop for so-called maintenance, which varies from once per two years to a few times per each year. Nano or ceramic coatings are harder than traditional car paints and do provide better water and dirt repellence, but it is not like apply-once-and-forget system.

Hard like diamond?

Most of the brands in protective coatings claim that their product withstands mechanical stress (scratching) equal to 9H. Customers and applicators use this figure all the time, without actually realizing what it means. Personally I didn’t like Physics at school, but thanks to my studies in the military school, I have some understanding of hardness as a physical parameter (the rest skills acquired remained completely unused). Hardness is not measured in just one way, and, in fact, there are several methods to test and measure material’s hardness (coatings in our case). The difference between the measurement systems is substantial. For example, if you use Mohs measuring system, then 9H would refer to almost the highest level of hardness, which is the level of corundum (a form of aluminium oxide). The highest level is 10H, which is a diamond. I wish there would be a coating, which could deliver such protection, but it is not achievable for the time being. There is a simple test to check the credibility of the statement. If you take a dried crystal of any ceramic coating and try to scratch the glass surface, you will realize that it is not possible to leave a scratch. Glass is much harder as a material, and, as we know, only diamond (10H hardness), can scratch and cut a piece of glass. So, what is this 9H measurement on ceramic coatings ads? In fact, there is another measurement system, which is used to measure hardness of a material, and it is called Wolff-Wilborn test, or simply pencil test. This system was initially developed in order to standardize production of pencils. Probably you have noticed already that all the pencils carry a certain marking, like 2B, HB, H1 etc. So, according to this system, a surface which cannot be scratched by pencil with 9H hardness at 45 degree angle can be characterized as 9H hard. Of course, this measurement has nothing to do with diamond. Therefore the promised 9H hardness is nothing more than a marketing trick.

Clearcoat vs Ceramic Coating

It is very important for a vehicle owner to understand what additional protection properties would a ceramic coating offer to his vehicle. In fact, the customer will be paying big money exactly for the difference in scratch resistance between the clearcoat and chosen ceramic coating. But are the parameters of the equation always the same? Of course not.  Simply because clearcoats from different car manufacturers are not the same either. If you compare the clearcoat’s hardness of the European, and, especially German vehicles, with the Japanese vehicles, you will realize that the German clearcoats are much thicker and harder. Therefore, if you apply a ceramic coating on a Japanese or Korean car, the improvement of scratch resistance properties will be noticeable. If you do the same application on certain BMWs, for example, the difference might be negligible. Of course, my explanation is too general, and the only way to understand how hard is the clearcoat – try polishing it. Key scratching test is not advisable.  From our experience, the highest improvement of hardness on a vehicle after ceramic application will be up to 2H. Not more.

Car accident. Now what?

While it is great to discuss how shiny will a vehicle look after ceramic coating’s application, let’s not forget that ceramic coatings do not protect from accidents. Sorry if I ruined your day. I wish there were such coatings (or maybe not, what are we going to sell then to bodyshops…). In reality though, vehicles with ceramic coatings are actually much harder to repair. This is a very important piece of information, which coating applicators usually never give to their customers. Let me explain why actually the repair of the coated car is a headache for car painters.

Imagine that a vehicle protected by ceramic coating has an accident, where its rear door is damaged and requires a paint job. Very few people, besides car repair professionals, know that in many cases in order to make the paint job invisible for the human eyes, a certain procedure – blending or fading out – must be done. This process is necessary to “trick” human eye into believing that there is perfect paint match between the painted part and the adjacent areas. In our case most probably rear fender and front door will be also partially sprayed. I don’t want to get into details of the blending process, because for the car painters it is a part of their everyday job, but for the common car owner it is unnecessary information. Simply speaking, a car painter, who is performing the blending process on a coated vehicle, will need firstly to remove completely ceramic coating from the adjacent parts. This must be done in order to avoid delamination of the new clearcoat from the surface covered by ceramic coating. Normally we apply a blending thinner to soften the old clearcoat and avoid visible border. However, ceramic coating is invisible, and, if a painter doesn’t even know that the vehicle was protected, it will definitely cause problems.

How to remove ceramic coating?

One can remove ceramic coating by sanding (which is okay on the repaired part, but not on the adjacent parts) or by polishing. The problem is that there is no visible sign whether the ceramic coating has been polished out or not. In fact, all the risk and extra work lie on the shoulders of a car painter. Will he get paid for this additional task? I don’t think so.

The very minimum what a professional detailer and ceramic coating applicator should do is to keep customer informed what should be done if the vehicle has an accident. He must provide all the information how the coating can be quickly and safely removed as well.

Conclusion

As I already mentioned, ceramic coatings have become a part of the modern car care industry. Taking into account that car appearance is about 30% of its value, protecting a car will certainly pay off. On the other hand, not all vehicles will benefit from ceramic coating in the same way. In many cases, regular waxing of a vehicle will help in keeping the car’s clearcoat bright and shiny without spending hundreds of hard-earned euros or dollars on ceramic coating application. Another important consideration is the difficulties  ceramic coatings may cause during the process of accident repair. It is still unclear who should bear additional costs of the refinishing job. I also strongly recommend car refinishing shops to consider offering application of ceramic coating as an additional service to the customers. Instead of complaining why customers go to detailing shops, turn lemons into lemonade and earn additional income.

 

How to Reply to Unspoken Questions with Unspoken Answers…

Today’s post was written by Bud Abraham (Oregon, USA), who is the owner of Detail Plus Car Appearance Systems. Bud also runs a very successful blog with numerous articles, which will help not only detailers, but all car repair professionals, to boost their performance.

Preface

Even if this article Bud wrote for car detailers, the principles described here are 100% applicable to the collision repair shops owners. Indeed, taking care of your customers’ cars is a service, and impression or “feeling” as Bud is referring to it, is the key for success or a cause of poor customer satisfaction. What I particularly liked, is the idea of VAS (value added services), which do not cost a lot, but leave a sweet aftertaste. Car body shop repair shop should, for example, deliver the vehicle to a customer clean and with pleasant scent applied. There are many inexpensive ways to make your customer feel good. These small things will put your business ahead of the competition and bring you returning and happy customers. 

“Being in the detail business you are in the “service industry,” versus the much easier task of selling products.

As a detail business owner much of your success, realize it or not, is based on the 80% principle: “Over 80% of how your customer decides if you did a good or a bad job is based on their relationship with you.”

Yes, success in the detail business is largely based on your customer’s “FEELINGS.”

But there is good news/bad news to this story….

The “bad news” is that customers do feel uncomfortable, vulnerable and even intimidated (especially women) when they leave their vehicle with you. For many you are a tolerated irritation for customers.

The “good news” is that you can manage this, and the feelings of your customers with “valued added services.”

Unspoken Questions & Unspoken Answers

No doubt you very often hear verbal questions such as “How much for…? or “Do you use a buffer on my paint?” or “How long will it take for the carpets to dry?” And, of course, the “How soon can you fit me in?”

But the customer does have questions that they don’t verbalize. For example here are some of the “Unspoken Questions:

  1. Can I trust this person? Will they steal something from my vehicle? Will they damage my vehicle?
    Sure you and your employees are trustworthy, BUT a first time customer does not know this.
  2. Are they going break something and not tell me?
  3. Will they do the job correctly, no swirls in the paint? How will I even know if the job is done right?
  4. Will they stick with their quoted price, or call me and tell me that they have found something that is going to take more time and cost more money?

The BIG question for you is the “Moment of Truth” Unspoken Answers that you provide to reassure the first time customer.

The value added services you can provide goes a long way to provide answers to the Unspoken Questions.

Whatever value added service (VAS) you provide: a paint sealant vs a wax; a anti-stain treatment on carpets; water repellant on the windshield are all things that have value for the customer and do not cost you much of anything.

The result of the VAS is “cheerleaders” that will sing the praises to everyone they know about you and your detail business.

So try to remember your customers have Unspoken Questions to which you can give Unspoken Answers. It is all about how much time and attention you provide the first time customer. Take your time with all customers so their Unspoken Questions are answered.

This is what makes for a successful detail business not how well you buff the scratches out a paint finish or how clean you make the interior.

As always, good detailing”

 

 

Tip 6. How to increase your bodyshop revenue by repairing damages of the car interior?

__________ 3

It was a long time since I wrote my last tip about the ways to increase income revenue in your bodyshop. This one will tell you how to get extra dollars, euros or pesos by repairing burns, tears, cuts and stains on car parts made of leather, vinyl or fabric.

My primary goal in this post is not to get into technical details, but to give you a few ideas where to earn and how to offer your customers this service. Some of you may say that this is not your job and that it is very difficult. My reply is “no” for both objections. Whatever has to do with car’s appearance, a bodyshop can offer a solution. If many detailing shops offer spot paint jobs, why a collision repair facility can’t offer cosmetic repairs? Do you know that sometimes customers will negotiate persistently about the price of bonnet’s refinishing, while they easily pay high price for their leather seat repair? Take a note here.

__________ 1

Repair kits are the best solution to start with.

First of all, we need to find where to buy all the necessary equipment and professional training. My advice is not to rely solely on the internet. If you find a good price for start up kit (and you should go for a kit rather than a few separate tools and materials), check if you can get quickly some training. Don’t go for DIY kits, which will most likely give amateur results. You are a professional, and all the services you provide must have professional quality results. From my experience, this kind of cosmetic repair jobs may require one or two days training course maximum, but you really need it to avoid expensive mistakes. Remember, don’t mess with clients leather seat!

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Some of the best systems in the market (the list is not exclusive, just author’s suggestion)

  1. Fenice Care System, Italywww.fenicecs.com
  2. Ayce Systems, UK www.aycesystems.com
  3. HBC System Smarttool Production, Denmark www.HBC-system.com
  4. Bradleys Smart International, UK www.bradleysmart.co.uk
  5. Vinyl Pro, USA www.vinylprosem.com

Before choosing the system, go through the company’s online presence, especially videos on YouTube, read some reviews, ask the sales rep questions about return on investment and cost of consumables.

How to offer car interior repair service?

As any service you provide in the bodyshop, car interior repairs should be also marketed and promoted properly. A few steps should be followed:

  1. Prepare a brochure with pictures before and after the repair process.
  2. Inform insurance companies about the new service
  3. Make a special package with some other service at discounted price
  4. Post your jobs pictures and videos on a website, Facebook and any other social media channels
  5. Make a few free repairs to your good customers and friends. Remember word of mouth is the best advertising ever.

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To conclude, I really recommend you to consider leather, fabric and vinyl repairs as additional source of income for your bodyshop. Investment is not big, learning cycle is short, and it will create a competitive advantage over your competitors.

Tip 3. Easy way to increase bodyshop revenue. Offer pre-sale car repair services.

Tip 3. Easy way to increase bodyshop revenue. Offer
pre-sale car repair services.

 
Selling car

Everyday
people around us decide to sell their car, and statistics says that for every
Euro (Dollar, Pound, Ruble etc) spent on minor car repair, one will get 3 Euro
(Dollar, Pound, Ruble etc) more in sales price! Good-looking, shiny, clean
vehicle will be much easier to sell, faster and at higher value. This is where
any body shop and collision repair center could add an additional service –
pre-sale repair package. As all our tips, the Tip 3 also doesn’t require costly
investments or long training; making car nice and glossy is your job anyway.
Below I put a few ideas how you can do this.

-    
Car cleaning service. This is actually an optional part.
If you can’t be bothered with cleaning and washing, just ask your customer to
visit car washer before.

-     
Removal of stone chips, scratches,
scuffs and dents
.
Let’s face it, even a relatively new car after a few months of driving in the
modern urban jungle will acquire a few deep scratches, not to mention stone
chips, which will spot themselves very easily.

-     
Professional polishing services.
Car refinishing professional is
actually a vehicle dermatologist, and no one could treat paint coating better
then car painter. Make it clear to a potential car seller that general
appearance of the vehicle is perhaps the single most important selling point!

-     
Alloy wheel repair. Many people neglect the look of
their vehicle’s wheel rims, but, no doubt, when car is being sold those nasty
deep scratches will be more then visible.

-     
Repairing dull yellowish head lights
(see our Tip
1
). Some of the vehicles in the market have very “tired” head lights,
not to mention those with one head light replaced after a small crash. In just
15-20 minutes you can offer to the customer a service with incredible added
value.

-     
Fixing damaged bumper.
Actually I described this service
in details in our Tip
2

-     
Mechanic check up. This service a collision repair
shop could offer in co-operation with his fellow mechanic, while splitting
advertising costs for the package.

-     
Prepare a detailed leaflet with
“Pre-sale must-do check list”.
Even if a customer for some reason will not take any service, he or she
will appreciate your advice and use your services in the future. Such a list
should have useful information. For example, advice that selling used vehicle
is much better in late spring rather then in winter (presenting car in rain and
snow is not easy). Also, state how important is to have original keys, manuals,
complete maintenance and service documentation in place.

 
Selling car 2

To
conclude, I would like to share a few tips prior offering pre-sale repair
package to a customer:

  1. Make sure that you are not
    selling repairs, which would be too costly or not worth of money in
    particular case. Show that you don’t want customer wasting money. Remember
    that satisfied customer will tell to 3 friends about your offer, while
    unhappy one will spread bad new to at least 10 acquaintances.
  2. Have some pictures of each
    service showing “before” and “after” condition. This will help a customer
    to visualize what exactly you offer.
  3. Above mentioned service could
    be offered as package or separately. Give you customer possibility to
    choose.
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