by Douglas Craig, Technical Application Engineer & Collision Industry Liaison, Structural Adhesives Tech Service, LORD Corporation
As the automotive collision repair market contracts across the country, the market is becoming more competitive; consequently, many shops are looking for alternative revenue streams.
There are many reasons why the auto collision repair industry is shrinking, including automobile construction, environmental regulations, repair equipment costs, an aging workforce, and retaining employees. Technological advancements in auto manufacturing have led to vehicles that are built to last longer. Safety innovations, such as collision avoidance systems not only help to prevent accidents by warning the driver of a potential collision, but, ultimately, also reduce the number of damaged cars that need repairs.
Some auto collision repair shops are finding it difficult to remain in business due to the expense of keeping pace with increased environmental regulations. Auto body painting restrictions, solvent recycling, hazardous waste considerations, and personnel safety equipment needs are all areas that require investment to meet government standards for shop operation. Even though these standards are good for the environment and personnel, they add to the costs of running a repair shop.
Repairing vehicles other than automobiles should not incur any extra investment for an auto body repair shop, nor does it require any extraordinary knowledge, techniques, products, or tools. Any vehicle that can be repaired and sold for market value can be an additional source of income.
The substrate body materials on ATVs, boats, snowmobiles and other recreational vehicles are similar to those found on autos. Collision repair shop technicians will be familiar with these materials – plastics, composites, aluminum, metals, fiberglass – and the products used to repair damage to these substrates. It is likely that no initial investment will be required to repair other types of vehicles.
Larger repair shops, such as those geared towards the heavy-duty trucking industry, might also consider repairing equipment used in farming, construction and industrial settings. The idea is to keep the focus on vehicles that can physically fit into your facility layout – automobile-size vehicles for a smaller shop and larger pieces of equipment for heavy-duty facilities. As an alternative, consider going into the field to perform repair operations.
If you have satisfied, regular customers that trust your shop and its technicians, you can build on that relationship to attract new business to repair different types of vehicles other than autos. Similarly, a customer that has been consistently using your repair shop and is happy with the service might be overlooking your shop as a potential place to repair these vehicles. The convenience of using a local repair shop can be a big draw for both existing and new customers.
There should be no concern about what repair products or equipment are required for repairing recreational vehicles – it’s the same products that are used for auto repair! Auto collision repair shops have these products on hand, ready to repair any vehicle – metal-bonding adhesives, plastic-bonding adhesives, cross-bonding adhesives, repair adhesives for rigid and flexible substrates, two-component seam sealers. The same tools and equipment are used for repair operations, also, such as manual and pneumatic dispensing guns for adhesives and seam sealers.
Many suppliers also offer informational sheets featuring Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for properly bonding metal or fixing plastic substrates in any application. The SOPs offer details on identifying a repair, choosing the right repair product, preparing the substrate surface, applying the repair product, and finishing the repair. Technical tips teach technicians the key steps for repairing damaged vehicles, and help with determining if repairs are cosmetic or structural.
Repairing alternate types of vehicles is really simpler than you might expect. If you are bonding metals on a snowmobile, you are still bonding metal. If you are repairing a flexible plastic part, you are still fixing a flexible plastic part. If you are bonding aluminum-to-aluminum or aluminum-to-steel or steel-to-steel or steel-to-fiberglass on any type of vehicle, the repair products and processes are still the same.
For an auto collision repair shop, diversifying the repair menu can be a potential revenue stream. Bringing in different types of vehicles for repair can keep a shop functioning and busy, and help with employee retention, while providing better overall service to an expanding customer base.