An attorney attending the meeting, Attorney John Eaves Jr., gave analogy he has frequently made during the many gatherings he has attended over the past year, comparing PartsTrader to a virus that has the potential to infect the collision repair industry and something that must ultimately be recognized as a consumer issue. Eaves advanced the opinion that the majority of the problems faced by the collision repair industry can be traced back to a failure to recognize and enforce the 1963 Consent Decree, a failure he is endeavoring to correct.
Economist Dr. Fred Jennings opened his segment by saying, “By coming together, you can accomplish things not possible otherwise,” a conclusion that emerged as a common theme for the evening. Jennings, who has extensively studied the collision repair industry, focused on labor rate suppression as compared to other trades with similar levels of training, skill and investment. He held to the opinion that the financial requirements necessary to succeed in the collision repair industry exceed those of the auto mechanical repair industry, yet the rate of compensation is less than half of what would be appropriate if it were not for influence from the insurance industry. He presented methods for establishing the cost of providing goods and services and establishing what a true rate of compensation should be when taking variables into consideration, concluding that only when all businesses determine for themselves what an acceptable level of profitability should be would a true free market business environment be possible.
Ron Peretta, shop owner and industry consultant, wrapped up the evening by encouraging shop owners to learn how to manage their businesses. He spoke of “creating a brand” by marketing, not simply advertising, and explaining the difference. He made the point that the path to successful marketing and customer loyalty can only be accomplished by establishing and maintaining four things: level of service, repair expedience, value, and foremost, consistency.