Ready to take on all challenges
Pleasant Hill, Calif.—By pursuing certified aluminum repair and working on any vehicle that comes through the doors without exception, Aaron Silva at Pleasant Hill Collision Repair stays busy.
Repairing 50-60 vehicles every month out of a 6,500-square-foot facility employing a crew of eight, Silva runs a lean operation with an emphasis on efficiency and quality.
“Our goal is to dedicate at least three to four full hours every day to each and every car we have here,” he said. “It all differs with each vehicle and is based on the brand as well. We get an equal amount of fender benders versus bigger hits and our workload consists of roughly 60 percent Asian nameplates. We get a lot of Hondas, Toyotas and Mazdas, recently, a lot more Subarus and Teslas as the market is changing.”
While many shops lean on their computer management systems for their day-to-day operations, Silva decided many years ago to do things differently.
“In many cases, updating the information on these systems requires a lot of time — time that we can use to fix the cars,” he said. “If I want to see what is going on with any vehicle we are working on, all I need to do is look into the shop. We use CCC for estimating, but I’ve never seen a true need for a management system. If you ask me right now what’s in the shop, I know each vehicle and the stage it’s in and who is working on it at all times.”
To make certain that Pleasant Hill Collision Repair integrates only original factory parts in its repairs, Silva said we are going directly to the source as often as possible.
“We have great relationships with many of our local car dealerships in this area and that helps us to use OEM parts almost exclusively. If the insurance company insists on an aftermarket part, we do everything in our power to get the factory part instead.”
Price-matching systems have been a solid solution for Pleasant Hill Collision.
“We use CollisionLink and Parts Trader with our estimating system and have had a lot of success with them,” he said. “Based on our experience, we try to stay away from aftermarket bumpers that range from decent to just simply unusable. If something does not fit properly, we will not to use it, because we won’t ever sacrifice our quality to please the insurance company.”
Silva has repaired a wide range of exotic brands over the years and relishes the challenge, but did have a little reservation to fix Teslas.
“We’re more than willing to work on them as there are a lot in our area. But, Tesla has done everything they can for us not to touch them, even though they don’t have enough certified shops around here to do the work. Getting parts has been our biggest challenge. We’re capable and open to the idea of getting Tesla-certified and we’re not afraid to invest in the necessary training, tools and equipment. They’re great vehicles with a ton of complex onboard technology (ADAS systems, autopilot systems, etc.), so you have to commit and invest if you want to repair them.”
If somebody wanted to get into this industry, Silva could offer some sage advice based on his many years of experience. “Consolidation is not going anywhere with us. Yes, independent shops have to work a little harder to hit their numbers but the personal rewards are great. A few chains have moved into the neighborhood, but it hasn’t affected our volume, because we have created a reputation for quality and standing behind our work. To succeed today, it’s all about training and knowledge. You can have the right equipment, but if you can’t use it, what is the point?”
Down the road
Tied to his community by supporting local schools and youth soccer teams, he gets a lot of exposure in the Pleasant Hill, Concord and Walnut Creek area without doing any marketing or advertising.
“My daughters have all played sports here in town and our involvement is a win-win. By sponsoring these youth programs as well as College Park High School’s sports teams, we are spending our money wisely and creating a positive image.”
When Silva finally decides to step away from the body shop business altogether, he still intends on staying busy. “I still want to work for at least another 5 to 10 years, because I still enjoy this industry and my connection to the community. But, when the time for stepping down comes around, I’m looking forward to working on my 13 classic cars and six motorcycles.”