Selecta Auto Body thrives on continual improvement and efficiencies
San Francisco—By prioritizing OE training, quality work, being a green facility and a responsible employer, Selecta Auto Body in the Bernal Heights neighborhood of San Francisco is succeeding in a tight market, according to its owner J.R. Hubbard. With 15 employees and repairing 100-120 vehicles every month out of a 10,000-square-foot shop, Selecta Auto Body has grown ever since opening its doors more than 15 years ago by adapting with the times.
Hubbard started out as a manager at Selecta Auto Body in 1993 and took over the helm three years later. In 2013, he located a new building that offered him a chance to build his ultimate facility, he said.
“We were able to design a new shop from the ground up, with a focus on an efficient eco-friendly approach in everything aspect. We installed skylights throughout the ceiling to let as much natural light in as possible and we used re-purposed wood in most of the construction. We are ‘green,’ but with a focus on optimizing our workflow from when the car comes in to when the customer picks up the vehicle.”
Transparency and full accountability are very important to Hubbard and his team, he said. “We’ve integrated our values into the business, which includes becoming a B Corp-certificated company, because we value operating sustainably and following a strict set of business practices. We want to work smart and that’s why we push training and constantly strive to be as green as we possibly can. And if we can find a piece of equipment that will help us to do a better job, we will pursue it, as long as it makes sense.”
Both the collision industry and the market in San Francisco have changed dramatically, which makes it more difficult for shops to make a decent profit, Hubbard said. “Back when I started, it was fairly easy to make money in this business and even the smaller shops were doing well. I was young and I didn’t know better, but the insurance companies started tightening the screws on how much we were making, so the landscape was altered to their advantage. The model is very different from 10-15 years ago, because now the insurers are asking more of us and paying us less. More and more is on us now, including all of the related documentation, so we have to be more resourceful and work smarter.”
Documenting everything and supporting his case with every repair is yet another function Hubbard added to his process five or six years ago, he said. “Returning these vehicles back to their pre-accident condition doesn’t suffice anymore. Now that the OEMs are being better at providing us with the repair information, if we don’t access it, it’s now on us. If I do a proper repair and still get sued for whatever reason, I can deal with that. But, it’s our job and our responsibility to do the repair to OEM standards, regardless of what we have to do to get there.
“If they don’t pay us for a procedure or a part, we usually get the customer involved and that changes the dialog. We rarely see the insurance company saying no to the consumer, so we educate the customer about the repair and that really helps. We also have to document more and more now and that’s why we do pre- and post-inspections on almost every vehicle that comes through the shop.”
One piece of equipment that Hubbard has successfully integrated into his shop is a nitrogen plastic welder manufactured by Polyvance. “It has enabled us to fix plastic bumper covers and be really precise with it,” Hubbard said. “We have one tech that is really good at it, but we’re always training our guys how to use it, so that anyone can step in if needed.”
He also continually pursues training and education for himself and his crew. “We want our people to be as good as they can be and that’s why we go after every class we can find, whether it’s a talk by Michael Anderson, I-CAR or classes offered by our vendors, such as Axalta, 3M, Car-o-Liner and our paint distributor California Color Source. You name it, we want to be at the forefront of this industry and it all comes down to what you know.”