TGIF meets today’s repair challenges and battles for collision industry’s voice
Fremont Calif.—Staying ahead of the curve is not an easy job in the collision repair industry right now, with technology changing literally overnight, said Kathy Mello, owner of TGIF Body Shop. Then, when shops try to balance relationships with multiple insurers, find and retain skilled professionals and keep them trained on how to fix today’s sophisticated vehicles, it gets even tougher, in addition to legislative concerns.
“There are no more simple repairs anymore, those days are definitely long gone,” she said. “There are sensors all over these cars now, so we can no longer assume anything. We have to scan the cars pre- and post-repair every time without exception. We use the asTech, which is a remote diagnostic tool that connects us to technicians assigned for each manufacturer and they scan the vehicles for us. It’s a great device and we use it on every car now.”
Mello and her husband, Richard Mello, opened the doors at TGIF back in 1980, when Silicon Valley was still growing. While her husband was trying to start the business with “two hands and a toolbox,” Mello raised their four children and then worked full time at the shop before taking it over in 2000. Today, TGIF employs 19 people and repairs over 100 vehicles every month.
Her son and general manager, Jason Cocco, 36, started helping out at the shop at age 9 and has worked there for the past 18 years. He has seen the industry change in a myriad of ways from the days when his father repaired the vehicles himself. “In the old days, my dad could repair a vehicle, paint it and have it back on the road in a couple of days,” Cocco said. “He didn’t have to worry about all of the codes and whether or not he had the right information about how to repair each vehicle.”
In today’s body shop world, a shop needs to be more engaged and involved in every aspect of the industry, he said. “We need to come out of our shops and go to events such as NACE, SEMA and educational meetings such as the Verifacts Conference. It’s also important to be active at the local level through participation in the CAA. We need to connect with the OEMs so that we can work better with them and get the data we require.”
Mello is well known to body shop owners throughout California due to her many years as a leader for the CAA. This year, she is the organization’s state president after holding every office available at both the local and state levels for several years.
With a drive to help others, especially within the collision industry, Mello is known for her industry networking and philanthropy and that’s why she received an award at last year’s SEMA. The National Auto Body Council honored her with the Excellence in Community Service Award for her charitable efforts and volunteerism, including mentoring at-risk youth and disabled adults.
One of the founding members of the Women’s Industry Network (WIN), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to encouraging, developing and cultivating opportunities to attract women to collision repair, Mello is both a mentor and leader.
As the CAA’s state president for 2017, Mello is working with other industry leaders in California to continue the battle to keep everyone accountable on behalf of the consumer. “It’s a ‘David versus Goliath’ situation, but we have proven by our track record that we can get things done in Sacramento through our legislative efforts and under the direction of Jack Molodanof, our amazing lobbyist.
“We always have to struggle in this industry so that we can make a reasonable profit, and AB 1679 is another example of that. It’s called the Motor Vehicle Insurance bill that is sponsored by Assemblywoman Autumn Burke and it is bad for the industry and the consumer. The insurance companies are not happy with California Insurance Commissioner’s David Jones’s regulations. If we are going to continue to work with a “prevailing rate” it needs to be determined equitably and transparently. AB 1679 eliminates those elements that were incorporated into the regs and it needs to be defeated.”
With her eyes on a better future for the collision repair industry in California and nationally, Mello isn’t going to slow down or cut back on all of the things she does, she said. “I am blessed to be in a situation like this and in an industry I love. So, I will be here as long as I can, to help who I can and to provide solid employment for our amazing crew.”