Accurate damage-loss analysis and OEM certifications are pillars of Faith
Murrieta, Calif.—When Lee Amaradio opened his first body shop in Mission Viejo in 1979, he named it Faith Quality Auto Body, an expression of his deeply held religious beliefs, which he credits for much of his success.
The Murrieta location opened in 1990 and, after four major remodeling projects, including adding two buildings, it has become one of the largest collision repair facilities in the country with 48,000 square feet of working space.
“We later decided to close the first shop and concentrate on building one mega shop,” Amaradio said.
Lee’s son, Tony, started washing cars at the shop in 1998 and went on to learn every department from prep to production, until becoming general manager.
“This is the way all of our management team is here,” Lee Amaradio said. “It’s what we call cross-training, so if I, our vice president Jason Webb, or Tony isn’t available, any one of us can step in and take over.”
Insurance companies are big clients for the shop, Tony Amaradio said, which has several DRPs and drive-in claim centers.
He said one of his primary responsibilities remains damage-loss analysis. “I work with insurers and provide documentation showing how a repair is to be performed according to OEM standards, and let them know the shop will only repair a vehicle that way.”
Lee Amaradio added, “Oftentimes, shops agree to do a repair the way the insurer wants it done. It’s Tony’s job to let them know how we work. If they want to do something outside of the recommended OEM repair, we just ask them, ‘Are you willing to assume the liability?’”
The shop has audio and video equipment in place to record all negotiations, which Amaradio said protects the shop and its customers.
Lee Amaradio points out that when the shop made the decision to begin operating that way, it discovered that there were “good insurance companies” who agreed with their approach – they just needed to see the repair documentation.
“Adjusters are often caught between the shop and directives sent down by their supervisors,” he said. “If we can supply the documentation, we give them something they can take back to their superiors.”
“All technicians are I-CAR trained, many are Platinum and about 50 percent are OEM-specialty trained,” he said. “We also provide training on pulling and jigging equipment using Car Bench and Car-O-Liner, and training on our new resistance welders.”
The shop is fully vested in aluminum repair with a Mercedes-Benz-approved aluminum room including all tools and welders with an aluminum vacuum system, he said.
“Recently we purchased the required pneumatic rivet gun, aluminum dent puller, and extraction system required for the Ford Certified Aluminum program,” he said.
The shop has five inspection stations; a damage analysis inspection area; two prep stations; 48 indoor working bays, six of which have in-ground Car-O-Liner frame machines; one in-ground Car Bench with jigs for virtually every vehicle; four Bend Pak lifts, one with a drive-on alignment rack; a Chief EZ Liner S21 for full-size trucks; and four measuring systems. “We have five Garmat heated spray booths and two computerized mixing rooms. We use Sherwin-Williams paint, and for our OEM-certified programs that require it, we use Standox,” Tony Amaradio said.
The shop averages 300 vehicles a month, with an average repair order of $2,560, and has a 98.6 CSI, he said.
Currently, the shop has Volvo, BMW, Nissan, Infinity, Ford, Porsche Volkswagen, Fiat, GM, and Honda OEM repair certifications, and is working on becoming Jaguar- and Land Rover-certified.
Amaradio said an emerging trend to watch is accident- avoidance systems and new metals, which he thinks will take collision repair to a new and unpredictable place.
“The type of collisions will change a bit,” he said. “Accidents will be reduced, lessening the need for collision repair. We will see more carbon fiber components in years to come, which will be replaced instead of repaired.”
Replacement is common with aluminum and most advanced metals, he said, so he expects the shop will see less repair of panels and more replacement — changing the overall outlook of how shops will make a profit.
“The best way to prepare for emerging technologies is to invest in equipment and training related to the current market as it happens – not before and not after, but right on point,” Amaradio said. “We are poised to act when we need to. We stay current on OEM trends and if there is a need, we address it right away.”
Quality control and performance have always been top priorities at Faith, Tony Amaradio said, and the shop is focusing on improving both areas.
“We have a full-time quality control manager who inspects every vehicle with a written report,” he said. “We also need to get the cars done quickly so we monitor our weekly performance and set benchmarks for every department. If we outperform the competition, we will draw more work to the facility.”
There are challenges around every corner, he said — the biggest of which is turning a profit regardless of market conditions.
“The biggest opportunities exist with the OEM certifications and available training,” he said. “So many shops are missing the boat and are already being left behind.”
“We feel that quality must drive everything from the top down. The quality of repair is the measure of any shop. I’d rather do a quality repair with no profit than a sub-standard repair.”
Lee Amaradio said the shop is very involved in community activities, which he believes is another important component of his success.
“We get more referrals from our community involvement than our TV spots. So community involvement is primary,” he said.