College community and online reviews help Green Tech Collision prosper
Upland, Calif.—When Ramón Godina, immigrated to Southern California from Colima, Mexico, he hadn’t planned on getting into the paint and body business. However, 20 years later he’s the owner of Green Tech Collision Center.
“I was majoring in chemistry in college in Mexico but wanted to get into something else,” Godina said. “So I moved to Southern California when I was 18 went to work for my uncle, Daniel Rodriguez, who painted custom cars.”
Godina said his uncle just did custom paint and didn’t have a collision shop so he only worked for him long enough to get hooked on paint and body work.
“I worked for three collision shops over the next 10 years, where I learned how to do paint and body work before opening my first small shop a block away in 2006,” he said.
Godina said he wanted to stay in Upland, because it has good demographics and is dedicated to building relationships with small businesses, which is another advantage.
So, after considering several locations, he moved to the present 5,000-square-foot facility with seven bays and an off-site spray booth in 2007.
“It has proven to be a good decision,” he said. “Our business has grown steadily since we moved and it’s up 20 percent in the past two years, thanks to a lot of word-of-mouth referrals and good online reviews,” he said. “The average repair order is $3,000 and we do about 30 cars per month.”
Godina said Yelp reviews have been especially helpful because much of his work comes from students at nearby Claremont College, and most of them are from out of town.
“They are not familiar with what shops are in the area, so when they need a body shop they look online at Google and Yelp reviews,” he said.
Godina has recently invested more than $120,000 in new equipment including a Car-O-Liner Car-O-Tronic Vision Classic portable electronic measuring system for upper and lower body measuring with support for EVO Anchoring and Holding, and a Spray Tech downdraft paint booth.
The shop also has a Chassis Liner Truck‘N Revolution frame machine, a computerized paint mixing system, and a 3M GVP battery-powered air purifying painter’s mask/respirator. Green Tech sprays Sikkens waterborne paint, which Godina buys from LKQ/Keystone.
Godina said his technicians have received training and product demos from 3M, and have taken a three-day course at the AkzoNobel Training Center in Orange County that included courses in paint chemistry, application (including painting a car), and spot repair.
“It’s eight hours a day and includes everything necessary to obtain I-CAR certification,” he said. “I’ve been to Axalta, PPG, De Beer’s, and Valspar training centers and they don’t come close to what AkzoNobel offers.”
AkzoNobel also has training for shop owners, which includes management, productivity, tech support, marketing, customer service, and financial advice.
The shop has no DRPs but works with most major insurance companies, Godina said. “I believe that DRPs are technically dragging this industry down because you wind up working for the insurance company and not the customer.”
Godina said he uses OEM parts whenever possible, but also buys parts from LKQ and Pacific Auto Parts when a customer has no insurance or is on a tight budget.
“Most of the time the dealerships will match the price of the aftermarket parts through their dealer price-matching programs,” he said. “And even if they don’t, I will still buy the OE part and charge the aftermarket part price if it’s for a good customer.”
The shop uses QuickBooks for payroll and business management and Mitchell UltraMate for estimating. “Our estimators are taking ASE certification training soon,” he said.
The biggest challenge Godina sees for shops today, aside from dealing with insurance companies, is repairing vehicles with many different methods than before because of the various materials used to manufacture a vehicle.
“For example, cars are being built with alloy metals, carbon fiber and fiberglass, and these cannot be welded together,” he said. “Therefore, we need to repair them using glue and rivets.”
Godina said another challenge is working on more environmentally friendly vehicles and electric vehicles such as Tesla, Chevrolet Volt, and Nissan Leaf.
“Manufacturers are making their vehicles more complex and dangerous to work with because of the high-voltage batteries,” he said. “Technicians have to be knowledgeable and experienced to avoid someone getting hurt while working on these vehicles and to achieve a good, safe repair.”
The shop prides itself on being as “green” as possible, Godina said. “We have near-zero waste, we recycle all parts including electrical, have LED lighting, and use 3M dry sanding paper instead of wet sanding.”
Godina said he provides free pickup and delivery service, and also does headlight restoration and paintless dent removal, which are becoming good profit centers.
“Overall, our most important goal is to provide outstanding customer service because most of our business is based on personal referrals and Yelp reviews,” he said.