Collision and mechanical repair presents opportunities and challenges for Northridge shop

Northridge, Calif.—When Carlos Menjivar and his wife, Guille, owners of Omega Automotive and Northridge Body Works decided to purchase the collision shop, they found it presented both opportunities and challenges.

“The shop started as Omega Transmissions with two bays in May of 2001, just up the street after I had spent 11 years in the transmission business as a technician specializing in transmission rebuilding,” Menjivar said.

Shortly after opening, Menjivar said he realized that their initial business plan needed some amending; they needed a few more cars per week.

“Some cars coming in for transmission work also needed some general mechanical repairs,” he said. “We realized that it was a good match.”

Menjivar also realized that it would be better to build a repeat customer base and the general repair work was more repeat business than the transmission work.

After the economic downturn, he also realized that is was a good idea to diversify more.

“By then, the majority of our work was general repair and the transmission business had become secondary, so we changed the name to Omega Automotive.”

It was at that time that another business owner whom the Menjivars knew from the Northridge Chamber of Commerce was selling his collision business.

“I mentioned to him that the body shop was something that interested me,” he said. “So after some negotiation and his good will to carry the note, we moved to his location in 2010 and merged Omega Automotive and Northridge Body Works.”

Now the mechanical side accounts for about 35 percent, and the collision business represents about 65 percent, due in part to hiring an outside sales rep, Patricia Zepeda, who makes cold calls to local car dealers and other repair shops, for mechanical and collision work, he said.

The majority of the shop’s work is retail, but it has one dealer, Bob Faeber’s Auto Wholesale Center, for which he does work, Menjivar said.

The shop also has an office manager/estimator, Charly Knafo, and Menjivar does service writing and is preparing for the ASE service writer certification.

“We also have one ASE-certified technician for mechanical repair and collision-related repair, and three I-CAR-trained collision technicians, including our painter, Melvin Castro, who is certified by Sherwin-Williams, Axalta, BASF, and Sikkens,” he said.

 “As for parts, we use local dealers whenever we need to buy original parts,” he said. “Since Galpin offers several lines of cars we purchase largely from them. We work on Mercedes-Benz frequently, so we buy our original parts from Mercedes of Valencia. Aftermarket supplies that we use the most come from Express Body Parts.”

Menijivar said Express’ prices are reasonable and its deliveries exceptional. The majority of general repair parts are purchased through WORLDPAC.

“Express makes it very easy to do any transaction,” he said. “Whether we need to return something, or something is defective and we need another one, they make it easy. Besides prices and quality parts, I appreciate how fast they bring parts to the shop.”

Menjivar said it is difficult to plan how to market the two different entities, so they are evaluating the idea of unifying both businesses into one entity so that any marketing dollars might be more effective.

 “I have to split our marketing dollars two ways, he said. “So I’m evaluating engaging the services of Kukui, which represents a significant investment, but I can see the value in it.”

He said he built the shops’ two websites himself through Go Daddy, but he realizes that he needs someone who’s on the cutting edge of technology and the algorithms of all the search engines.

Menjivar is an active member of ASCCA Chapter 5, so he went on Team Talk, which is the association’s e-mail exchange service, and asked other members what they thought of Kukui.

“Everyone that was using Kukui said they have had good results,” he said. “Including getting more legitimate customers and more Yelp reviews, because they are really out there getting testimonials and working for the shops.” 

Menjivar said he has noticed a distinct difference between the two businesses.

“The retention rate of new customers who come for an estimate is opposite from one business to the other,” he said. “From 10 new customers that come in for a general repair inspection, 10 will stay 90 percent of the time. Collision is the opposite. From 10 new prospect customers that come in for a collision estimate, only one or two will have the work done.”

“I find it more likely that we retain a new prospect that found us online,” he said. “And of course the retention rate of a new client who was referred by someone we did work for is much higher.”

Parts & People

Parts & People is published monthly by Automotive Counseling and Publishing Company, Inc., a Colorado corporation, P.O. Box 18731 Denver, CO 80203, 303-765-4664. President-Lance Buchner. Founded by Lance Buchner and Dave Lucia.