Darrin Ward (left) prepares a repair estimate as owner Felipe Hernandez points out the vehicle damageCertified body and paint technician, Manuel Cardenas, wet sands the trunk of a classic Ford that is being restored. Felipe Hernandez, owner, has four cameras in his office to watch everything that goes on, including customers walking up to the door.

Detail Auto Body thrives by outsourcing and running lean

Improved efficiencies and seeking better repair solutions increases profit 30 percent

Bloomington, Calif.—Owner Felipe Hernandez runs Detail Auto Body by what he says is a coming trend in the collision repair industry: Utilizing outside shops and mobile services for a portion of the repair process instead of having those individuals on staff.

“We run a lean shop with only two full-time employees – although we are looking for a third qualified technician – who do all of the collision-related mechanical and body repair work in-house, including frame work with our Champ Mighty-Pull 10-Ton Frame & Body Straightener,” he said. “Everything else we sublet to other nearby shops or they come to us to perform the work.”

 Hernandez opened his first shop in 2011 in Fontana as FMM, then moved to Bloomington and rebranded as Detail Auto Body in 2015. He is now considering moving into a larger location in 2019.

“In the past two years, our shop has increased 30 percent in profit as we keep improving efficiencies and learning better solutions for repairs from vendors and even other shop owners, which has helped to increase our performance and therefore allowing our profit to go up.”

Hernandez said he doesn’t have any DRPs, but he has built a reputation and relationships with insurance companies based on the amount of claims he has received through each company.

He also performs more replacements than repairs, because it’s a much easier process for insurance companies to assure vehicles are fully repaired.

“The biggest issue I see as a shop owner is that too many people are pursuing the body shop business when they don’t know what they’re doing and they’re not paying attention to quality.”

Currently, Hernandez works with 40-year veteran automotive collision consultant, Darrin West, who uses Mitchell UltraMate, as his estimator/appraiser, and insurance billing assistant, Ricardo Auto Glass, for windshield and window glass replacement.

“I am also a Mobile Electronics Certified Professional (MECP) installer, so I can handle any electrical work,” Hernandez said. “And my body technician, Manuel Cardenas, is also an Axalta-certified painter and we spray Matrix waterborne paint with PPG clearcoat, which we buy from MES Paint & Detail Supplies.” 

Hernandez said all of the shop’s suppliers offer training for the products that they sell.

“Other than that, all of the training we have gotten is based upon learning as we go,” he said. “However, are planning on taking formal training courses in 2019.”

The percentage of collision repairs is much higher than the other categories, he said, with 70 percent being collision, 20 percent classic restoration, and 10 percent custom.

“Average cycle time varies, depending on the extent of the repairs,” he said. “We each work on one vehicle per person. When a car is about 60 percent completed, we give each other help to finish it quicker.”

Paintless dent removal is service that Hernandez is planning on adding.

“And companies like Ding King have every tool imaginable to perform that work and more,” he said. “They even have paint, wheel, windshield, headlight, and interior repair tools, and offer complete training in their Costa Mesa facility.”

The shop does no formal advertising but Hernandez said he gets referrals from all over because of the shop’s reputation for quality work and five-star ratings on Google and Facebook, as well as posts on Instagram.

“We are in an era where social media has made it so much easier to bring in new customers,” he said. “They can see before-and-after pictures, which lets them know the outcome of repairs before they make a decision where to take their vehicle.”

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.