Driving forward with AAA
Whittier, Calif.—For more than 50 years, Weddle Auto Body has been one of the most recommended shops for quality collision repair and restoration in Whittier and surrounding cities, said Perry Hause, who purchased the shop from founder Brittin Weddle in 1998.
“My wife Roxie and I have owned the shop for 21 years and we have worked together the entire time,” he said. “She runs the office and I run the shop.”
Hause, who is I-CAR trained, including welding certification, said he was hired by Weddle as a painter for a short time and then moved over to the body side.
“I have been in the industry for 38 years, and I enjoy doing the repairs more than the painting,” he said.
When Weddle decided to retire, he asked Hause if he wanted to buy the shop. After looking at the books and discussing it with the “boss,” as he calls his wife, Hause said yes.
“There were other things we considered as well,” he said. “The fact that the shop is I-CAR Gold Class is a plus, it had a great “word-of-mouth” reputation, and being an AAA-approved repair facility for several years, the shop’s only DRP, was a big plus.”
Hause said the main reason he likes AAA is because it is a “non-profit,” company, which means they put proper repair before price.
“They are a great operation and allow us to repair the vehicles the proper way,” he said. “What’s nice about my relationship with the Auto Club of Southern California (ACSC) is that their number one goal is to repair the vehicles correctly.
“After an accident, everyone has to call his or her insurance company. And having a DRP with AAA for 25 years is a real benefit.”
Since buying the 10,000-square-foot body shop, which now has three full-time and three part-time employees, Hause has added new equipment, including a second Chief EZ-Liner frame rack, a UMS mechanical measuring system, accurate to 1 millimeter, a Pro Spot I4 resistance welder, and a Binks cross-draft spray booth and a computerized mixing system.
“We spray Valspar paint, which we purchase from Mike Hernandez, manager at West Whittier Paint, who oversees the automotive paint operations and does a great job of getting me the products that I order quickly. I have been buying from them for more than 40 years.”
The shop has two systems of paint they spray, waterborne and solvent-based. Both are Valspar systems.
“Valspar does a good job at matching the paint and giving us variances to work with,” Hause said. “And West Whittier Paint also offers in-house demonstrations and training for various new products and merchandise.
To properly perform OEM required pre- and post-repair scans, Hause uses use AutoIngenuity, a PC-based program that he downloaded to his laptop and has optional sensors for every make and model vehicle.
“Pre- and post-repair scans have become a necessary step to insure that the vehicle is repaired back to pre-loss condition,” he said. “The check engine light is no longer a reliable source to indicate that there is a problem with something on the vehicle. And, why not do it, insurance companies are good about paying us for an hour of diagnostic time.”
Hause said the majority of the shop’s work is collision through insurance companies, noting that 40 percent of his customers are repeat and adding that 80 percent of accidents are caused by 20 percent of insured drivers.
“You don’t make any money restoring a classic unless the shop specializes in restoration, but I personally love restoring them, and I own several,” he said. “I have a few longtime customers who want me to restore a vehicle for them, and I won’t turn them down.”
All windshield replacements are sublet to Gaines Mobile Glass Service, and Hause said Kevin Gaines does a great job of replacing the glass in a timely manner.
The shop has one regular wholesale account, Epic Auto, a used car dealer and broker, Hause said. “Hugh Allen, the owner, really likes to give his customers’ a vehicle that he wouldn’t mind driving himself.”
In the past, the best advertising was word-of-mouth, Hause said. Today it’s “word-of-mouse”, referring to the shop’s numerous five-star Yelp reviews.
“Our business has grown. Sales are up 5 percent, our average RO is around $2,300, and our car count is around 15-20 cars at any given time. As vehicles get more technical the cost of repairing them goes up.
Hause attributes the growth to the fact that people appreciate being treated as a person and they know they are important to him.
“I have a high percentage of returning customers that appreciate knowing that their vehicle is repaired properly and done right the first time.”