Fast out of the gate
Whittier, Calif.—Jorge Rico opened ACG Auto Collision Group just two years ago, yet, the company already has three locations and has experienced 75 percent growth. All thanks to investing more than $1 million in equipment for all three shops, and a long-range plan that includes becoming a 20-shop MSO and eventually opening a collision repair training school.
“I started in the collision industry as a sales and marketing rep for another shop,” Rico said. “After one year in that position, I decided to open up my own shop. I opened the second shop in L.A. in May 2018 and the third shop in Gardena in June 2018.”
Rico attributes part of ACG’s growth to the fact that coming from the other shop helped him, because he knew what he did not want to do in his own facility.
The 44,000-square-foot shop and lot in Whittier was originally a box company, so Rico had to tear out everything to the bare walls and start from scratch.
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At A Glance
• Shop size: Whittier 44,000 square feet, Gardena 20,000 square feet, L.A. 10,700 square feet
• Employees: 31
• Average RO: $1,750-$2,500
• Average cars in process: 80
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“I was able to build a state-of the-art collision facility here with the latest technology and equipment, including a $250,00 dedicated clean room for aluminum repairs, which allowed us to obtain those OEM certifications.”
Aluminum is the future, Rico believes, as environmental regulations are moving toward creating a cleaner, more sustainable environment for future generations, and car manufacturers are opting for aluminum bodies over steel for their electric vehicles.
“Beyond the cost to build the clean room, including the HEPA filtration and the dedicated aluminum repair tools, we also had to train our aluminum tech, David Zetino, for Tesla training, and he’s about to go to Italy for three months for Maserati training.”
ACG is considered a “structural repair shop,” which means heavy hits, Rico said. So it is also outfitted with the latest equipment for repairing all vehicles to original factory condition, as required by the shop’s many OEM certifications.
Tools include two Celette benches (one movable), a Chief EVO frame machine and with a Meridian computerized measuring system, and two Chief resistance welders.
“Chief has been our number one equipment provider, and offers us unlimited training,” Rico said. “A big thanks to Ian Stoffel from Chief Automotive.”
Rico said ACG uses tablet-based AllData diagnostic tools for all pre- and post-repair scans, noting that his shop was actually part of the pilot program when the tools were released to the public.
“We sublet ADAS calibrations to major dealerships, which ensures vehicles are calibrated with all the correct equipment per vehicle make and model. Most glass replacement is also sublet to improve our efficiencies.”
The shop has the latest Blowtherm spray booth, a color-matching camera, a computerized mixing system, and sprays Axalta Spies Hecker waterborne paint, which it purchases from Dave Finley at FinishMaster, who Rico said provides the shop “tremendous” support.
“We buy collision parts from OPSTrax, Keystone/LKQ, Moss Bros, Ross Nissan of El Monte, Buena Park Honda, Premier Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram of Buena Park, Montebello Ford, Tesla, and many other major dealerships.”
Rico also sends technicians, who are I-CAR Gold and Platinum recognized, to OEM classes to keep up to date with new technology and processes, as well as I-CAR training and Tesla training.
“Currently, we have OEM certifications for Honda, Acura, Hyundai, Infinity, Nissan, Kia, Tesla, Maserati, FCA, GM, and Ford,” Rico said. “We are also a partner of the Assured Performance Network.”
ACG’s success is also a direct result of online and social media advertising and marketing, spearheaded by David Torres, IT and marketing manager, and building relationships with dealerships, members of the auto industry, and insurance companies.
Once the shop was all set up, Rico and Torres visited every import and domestic new-car dealership in the surrounding areas and left brochures.
“Now we get retail customer referrals from dealerships, and we do wholesale work for Honda of Buena Park, Ross Nissan, Premiere Chrysler, Ford of Montebello, Tesla of Buena Park, and Premier Chevrolet of Buena Park.”
An average of 80 cars are in process at any given time, and average RO is $1,750-$2,500, which are both up. General Manager Thomas Vasquez has implemented a quality-control process with 60 items on a checklist to improve workflow that Rico said has already started reducing turn times.
“The industry is rapidly moving toward more electric and aluminum vehicles to meet CAFE requirements,” Rico said. “ACG identifies the new trends and we are ‘growing our own’ technicians and training them to be up to date with the new certification requirements.”