DELRAY BEACH, Fla. — Even dealerships that operate their own body shops sometimes turn to independent repair centers for help when their collision work gets backed up or overbooked. Such outsourcing enables them to maintain their workflow.
Rick Burgess is such an outside vendor. He attributes the success of his shop, Dealers Pro Choice in Delray Beach, to his decision to specialize in niche work for dealerships rather than take on big jobs that involve engine removal or similar heavy lifting. The shop also takes walk-in customers.
“There’s always dealer lot damage, transport damage and lease return damage,” Burgess told Fixed Ops Journal. “There’s money in low-hanging fruit. My model was dealership work, and thirteen dealers later, here I am.”
The 13 nearby dealerships that Burgess’ shop serves either lack a body shop or prioritize extensive collision work over the smaller jobs in which Dealers Pro Choice specializes. He says economies of scale and the cost limits imposed by auto insurers on some types of repairs make the numbers work for him.
“With the insurance companies, I charge the standard labor rate” of $42 to $45 an hour, Burgess says, compared with a posted hourly labor rate of $125 to $200 at area luxury-brand dealerships. “When they see you are doing the right thing, they send you the work.”
Burgess’ shop employs five collision technicians, including himself, and fixes 20 to 25 cars each week, he says. “The big shops don’t like doing the work I do,” he adds. “If I was a painter, I would rather do 10 bumpers a day rather than a single big job.”
Burgess says the chronic shortage of automotive technicians, including collision techs, keeps demand high for his shop’s services.
“There are just not enough technicians left in the field,” he says. “The large independents will get [the most experienced] technicians and guys like me are at the bottom of the ladder. Since I am not a large-scale shop, I can afford to take on the younger techs who don’t have the big toolbox yet, and help them get their [industry] certification.”