July 2024 Collision Corner

Jul 9, 2024 | Dateline

Some state legislative sessions ended without passage of some bills impacting the industry. The
Washington state legislature, for example, adjourned without passing bills that would have given
policyholders there the right to call for an independent appraisal when there’s a disagreement
about repair costs. The Idaho legislature adjourned without passage of a bill that would have
required estimates including non-OEM parts to state that such parts “may affect the safety and
performance of your vehicle.” The notice also would have recommended “that you consult with a

qualified industry expert or repair shop before making any decisions regarding the use of non-
OEM crash parts.”

Speaking during a Collision Industry Conference panel discussion on attracting and retaining
employees, Kevin House of Center Collision in Tacoma, Washington, said he’s focused on
building comradery and culture within his 30-year-old business. “We look for opportunities for
our employees to interact not just at work, but outside of work,” House said. “Recently we had a
paintball contest,” with his employees facing off – successfully, he noted – against 10 employees
of a nearby tire shop. “My employees just had a great time. That’s part of our culture, making it
not just about work, but about a little bit of a life experience. Does anybody know what national
holiday was last Friday? You guys all missed the boat: It was national grilled cheese day. There’s
a holiday for every day of the year. You can Google it to create opportunities. We grilled cheese
sandwiches for the whole staff. Everybody had a great time. They look forward to it every year.
We shut down for an hour and all have lunch together every Friday. We take the whole crew out
boating every year. We just look for opportunities to build a team, to create that culture and
make it more than just going to a job.”

Data from the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) indicates the total number of
new-car dealerships in the United States rose slightly to 16,835 last year, the largest number
since 2013. But the percentage of those dealerships that operate body shops continued to
decline for the sixth straight year, to just over 34%. That compares to more than 37% in 2019 and
2020, and more than 39% in 2017. It indicates there are about 5,774 dealership body shops,
about 80 fewer than the prior year, and down from the most recent peak of 6,553 in 2017. That
decline has been more than offset by the increased number of independent body shop locations,
according to data from the U.S. Department of Labor. In 2022, for example, the most recent year
for which government data is available, there were 35,309 independent collision repair facilities
in the United States, over 500 more than the prior year. That indicates a total U.S. shop
population of about 41,862 – below the peak of about 47,000 in 1993, but about 2,000 more than
in 2012 when the total briefly dipped below 40,000 during the Great Recession. Independent
shop count data for 2023 should be released by the Department of Labor later this summer.