Fender benders and worse typically necessitate a visit to a body shop to restore a vehicle's functionality and beauty. No one would claim that such events are totally pleasant or free of stress. At Fort Dodge Ford Lincoln Toyota, 2723 Fifth Ave. S., however, the experience has been modified in ways that are designed to make life easier for customers.
The local dealership has long had a body shop, but that department has now has been massively transformed and since mid-January has operated as part of the nationwide ABRA network of body shops.
"We're calling it ABRA Auto Body at Fort Dodge Ford," said Nick Johnson, fixed operations director at Fort Dodge Ford. "We just purchased the ABRA Auto Body franchise. ... It has a proven process that they bring to the table."
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Kalan Guthrie, a painter at the Abra Auto Body Shop at Fort Dodge Ford begins painting a body piece for a vehicle being repaired. Purchasing the ABRA?franchise will allow Fort Dodge Ford to provide a better customer experience, says Nick Johnson, fixed operations director for the dealership.
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Kalan Guthrie, a painter at the ABRA Auto Body Shop at Fort Dodge Ford, mixes up a batch of paint for a customer’s vehicle. The computer, which is connected to an accurate digital scale, tells him exactly how much of each ingredient to add.
Johnson said being part of the ABRA system brings with it ongoing technical and educational support and involves having the tools and equipment to work on all makes and models of vehicles.
"From the initial estimate ... throughout the repair it's incredibly efficient, it's cost-effective for the customer," Johnson said. "The efficiency of it is really the key. Our slogan now is 'fixed right the first time on time.'"
He stressed that a major reason it was decided to implement the ABRA approach locally was the positive impact the change could have on customer satisfaction with body shop encounters.
"ABRA has the best customer satisfaction scores in the body shop industry," Johnson said. "Their way of doing business was similar to ours with the main focus being customer satisfaction. That carried the most weight right along with the quality of the repairs."
An additional plus partnering with ABRA provides is an improved ability to interact with insurance companies seamlessly, thereby making life simpler for clients. Johnson said ABRA affiliates can work easily with all insurance carriers and can direct bill of the companies.
Fort Dodge Ford made a substantial financial investment to bring about a major renovation and enhancement of its body shop capabilities, Johnson said, noting that the process involved adding "a lot of new state-of-the-art equipment."
One of the areas that has been improved is the painting process.
"We switched to a water-borne paint, which is much cleaner and better for the environment," Johnson said. "It also allows for a better paint match."
This change puts Fort Dodge Ford in sync with trends already well-established in some parts of the country.
"On the West and East coasts they are already making it mandatory that body shops introduce (waterborne painting) because it is better for the environment. Eventually, it will become mandatory in the Midwest," Johnson said.
Customers will notice a variety of changes that should make their dealings with the body shop more convenient and pleasant, Johnson said.
A new feature called ABRA Express gets the repair process started quickly and conveniently for customers.
"Typically, when you take your vehicle to a body shop, you sit in the waiting area while an estimate is done," Johnson explained. "Oftentimes, there is extensive damage that really can't be seen until maybe a bumper or something is taken off. So, with ABRA Express, we gather your information and phone number and put you in a vehicle to drive - free of charge - and the whole process takes 10 minutes or less. That gives us the time to tear the vehicle down to do a very accurate estimate and then call you with the results and go from there."
He said from the estimate through a completed repair, the goal is to be fast and efficient.
An additional priority is keeping vehicle owners on the road throughout the process.
"Customers are always guaranteed to have a vehicle to drive while theirs is being repaired," Johnson said. "If your car is going to be out of service for a few days or even a couple weeks you are guaranteed to have something to drive whether your insurance company covers that or not. ... We will cover the charge for a loaner vehicle if the insurance company won't."
Making certain that repairs are done properly is a top priority for the team at ABRA Auto Body at Fort Dodge Ford. The company stands behind the quality of the repairs.
"There is a lifetime warranty on all of the work," Johnson said. "As long as you own the vehicle, whatever repair was made is guaranteed for life."
He stressed that this warranty will be honored at any ABRA shop.
Handling body shop work as an ABRA affiliate also produces potential financial savings for customers.
"There would be a cost advantage," Johnson said. "Being a part of ABRA now brings with it cost savings on our part when it comes to paint and materials because they have the national buying power. We're able to take advantage of that so the savings are passed on to the customer."
Should a vehicle need attention for problems that go beyond the normal scope of what is handled in a body shop, choosing Fort Dodge Ford has an additional attraction.
"The nice thing that sets us apart is we have a full service department in the same building with all the latest equipment and technology," Johnson said.
The six-person team in the body shop is headed by a new manager with more than three decades of body shop experience - Pernell Bump.
"He was originally from Iowa," Johnson said. "They moved to Tennessee and just recently moved back. ... He's been with ABRA for 12 years in different locations."
All of the technicians in the body shop are I-CAR certified and have undergone extensive training regarding the new equipment and system.
"All of our technicians are certified to the latest equipment and the latest standards," Johnson said.
They are backed up by ABRA extensive corporate resources for training and ongoing support.
"If you ever have a question or run into something we haven't seen before, they are a phone call away," Johnson said.
ABRA Auto Body & Glass is headquartered in Minneapolis, Minn. According to information on its website ABRA was founded in 1984 and has grown to 115 facilities in 12 states.
Contact Terrence Dwyer at (515) 573-2141 or email@example.com