Auto Service World
Feature   February 1, 2004   by Auto Service World

Big Box Concept Arrives in Collision Repair

The big box-retailing concept, so popular in the hardware and automotive parts industries, is being introduced to collision repair by Carstar Automotive Canada.

The opening of the franchising chain’s $4 million StarPlex flagship operation in Mississauga, Ont., which at some 25,000 square feet puts it squarely at the high end in terms of size, also includes a variety of innovations that company president Sam Mercanti says will change the way collision repair is performed and perceived.

“Our insurance industry partners are interested in cost containment, efficient turnaround time, and outstanding customer service,” says Mercanti. To meet these goals, the StarPlex concept employs a drive-through appraisal lane and separate offices for insurance industry representatives, as well as having personnel specifically trained in communicating with customers.

In addition, the concept reveals a great deal of planning into workflow. Among the more ingenious low-tech items are parts carts that act as caddies for bumper covers and other parts that must be removed from the vehicle during repair.

By placing these on separate carts that can follow the car around the shop as it is repaired, workers never have to use the car to hold the parts, risking interior damage and dirt. Dust is carried away by a central vacuum system.

On-site services include car rental, free interior and exterior detailing, and roadside assistance.

The facility’s hours are also more common to retail operations: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week, with two shifts to keep work flowing. The intention is to repair vehicles as rapidly as possible, often within 24 hours.

Even with 22 existing franchises in the Toronto area, one might think that a facility with such capacity might draw business from Carstar’s own shops.

“That’s one thing we didn’t want to do, was take business away from our franchisees,” says Mercanti. In Hamilton, Ont., he offers as an example, when a large facility was added, it simply attracted more business from competing shops and raised the profile of Carstar with insurers and the public. The company now enjoys a 35% market share in that region, he says.

Ultimately, though, he wants the new concept to change the way people see collision repair and to vastly improve the profitability of the industry.

“We want to take out duplication and increase efficiencies.”

Carstar Automotive Canada currently has 92 facilities in eight provinces.

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