New business with old treasures

More profit, more throughput – the portfolio must be expanded. Classic cars remain very popular, but does the restoration of classic cars work as a new business segment for body and paint shops? Sascha Petschke, Trainer at PPG, explains at what point it pays off for a bodyshop to work on classic cars.

Complete and partial paint jobs, repair following accident damage, plastic repair, air conditioning and sometimes even glass - body and paintshops are already well diversified, but would still like to expand the portfolio further. In the search for new business segments, both classic and modern classic cars are on the radar, but when is it feasible to paint and restore a VW Golf I, Opel Manta or Ford Model A roadster? And what do you need to consider beforehand to make sure you don’t spend more time than the customer is paying for? “The classic car segment is extremely complex,” explains Sascha Petschke. “If you’re thinking about getting into classic and modern classic cars, there are several aspects to consider.”

Special vehicles equals special customers:

First of all, Sascha explains, the owners of classic and modern classic cars are as different from the owners of regular vehicles as they are from one another. People who have a classic car, typically a car more than 30 years old, often see the vehicle as more of an investment. When it comes to owners of classics, there are emotional reasons behind the purchase of the vehicles. That old Mercedes SL or Opel Rekord is often brings back childhood memories for people. That car takes on a completely different meaning compared to the everyday car, and often becomes a part of the family.

These vehicles are also often a hobby, so the owner invests both passion and expertise into their favourite car - and expects the same from the garage to which they entrust the car. “When it comes to body and paint work, this means that the company requires significant know-how and expertise in vintage vehicles,” Sascha Petschke explains. “These customers realises immediately if the company has a soft spot for classic cars and the extensive knowledge to go with it, or whether this business area is simply that: A business area.” In real terms: If the company’s management and/or employees are interested in vintage cars and have a great deal of practical knowledge in the field, that is already a bonus in terms of expanding the portfolio in that direction.

Not a quick business: Working on old treasures takes time

It’s important for you to realise that working on classic cars is much more time-intensive than working on newer cars. The appropriated employees must be able to work longer on the car and must also have the patience to do so. “Beyond that, you must bear in mind that the required workstations are generally occupied for a longer period of time than for the normal process steps,” continues Sascha Petschke. “Often you can only estimate the extent of the work required once the car is on the lift and sometimes it must first be dismantled and the paint stripped.”

Some of the key things to consider when getting involved in these:

  • It is important that the customer feels comfortable with the workshop that is taking care of the car. Be honest in your dialogue with the customer and send photos as the repair progresses. Taking a few snapshots with your phone and send them to the owner gives him a sense of security and involvement in the repair process. As these owners are very passionate that’s definitely a plus.
  • It’s often a good idea to agree on a specific timeframe in which to do the repair. Does the customer need back as soon as possible, or just in 6 months when the winter is over?
  • Find out the level of attention the customer wants. Does it just needs to be fixed up or do they expect to get the car back in a better-than-new condition? Ask questions and adjust each repair to the customer.
  • Make sure that the customer can manage it if the price increases. You may think you’ve taken everything into account, but then strip the car of paint and find the body to be in a much worse condition. The customer should be prepared that the condition of the car could be worse than what it initially looks like. 

Higher complexity in the repairs

Classic cars span over almost 100 years, so there is a very high diversity in the used materials and manufacturing methods. Often you need special tools or special materials that you cannot simply order. Each car also has its own individual structure of paint layers and requires specific preparation and application. The common calculation programs generally cannot calculate the costs for the work involved, which instead must be estimated. Sascha Petschke explains: “It requires a lot of experience and knowledge to achieve the result that will impress the customer - and you must make a positive impression on the customer, as owners of classic cars generally have a very strong network and spend a lot of time searching for which workshop to use. Recommendations and word of mouth from fellow owners or from online forums are taken very seriously.”

In addition, most owners already have a garage that they trust. Sascha Petschke: “If you want to make a name for yourself in this customer segment, you have to do excellent work in order to be recommended to others and to get a little bit ahead of the established competition.” His tip: “If you have the passion and expertise to work on these treasures and would like to expand your services to include classic and modern classic cars, start with small repairs and jobs to get a feel for the vehicles and the clientele. Most importantly, take your time! Then the business model can lead to success.”

 

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