The National Auto Body Council (NABC), whose sole mission is improving that image, organized the gathering to solicit new input and involvement from more industry segments.
Chuck Sulkala, a Massachusetts shop owner who also serves as executive director of the NABC, lead the discussion which covered whether participants think the industry has an image problem; if so, what they think the causes of that problem are; and what they see as possible solutions.
Among some of the ideas and points made during the three-hour meeting:
• Some participants said that the industry's image problem is largely an internal one, that a lot of people outside the collision industry don't have a negative image of the industry at all.
• Teresa Costick of Carstar-Bolingbrook in Illinois said she believes one of the causes of the industry's poor image certainly in the past has been its appearance - the appearance of repair facilities and the lack of a professional appearance of those working in the industry.
Over the past decade, the NABC has used several projects to improve the internal and external image of the collision industry. It pulled together the funds and volunteers needed to build a Habitat for Humanity home in Kansas City; it raised $500,000 over 18 months to help build a medical center at Camp Mak-a-Dream, a Montana camp for kids with cancer; it responds to negative portrayals of the industry in the media; it presents "Pride Awards" annually to recognize those within the industry for their charitable or humanitarian efforts; and it created a guide to assist shops in holding open houses during October's "Pride Month."
For more information, call the NABC at (888) 667-7433, or check its website (www.autobodycouncil.org).
John Yoswick is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon, who has been writing about the automotive industry since 1988.
Industry trainer and consultant Tony Passwater agreed, saying the industry draws from largely the same pool of students as other trades, such as electricians or plumbers, but he believes those trades have a more positive public image in part because the link between their hourly rate and the time they spend working on a job is more readily understandable to consumers.