The front entrance of Precision Auto Body, located in Los Angeles County.
As a female shop owner in a male dominated industry, Audrey Coletta has had to go above and beyond to earn respect and maintain a successful business.
Precision Auto Body
Type: Collision Repair
Facility Employees: 36
In Business Since: 1960
Combined Production Space: 25,000 square feet
“More and more women are joining the industry, but there still aren't many female shop owners,” Coletta explained. “It's been a challenge; most men assume you don't know what you're talking about.”
“I'll take a customer through the shop and give them an idea of the process and what the vehicles go through,” Colette said. “There have been times where they've said, 'Wow you know your stuff,' and I respond, 'Yeah, I have to!'”
Precision Auto Body, located in Reseda, CA, is a family-owned shop that Coletta took over when her father retired. The single location shop has been in business since 1960.
“We have had two employees who passed away and had been working here for 20 some years,” she said. “Our newest tech has been with us for 3-4 years, while the other three have been with us for 10-14 years.”
Coletta added that the shop places special emphasis on employee retention.
“We invest a lot of time and money in training, and have been really fortunate with creating a great team,” she said.
Precision Auto Body specializes in high-end cars, is certified by Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, and Audi, and is BMW Factory Trained.
“We are Elite Certified by Mercedes, so our technicians are required to go for training twice a year in Texas,” Coletta said.
The shop invested in an aluminum clean room a couple of years ago, but has been working on aluminum parts for a while.
“What's different now is that we're working on aluminum structures, where before we worked on Lamborghini and Ferrari aluminum parts,” she explained. “When dealing with the integrity of the structure of the car, the technique and equipment are different.
“You have to be highly trained in order to do it properly.”
Precision Auto Body invested in an aluminum clean room a couple years ago to keep up with manufacturer certifications.
Precision Auto Body is in the process of adding Maserati to its resume, especially since the manufacturer is becoming even more exclusive with its certification.
“We bought the Globaljig Presented by Chief Super Rotax bench so we could become certified by Maserati,” Coletta said.
She added that she has been highlighting the Globaljig bench on the shop's Facebook page.
Precision Auto Body started using Chief products in the 1970s when the team purchased its first EZ Liner. In 2005, the shop replaced it with a newer model.
“The EZ Liner was our first piece of major equipment and has been very good to us,” Coletta said.
According to Chief’s website, the company offers the industry’s most extensive line of collision repair equipment, including frame machines, measuring tools, anchoring systems, welders, aluminum repair equipment, and vehicle specifications.
The shop owner added that Precision Auto Body is 100% dealer-referred with its own customer clientele.
“We have been named Best of the Best by Mercedes-Benz,” Coletta said. “Only a handful of shops across the nation have that label.”
Precision Auto Body recently added Globaljig presented by Chief Super Rotax bench as the shop pursues Maserati certification.
The Los Angeles County shop is not a DRP for any insurance company, which, according to Coletta, allows them to work more for the customer than the insurance company.
“It can be an uphill battle and sometimes adds to the repair time, but it allows us to fix a car according to manufacturer specifications,” she explained. “We are able to spend more time on quality.”
Coletta said that while a lot of DRPs don't like to do big repairs because it slows their process and impacts their numbers, Precision Auto Body is able to take on heavy hits.
“We've been known to basically remanufacture a car,” she said. “We take it down to the bones and bring it back to pre-accident condition.”
Coletta said that being an independent shop also allows her to justify hours more easily.
“Our techs recognize the benefits of working here,” she added.
Although Coletta is currently able to provide her employees with health insurance, dental, vision, and a 401(k), she worries that the increasing minimum wage in Los Angeles County will threaten that.
“Minimum wage goes up every year and will be $15 an hour by 2020,” she explained. “It's really difficult to fight for that labor increase with insurance companies.”
She added that the increase doesn't only impact cost of labor, but also workers’ comp and payroll taxes, along with other expenses.
“Even though we're a small business, we're able to give good benefits,” Coletta said. “I worry about whether I'll be able to afford that in the future.”
She added that the regulations in Los Angeles County can also conflict with the quality of service and profitability.
“You used to be able to hire a tech anywhere, but because of all the training and certifications, you just can't just do that anymore,” Coletta explained.
Many of the regulations in Los Angeles County are put in place to keep shops environmentally friendly. Precision Auto Body has gone past the requirements to maintain a green shop.
“We have invested in a streamlined computer system that helps us save paper as well as solar panels and LED lights,” Coletta explained.