NORTHEAST Educational Panel Examines Body Shop of Future

NORTHEAST Educational Panel Examines Body Shop of Future

A panel of nine industry experts tackled the topic of “Shop of the Future” at the recent NORTHEAST 2023 Automotive Services Show.

A panel of nine industry experts tackled the topic of “Shop of the Future” at the recent NORTHEAST 2023 Automotive Services Show, offering predictions and advice for shops looking to succeed in 2023 and beyond.

With vehicle technology advancing every day, there’s simply no denying the fact that shops will need to adapt to survive and stay relevant amidst the increases in electric vehicles (EV), ADAS, AI and so much more. But what does the future actually hold for shops of the future? 

When it comes to EV readiness, panelists agreed that the majority of the industry is unprepared, though there was unanimous agreement that the future will see a situation where shops will require certification to work on EVs. Therefore, shops of the future will need to make investments in the tools, training and space needed to work on these complex vehicles because they’re coming faster than many anticipate. 

“Fossil fuels are unsustainable, so we need to get ready right now,” said Niel Speetjens of I-CAR, who stressed the need for safety training. “EVs are not inherently more dangerous than internal combustion engines, but the technology is different, and it’s the unknown that can get you killed.”

OEM certification continues to be a vital model for forward-facing shops, and Mike Anderson of Collision Advice pointed out that the trend is obvious when it comes to acquisitions since MSOs often focus on purchasing OEM-certified shops. John Shoemaker (BASF) agreed.

“I’m seeing a lot of specialization out there where shops are choosing three to four makes and models and doing those very well,” Shoemaker said.

It’s impossible to consider the future of collision shops without discussing the ongoing tech shortage and how necessary it is to invest in vocational schools to ensure the future generation is learning the right skills to become effective industry professionals.

“Less than half the kids who start in collision education actually end up in the industry,” said Michael Bonsanto of Passaic County Technical Institute in Wayne, N.J. “Our trade has always been viewed as dungeon-like, and though today’s shops are often beautiful, high-tech facilities, parents who haven’t been in a collision recently still have a negative perception of our industry. They don’t want their children going into that, so we need to change their perception of what we do.”

Added AASP/NJ President Jerry McNee, “I graduated in 1981, and when I went back to the school in 2022, it looked exactly the same as when I left it. We have to get involved with the schools by creating a mentorship program and working with these kids who are eager and willing to learn.”

Plans are underway for NORTHEAST 2024, scheduled for March 15-17, 2024 at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus, N.J. For more information, visit aaspnjnortheast.com.

For more information on AASP/NJ, visit aaspnj.org.

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