“I’m sorry Mrs. Smith, but your car isn’t ready for delivery after all. Someone just ran into it in our parking lot.”
As a shop owner, this definitely isn’t a call you’d ever want to make. But it’s exactly what Steve Fine had to do when a woman driving a 1992 gray Buick crashed into a row of seven cars parked in front of his shop, Fine’s Body Shop & Garage – located on Ringgold Road, a four-lane highway in Chattanooga, Tenn.
Fine had just finished writing an estimate for some customers when they heard “one big bang.” The customers, who couldn’t speak English, ran back into the office pointing outside and yelling in a foreign language.
“I thought they were mad about the estimate,” he says. “[Then] I looked up, and all I saw was dust going down the highway.”
The woman driving the Buick had been headed westbound on Ringgold Road and told police she slammed on her brakes to avoid two cars drag racing. When she did this, her car crossed into the eastbound lanes and then went airborne – the front bumper landing in the dash of a 1998 Camaro parked at Fine’s. The Camaro happened to belong to Fine’s daughter.
“And then the Camaro stacked up six other cars,” says Fine, adding that, thankfully, the driver suffered only a mild concussion and no one at the shop was injured. “We were very fortunate.”
As hard as it is to believe, it all worked out OK for the owners of the wrecked vehicles, too. The accident added another few hundred dollars in damages to one car, which hadn’t been repaired yet anyway. The owners of a 2000 Nissan Maxima – who’d just been notified their car was ready for delivery after repairs to the left side of the vehicle – had to be told their car wasn’t ready after all. But “it ended up the car was [given a complete paint job], so they were happy,” says Fine.
The other four cars belonged to a local rental company. The insurance company totaled two of those vehicles, and the remaining two were vehicles the rental agency had decided not to have repaired, even before the Buick incident.
Damage to the vehicles came to almost $50,000, the exact amount of the driver’s insurance coverage. The only thing Fine wasn’t compensated for was a brick flower box that had also been hit. Overall, says Fine, “it was a happy wreck, really. [The customers] were all real nice.”
Though Fine didn’t get to repair the car that caused all the commotion since it was totaled, he did manage to make a sale: Before the Buick incident, Fine had been trying, unsuccessfully, to sell his daughter’s Camaro. But after the accident, his shop fixed the car and because it looked better than it did before, someone finally bought it.
“I sold a car I couldn’t sell,” he says with a laugh, “and got top dollar out of it.”
Writer Debbie Briggs is managing editor of BodyShop Business.