PROFIT CENTER: Sprayed & Paid - BodyShop Business
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PROFIT CENTER: Sprayed & Paid

Sprayed-on coatings aren’t just limited to bedliners. Applications are so diverse you might just end up creating a whole new market.

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Writer Charlie Barone has been working in and around the body shop business for the last 35 years, having owned and managed several collision repair shops. He's an ASE Master Certified technician, a licensed damage appraiser and has been writing technical, management and opinion pieces since 1993.

The application of bedliner material is seen here on the deck of a rollback recovery truck. (Photo courtesy of Langeman Manufacturing, LTD.)Here’s an unusual application of sprayed-on bedliner material: coating a fender on a big rig tractor. (Photo courtesy of Scorpion Protective Coatings)With sales of new vehicles down drastically this year, one might think that sprayed-on bedliner sales are down as well. After all, the new truck owner is the main customer for most collision repair facilities that offer sprayed-on bedliners as an additional revenue stream. Al-though comments from shops support this conclusion, they also indicate that there is still enough of a demand to merit considering sprayed-on bedliners as a way to boost the bottom line.

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“Our sprayed-on bedliner business is off about 65 percent, mainly because our main customer is the new truck owner,” said Bill Denny, owner of Bill Denny’s Automotive in Havre de Grace, Md. “On top of that, the sprayed-on bedliner is an enhancement purchase for most new truck owners, and with consumer confidence low, consumers aren’t spending money for enhancement products. However, the new truck owner or fleet owner who uses his truck for work and buys the bedliner as a protection product is still purchasing the spray-on bedliners. But even business owners aren’t buying new trucks unless they absolutely need to.”

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Competition has increased, too, with people selling professional style kits on eBay for $355, increasing consumer access to sprayed-on bedliners. Of course, it’s up to you to convince customers that an installation guaranteed by a professional like yourself is the best way to go.

Still, the statistics from the Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association show that the truck accessory and add-on market remains very big. There were roughly 6.2 million pickup trucks sold in the United States in 2008. That figure will clearly decrease in 2009, but pickups remain a popular vehicle choice, and so does outfitting them with a sprayed-on bedliner.
    
The Sky’s the Limit

So new truck sales are down and therefore so are sprayed-on bedliner opportunities. Are there any other applications you might be able to use them for outside of pickups to make up some business? That is, are there other ways this durable material can be applied to the surfaces of objects that require protection, color and weather resistance? As expected, the number of applications are limited only by one’s imagination.

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What began as a sprayed-on bedliner operation out of a body shop turned into a leading floor and decorative concrete coating dealer for Jeff Adney – son of Bob Adney, founder of Bodytek in Valparaiso, Ind. They’ve since closed their body shop, but they’re still in the bedliner business, although sales are less than half of what they used to be.

Adney says they ran the shop for 30 years, but their foray into sprayed-on bedliners in 1997 pushed them into the industrial markets. They ran into an increasing number of obstacles to making a decent profit in collision repair, which is why they started thinking about giving other businesses a try.

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Being in an industrial region with steel producers as its mainstay, they looked at the coatings that could be applied in those environments. However, the bedliner coatings were not readily adaptable to being applied in those environments due to the hydrophobic nature of the material. That is, the material was moisture sensitive, reacted when exposed to water and foamed up.

Adney then looked into true polyurea spray liners, which is a containment coating and an abrasion-resistant coating, as an application for garage floor coatings. His floor finishing business is now doing more than $1.5 million in sales, performing epoxy coatings and cement-based applications.  

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Adney says it’s a better market than collision repair, and they enjoy running a business that’s not dependent on the misfortune of people wrecking their cars.

Keep On Truckin’

While the sprayed-on bedliner racket is undergoing some recessionary contraction at the moment, the fact remains that there are plenty of trucks on the road today with existing liners that get damaged in collisions. In fact, repairing bedliners has become a more commonplace task given the proliferation of sprayed-on bedliners in the light truck market. This can present an opportunity for shops that choose not to sublet this. Small quantities of the material can be purchased at a time, and you can purchase it in a two-component cartridge system with a static mixing tube, the cost of which can be passed along to an insurer paying for the covered repair. Contact your local PBE jobber for more information regarding the material and application procedures.

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Writer Charlie Barone has been working in and around the body shop business for the past 35 years, having owned and managed several collision repair shops. He’s an ASE Master Certified technician and a licensed damage appraiser, and has been writing technical, management and opinion pieces since 1993. Barone can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]

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