That was then …
The wood vs. steel battle continues. In June
1926, the National Lumber Manufacturers Association charged steel
makers with "disseminating propaganda against the use of
wooden automobile bodies." "It’s an insidious attack
on lumber," they declared.
The reason for the association’s angst? An
ad, which stated: Automobile Industry Heeds Trend of Progress.
Wood Forced Out by Steel in the March of Progress.
This is now …
Woodies (as they’re now called) lost the material
battle long ago – but are still in demand for nostalgia collectors.
It’s estimated that 7,000 woodies are still on the streets, and
maybe another 2,000 are being restored or rotting away in garages.
There’s even a company in California that builds faux woodies
for clients who want the look but not an old car. The cost for
this customized wooden-bodied vehicle: $150,000.
The switch from wood to steel in vehicle manufacturing
not only created a market for collectors, but also an all-new
ballgame for the collision repair industry. New repair procedures
were needed – and new equipment needed to be purchased to do the
Even now, purchasing new tools and equipment
is a constant – mainly because the industry is constantly changing.
To find out about new equipment and products,
respondents rely on jobbers, trade magazines, manufacturers reps,
other shop owners and trade shows – in that order. When asked
what factors influence their overall buying decisions, quality
ranked first, followed by ease of application, price, reputation
of product and their painters recommendations.
Per month, respondents spend:
- $1,955 on paint (FYI: From 1989 to 1996, the cost of paint
increased about 54 percent),
- $379 on primers,
- $316 on masking products,
- $270 on abrasives,
- $195 on surface prep products,
- $122 on cleaning chemicals,
- $104 on buffing products,
- $91 on fillers,
- $64 on detail cloths and
- $55 on waxes.
Mechanical-parts buying dollars are spent, in this order, at car
dealers, jobbers, salvage yards, warehouse distributors and others;
while crash-parts buying dollars are spent at new car dealers
(70 percent), salvage yards (16.5 percent), import/distributors
(10.1 percent) and others (3.3 percent).
A little more than 68 percent of our respondents purchase crash
parts, and the 25.6 percent that don’t cited these reasons: poor
fit, poor quality, buy only OEM, no profit and no supplier.
On average, respondents use only one brand of measuring/straightening
equipment, but when broken down by sales volume, shops making
$350,000 a year or more typically use at least two brands, and
30.8 percent of shops making more than $1 million a year use three
More than 65 percent of respondents use only one brand of paint,
while 31.3 percent use two brands, 1.9 percent use three and 1.3
percent use four or more. Shop owners typically make the final
decision on which paint brand to purchase, and factors influencing
paint-buying decisions, in order of importance, are quality, price,
ease of application, reputation of product and painters recommendations.
When we asked respondents what purchases would be most important
to their businesses in the next year:
- 17.6 percent said straightening and pulling equipment. Reasons
cited: to get more insurance-company business, to keep more work
in house and to get rid of obsolete equipment.
- 16.7 percent – paint booths. Reasons: to upgrade old equipment,
to keep up with a backlog of work and to solve dust-related paint
- 13.7 percent – computer systems. Reasons: to keep up with
the industry, to qualify for insurance-company work and to get
information for paint codes and mixing.
- 9.8 percent – hand tools. Reasons: to keep up with changes
and to replace lost tools.
- 7.8 percent – measuring equipment. Reasons: to be more efficient
and more accurate.
- 5.9 percent – lifts and jacks. Reasons: to make repairs faster
and easier. "[I’m] getting too old to bend down," said
one respondent. "I’m tall and tired of bending over,"
said another. "Don’t like bending over. Getting too old for
that," declared yet another shop owner.
- 9.8 percent said other equipment would be their most important
purchase in the next year. Other equipment includes air filtration
and vacuum systems, bake units for spraybooths, exhaust fans for
spraybooths, prep stations, welders and wreckers.
Overall, planned purchases were down from last year – indicating
that respondents are spending more conservatively these days.
Although 1996 turned out to be a fairly profitable year for most,
respondents weren’t as willing to part with their hard-earned
cash as in past years.