The first thing you notice when you visit Dave’s Autobody is the life-sized palm tree out front. This is Galesburg, Ill., for Pete’s sake. But the more you think about it, the more it makes sense. It sure makes the business stand out from the street. And what do you think about when you see palm trees? Ocean breezes, the smell of coconut oil, relaxation…kind of the perfect thoughts after a nasty collision, right?
With so many collision repairers lamenting about the loss of customers to insurer steering, Dave’s seems to have the perfect fix. It’s called Detail For Life, the brainchild of owner Dave Dunn (who also owns Masters School of Autobody Management) that’s also a registered trademark. If Dave’s repairs a customer’s collision of $2,000 or greater on a standard passenger vehicle, the shop will detail the customer’s car as long as he or she owns it, up to four times per year. It’s no surprise, then, that Dave’s employs five full-time detailers. That’s right, FIVE full-time detailers.
“Some shops don’t hold detailers to the same standards as technicians or painters, but to us, they do just as important of a job as anybody,” says Rob Dunn, son of Dave Dunn and production manager of Dave’s Autobody. “Also, we screen them in the interview process just as rigorously as any other person applying for other positions.”
A Detail for Life can also be purchased for a new car for $1,200. For non-customers looking for a one-time detail, Dave’s offers different levels at different prices, from a hand wash at $19.95 to a total detail at $199.
Walking through the shop, you notice how neat and tidy it is. The floor in the production area is the same as in the front office tile that you wouldn’t be embarrassed to have in your own home. And the production area is startlingly clean the floors are immaculate, the smells minimal and no filler dust coating anything. And it’s no wonder since Dave’s employs a full-time cleaning person!
Most shops’ paint mixing rooms look like Jackson Pollock paintings, with spills and drops everywhere, but this area at Dave’s was also spotless. Even the guns were lined up just so on a stainless steel shelf. Parts carts at each work station kept tools organized and all in one easy-to-find place.
Also, in a day and age when insurers are winning the game of staying “top of mind” with consumers, Dave’s is holding its own and then some. With the average consumer only getting in an accident once every seven years, it’s easy for them to lose touch with a body shop. But not with Dave’s. Dunn has employed a variety of innovative tactics to “tattoo” his shop name on consumers’ brains, including handing out free hot sauce with the Dave’s Autobody logo on it, putting the logo on hats, shirts and golf gloves (QUALITY stuff, not junk, Dunn says “If it’s junk, people won’t wear it or will just throw it away”), and perhaps most remarkably holding a local Autobody Idol and Autobody Idol for Kids competition. The contest was modeled after the insanely popular “American Idol” TV show and had contestants singing Dave’s advertising jingle. The winners’ songs are now posted on Dave’s Web site, along with the original jingle. The original jingle, Dunn says, was so popular that people he ran into on the street around town would sing it to him.
At a Glance
Name: Dave’s Autobody
Location: Galesburg, Ill.
Square Footage: 10,000
Owner: Dave Dunn
No. of Employees: 28
2009 Gross Sales: Nearly $4 million
Repair Volume/Cars Per Month: 350-500, including details
Average Repair Cost: $2,200
DRPs: 2 (Dunn: “We don’t chase any DRPs that involve discounting.”)