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The video starts out with a father getting ready for work
and heading out the door. His little daughter wakes up and goes downstairs to
give her daddy a hug before he leaves, but she discovers he’s already gone. She
rushes out the door and notices his car is still in the garage. He gets a text
from work saying the morning meeting has been pushed up 30 minutes. Frantic, he
puts the car in reverse and gets ready to stomp the gas pedal. She walks behind
his car and…he sees her little hand wave in the rearview mirror and stops
just in time before hitting her. He gets out of the car and she throws her arms
That video pretty much encapsulates what
CollisionGuard.com is all about: promoting safe driving. Brian Nichols, owner
of three Cascade Collision Repair centers in Utah and creator of the new
website, was looking for a different way to connect with customers, and to him,
the answer was to show them he cares about more than just fixing cars.
"My shops repair about 600 cars a month, and we
tend to look at each one as just another accident, but each of those accidents
affects somebody in some way the injury or death of a friend or family
member," says Nichols. "So it became a passion of mine to spread the
word about safer driving, and I realized that nobody had really gotten that
message right yet."
On the Sidelines
Nichols had noticed how body shops had always been on the
sidelines of the "safe driving discussion" and let insurance
companies talk about it instead. He thought, "How come body shops can’t
get involved and maybe do a better job of it? After all, who better to talk
about auto accidents than body shops?"
Nichols and his staff paid special attention to what
customers were saying in his shop for about three weeks. What they realized is
that people view visiting a body shop almost as bad as visiting the dentist.
"They were saying it was an inconvenience and were
wishing the accident had never happened," Nichols said. "Or they
would pick up the car and say, ‘It looks wonderful and we’re super happy, but
we hope we never see you again.’"
The website, he reasoned, would be a perfect way to keep
in touch with customers and keep Cascade Collision in front of them.
"Now, when someone walks in the door and says, ‘I’ve
just had an accident,’ we can now not only offer to fix their car but give them
some information that may be helpful," Nichols says. "That builds
The site caught Sherwin-Williams’ attention, and the
paint manufacturer decided to make CollisionGuard.com a value-added partner to
its A-Plus Network. It also apparently attracted insurers. Over the last three
months, Cascade has gotten three new DRPs, two of which Nichols believes he got because of the website, which officially launched on Feb. 23.
"I think it’s because we were saying, ‘Hey, we’re
not just a normal shop, we’re doing things to help the industry and cure this
epidemic of people crashing,’" he says.
The addition of insurance work in and of itself probably makes the more than $100,000
Nichols has poured into the site worth it.
He initially presented the idea for
the site to two web companies, but neither of them built the site to his
vision. He then contracted with a local computer science student who created
the site as it is today. The videos are all original content and produced by a
local video production company. One recurring character in some of the more
humorous videos, safe driving instructor Mr. Howard, was the brainchild of a
student at Oklahoma State University who was challenged by his professor,
Nichols’ aunt, to create a safe driving video.
The site has now evolved into not just a provider of safe
driving information but a body shop and automotive service locator with coupons
offering special deals. Shops can list themselves for free and create their own
coupon of choice. Approximately 216 shops representing 10 states have signed up
"A lot of my competitors have called me and asked if
I would mind if they put their coupons or deals on the site, and I said not at all,"
Nichols says. "If you’re willing to support safe driving by putting a
coupon on there, then I don’t want to charge you anything."
However, some pay features have been added to the site
due to its evolution. Just recently, Nichols launched a feature that allows
shops to become "official sponsors" of a category of their choosing.
For example, if ABC Auto Body sponsors the Auto Body category, it then appears
at the top of the list in its given zip code and can adjust a search radius to
the exact size that fits its need. The price is based on population; it currently costs
around $100 to be at the top of the list in an area with a population of 300,000.
Building a Following
With more than 1,000 consumers signed up as members of
the site and 6,700 Facebook followers, Nichols is now beginning talks with
insurers on possibly offering additional discounts or savings on car insurance
for members of the website who accumulate points for educating themselves on
Nichols believes the next step for the site is to allow
shops to send out e-mails to customers with their information and any special
deals they’re offering.
"I don’t know where the site is going to go,"
he says. "I’m trying to see where the puck is going to be with it, but I
also feel like I’m along for the ride and and am going to enjoy where it takes
me. I don’t want to stress about it I’ve already stressed over having a shop
for a lot of years."
Nichols’ mission with this site was reinforced recently
when a local boy who went swimming at a pool and then laid down on the concrete
to dry off was backed over by a vehicle and killed.
"Those things are completely preventable," he
says. "I’m passionate about doing all that I can to stop these things from
happening. If one life is saved because of this website, I know all the effort
will have been worth it."