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A CENTURY CELEBRATION

Regina Autobody celebrates 100 years of collision repair service

The story of Regina Autobody (R.A.B.) first began all the way back in 1924 through the vision of Russ Karels who opened the first dedicated collision repairer in Western Canada. Flash forward one hundred years later and, while the auto repair industry may look very different, Regina Autobody continues to deliver on its core values of integrity, honesty and a passion for cars. In order to celebrate Regina Autobody’s 100-year anniversary, Collision Repair magazine sat down with Managing Partner, Mike Mario to discuss the ins and outs of both a century worth celebrating as well as a future to look forward to.

IN THE BEGINNING

According to Mike Mario, the journey of Regina Autobody first began in 1924 when Russ Karels opened the business as the first dedicated collision repair shop in Western Canada.

“While we don’t know the exact date that the shop opened,” Mario noted, “we always give out June 29, 1924, which was the day our dad George Mario was born. At the time, the bulk of (automotive) business in those days was as a blacksmith shop and Regina—only second to Oshawa—was home to a General Motors second assembly plant that was building Chevrolets.”

“In the late 30s, Mr. Karels brought on a partner by the name of Clarence Thompson. After Mr. Karel’s retirement, Art Egner became Mr. Thompson’s partner and my dad, George Mario and his brother Tony Mario were technicians. In 1965, my dad purchased shares alongside Mr. Egner’s son, Dave.”

THE PAST

In the 1990s, equal shares of R.A.B. were sold to Mike, Chris and Greg Mario and the business successfully transitioned to its second generation. When asked by Collision Repair magazine what drew him to the industry, Mario described how the choice was really a no-brainer since he was born into what was, at that point, already decades of automotive history.

“The fact that my dad was the owner at R.A.B. and I pretty much grew up here, meant it was the only career that I had in my sights except for a small yearning to join the RCMP. I worked at the shop throughout high school and wouls try to arrange my classes so I could go to school in the morning and work at the shop in the afternoons.” “I graduated high school in 1979, and in the fall of that same year, I started my apprenticeship courses at Saskatchewan Polytechnic and got my journeypersons in 1982. I worked 10 years repairing vehicles until I moved into the parts department. Then, in 1990, my father began to sell equal shares to myself, and my brothers Chris and Greg.”

THE PRESENT

When asked by Collision Repair what industry trends he’s experienced in recent years, Mario commented that while changes to vehicle manufacturing and technology mark some of the “biggest disruptors in the history of collision repair,” he continues to find the passion and skill of young technicians motivating.

“It still inspires me how quickly the young technicians become efficient. Since the early 90s, R.A.B. has shown our new techs career paths that they can choose from in either the metal department or refinishing department. Now, with today’s vehicles, this trade has become more diverse than ever.”

Despite ongoing challenges related to the talent and labour shortage as well as the increasing complexity of vehicle repair, for Mario, “the bright spot remains that we have access to training at our fingertips.”

Specifically, for Mario, after so many years in the business, continuing to adapt to changes is a matter of building a strong network of knowledge and community connections. “We’ve adapted over the years by engaging in lots of reading, networking and through the friendships that we’ve created through attending industry events,” Mario said. “Another way is by visiting shops across Canada. We always learn something new each and every visit.”

THE FUTURE

In looking towards the future, Mike Mario hopes to continue creating a culture of world class repairs so that Regina Autobody can succeed for the next 100 years.

“With our built in Quality Verification and Learning Opportunity forms that follow every vehicle through the shop, it becomes an everyday mindset that every repair needs to be ‘world class.’ After this many years in our journey, it is a culture that is ingrained in our team. We use the analogy of a track relay team and passing the baton to the next person to make it as seamless as possible.” “In December of 2017, Chris retired and then Greg followed in 2018, passing his shares on to his son Chad Mario. I, recently have begun to pass shares to my own son Matt and a long-time teammate, Kaylyn Hildebrand. While I won’t be around to oversee the business for the next 100 years, our family recently had three grandsons, so who knows.”

“When I think back on the journey so far, the best experience I can think of is learning the numbers on how to run a successful business. So many members in the industry have helped contribute and we wouldn’t be where we are today without them. From 3M seminars in the 80s and 90s, to Kos and Ton Reinking who showed us what true quality looks like when they introduced us to Sikkens in the early 80s, to people such as Ian McIntosh and Glenn Hickey, all of our connections over the years have helped influence our success.”

“Another moment that really stands out for me is getting to be a part of the beginning of the Canadian Collision Industry Forum in the 90s. Being able to be connected to the industry and to take part in discussions is something that helps everyone stay ahead of the game. Overall, R.A.B. and its team have accomplished so much. We’ve spent years focusing on developing our facility and I can’t wait to continue building on our process so that these strong foundations can one day, hopefully, be passed on to the fourth generation.”

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3 Responses

  1. Regina Autobody has been a terrific leader in our marketplace for many years. Mike and his brothers have been instrumental and helping people like myself succeed in the Collision industry. They set the standard and are willing to share their knowledge to help grow the entire industry, this is an amazing business!

  2. Good morning to you Mike! We have met years ago when CCIF was founded! And we became to know each other. I have always enjoy your company and I have lots of respect for you. You and Tom are 2 very precious person for me. Enjoy your next life! Hopefully I will get to see you sometime at industry event. Go well!

  3. This business is truly the NorthStar for the collision industry to emulate. The culture is the first quality that this team portraits to customers and staff alike then integrity is in everything they do which is a testament to their longevity and finally passion for their industry, team and family. I’m proud to know these special humans!!

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