Collision Repair 15#1
For as long as Frank Sottile, owner of CARSTAR Brampton can remember he has always been drawn to the collision repair industry. As soon as he was able to, he began working for his father, an auto mechanic who founded a combination shop with his cousin, who was a body technician.
Over his many years in the industry Sottile has occupied various roles, including working as; a detailer, tow truck operator, estimator, auto painter and technician, shop manager, and owner. “There’s no role I haven’t held in the bodyshop.” Sottile’s proudest moments since gracing the Collision Repair cover in 2016 include CARSTAR Brampton’s philanthropic endeavours, specifically the facility’s work with Cystic Fibrosis. When reflecting on his career he says the biggest change he’s seen in the industry is the impact of COVID-19.
Up until the pandemic, the industry was relatively simple, he said. A car comes in and you fix it. However, with less people hitting the road due to COVID-19, his shop which normally brings in a high volume of vehicles has struggled. “We’ve always been a busy shop, but this pandemic has absolutely killed me.”
Even still, the ever-optimistic Sottile is confident that business will be back to normal as soon as the pandemic subsides.
Collision Repair 15#2
FIX AUTO CARTERVILLE | FIX AUTO LAVAL OUEST
After catching up with Vito Attivissimo, owner of Fix Auto Carterville and Fix Auto Laval Ouest and his daughter Nicoletta two things stand out: the slowdowns spurred by the pandemic and the uncertain future of the industry.
Since Vito was last featured on the cover, he says there hasn’t been any significant changes in their businesses—other than the pandemic, of course.
“We’ve just been working regularly, but it’s been COVID in the last year and half that has really slowed us down, apart from that not much has changed,” said Nicoletta. Though not much has changed, they said the lack of labour here in Canada definitely has. The two explained that they’ve had to get their new employees in the Philippines due to the shortages. However, helping people from different parts of the world obtain jobs is a point of pride for the businessowners. Both Vito and Nicoletta say they are concerned about the future industry.
“With all the new technology that they are implementing and the idea of a ‘collision-free future,’ there’s not much space left for us,” said Nicoletta.
The two remain optimistic, however. “Of course, like always we hope for the best and will work as hard as we can.”
Collision Repair 15#3
Loc Ngo, the owner and operator of Cosmos Collision in Calgary, Alberta, is no stranger to hard work. He immigrated to Canada when he was 20 years old with next to nothing and worked his way up to owning his very own luxury auto repair shop. After years of learning the ins-and-outs of the collision repair industry, Ngo says one of the best moments in his career was when he was able to say that his shop repairs one of the best luxury brand vehicles in the world.
“The proudest moment in my career was when I became an Audi certified shop,” he said. Ngo prides himself on his excellent customer service and his outstanding reputation with every one of his clients. “Another proud moment was when a customer posted on my company’s Facebook page that he had been to other body shops over the course of 20 years, but none were as good as Cosmos Collision.”
Now, Ngo concentrates on giving back by talking to local high schools about the industry and certain apprenticeship programs that are available for students, as well as offering to sponsor students’ skills testing.
Collision Repair 15#4
FIX AUTO ABBOTSFORD, CHILLIWACK, VERNON, SALMON ARM, CALGARY, LETHBRIDGE
Body techs say all the time, “Every day is new and exciting; you never know what’ll roll into the shop.” Well, no disrespect to all the other shop owners out there, but Dave Miller’s life is the epitome of exciting. He’s one of the best water-skiers in the world—an apples to oranges comparison, no doubt, but it warrants discussion, nonetheless.
From the collision repair side of things, Dave’s story is actually a fairly familiar one. Dave grew up around his grandfather’s bodyshop and had already cut his teeth in the trade by the age of sixteen.
Before long, Dave realized he had a reputation and people were beginning to rely on him for body repairs. However, Dave was also building another reputation in parallel with his collision repair career, as a professional water-skier on a global circuit. Dave spends the five or six months a year that he isn’t in the shop on the road winning world championships and breaking world records—he even collaborated with his equipment company, GOODE, to develop a new ski.
When Dave comes home after a trip around the world winning competitions, he gets to come back to the multiple Fix Auto shops that he operates in the western half of the country. More importantly, he comes back to a staff that he trusts wholeheartedly to run the business for up to half a year at a time.
Collision Repair 15#5
CARSTAR MSO, EDMONTON
When Johnny Kloeckes—known to most in the industry as Johnny K—started out in the industry in the 90’s he was a one-man shop. Now, in 2021, he employs 60 people across six locations in Edmonton. “My proudest moment in the industry would be joining CARSTAR,” says Kloeckes. “It changed me from being a mechanic, to a businessman.”
Reflecting on the changes he’s already seen happen, since the days he used to fix cars in the parking lot of his apartment building, Johnny isn’t sure what the future of the industry holds.
“20 years ago, you could fix a car with tape measure and a pulling tower. Today, you absolutely cannot do that,” he says.
Kloeckes notes that the intelligent car market is growing, and that requires new training and requirements for technicians. “I don’t know what will happen, I don’t think anyone does.” Johnny says. “The sky’s really the limit.”
Collision Repair 15#6
BRENT GERRITS COLLISION & REFINISHING
Brent Gerrits, owner of Brent Gerrits Collision & Refinishing, has always made it a priority to advocate for the “little guys” especially in rural Nova Scotia, where it seems a new collision repair franchisee pops up daily.
To make sure that the independent, smaller businesses are heard Gerrits has taken it upon himself to sit on various councils and boards throughout the years. From sitting on the Automotive Sector Council of Nova Scotia for nearly 20 years, to being on the program advisory committee for Nova Scotia Community College over the years, and even representing the province when the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum was last held in Nova Scotia. Gerrits also uses his voice in the industry to make sure that young apprentices are getting the education and skills training they need to be successful in any shop setting. Saying that he “takes great satisfaction” in seeing the young apprentice’s progress.
“My desire has always been to make sure that the small shops have an input into all the policies and regulations that may come down the road.” When asked about what kinds of changes the industry will see in the future Gerrits spoke candidly saying that he believes the industry could potentially “hit a wall” in terms of staffing.
“There are not many people that are currently entering the trades,” he says. “I’m in my late 50s and there’s still a fair number of people in my age group still working. My fear for the future is that the skillsets of the older technicians isn’t being sufficiently passed on to the younger generation.”
When it comes down to it, Gerrits says that the biggest lesson he’s learned is to be adaptable in your environment and, whether you want to or not, to be open minded as well.
“I love the younger crew here because they teach me a lot, and I think that’s one of the biggest things is to be open-minded,” he states. “Younger generations are so much more capable of making good use of the newer technology, especially in terms of information.”