By Jeff Sanford
Toronto, Ontario — January 25, 2017 — A recent large deal signed by major auto glass repairer Belron Canada will see that company enter the collision repair space through the acquisition of the Speedy Collision network.
The final agreement was signed just before Christmas. The President of Belron Canada, Ralph Hosker, says the deal is a major step for the company.
“It’s early days yet. This is our first step into collision. But it’s a big deal. Twenty-five shops in three provinces,” says Hosker.
The UK-born chief exec went on to say that the deal is a good way for the company to widen its service offering as a way of dealing with shifting market conditions.
“We’ve been monitoring events in the industry. It’s changing, big time. The generational needs are different. The ‘Uberization’ of the auto industry potentially contributes to less kilometres driven. With safety features like automated braking and semi-autonomous driving you’re going to have less accidents. And so it’s not an explosive growth scenario for glass. Generally, demand is flat or declining,” says Hosker. “[But] We have to follow our customers and our partners. This acquisition gives insurance companies and our B2B partners a single point of contact for services and expands the services available to clients.”
Speedy Collision specializes in full collision repairs. The network has collision repair centres in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario.
“Changes in technology, an increase in the complexity of vehicles and higher expectations around service … expectations are changing. There is a gradual year on year increase in the cost of new glass. A lot of them are carrying new technology such as cameras … the extra tech means costs are going up. It’s a very competitive market. Speedy Glass is a strong national brand with a great regional presence,” says Hosker. “I’m excited about this. I’m gratified by the reaction of our employees and the franchisees about this development.”
Belron Canada is a privately owned company. It operates a network of more than 350 service centres with 40 distribution and warehouse centres. There are over 1,600 employees in ten provinces. The brand names in the network include Speedy Glass, Lebeau Vitres d’autos, DURO, Apple Auto Glass and Broco Glass.
Terry Allen, the Chief Executive Officer of Speedy Collision, took some time to talk to Collision Repair magazine. “From the first time we met these folks, we hit it off. A lot of this is about fit and culture. That’s important,” says Allen. “When we met the people in the Belron organization they had the same approach to customer service, and that’s the most important thing.”
Allen founded Speedy Collision in January 2009 after he left a job in IT. At the time he realized there were long wait times to get vehicles repaired in Calgary. That experience drove the development of the network.
“I came into the business looking at collision repair as a consumer,” says Allen. Right away he put the accent on customer service. “We have someone greet customers professionally at the door. We walk the customer through the repair process. We keep the washrooms clean. We keep in mind that the client just had a traumatic event. And we make sure we’re following OEM repair procedures,” he says. That culture matched the attitude at Belron. “We weren’t really going to make a move. But when it came down to looking at the culture at Belron, we saw the Canadian operation was very much a customer-focused approach. It was a real fit for us,” he says. “Everything kind of lined up and made sense all the way around. We’re aligned that way.”
Like Hosker, Allen thinks it is important to expand the range of services offered to clients today. “With the changes going on in the aftermarket world, with the way vehicles are changing, most of my competitors offer glass so I can understand why Belron wanted to expand into collision,” he says. “In the collision industry today you’re always looking for synergies. If we look at where the collision sector is going—and there are a lot of moving parts today—the more services we can offer to customers, the better,” says Allen. “It just kind of came together. It’s lots of fun. We’re excited about the opportunity and the future. The culture was a direct match and we’ll be enhanced by joining forces. It seemed the right thing to do,” he says
Allen also noted that the annual CCIF event is coming up. “Ralph and I will be there. I’m sure we’ll get a lot of questions, although it is very early days of course,” he said with a laugh.
For those unfamiliar with Belron, the Canadian division is part of Belron International, a global vehicle glass repair and replacement company. The global organization traces its roots to South Africa in the late 1800s. The original company began supplying glass to General Motors and Ford in the 1920s. Today, the company employs 25,600 people in more than 30 countries and across five continents. The company operates in countries from Austria to Lithuania, Indonesia, Portugal, Turkey and Ukraine. The company offers 24 hour service in many locations, through both branch and mobile operations. According to company press materials, on average, 7,800 windscreens are repaired each day, with a job completed every three seconds.
Hosker has been with Belron fifteen years. He started off in London as the Global Director of Supply Chain and Purchasing. After nine years in that role he began looking around for a change and came to Canada. “It’s a fantastic country,” he says. When asked about the differences between European and Canadian shops he notes that the average shop size is probably smaller in Canada. “Canada is so large, so the population density is much smaller … the population in Canada is about half the UK or Italy,” he says. Their shops tend to be larger as a result. “The winters there are also milder winters, but there are many other variations – price of gas, speed of driving, condition of the roads, for example, but probably the biggest difference is the variations in temperature you get here. You can have extreme minus 20 degree temperatures and then it goes to plus five and that can affect glass,” says Hosker. “A lot of this will probably apply to the collision business too,” he added.