Flying solo – Autofix 2000
bodyshop magazines Padraig Mallett visited Autofix 2000 Ltd, in Bourne, Lincolnshire, to discuss the industry, historic race cars and the movie Rush.
Autofix 2000 is run by managing directors, Mark and Angela Davis, who took over the business almost 16 years ago. Mark has been in the bodyshop industry for 35 years, having worked for the previous owner before he and wife, Angela eventually took the reins.
After being involved in the industry for so long it’s no surprise that Mark has seen a great deal of change over the years and one thing that has evolved within the industry is regulation. Mark advised me that the current BSI kitemark system doesn’t cater properly to smaller bodyshops.
‘We were an MVRA quality assured (QA) centre of excellence and when we were told about the introduction of the BSI Kitemark, we were advised we would get this certification no problem. It turns out we couldn’t get it because we don’t employ a specific number of people with certificates to comply with the requirements. The fact we can’t get it has no reflection on our work, but because we don’t meet certain criteria. I like to do things right and I don’t think the current system is fair for smaller bodyshops.’
When Mark initially took over the business it dealt with a lot of insurance approval work, with one insurance company in particular being the main provider of this work.
‘We worked with a major insurance company for many years before it ended up dropping 64 other bodyshops, including us. The company kept trying to cut costs with us but there is only so far you can go. While I understand insurance companies trying to cut costs, at the end of the day we have bills to pay just like everyone else,’ explained Mark.
‘I think the hourly rate paid to bodyshops is ridiculous, if I compare what we get with the local MOT centre for example, they can easily ask for £65 per hour yet for our average repair job we are paid just £35 per hour.’
Mark continued, ‘I used to have a quote on the wall that featured in bodyshop magazine many years ago that said ‘it’s cheaper to get your car repaired than it is to get your hair cut’ (if you compared the hours put in with the total cost of the job). More recently, I’ve seen quote in July’s edition of the magazine from Colin Hagan, stating that no other industry is as highly regulated and requires such high skill, yet gets paid so little in profit margins to make it function. So I think this issue within our industry that existed back then, still exists today.’
After becoming dissatisfied with the constant back and forth between bodyshop and insurer, Mark decided to drop all insurance approval work and made the decision to become fully independent. Prior to this, Autofix employed six staff members, now it employs three full time staff members and one part time panel beater, who helps out when things get particularly busy.
Mark advised me that the work that comes in to the business can be divided into three equal parts; one third of the work comes from painting race cars, one third is from repairing commercial vans – thanks to a contract with a local refrigerated van hire company Chillhire, and lastly, the general retail insurance work that comes through the door.
‘We get a lot of race cars in via a local motorsport company’, said Mark. ‘We do all the paint work, some restoration work on classic cars and we also repair the damage that the race cars incur whilst racing.’
This is how Autofix 2000 ended up painting the classic Formula 1 cars that featured in the movie Rush, which focused on the merciless 1970s rivalry between Formula One rivals James Hunt and Niki Lauda.
Mark said, ‘The classic F1 cars were sourced for the movie two years before they started shooting it and then the director found out that the airboxes that featured on the cars weren’t period correct. New fibreglass shells had to be made just for the movie and we tidied them up and painted them. We also painted a few other shells that were made up just for the directors to hang on their walls. It was a great experience and to see our work featured in a movie was fantastic. After the film came out I bought everyone in the shop a copy of the DVD.’
Autofix 2000 was also a Cromax refinish five star approved bodyshop and, as a result, was given the opportunity to restore a classic OSCA FS372 race car for Sir Stirling Moss. ‘We have worked with DuPont Refinish since 2000. Our bodyshop uses Imron Elite for commercial vehicles and the Cromax range for repair and refurbishment work on cars. My team have worked on cars from as far afield as America and Australia, including ex-Formula One cars, and marques such as BRM, Lotus, Ferrari, Maserarti, McLaren and Porsche.’
While the business carries out a lot of interesting work on desirable classics and race cars, Mark is keen to point out that this isn’t the only thing he wants Autofix 2000 to be known for.
‘Sometimes when customers hear you repair expensive classics, it can be off putting as they automatically assume your work is going to be too expensive,’ explained Mark. ‘This couldn’t be further from the truth with us, as we do all types of work at Autofix 2000 and I feel we are competitively priced across the board.’
He continued, ‘At the same time though, when customers that have high-end vehicles come in and see these types of cars being worked on, it gives them a degree of satisfaction to know their car is in safe and capable hands.’
While there are some areas of the bodyshop industry that Mark feels need to be improved upon, he advised me that the job satisfaction that comes from working in a bodyshop is extremely rewarding.
Mark said, ‘There are some customers who aren’t overly interested with the job we do in the bodyshop but when you’ve repaired a car that’s a customer’s pride and joy, and you see how happy they are after we’ve put their vehicle back to how it should be, it really is a great feeling.’
‘Autofix 2000 is in the market for the discerning customer and we are passionate about carrying out high quality and safe repairs.’