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Fix Network National Conference Discusses Future with Transparency

Autosphere » Collision » Fix Network National Conference Discusses Future with Transparency
President Steve Leal spoke transparently to all Fix Network franchisees. Credit: Michel Beaunoyer
Credit: Michel Beaunoyer and Commercial Photographers
Credit: Michel Beaunoyer and Commercial Photographers
Credit: Michel Beaunoyer and Commercial Photographers
Credit: Michel Beaunoyer and Commercial Photographers
Credit: Michel Beaunoyer and Commercial Photographers
Credit: Michel Beaunoyer and Commercial Photographers
Credit: Michel Beaunoyer and Commercial Photographers
Credit: Michel Beaunoyer and Commercial Photographers
Credit: Michel Beaunoyer and Commercial Photographers
Credit: Michel Beaunoyer and Commercial Photographers
Credit: Michel Beaunoyer and Commercial Photographers
Credit: Michel Beaunoyer and Commercial Photographers
Credit: Michel Beaunoyer and Commercial Photographers
Credit: Michel Beaunoyer and Commercial Photographers
Credit: Michel Beaunoyer and Commercial Photographers
Credit: Michel Beaunoyer and Commercial Photographers
Credit: Michel Beaunoyer and Commercial Photographers
Credit: Michel Beaunoyer and Commercial Photographers
Credit: Michel Beaunoyer and Commercial Photographers
Credit: Michel Beaunoyer and Commercial Photographers
Credit: Michel Beaunoyer and Commercial Photographers
Credit: Michel Beaunoyer and Commercial Photographers
Credit: Michel Beaunoyer and Commercial Photographers
Credit: Michel Beaunoyer and Commercial Photographers
Credit: Michel Beaunoyer and Commercial Photographers
Credit: Michel Beaunoyer and Commercial Photographers

The Fix Network National Conference took place from June 12-14 at the Hilton Lac-Leamy in Gatineau, under the theme “Formula for Success,” with over 350 guests in attendance.

For these participants, representing Fix Auto, Carrossier ProColor, NOVUS Glass, and Speedy Auto Service franchises, an extensive program was designed.

For the organizers, the formula for success rested on a combination of presentations by the Network’s management and contributions from renowned speakers. The theme also paid homage to Fix Network’s partnership with the Kick Sauber Formula 1 team.

Steve Leal, President of Fix Network World, kicked off the event by presenting the company’s history, tracing its origins and highlighting its current global reach.

From Canada to the world

Leal explained ProColor’s expansion in the United States, with 40 active franchises and 80 more in negotiation. “We must develop our presence in the U.S. market, where 25% of all car collisions in the world occur,” he illustrated.

Fix Network has 590 service points across Canada and over 2,000 worldwide. The president detailed efforts in surprising markets, such as the Middle East, where the automotive sector is booming. The potential for growth in Europe remains significant. He also explained how access to certain markets was facilitated by offering various franchises. For example, NOVUS is the largest auto glass repair and replacement service provider in New Zealand, which allows the Network to gradually introduce body repair franchises there.

The winning formula of Formula 1

In this context, Steve Leal highlighted the importance of the partnership between Fix Network World and the Kick Sauber Formula 1 team. “We are in a high-performance industry,” he said. “We can tell consumers that we are part of a Formula 1 team. In my opinion, this will further enhance their confidence in our services.”

With a broader vision, Leal reminded the audience of the exciting nature of Formula 1 racing, whose popularity has skyrocketed with the Netflix series about it. This visibility boosts Fix Network’s brand recognition in most of the territories it serves or covets.

The health of the Canadian network

Sylvain Séguin, President of Fix Network Canada, then took over to discuss his career. An auto painter by training, Séguin seized every opportunity to develop his skills, leading to his current position. “I must acknowledge my time at paint supplier AkzoNobel, whose training program allowed me to advance from technician to Canadian market manager.”

A member of the Fix team since 2018, Séguin, with professional support from Steve Leal, became President of Fix Network Canada in 2022.

“I mention my career simply to show that the sector offers exceptional development opportunities leading to great careers.”

Séguin also described the Canadian automotive market, which includes 31 million vehicles serviced by 5,000 body shops and approximately 15,000 mechanical workshops. This market represents $12 billion just in mechanical work.

The Canadian president mentioned that a 20% decline in the number of mechanical workshops is expected within two years, with 90% of these closures being small shops with fewer than 10 employees. According to him, the average age of Canadian vehicles reaching 12 years and recent electric vehicles entering the secondary market pose a dual challenge for these independent shops.

Regarding glass, it’s a $2 billion market in Canada. “Statistics also show a 12% annual increase in calibrations related to ADAS systems. Currently, 66% of vehicles entering Fix Network workshops are equipped with advanced driver assistance systems. There’s growing demand, but not all body shops have the space to handle it.”

Finally, the collision market in Canada represents a $4.4 billion market, with 4,838 workshops, of which 3,130 are independent. There’s a gradual reduction in the number of independent shops, benefiting franchises that often operate multiple shops under one management. This segment performs about 85% of body repairs.

The 350 participants attended conferences filled with high-quality social activities. Credit: Michel Beaunoyer

2024 goals

For Sylvain Séguin, the main objectives for the Canadian network are to increase capacities, develop human resources, and protect and support franchise entrepreneurs. He also mentioned efforts invested in renewing franchises, a very positive operation, “because we cannot grow if we lose franchises.”

Another observation is a 50% increase in the severity of collisions from 2019 to 2023, with estimated damage rising from $3,646 to $5,480 on average. The growth of parts compared to labour continues, impacting the profitability of body shops. Additionally, recent years have seen the trend intensify, shifting the volume of passenger cars to SUVs and other light trucks.

Séguin also mentioned the organization’s intention to expand the TAG service, currently offered for auto glass, to collision insurance claims. The goal is to reduce delays, notably by better distributing volumes.

The Canadian president also addressed the issue of corporate workshops. “Yes, we buy them, but only when necessary. And as soon as possible, we resell them. We certainly don’t want to compete with our entrepreneurs. But managing these workshops allows us to learn about processes, products, new technologies, and staff development.”

Moreover, to support franchises, Fix Network is launching an international recruitment program. Set to be delivered by the end of 2024, it will offer workshop technicians from the Philippines, Mexico, Colombia, Malaysia, Tunisia, and Morocco, vetted, selected, and pre-trained, notably in corporate workshops.

Next, the issue of cybersecurity was addressed by Corinne Gemayel, IT Project Office Director at Fix Network. According to her, everything revolves around information security. “We are working to build you an increasingly secure environment,” she summarized while discussing the organization’s various digital platforms.

While introducing her team members, Gemayel explained how the network’s websites were modernized, the importance of migrating email boxes, and ensuring that everyone’s personal information is protected according to legal specifications.

Shared Passion and Values

Alessandro Alunni Bravi, General Manager of the Quick Sauber Formula 1 team, then took the stage to ignite the audience’s passion for automobiles. “Performance drives us, just like your race towards success,” he said. “Fix Network shares common values with Formula 1.” Partnership with three pillars: performance and organization in the growing Sauber group. Like Steve Leal before him, Bravi explained that the partnership with Fix Network positions the brand to be globally attractive, not only with traditional partners.

“We are at the forefront of automotive technology. We must listen and improve every day. In my opinion, F1 is the key to reaching a new clientele for Fix Network.”

Addressing the workshop managers in the room directly, Bravi continued, “I had the opportunity to meet some of you and see the passion in your work and that you represent a community of friends. It touched me. We share respect for our work and the people around us.”

A Fluctuating Market

Specialized journalist Antoine Joubert then painted a picture of an industry currently experiencing drastic changes. He observed a 9.5% increase in new vehicle sales in Canada in 2023, reaching 1,664,000 units, of which 11% are zero-emission. In Quebec, one in five vehicles sold was electric or plug-in hybrid. In the United States, California shows 25% of its sales as electric, but other states do not share the same enthusiasm.

Manufacturers have converted some plants to produce electric vehicles, but according to him, enthusiasm has given way to caution. This automotive sector specialist has no doubt that Canada will not achieve its goal of offering only electric vehicles on its market by 2035. EV sales are stagnating, and several manufacturers have abandoned this mode of propulsion to return to gasoline engines or focus on plug-in hybrid versions. The elimination of provincial subsidies won’t help this situation.

Mentioning that the rose-coloured glasses phase regarding electric vehicles was over, Joubert explained that the future of mobility will likely rest on a mixed approach. “We’re talking about versatile platforms where we can graft a diesel or gasoline engine, a hybrid system, or all-electric to meet the varied demand of different global territories.”

And gas stations will adjust accordingly by adding charging and hydrogen stations. “What should be a priority for manufacturers is to bring to market vehicles that we can repair, particularly by accessing their data.”

At a time when SUVs have eliminated subcompacts from manufacturers’ catalogues, he recommends taxing not luxury for new vehicles, but their emissions, to encourage the development of more environmentally friendly cars.

An evening for all tastes

This conference day ended with lovely invitations from suppliers to VIP evenings in various hotel and neighbouring Casino rooms. Whether for quiet discussions over a drink or tearing vocal cords during karaoke, the congress participants could choose their pleasure, or simply accept all invitations alternately. Participants will remember the care taken by NAPA, Axalta, Uni-Select, AkzoNobel, PPG, and obviously Fix Network for these activities.

The very dynamic speaker Jasmin Bergeron launched the following day by originally addressing customer satisfaction. “Promise less, deliver more,” he said, explaining that a delay or a higher-than-expected bill leaves a bitter taste with the client. Conversely, giving a call to the client to announce that their car is “already” ready.

“I don’t want to sell, I want to resell,” he chanted, emphasizing the importance of building a relationship with both the team and the clients.

The lasting impression

We know the importance of the first impression, but the speaker explained that the last impression we leave is more important than the first. “Thank you for choosing our workshop, it’s smart to have repaired your windshield for your safety and that of your family.” illustrated Bergeron. He mentioned that we shouldn’t fear asking people if they liked their visit. “People remember what we ask them and will tell others.”

An informative round table

The conference organizers had set up a diverse and highly relevant panel composed of representatives from insurers and car manufacturers. Moderated by Leanne Jefferies and Normand Seguin, the discussion mainly revolved around repair processes and procedures and their impact on insurers and their clients.

On stage were Brian Chiu from Nissan, Scott Wideman from Volkswagen, Mélissa Corriveau from Desjardins, and Paul Hicks from TD Insurance.

The manufacturer representatives first emphasized the necessity of restoring vehicles to their standards to protect the brand, but obviously, the client’s safety.

Hicks continued by mentioning that motorists involved in a collision become clients of the entire chain, from the manufacturer to the body shop and the insurer. “It’s our client too, and it’s in our best interest to take good care of them. People are anxious after such an event and want transparency and to be reassured.” He explained having direct relationships with several trusted workshops where he knows the repairs will be safe.

Corriveau from Desjardins highlighted that premiums are increasing due to repair costs. For her, it’s important for insurers to understand what’s happening in the industry.

Regarding repair costs, whose rise is pushing more and more vehicles into the total loss category, Chiu from Nissan, for whom workshop certification is essential, mentioned his group’s reflections on adjusting the price of original parts to the vehicle’s residual value.

Technological advancements also pose a significant challenge for the industry. All panellists agree on the importance of training, not only for workshop technicians but also for insurers’ teams.

“With new technologies, we must support the secondary market so that it can repair our vehicles,” said Wideman of Volkswagen.

The arrival of electric vehicles also requires proper training, even just to know how to handle them before even talking about repairs. “Look at the manufacturers’ processes before touching them because it’s very serious; we’re talking about vehicles that can generate up to 800 volts,” detailed Wideman.

Hicks of TD Insurance, for his part, also spoke about the importance for insurers to understand calibrations in the repair processes since, according to his figures, seven out of ten accident-damaged vehicles will require it.

Overall, it was interesting for participants to hear manufacturers talk about collaboration with body shops and other secondary market workshops. Concerns about repair capacity, as well as those regarding the high costs of these repairs, were well received.

In a sustainability context, Scott Wideman raised the question of total losses. “In my opinion, 25% could be repaired.” Hence the idea of adjusting parts prices, considering equivalent or recycled parts more, or pushing for more repair instead of replacement of these same parts.

Another observation is the lengthening of repair times. “Isn’t it possible to better distribute vehicle volumes to reduce the wait?” asked Hicks. “Clients don’t like driving damaged or rented cars.”

Meeting with Tag

After these interesting discussions, it was race car driver Alex Tagliani who took the microphone to share his professional and personal journey. A karting enthusiast from the age of ten, he recounted the effort required to secure a professional seat in IndyCar racing. “Auto racing is 85% work for 15% fun on the track.”

He also testified to the importance of teamwork, frankly stating that respecting others’ ideas is crucial, even if they turn out to be bad ones in the end.

He particularly captured the audience’s interest when he declared, “We don’t achieve excellence; it’s always a goal to pursue. You can be satisfied, but there’s always more to achieve. The appreciation of success depends on the effort we’ve put in. If it’s too easy…”

Without a doubt, this work ethic and constant striving for improvement resonated with the managers seated in the room.

Before moving on to team-building activities to conclude the day, the participants enjoyed a wrap-up by the inimitable speaker Paul Huschilt, who humorously and energetically summarized the key points of the two and a half days of conferences.

A Gala and recognitions

The grand closing Gala was held under the evocative theme of Monte Carlo. The highlight of the event was the presentation of the President’s Awards. This award is given to the Canadian workshops of the four banners that stood out to the president for their exceptional character and remarkable implementation of Fix Network’s values. Business integrity, investments in staff and technology, contributions to the industry, and exceptional workshop performance are among the recognized values.

This year, the president recognized:

  • Johnny D’Ambrosio – Owner of Fix Auto St-Catharine’s, Welland, and Niagara-on-the-Lake.
  • Karim Zaidane – Owner of Carrossier ProColor LaSalle A.M, ProColor Laval Centre, Fix Auto LaSalle West, and recently Fix Auto Dorval A.M.
  • Armen Jakjakia – Owner of Speedy Auto Service Mississauga
  • Trevor Farrel – Owner of NOVUS Glass Summerside PEI

For a Good Cause

Thanks to the great generosity of participants, partners, and sponsors, over $90,000 was raised during the Fix Network Canada National Conference for Ronald McDonald House Charities.

These contributions will have a significant impact, supporting families with sick children by providing the care and resources they need during difficult times.

Categories : Collision

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