Born in Australia, Bill Hatswell, President of Craftsman Collision opened his first service station and a mechanical shop when he was in his 20s, and having a mechanical shop fused inevitably with providing vehicle repair services. However, Hatswell’s desire to travel led him to open his first body shop in downtown Vancouver in 1977, the first Craftsman Collision. Rick Hatswell, General Manager of Craftsman Collision, follows in his father’s footsteps, assuring the company continues to walk along the path of exceptional service, working to redefine the standards of auto body repair, hiring and retaining experienced staff, and leading the pack when it comes to training, equipment, facilities, and overall workmanship of auto body repairs.
Building on the solid backbone of professional service, the company continues to expand, as well as continuously upgrade repair technologies. It was these fundamentals that let the company grow over the years, and Craftsman Collision stands true to this approach. Hatswell Jr. told The Canadian Business Journal, “It started in downtown Vancouver and then through the 1980s we expanded. We were up to about 15 shops by 1990. We kept expanding in British Columbia, and then in the 1990s we opened up stores in Calgary. We had two stores in Alberta, and we continue to expand in Alberta today. Today, we have 33 stores, with a 34th store to open in Kamloops, spring of 2012.”
The company is independently owned by Bill Hatswell, who runs the business from his office — and it shows. To this, Hatswell Jr. commented, “It makes a big difference that we can pick up the phone to any manager and make changes very quickly in the company. If we have a customer service initiative or an equipment initiative, it is something we can do in days, and not years. We like to talk about The Sparkle. All of our shops sparkle. Something my dad [Hatswell Sr.] has always talked about, is that when he came to B.C., it looked like a junkyard when you went into a body shop, and it wasn’t a place where you wanted to be. Today, our offices are all very customer-focused, friendly, and clean, the shops are clean, and the buildings have landscaping. We love to take people for tours of the shop. It’s what we call our ‘Craftsman Collision Sparkle’. It’s all about the people that we have in our shops and the way we present ourselves.”
As far as equipment goes, Craftsman Collision spares no time or expense to provide staff with the latest equipment in order to deliver highquality autobody repairs that meet manufacturers’ specifications. To this Hatswell Jr. said, “As General Manager, I look for new opportunities to expand the equipment side.
Currently, we’ve been implementing 3D measuring systems, which are all laser 3D systems for measuring frames of vehicles. We can actually do a printout of your vehicle frame specifications before and after the car repair.” Besides the 3D measuring systems, Craftsman Collision is also implementing a program of upgrading all of its centres with resistance spot welders. Resistance spot welding technology represents the same technology which is used by car manufacturers during car production. While the spot welders are quite expensive, Craftsman Collision believes this is the way of the future for auto body shops that want to offer exceptional service and remain competitive.
This family business understands the value of expansion, and while the Canadian expansion is well underway, the company seeks new opportunities to use its car repair expertise around the world; in this case — China. While it’s quite unprecedented for a car repair shop to migrate across continents, the Hatswells see a great opportunity in the Chinese market. To this Hatswell Jr. said, “It is a unique opportunity for us. It is a different market in China, where generally body shops are attached to a dealer. We’re one of the first in the world to come into China and actually have the business model like we have in North America, where we’re ‘collision only’ service, and that’s what we focus on. It’s definitely going to be interesting, but I think at this time what we’re really looking to do is expand our horizons, and just see what’s available out there, so it’s a little bit of a test to see how well we do in the Chinese market, but we feel that with our business model and the way we do business here, our transfer over to China can be very successful. We focus on customer service and quality repair, and people in other countries are looking for the same thing. We believe we can deliver that promise in China. We will monitor the first year of progress to see how well we do, building relationships with insurance companies and auto dealers to be able to direct business toward us, which will be the biggest stepping stone for the public to understand that we do collision repair to vehicles, and that they don’t have to go to their dealership for that work anymore.”
China made history in 2009 when its auto sales surpassed the U.S., and has become the largest car market in the world, topping 18 million vehicles in annual production, exceeding the productions of the European Union, or that of the Unites States and Japan combined. The number of registered cars, buses, vans, and trucks on the road in China reached 62 million in 2009, and is expected to exceed 200 million by 2020.
“The numbers are staggering, with the number of vehicles in China rising five per cent annually. It is just unbelievable when you go there. I was in China in 2006 and in 2011, and the vehicles from 2006 to last year have changed so much. They look more westernized and big manufacturers like Audi have their own factories in China just for the Chinese market. There are a lot more luxury brand vehicles, and a lot better built vehicles. The value of the vehicles is higher, so they are going to be a lot more repairable. In the past, the basic cars they had in China, if you crashed one it wouldn’t be worth fixing, so at least there is a market now with western brands coming in to build cars for the Chinese market,” says Hatswell Jr.
In the midst of the economic meltdowns and crises seen over the past five years, Hatswell Sr. keeps asking “What recession?” Craftsman Collision and its fundamental focus on experience, customer service and technology offer a strong business potential anywhere in the world. Currently 90 per cent of the company’s work comes from insurance referrals, and while negative market news continue to haunt the global economies, Craftsman Collision finds its sales and profits at level, and even rising, while some of their competition continues to wither and hang “Out of Business” signs on their doors. Craftsman Collision’s strong name and customer service bring back customers, again and again.