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The following article was featured in Bodyshop Magazine, March 2005

Imagine you are eight years old. It's Christmas and you've been taken for your first ever visit to Hamleys. Your eyes are on stalks as you look from one fabulous toy to the next, hardly knowing where to look, almost shaking with excitement.

If that image stirs memories then you will know just how our NACE group felt when we visited Mike Iannuccilli's Exoticar Paintworks bodyshop in Las Vegas.

As we arrived at Exoticar and disgorged from our minibus, we nearly tripped over a Ferrari 575 Maranello. Just opposite were a couple of 360 Modenas and a Bentley Azure Convertible. Nearby, two or three of the new all-aluminum XJs awaited repair, along with an Aston Martin DBR7 in the classic metallic green and yellow colours of the 'works' racing Astons. Apparently, its 24 year old owner had used it to attack a lamp post.

The lamp post won. There were more top-end Mercedes and BMWs than you could shake a stick at and, in case you were still feeling blase, a $500,000 Maybach (complete with cheap and nasty Maybach mascot -- whose daft idea was that?) undergoing a rear quarter panel repair.

High ticket

As you will have gathered, the organisation specialises in high-ticket European and exotic cars. It has both Jaguar and Aston Martin certification for the new aluminum XJ and aluminum Vanquish respectively, Exoticar's head body man Mike Sigman having been sent over to the UK to complete the necessary Aston and Jaguar courses. Exoticar Paintworks' standard rate for body and paint is $38 an hour and $90 for mechanical work, but a premium rate of $90 an hour is charged for all Aston Martin and Jaguar repairs.

The new Bentley Azure convertible parked outside had taken a hit to the right hand rear quarter panel. 'Not only was it pretty difficult to get the parts, but nobody at the Bentley importers even seemed to know the cost of the parts,' said Mike. 'Eventually we called Bentley in the UK. They came up with a price of $8,900 -- that's just for the panel. The whole repair will come in at about $22,000. If the panel had been lass damaged I would have been happy to repair it, but you've got to do the job properly. I don't want to be in the bondo business.'

According to Mike, Exoticar turns over about $800,000 a month, with an average repair cost of about $4,400. 'That may seem low given the type of cars we repair, but you have to remember that we do an awful lot of $700 bumper jobs.'

Mike believes that as the volume of specialist aluminum cars such as Jaguar, BMW etc increases so will repair problems. 'It's already a major issue,' he said. 'We had a call from Hertz in California a while back. They've got the new aluminum XJ8 on their rental fleet and such is the shortage of certified bodyshops capable of dealing with repairs that they are looking at a 12 month lead time to get them fixed. It's a joke -- and a darned expensive one for a rental fleet operator. They are now shipping cars to us here in Vegas, all the way from California because we can repair them properly and turn them round quickly.'

Certified repairer

'This is a problem that is going to get bigger and bigger,' agreed Vernon Crump, NACE Chairman and Director of John Eagle Collision, who had joined our party for the visit. 'There are no more than 14 or 15 Jaguar approved repairs in the whole of the United States. Our shop in Dallas is probably the nearest Jaguar certified repairer to Mike's here in Vegas.'

This might be bad news for owners but it is good news for the repairers concerned. 'I've built up a niche market here in Vegas and I'm in a good position because it's much easier for Mercedes, Jaguar, Lexus and BMW dealers to use me (rather than open their own bodyshops) as long as I do the job right and keep their customers happy. Why should they want to get involved in doing body repair work at $38 an hour when they can do mechanical work at $90 an hour? We can keep them from having headaches, it's all CSI driven so the only person who can screw up my business is me. If anyone else were to try and come in here they would have to spend millions of dollars in order to build up to the level of equipment that I've got. I've been buying the equipment over the years and every time we need something, I'll buy it. The same goes with technician training.'

The business turnover is around $10 million a year but what, I asked Mike, does that equate to in bottom line profits? 'To be honest, I'm a bit of a caveman when it comes to micro-management and detailed accounts. We're the high-line shop of choice in Las Vegas. I'm the sole owner of the business and I make an extremely good living. That's good enough for me.'

(Bodyshop Magazine, March 2005, pp. 34; http://bodyshopmag.com/features/feature.php?id=1382)