Photo: The state of the art shop at Sonny’s Auto Collision now occupies 15,000 square feet after the building addition that will house the equipment to do specialized work on vehicles made with aluminum parts in place of steel.
It’s hard to pin down whether it’s the outstanding workmanship or the uncompromised service that has made Sonny’s the uncontested choice when it comes to auto body repair in the Ozone Park, Howard Beach, and Richmond Hill communities. In fact, the reach of Sonny’s extends far past those original boundaries the shop served when their doors opened nearly 70 years ago. And despite the many things that have changed throughout the surrounding neighborhoods, Sonny’s has remained a constant that customers continue to depend on.
But as loyal as they are to their community roots, at Sonny’s they are just as committed to keeping up with trends and technology in the automotive body and repair industry.
When going green was a local business novelty, Sonny’s was the first neighborhood auto body shop to adopt the platform and incorporate it in their everyday running of the shop. Now with an imminent change to the landscape of the collision business on the horizon, Sonny’s is once again at the forefront, being the only area shop to have become certified in aluminum repair.
Global auto makers, including Toyota and Ford, have started the shift from steel to aluminum, initially for high-volume vehicles, like Toyota Camry’s and Ford F-150 pick-ups.
A host of manufacturers announced their commitments at the January Auto Show in Detroit, to shave hundreds of pounds from future vehicles by making lighter aluminum components in place of their steel predecessors. Until now, aluminum parts were found solely on a handful of Jaguar, Land Rover, and Audi models.
The bold manufacturing decision is accompanied by an extremely expensive shift into the future. But the expense to bring aluminum is not only incorporated into manufacturing. The move to accommodate the business from aluminum car repairs represents a major financial commitment for the owners at Sonny’s as well.
“The decision to incorporate the aluminum certification was done with the same mindset as all the preceding decisions at Sonny’s,” says co-owner James Aurora. “Our goal is now, as it always has been and always will be, to make sure we are on top of the technology, and more importantly, to make sure our customers have the best option for their vehicle. And when aluminum comes, we are ready.”
Getting ready in this case meant a substantial investment of time and money. First came the extensive training for staff technicians who must use a whole different set of technologies in order to repair damage on aluminum parts. Then, the acquisition of the adjacent building and the construction of a pristine, state of the art addition to the shop, in order to house the equipment and machinery necessary to work on aluminum. Then there were the required equipment additions including: special rivet guns, a vacuum system for aluminum dust, a newly stocked tool center, high-tech dust capturing, and a special fire regulatory system.
Having now gone through considerable expenditures and renovations at the shop, Sonny’s owners seem extremely eager to move forward. And while technology may seem the focus at Sonny’s these days, other steps toward pushing customer service to new heights was also high on management’s list.
Now the shop runs with a concentration on improving “cycle time”. And even though you may never have heard of it, cycle time is one of those things that can make or break your day.
By definition it’s the period required to complete a function, job, or task from start to finish. But the translation of the improved cycle time at Sonny’s adds up to more happy customers getting their vehicles back home in much less time than ever.
When asked about the confidence in their overall investment, Aurora was quick to comment, “Even though we are known for our work and our service, nothing is for sure in business. But here, one thing is for sure, we have the best customers in the world, and we know that’s why we have been around for all this time and why we’ll definitely be staying around for a long time to come.”
Sonny’s Auto Collision is located at 106-12 Atlantic Avenue in Ozone Park and employs more than thirty local residents.
By Patricia L. Adams firstname.lastname@example.org