A repairer doesn't have to be in the collision industry long to become familiar with the name Gene Crozat. Crozat is the founder and owner of Santa Rosa, Calif., -based G&C AutoBody, though he's probably better known for founding the Collision Repair Association of California and for fighting (and winning) a dizzying array of court battles against insurers.
He continues to make a name for himself battling for his vision of the industry against anyone he believes isn't giving consumers and shops a fair shake.
The Windsor shop features a waiting area that looks like the lobby of a luxury hotel. (IMAGES / G&C AUTOBODY)
So big has Crozat's name grown that it can be easy to overlook his business, which has set a standard all its own for innovation and reshaping the repair landscape.
That reshaping can be traced to Crozat's modest beginnings in the industry when he began building his business from the ground up.
Solar panels at the Santa Rosa facility cut costs and demonstrate G&C's commitment to the environment.
Crozat began plying the trade he learned in the Air Force after being discharged in 1964 and arriving in Merced, Calif., with what he describes as the clothes on his back, a pack of cigarettes and a few dollars.
After working and managing at several different shops for eight years, he partnered with Leo Gassell to open Gassell & Crozat's AutoBody. In 1976, Gassell retired. Crozat took full control of the business and renamed it G&C AutoBody.
G&C also offers mechanical repairs.
From there, he explored nearly every avenue of the collision market, looking for ways to create new revenue, build customer relationships and max out available profits. His innovations included:
- Taking on technicians and painters as contractors and allowing them to work around the clock. The arrangement permits these laborers to work as much as they want, when they want, giving them full control over their pay. Because these workers are motivated to earn more by working more, G&C is able to take on more work.
- Running a cash business that benefits from discounts in parts, labor and advertising given to it due to G&C's ability to pay immediately with funds on hand.
- Customer perks such as rental vehicles priced at $1 a day, palatial facilities designed to reward motorists with opulent waiting areas and other niceties, and green initiatives such as solar panels that appeal to many environmentally sensitive West Coast consumers.
- Numerous community outreach programs including a monthly giveaway of a car to a needy family that ties the shop to its customers.
- Continuing political efforts by Crozat to protect customers by keeping repairs affordable. This past year, Crozat worked directly with the California Department of Insurance commissioner to create regulations governing the use of aftermarket parts. The legislation is aimed at guaranteeing the quality of these lower-cost parts to help ensure their continued use.