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River City opens new auto body shop

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<p>Myron Love / Winnipeg Free Press</p><p>River City's new quick service centre will be able to handle eight vehicles an hour &mdash; or 60 a day.</p>

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The new River City Collision Centre (just east of River City Ford at 3636 Portage Ave.) opened for business in mid-December. According to Vern Barker, the dealership’s manager of fixed operations, business is booming.

"I can’t believe how busy we are at the collision centre," says Barker. "We are a lot busier than we thought we would be. The response has been great. Everyone is happy with the new state-of-the-art facility."

The new body shop is able to handle double the volume of repair work that could be performed at the former semi-attached body shop on the west side of the dealership. The new building has ten service bays, four retail bays and two paint booths.

"Our new building is as environmentally-friendly as possible," said River City Ford general manager Ryan Monczunski in an earlier interview. "We reduced heating and power usage and installed LED lighting which will make everything brighter.

"We will be able to turn out repairs much faster. We can tackle all makes and models."

Barker reports the new body shop has an initial complement of 20 staff and will reach 30 within the year.

As for River City Ford’s former body shop, that space is being converted into one of Canada’s largest quick service centres. "We will be tripling the number of quick service bays to 12," he says. "We will be doing oil changes, tires and other work which can be done quickly. We aim to cut down the time it takes for an oil change to compare with the quick lube shops."

The new quick service centre will be able to handle up to eight cars an hour — 60 a day — he adds.

The centre is expected to be open for business in May.

MMDA Safework Program

The Manitoba Motor Dealers Association’s Motor Vehicle Safety Association of Manitoba (MVSAM) has just issued its first Safe Workplace Certificate. The recipient is Rocky Mountain Equipment, an International Harvester dealer with 12 locations in Manitoba. The presentation was made to management and staff at the Steinbach location on Jan. 10.

Daryl Nielsen, MVSAM’s executive director, reports that Rocky Mountain Equipment had previously received safe workplace certification from the Federation of Construction Safety Associations.

Nielsen and his team audited all of the Rocky Mountain locations in December. The MVSAM audits include reviews of safety documents, interviews with management and employees and safety committee members about the store’s safety programs and a walk around the facility making observations.

Nielsen reports that two more MMDA members (including one auto dealer) should be receiving their Safe Work Certificates in mid-February.

MPI to expand program

Last winter, Manitoba Public Insurance launched a pilot program with the ultimate goal of shortening the wait time for drivers seeking repair estimates for damaged vehicles.

"The project (which was developed in consultation with the MMDA) is designed to streamline the repair process and provide increased convenience for our customers," explained MPT media relations co-ordinator Brian Smiley in an interview at the time. "Customers will continue to call our Contact Centre to file a claim."

Under the terms of the program, drivers with non-contentious claims were given the option of participating in the pilot program and going directly to that pilot repair shop for their estimate instead of an MPI Claim Centre.

About a dozen body shops have agreed to participate in the pilot program.

Now, after about a year in operation, MPI’s manager of external communications Matt Schaubroeck reports that the crown corporation is preparing to expand the program to more body shops. "Participating shops have to have the up-to-date tooling and training that are needed to handle the rapid changes in the industry," he says.

As the pilot project moves forward, he adds, additional body shops will be included. "Wait times for estimates and repairs will vary from shop to shop, depending on their work volumes," he notes.

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