For many attendees, last year’s NADA convention marked their introduction to Nobilis Group, a new company that was formed by Dent Zone companies to unite that brand with its AutoBodyGuard and PDR LINX lines of business. The company, headed by its founder, president and CEO, Troy Good, boasts a rich history that includes the origins of paintless dent repair as a viable F&I product.
Midway between the 2017 and 2018 conventions, F&I and Showroom met with Good and two longtime collaborators: COO Stan Starnes and Jeff Snowden, senior director of agent development for the AutoBodyGuard brand and one of the industry’s foremost experts in the PDR process. Together, the trio continues to promote the time- and cost-saving benefits PDR offers to dealers, agents, factories, insurance companies and the customers they serve.
Good had already found success in the automotive industry in 1990, when he encountered paintless dent repair for the first time. His windshield repair business had been hired by a national car rental company in the wake of a major hailstorm. He noticed a lot full of 400 body-damaged cars and was told they were awaiting paintless dent repair.
“He said it would take three or four weeks to fix them all, at $1,000 apiece,” Good recalls. “I realized then that I wanted to get into that business.”
Good was introduced to Snowden, who had discovered PDR when he was working as a used car manager in the mid-’80s. Skeptical at first, Snowden discovered that the advent of lighter, more pliable sheet metal and urethane-based body paint, sealed with an elastic clear coat, made paintless dent repair not only possible but far superior to existing methods.
Of course, like any skill, it took countless hours to master.
“It took months and months of practice. It had been a year before I could make a ding look perfect, just the way I wanted it to be, and it was very, very difficult,” Snowden says. His progress accelerated when a major hailstorm struck Dallas. “When you’ve got 600 dented cars lined up, it doesn’t take long before your skills improve considerably.”
Good and Snowden partnered to serve a major rental account, and in the nearly three decades that have elapsed since their first meeting, their segment and their business continued to grow and break new ground — including in the F&I office.
Service Lanes and VSCs
After founding Dent Zone in 1991, Good says he found no shortage of willing partners among auto dealers, particularly those located in the “L”-shaped hailstorm zone that begins in North Dakota and extends south to New Mexico before turning east toward Florida. In the late ’90s, they began experimenting with service-drive sales.
“I came upon the idea that, with so many vehicles going through the service drive, why not empower service writers to ask their customers, ‘Hey, while your car is in service, would you like for us to fix that door ding for you?’”
That led to another idea: including PDR coverage in a service contract. After extensive research into underwriting and insurance compliance, Good started local, launching the program with two Dallas stores, Frank Parra Chevrolet and Village Auto Group. Every vehicle was sold with a preloaded 90-day service plan the dealership’s F&I teams could upsell to a three-year term.
Despite the obvious savings, it took longer for the insurance industry to embrace paintless dent repair. Good had to prove it worked, prove it was permanent, and had to develop a pricing matrix, which is still in use today.
“Paintless dent repair did save them a lot of money in losses, and it still does,” Good says. “It is more than 50% less costly than conventional methods and 10 times faster.”
Starnes joined the company in 2008 after working in dealerships, with Pat Ryan & Associates, and as an agent. He says his conversations with Good tended to revolve around “What’s next?” — whether for the company, its partners or its end users. They further developed their service contract offerings, building a “full-blown,” appearance-based VSC with varying levels of coverage.
Not long after, the company purchased a chemical manufacturing facility, capping a years-long effort to build an “A to Z” provider.
“The easy way to go is to find people who provide services, mash it together, and label it. We chose the difficult path,” Starnes says. “We do the fulfillment, claims and administration, and we manage the front-end side and product development as well.”
Today, Nobilis serves as the parent company of Dent Zone, the dealer- and factory-facing business; AutoBodyGuard, which offers an expanded F&I portfolio through agents; and PDR LINX, the “catastrophic services” division, which works with a growing network of national insurance companies and body shops.
“We’re scaling and building a team here,” Good says. “We’ve brought in some very good and tenured people to basically develop more and more products and build on our legacy of PDR. And the emphasis remains on building relationships for life.”