SUZHUO, CHINA — For the first time in history, a Canadian-owned bodyshop has opened in China. Craftsman’s new facility in Suzhou (near Shanghai) was alive with fireworks, colour and song at the Sept. 7 event, and attended by a number of guest dignitaries as well as Craftsman president and owner Bill Hatswell.
“In 1977, we began our mission to overhaul the bodyshop business in Western Canada,” said Bill. “Now, 35 years later, we’re embarking on that same mission in China. I’m very optimistic we can succeed here as spectacularly as we have at home.”
From its polished concrete floors to its gleaming reception and familiar Craftsman red and blue stripes, the shop mirrors the standards observed by every Craftsman location from Victoria to Calgary. And in a country where many collision repair facilities are small family operations or run by car dealerships, and rudimentary in their capabilities, the Craftsman brand will introduce a dramatically new level of professionalism in service and repair to quality- conscious car owners and auto retailers.
Present at the ceremony to underscore the shop’s technical advantages was Desmond Chan, president of Wedge Clamp Systems, whose sophisticated frame measuring and straightening systems and nitrogen-charged painting systems are distributed worldwide and in all Craftsman shops, including Suzhou. The precision and quality of both systems will set Craftsman apart in frame- straightening and repair expertise alone, while Craftsman’s well-honed business model for customer service will have most other Chinese bodyshops scrambling to keep up.
Also present were General Manager of Real Estate Greg Hatswell, who laid much of the groundwork for the new operation; General Manager of Business Development Frank Liu; Canadian government trade representative John McDonald; Mayor Xu Feng of Wuzhong District; Craftsman VP David Cant, and shop General Manager of Operations Mark Greenberg.
The ceremony was held in the morning in traditional Chinese fashion to symbolize the dawn of good fortune. But as the 50 assembled guests were enjoying traditional Chinese music and dancing dragons, the festivities were interrupted by a torrential downpour complete with thunder and lightning for a full 30 minutes. Then just as suddenly the clouds parted and the morning sun shone anew.
According to Chinese tradition, this is a very good omen of things to come.
(top) A giant inflatable banner, dragons, music, fireworks and even some natural lightning marked the historic opening of the first Canadian bodyshop in China. (middle and bottom) Immaculate interior premises are typical of Craftsman in Canada, but destined to set a new standard for China.