Introducing our blogger, we know as ‘Buff Daddy’. In the last year he’s visited 17 different countries on four different continents, working with paint manufacturers, distributors and customers to develop and test the latest technology in surface finishing solutions. Fresh back from South East Asia, Buff Daddy shares his impressions of the bodyshop world in Vietnam.
Replace over Repair may be the current big trend in the UK bodyshop industry, but in Vietnam repairing parts, panels and alloy wheels is embedded in Vietnam’s culture.
Vietnam is developing at an astonishing pace. Although classed as an emerging market it’s an extremely tidy, clean country with lovely people producing quality work in bodyshops. There are around 7,000 bodyshops and many of these are surprisingly sophisticated in their techniques even though some of the premises visited could be classed as ‘interesting’.
Vehicle manufacturers such as Toyota, Honda, Ford etc have set up modern facilities with their own bodyshops and service centres attached to dealerships. Unlike in the UK where the insurer directs the work after an accident, the car manufacturers are in control, so if it is a Toyota vehicle the car will go to the Toyota dealership and the customer will drive a Toyota courtesy car. Whatever happens to the car it will be looked after at the dealership because they want to hold onto the customer for life and keep them loyal to the brand.
The likes of Toyota and Honda have made a lot of investment in training with state-of-the-art training colleges. Once they have trained that technician they want to retain that skill. They want the technician to stay with them for life. And people are loyal because the technicians are treated well and earn better wages than they would find in a factory. Becoming a painter is like winning a gold medal, it shows you’ve made it.
As well as these big dealerships, there are also many one man and two man type band shops that do detailing and valeting and carry out repairs to small dings and dents. Whilst on my travels I noticed many places selling bumpers and alloy wheels. These guys will pick up parts that are usually thrown away at the bodyshop, because there is still profit in these parts. They are engineers, they are tapping away at the metal and making things good. They will spend their time completely and utterly repairing something. Nothing is wasted.
They want to work and aspire to something. There isn’t any unemployment there because if you don’t earn some money you won’t eat. There is no state welfare system. You’ll see people making their livelihoods from the side of the road, perhaps with a trolley cooking food to sell, or selling refurbished alloy wheels.
To the uninitiated driving around is a hairy experience. There’s cars, bikes and Tuk-Tuks going in all directions. People will suddenly do a U-turn in the middle of the road or just stop to let someone off, which would cause road rage in the UK, but in Vietnam they are more respectful. The horns are not blasted in anger as a reprimand but are just a peep to let you know they are there.
You do see some mad things - half the family on the back of a motorbike is not unusual. One day we saw two guys on a motorbike carrying a huge compressor which must have weighed about a hundred kilos. Can you imagine the implications of that? It’s a fascinating country, full of contrast and brimming with pride and resourcefulness.
PS Over the coming months I’ll be sharing my thoughts, stories and tips from around the world on surface finishing. I hope you’ll follow me on my travels, enjoy some of my cleaner anecdotes and hopefully pick up some useful tips and insights along the way.
Next Stop Australia.