ELITE SHOP PROFILE: Niverville Autobody

Niverville Autobody Front Photo
Manitoba Body Shop’s Success Dependent on Building a Solid Culture & Addressing Industry Issues
By Stacey Phillips, Radiant Writing

In 1976, Niverville Autobody was established by two brothers in Niverville, a small town in Manitoba, Canada. Ferd Klassen began working at the shop in the mid-1980s, sweeping floors and helping where needed. When the brothers split the business in 1996, Klassen managed the shop with the remaining partner until 2008 when he purchased the business. He now works alongside his wife, Carisa, who oversees human resources and accounting.  

Over the years, Klassen has built a team of professionals who take pride in ensuring Niverville Autobody is a pillar in its field. His 12 employees work hard to maintain a loyal relationship with clients founded on the shop’s integrity to restore vehicles back to their pre-accident condition.

Klassen recalls watching an Instagram reel of Dave Luehr, founder of Elite Body Shop Solutions, headed from Winnipeg, MB, to Saskatchewan in a rental car.

“His reel interested me and I searched for him on the web,” Klassen said.

After learning more about the company and its offerings, Klassen signed up for Luehr’s Operations Monthly LIVE broadcasts, which focus on helping shops take control and reduce chaos, make more money and build a sustainable business.

“I believe that what he is doing for shops is unique,” said Klassen. “He really has his finger on the pulse of where we are now and where we are headed,” said Klassen, who continues to work with Luehr and the Elite team to grow his business.

Niverville Autobody During Winter
Fostering a Strong Company Culture

Klassen attributes the longevity of his staff to building a solid culture. This involves spending time to get to know employees on a personal level so they feel safe to express their concerns and make suggestions.

“We work really hard on our culture,” said Klassen. “We care about our employees, treat them well and do things for them that some employers may not do.”

Before hiring employees, management evaluates whether they are a good fit with the organization during the interviewing process. Background checks are also conducted.

Klassen recognizes that his team appreciates the effort to promote a healthy working environment.

“I think you get a little more from them when they appreciate their workplace, co-workers and employers,” he said. “It seems to do well for their demeanor and performance.”

He regularly tells staff that he wants them to come to work stress-free and go home at the end of the day feeling the same.

Ensuring employees understand their roles and expectations is also a priority.

“It’s not a perfect world. People are still humans and humans make mistakes,” observed Klassen. “Sometimes, you go home frustrated and hoping tomorrow will be a better day, but for the most part, we have great success here with our staff.”

Niverville Autobody Front Office
The Manitoba Business Environment

Whereas other businesses in North America work with multiple insurance companies and estimating platforms, Klassen said Manitoba shops abide by a government-run insurance model operated by Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI).

“Being in a single insurance market has its unique challenges,” said Klassen. “We’re not competing for work from other insurance companies.”

Using what Klassen referred to as a “consultative process,” shops work on pressing issues with MPI as they occur instead of renegotiating a contract every three years.

“This has been a significantly positive change,” he said. “I think it has taken away a lot of the conflict between the repairers and the insurance company in Manitoba.”

The Value of Association Involvement

With the changes in the collision industry, Klassen highly recommends shop owners stay educated by joining industry organizations.

“It’s 100% a must,” he said. “You need to at least go to the meetings and hear what is being said and done in the market.”

In addition to being part of the Canadian Council of Collision Repairers, a national organization committed to business concerns, education and information sharing, Klassen is vice president of the Automotive Trades Association of Manitoba (ATAMB). ATAMB represents the 232 body shops based in the province, of which 170 actively participate. Non-members are typically smaller mom-and-pop shops.

ATAMB membership includes various programs aimed at bettering members. In addition to holding regular meetings, the association offers a group benefits plan, an estimate scrubber and access to the Realized Parts Savings (RPS) tool offered through ImEX Systems to monitor their RPS score as part of MPI’s Parts Autonomy Program.

The association has three committees that regularly meet with MPI to discuss challenges taking place and help advance the industry. They also have ongoing discussions with MPI to help repairers and insurers work together.

“We’ve worked on fostering a good relationship, watering that relationship and seeing it grow,” he said. “It’s incredible to be able to talk candidly with your insurance partner, ask them questions and come to a conclusion together. They understand that we are an important partner for them.”

Niverville Autobody Team Work
Staying Ahead of the Curve With Training

To stay knowledgeable about the industry shifts, Klassen recommends reading trade publications, many of which are free, and participating in ongoing training. ATAMB is a huge supporter of I-CAR education.

“Manitoba, at one point in time, was the highest trained market in North America for I-CAR because MPI mandated it to be their recognized training body,” explained Klassen.

At Niverville Autobody, I-CAR is the company-recognized training provider. Additional training is offered through their welding company.

Klassen said his employees are dedicated to industry training and continued education; most are I-CAR Platinum.

Part of the shop’s upcoming training will focus on electric vehicles (EVs), although Klassen said there aren’t many in the marketplace now. According to Statistics Canada, Manitoba added 391 battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) in the first half of 2023. Since the first quarter of 2017, 1,912 BEVs have been registered in the province.

“Manitoba is not very big, so there isn’t a huge push for a lot of shops to jump into the electric vehicle market right now, but it’s coming,” he said.

The Growth of ADAS Calibrations

Another growing trend is Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS) calibrations. Klassen said the association and its members are increasing knowledge in this area and working to understand what is required.  

During the ATAMB’s annual conference in 2022, keynote speaker Dave Luehr talked about what it takes to become a successful shop and how to work “smarter rather than harder.”

Frank Terlep from Opus IVS was also asked to share information about ADAS calibrations with attendees, including technical representatives from MPI.

“There are shops that were ignoring ADAS calibrations or dismissing them as unimportant,” said Klassen.

However, he said this is starting to change, especially with the “tech-savvy” younger generation joining the industry.

“We’re seeing a lot of inquiries about it and a lot of people are asking where they can get more training and information,” he said. “That’s a good thing.”

At Niverville Autobody, glass and calibrations are currently being sublet to the dealer. Regardless of who is performing the calibrations, Klassen stresses the importance of making sure they are done properly.

“We’re the middle person here in this deal between the customer and the insurance company,” he noted. “The liability lies on us.”

Niverville Autobody Paint Booth
Looking to the Future

Since working with Luehr and his team at Elite, the business has seen its sales rise, inefficiencies decrease, and key performance indicators (KPIs) improve.

“If they fall, I know where to look,” he said. “Just the fact that Elite is available for help is comforting.” 

Klassen said the Elite staff has been “all-encompassing.”

“There is little or nothing that they can’t help you with,” he noted. “Dave’s large network of industry partners brings value to my business. They have shed light into areas where I struggled and led me down the path of continuous improvement.”

Looking ahead, Klassen said he plans to remain a turn-key shop. He also aims to step away from the business more often and leave it in the hands of his great team.

“It is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day tasks, which leaves you zero time to work on the business and achieve your goals,” he said. “Motivating and incentivizing my staff to continue to improve is imperative.”

He stresses the importance of remembering “quality of life.”

“This is important not just to me and my family, but also for my team to be successful,” he noted.

Are you ready to implement some of Ferd Klassen’s strategies to success?

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” Peter Drucker

It starts with a vision followed by a plan. Team up with Dave Luehr during a complimentary strategy session to clarify your goals, identify the obstacles, and create an action plan!

NOW is the time to get clear on what the path to entrepreneurial freedom looks like!

Click here to schedule your free, no obligation strategy session with Dave Luehr! 



Stay connected to more action-oriented content! Subscribe to the Dave Luehr YouTube channel and join the Elite Body Shop Community on Facebook to connect with a positive, high-performing group of body shop owners, managers and industry experts.

About the Author:

Stacey is an award-winning writer and editor. As the owner of Radiant Writing & Communications, Stacey provides a wide range of content and digital marketing for technical and non-technical industries, including automotive, technology and health and wellness. She is passionate about writing original content that makes a difference.In addition to reporting for national and international magazines, Stacey co-authored a history book for the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Alberta, as well as The Secrets of America’s Greatest Body Shops. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Southern California with a double major in Journalism and Political Science and earned an Honors Thesis in Environmental Politics.

Share This Story:



Leave a Reply

Stay Informed And Get Invited To Upcoming Events!
Subscribe to our email newsletter to keep learning and unlock your leadership potential