Latest Acquisition Signals Nationwide Aspirations For Crash Champions
June 22, 2021—Crash Champions has acquired Signature Collision Centers, one of the largest family-owned, independent collision repair companies on the East Coast.
The move will bring Signature’s 24 locations under the Crash Champions umbrella, giving it 118 shops in the United States. It also represents the company’s first move away from the Midwest/West Coast and into eastern part of the country. The acquisition will be finalized in late July, according to stakeholders.
The goal of the acquisition is to further Crash Champions' goal of becoming a nationwide brand on par with the Calibers and Gerbers of the world.
“We’re wanting to grow and create a national platform as soon as we can,” Crash Champions’ CEO Matt Ebert tells FenderBender. “This is a great opportunity for us to get on the East Coast.”
Ebert says the increasing shift by insurance companies to refer work to larger companies instead of the small, independently-owned shops has fueled the company's rapid growth. In August of 2019, the company had just eight locations in the Greater Chicago area. Now with 118, that represents 1400 percent growth.
Ebert says he strategically chose to acquire a large company on the East Coast with a strong operations and leadership team in place that will quickly allow the company to acquire single-shop and small MSO operations along the coast.
Signature’s founder and CEO, Charles "Chuck" Pipkin, will take on a “significant” ownership stake in Crash Champions and transition to a new role as an executive board member within the company, Ebert says.
“[The acquisition] signals a lot of opportunity for us to now go and create some density around what Chuck’s already created,” he says.
Signature Collision Centers has locations throughout the greater Mid-Atlantic and Southeast, including in Pennsylvania, Maryland, North Carolina, Florida, and Washington, D.C.
Other than a few changing titles, Pipkin’s team will remain in place with Crash Champions, as the brand works to expand its presence on the East Coast. That was an element both sides prioritized and agreed on, Ebert says. It’s part of a synergy that Pipkin and Ebert developed, dating back to 2019 when initial and preliminary conversations began. However, serious discussions between the two didn’t heat up until late last year/early this year.
Pipkin himself considered making a push to take Signature to the national level. He tells FenderBender that he saw an opportunity in the second wave of consolidation that followed the large moves by Caliber, Gerber, Abra, and Service King. He says when he saw Crash Champions and Classic Collision make moves to pursue widespread expansion, he considered it, but he couldn’t see seven to eight large collision repair brands surviving.
“It’s all about relevance and strength and numbers,” Pipkin says. “The more I looked at it, I could continue to grow on the East Coast but everybody else was growing. It just made more sense to get together.”
“I ran out of time. Maybe if I’d have started 10 years earlier,” he says. “The writing was on the wall with all the consolidation. It was time to team up. Matt was the best teammate I could find out there.”
Pipkin says he and Ebert compliment each other well, sharing the same vision and cultural priorities. That will hopefully lead to a smooth transition, the two founders say.