Innovative, championing cutting-edge technology and equipment, and a blueprint for modern car care, the Lloyd Newcastle Bodyshop is among the best there is, trusted by the world’s leading luxury motor brands and with a string of awards to prove it.
Walk into the Lloyd Newcastle Bodyshop and you could be forgiven for thinking you had stepped into a top Harley Street clinic.
Which is in many ways what it is: a hospital for cars.
In their own way, today’s vehicles are every bit as complicated, contrary and idiosyncratic as humans.
Cars used to be a fairly basic mode of transport; mechanical boxes on wheels with a turn-key ignition that were all about superficial appearance rather than what was beneath the bodywork.
But the relentless march of technology has pervaded every corner of our lives and nowhere has this become more apparent than in the motor industry.
Every week seems to herald a new breakthrough, whether it be the advent of driverless vehicles, innovations in the electric car arena which are slashing recharging times and making them a more attractive proposition, or the rise of connected technologies.
The joke that cars are now so sophisticated you could fly one to the moon and back may soon see car manufacturers having the last laugh.
This 21st-century know-how has brought with it a new breed of avant-garde body shops boasting the latest diagnostics, software and tools that are a world away from the backstreet garages of old reeking of oil, grease, welding smoke and roll-your-own cigarettes.
Just as you wouldn’t drag a stranger off the street to perform open heart surgery, so today’s state-of-the-art cars demand to be treated by the best in the field.
And few can surpass the Lloyd Newcastle Bodyshop.
It’s no idle boast. The bright, spotlessly clean, airy and ultra-modern facility on Hunter’s Road, Newcastle, has won BMW’s prestigious Repair Centre of the Year numerous times. And it has made it into the final of the Bentley Bodyshop of the Year.
The operation is one of only 14 across the UK that is a Porsche recommended body repairer, as well as being Bentley and BMW accredited and Mercedes-Benz approved.
It is, as David Brewis, Lloyd Newcastle’s Bodyshop Manager, rightly states: “a huge accolade. It sets our stall out as to where we sit in the marketplace and sends a loud and clear message to customers that we are a prestige business that is always looking to break new ground and go the extra mile.”
This is in no small part down to staff training and sustained investment in its dealerships by the wider Lloyd Motor Group.
Twenty-nine staff are employed at the Hunter’s Road set-up – 16 in the bodyshop, ranging from vehicle inspectors to panel technicians, engineers and paint sprayers.
These are no run-of-the-mill garage mechanics, however, donned in oil-stained overalls with a dirty rag sticking out of their back pocket. You’re just as likely to see them wearing a CSI-style white protective suit over their smart navy blue Lloyd Newcastle branded polo shirts and heavy duty work trousers.
“With all the high-tech equipment used nowadays you need to have significant IT skills,” explains Scott Smith, Assistant Bodyshop Manager. “It’s no longer just about having a toolbox.
“The training is relentless. It has to be with technology moving so fast. What is current now may be out of date by this time next year. And with electric and hybrid cars, the investment in both training and equipment is going to be huge going forward.
“Things have changed dramatically in just the last five years. It’s like painting the Forth Bridge. Once you think you’ve finished you find yourself having to start all over again.
“Electric hybrid technicians are the next phase. Luckily, we recognised where things were headed and we have had them in place for the last four years. It’s why the Lloyd Newcastle Bodyshop is so highly regarded. We make sure we stay ahead of the game.”
As Scott’s talking, David points to a Porsche that’s parked in a Direct Dialogue Bay, a dedicated area where immediate, on-the-spot analysis can be made ahead of any potential work. “You have to prove you have all the correct kit on site. We’ve invested heavily in specialist tools, diagnostic equipment, body jigs and an aluminium extraction unit.”
Aluminium extraction unit?
“It is becoming more common for different materials to be used in cars,” David clarifies. “Steel filings and airborne particles will oxidise aluminium and have a corrosive effect, so it is vital we avoid cross-contamination.”
The bodyshop is even equipped with two drive-through spray booths, nicknamed ‘ovens’, fitted with quad burners that have reduced paint drying time to just 30 minutes.
Covering an impressive 12,000m², this slick operation runs 18 hours a day and deals with up to 300 BMW, MINI, Bentley and Porsche repairs a month. The team has even been asked to work on kit cars, shop signs and a gyrocopter!
“It’s proof that we can tackle anything,” David says with a laugh.