New River Auto Mall body shop holds grand opening

rlurye@islandpacket.comMarch 18, 2014 

Sean Bruton, right, works on a car at the unibody frame repair station as the party swirls around him during the grand opening celebration March 18, 2014, for the New River Auto Mall Vehicle Remanufacturing Center along S.C. 170 in Okatie.

JAY KARR — Staff photo Buy Photo

When navigating the inside of the New River Auto Mall's auto body shop, it couldn't hurt to have a GPS, an employee remarked Tuesday.

Marketing manager Jill Jauch was joking as she did laps around the Vehicle Remanufacturing Center, coordinating the shop's grand opening, but she was not far off. Housed in a 36,000-square-foot former beer distribution facility on S.C. 170 in Okatie, the center has nearly as many rooms and stations as employees.

Each one boasts state-of-the-art technology for collision repairs, paint or other vehicle upkeep that manager Gerrit den Dekker hopes will entice drivers to the new center in Jasper County, whether they purchased a car from the New River Auto Mall or not.

In one plastic tent, vehicles are cleaned and painted before they're steered into large "ovens" for baking. In two white buildings behind the auto body shop, the used cars the Hardeeville auto mall acquires on trade-ins are detailed, then photographed for its website.

Another space is dedicated to repairing cars with aluminum bodies, which can be contaminated by iron oxide particles if a worker nearby is grinding steel, causing paint not to adhere properly to the surface. Confining aluminum-body vehicles helps the Vehicle Remanufacturing center avoid that problem and meet the standards of luxury manufacturers such as Audi, Porsche and Land Rover.

The Vehicle Remanufacturing Center, which first opened in January, celebrated its grand opening Tuesday with live music, catering and remarks from local community leaders.

The center has 16 employees and a plan for the operation to grow, according to den Dekker. He doesn't expect that to take long.

"People tend to gravitate back to where they purchased their vehicle," he said. "Now they've got that peace of mind of knowing it's all the same family."

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