Capricorn Area Manager, Victoria
I become interested in the motor vehicle industry at 16, when I met my husband to be. He grew up in with his father and step father both owning small businesses, a Jaguar mechanical / parts business and a Panel repair business respectively.
At 18, I worked in the Jaguar Repair business as the receptionist (Customer Service Advisor) and learnt the financial side of the business, as well as a steep learning curve about motor vehicle repairs and parts. After working here for a few years my husband and I decided we would try
small business ourselves and opened a BMW parts and repair business, in which I was engaged in numerous roles, from front of house, service advisor, parts interpreter, accounts, HR, payroll, book keeper, as well as any other roles to fill the gaps. It was a very hectic and sometimes
hair-raising time of life, as we also participated in car rallies. My husband being the driver and I was the navigator! We were also raising a young family and juggling their interests as well.
After 10 years of running Peninsula BM we decided it was time for a sea change and sold the business to my brother in law and moved to Hobart Tasmania. Here I opened a franchised branch of Imparts, where I managed the business, while my husband continued to work a fly in fly out job role in
Victoria. Imparts Hobart grew and I employed a couple of people to help me. After two years my husband’s role in Victoria was coming to an end, and he saw an opening for a second-hand parts business for European cars in Hobart which, complimented the Imparts business. We ran this business for 9 years.
By now our children had grown and left home to pursue their own careers. One in United Kingdom as an engineer in the race car industry, and the other as a pilot in the Australian Airforce.
We decided to return to Victoria, where we opened a Restoration business (mechanical and panel) for classic and custom vehicles, Creative Custom Cars. I enjoyed the parts business and stayed in a role of parts interpreter with Imparts at their Clayton branch for a few years, as well
as helping run Creative Custom Cars after hours and on weekends. The role with Capricorn came up and it looked very diverse and interesting, so I applied and have been with Capricorn for the past 3 years. I really enjoy helping people with their business within the motor industry, which has become a passion for
In the past 30 years a lot has changed within the Industry including the roles and acceptance of women. Initially when I started, it was very male oriented and driven by men. As a woman in a male dominated industry it has been interesting at times. I feel women have a lot more opportunities
now, although at times I still come across situations where there are roadblocks unfortunately. Women’s opinions are more valued, and the opportunities are far greater today. I have met a lot of focussed and inspirational women, who have had to struggle at times, to achieve their goals.
My initial roles within the industry were in mechanical, but since coming back to Victoria I have learnt a lot about the Panel Industry, within our own small business and the role with Capricorn. The challenges faced running a Panel business has been eye-opening.
There has always been a struggle between insurance companies and the repair businesses. This is unfortunate and seems to be the biggest hurdle for the Collision Industry. I feel the number of women in the industry who are now decision makers has grown rapidly in the past few years. In my role with
Capricorn, I have been fortunate to experience numerous different areas in this industry and, it has been extremely enriching to see the change, acceptance and, growth of women’s roles in all areas.
A former dancer and singer, Kara Green’s career path has been far from traditional, but that hasn’t stopped her from proving her prowess against other Hino parts interpreters.
Working at Adtrans Hino in Sydney’s Smeaton Grange, Kara has a varied role that involves preparing complex smash quotes, and then processing and delivering the order.
Her skills and expertise have not gone unnoticed by Japanese truck manufacturer Hino - in last year’s Hino Skills Contest, Kara finished second competing against more experienced participants from around the country.
Hino Australia’s Skills Contest showcases the proficiency of Sales, Service and Parts experts from the Hino national dealer network.
During the contest, participants undergo a series of qualifiers over several months, the outcomes of which earn them points towards a place in the final national competition.
“Kara was one of the strong performers in the parts counter role play, utilising the knowledge she has gained in the Hino Training program, which all Hino dealership staff consistently undertake to ensure they are trained on correct parts interpretation,” said Kirk Harrison, Hino Australia’s Manager of Parts & Accessories.
Kara completed a three year apprenticeship in 2018, and thoroughly enjoys her role, and the laidback yet professional atmosphere of the dealership:
“I love that I’m learning different things every day, and can just be myself – my husband is a mechanic, so now we can talk a lot more about our jobs together,” she said.
She credits her customer service as a key reason why she is successful in her role:
“I give a level of care to the customers that other places don’t – if I say I’ll get back to them, I always do,” she continued.
“Most smash repairers choose Hino Genuine Parts, rather than a non-genuine part, as they know our parts will fit first time, every time, plus we get the order out quickly so the repairer can move onto the next job.”
Her advice to anyone looking to get into the industry:
“Just do it and don’t freak out that it’s a male dominated industry - people will respect you if you put the effort into doing training, and getting some knowledge behind you.”
Although the Car-O-Liner product has been available in Australia a long time, it’s now nearly 30 years ago that Julie Thomas and her husband Barrie took over the marketing and distribution for Australia.
At that time Barrie, who was a qualified panel beater and working with John Guest, the previous distributor, decided to take up the opportunity that was offered and made the big move with Julie to take over for Australia.
Based in Wollongong at that time and subsequently moving to Unanderra into a modern office/warehouse/training facility, the move has certainly been a very successful one for them.
Sadly, Barrie passed away in 1997, which meant that Julie, who at that time was working part time implementing a Quality Assurance program, was faced with the daunting task of running the business on her own.
As we now know, Julie has done an outstanding job over the years and positioned Car-O-Liner as the top-selling pulling and measuring equipment in Australia. Of course, Car-O-Liner has moved on from only manufacturing benches and measuring systems and now has a full range of welders and other equipment as well as an
excellent body shop and design program.
As Julie always points out, their success could not have happened without a great team around her – many of them have been on the team for more than 20 years – plus, of course, her family – daughters Lisa and Nicolle.
Julie has always supported the industry, with Car-O-Liner Australia involved in every major trade show in Australia and always sponsoring seminars, conferences and forums, plus, of course, I-CAR Australia. The team are always travelling to attend Car-O-Liner training courses to ensure that the training that they in
turn provide to the industry is up-to-date. Julie is also a regular visitor to major overseas events such as SEMA and Automechanika to ensure that she is aware of emerging trends and technology.
So what does the future hold for Julie and Car-O-Liner Australia?
“We will continue to support the industry and to supply what we feel are the best products in the market,” said Julie. “I really enjoy what I do and the challenges that we all face, and with Lisa and Matt plus the great team we have here, we will be around for another 25 years, I am sure!”
Julie Thomas has displayed tenacious business courage during her career. To survive in a male dominated industry and be so successful, speaks volumes about this great lady.
She has always supported the industry in the background during some turbulent times and also has sponsored just about every group, workshop, seminar and trade show over many years and is a strong supporter of I-CAR Australia and WorldSkills.
Julie and Car-O-Liner have been suppliers to Capricorn since 2007, with many of our panel members on their customer list. I was fortunate to be at the Lifetime Achievement Awards for the National Collision Repair magazine when Julie received her award, and it was a very special moment seeing Julie receive this
award in front of her family and industry peers.
* The contents of and any opinions contained in this article may not necessarily reflect the opinions of Capricorn Society Ltd.