De Haan Bodyworks celebrates 50 years with the TACC

De Haan Bodyworks

Fifty-year TACC member, De Haan Bodyworks is a family affair. Dirk De Haan, started the business on 10 March 1958 in Devonport and he passed it on to his son, Dirk Junior, in 1981. Today, the founder’s grandchildren – the third generation – play an important role in the business.

Dirk De Haan Senior has an incredible story.

Jeremy: “My grandfather got taken away as a prisoner of war during WWII and he worked near to Hitler’s house (in Berchtesgaden) taking care of a disabled elderly lady. He was a servant, I guess you could say.

“When the British bombed the area, my father knew the end was coming, so he hid in an underground cellar. The RAF (Royal Air Force) bombed the house where he worked and destroyed it.”

After the war, Dirk De Haan travelled to Australia with his wife, three children, and a suitcase.

“My grandfather had some experience with sheet metal repairs, which was about it, but this led to him fixing vehicle bodies. As time went by, he gained more capability,” Jeremy said.

This led Dirk to establish De Haan Bodyworks at 35 Formby Road, Devonport. Dirk moved the business to its current location, 39 Wenvoe Street, in 1960.

Today, Dirk Junior’s children, Simon and Jeremy own and run the business, along with their sister, Teresa in the office.

De Haan’s has 10 staff on the floor – five in the panel shop and five in the paint shop – with the three siblings taking care of business in the office. And the family connections keep growing.

“Three of the staff in the panel shop are family and one in the paint shop has married into the family,” Jeremy said.

De Haan’s specialise in passenger cars and 4WD smash repairs.

“Generally, we don’t work on trucks and buses. We’re trying to back away from too many restorations because the smash work is so busy.”

Over the years, a few smaller trucks have passed through the doors and De Haan’s still do repair and paintwork for motorcycles, tractors, excavators and has even done kitchen cabinets in the past.

Jeremy is upbeat about business.

“Each year, things get better and better,” he said.

“We put through about 15 jobs a week, mostly insurance work.”

Jeremy says the company’s relationship with insurance companies is “pretty good” and that connecting with the assessor is paramount.

“Yes and no,” is Jeremy’s answer to whether the business experiences parts supply issues.

“We’re booked three-to-four months out, so when we do a quote, it allows us to order the parts and we know then whether there might be a delay and we can usually work around that.”

Covid had a huge impact on parts supply, with newer brands to the Australian market such as MG and LDV having the biggest supply issues recently. Many of the other brands have at times also had delays on parts availability. This is improving though all the time.

Sourcing parts through local dealerships is important. De Haan also gets a bit of scratch and dent work through its relationships with local dealerships.

The other big issue in automotive land – staff – so far has not been a big issue for the business.

We haven’t had many issues getting and keeping staff. Employees come and go. They want a change of career or place of employment, but on the whole it’s been fairly stable.

There’s a theme here: better businesses who look after their people rarely have major staffing issues.

TACC State Manager Bruce McIntosh said De Haan’s 50-year membership has been a magnificent partnership.

“I like to think TACC has had a small hand in De Haan Bodyworks’ success but, of course, it is their dedication to quality work, and looking after their customers and staff that has created their second-to-none reputation in northern Tasmania.”

A half-century association, however, says much about how TACC looks after its members.

“We have everything an automotive business needs in terms of support: we have industrial relations, OHS and technical services and more that really ease the worry and pain business owners sometimes feel,” said Bruce.

“We’ll always be here for members like De Haan Bodyworks. If ever they need something, we’re only a phone call away.”