Monthly archives of “September 2016

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New Business Models for the Repair Side

 The repair side of the industry, made up of those who actually do the physical repair, is structured very differently from the insurance side. While significant consolidation is occurring the industry is still dominated by small operations. A collision shop with an annual volume of 5 million dollars is a big operator; this is very small in the overall business world.

The people working within these operations are almost all part of the prevalent culture that has shaped the industry. The norm is an owner/operator structure, with the owner in most cases having moved from the technical side into ownership. He works in the front office with an admin assistant and as many estimators as are needed to manage the work flow. The shop floor is divided into body repair techs and paint techs, who are paid on a flat rate basis. The business relationship that drives operations is between the insurance companies and the repair shop. The vehicle owners are treated well, but the rules are set by the insurance companies; business survival and success depends on being able to work to these rules.

This is starting to change but the description applies to the majority of collision repair facilities. Many of the changes of the past 10 years are not truly new models, but variations of this traditional model.

Consolidators bring some scale and new focus to this and in the 5 year future that is a key theme of RFINA will likely be significant drivers toward Next Accident Readiness principles. At this time, more than they may like to acknowledge, many consolidated systems are simply a large number of shops that individually follow this described model.

In the last two weeks I have read references to the need for an increased differentiation of skills and technical roles, a need for the development of a culture of learning in the industry, the increased role of vehicle manufacturers in repair decisions and the looming reality of government regulation of technicians and facilities.

Those facilities that wait for change to be imposed on them will be behind before they start. The progressive ones are moving ahead and will be able to participate with the other actors in the collision repair world to shape the new models needed.


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One New Insurance Model

I have hinted in past posts that a new model is needed, and is being developed for auto insurance. The old model was starting to not work very well at all, for insurers, repairers and car owners. With the rapid changes in car design it will only get worse; rapidly.

Here is an article from Repairer Driven News that supports that position, with a new company staking their future on the need for a new model.

The article came out in February of this year, and I didn’t see it until today. Lemonade is up and running with their new model as of this month. For now they are only in New York and only with homeowners and tenant insurance. But it is a real company, with real employees and real money working with a new. It may or may not the answer but it is a start and we can expect to see other new approaches hitting the market in the near future.

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Complexity in Every Car

How complex? This July, 2016 Honda Position Statement quickly becomes overwhelming reading, but it is a very real example of the issues that must be looked at for a complete Next Accident Ready repair.

If you do read through it you will see that it addresses only issues of electronics. In addition to the electronics that must be correctly incorporated into the repair plan the 2016 Fit in the photo has sophisticated zones of high strength steel that must be properly identified and understood for safe collision repair.



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Fixing Them All Wrong

In May of 2014, just over two years ago, I heard a very knowledgeable and successful former collision shop owner, who at that time was working as the collision tech manager for one of the major manufacturers, talk about the repairs he had been doing some years before that as a trusted independent.

To paraphrase ’everyone was happy, we were making money doing millions of dollars in repair each year, the customers were happy with good looking repairs delivered on time, the dealers were happy because they were selling parts and their customers were getting great service.’

Then after a pause he added, ‘and we were fixing them all wrong.’

He continued with ‘they looked great, they drove great, but in the next accident they would not perform as designed.’

The reason he could say that with a clear conscience is that at the time they did not realize they were fixing them wrong.

For many obvious reasons information on correct repair methods is now far easier to get than it was in the early 2000s period he was talking about. So why are so many cars still being fixed wrong now that the information is available?

In an earlier post with an article about GM CEO Mary Bara she is quoted as saying ‘there will be more change in the next 5 years than there was in the last 50.’

We are in that 5 years now but all the industry players grew up in the last 50, the methods and practises that were the keys to survival and success during that period may not be right today, but they are the foundations of industry culture.

It is this culture that is slowing the move to Next Accident Ready repairs.

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Collision Repair and Certification

Certification is a word that is currently used quite freely in the repair industry. Without question certification and validation of repair shop capabilities and process will become an important part of the repair environment in the coming years.

At this point there is a surge of activity with certification with several players increasing their involvement and competing with each other. If the result 5 years from now is that there are different certification standards by different organizations then certification could well be seen more as a marketing tool than as a legitimate indictor of capability and integrity.

Assured Performance and Verifacts are the two main certification organizations for the collision repair industry in the US and Canada. Both are For Profit privately held companies.

NSF International is a Not for Profit organization that has its roots in food safety certification and had been involved in the certification of aftermarket auto parts since 2011. NSF has recently introduced a program of collision shop certification. This appears to be a quite rigorous third party independent certification, perhaps with less of a marketing component that the other two may have.

I-CAR is another Not for Profit organization that provides accreditation based on employee training.

The collision repair industry is very loosely regulated in most of North America and none of these certification programs are mandated by regulatory bodies

Truly regulated and standardized professions offer licensing or legitimacy through Not for Profit organizations funded by the profession as a whole. While these are not without controversy they are accepted as the single regulator for the profession.

It can easily be imagined that the legal system would be quite chaotic if there were competing bar associations. Medical practice would also be very interesting if there were more than one body validating credentials.

Auto collision repair may not be medicine, but then neither is aircraft maintenance. There are not competing organizations qualifying and certifying aircraft mechanics.

In the collision repair world, Verifacts has on site inspectors that review the actual work being done. Assured Performance has a phone app that allows technicians to fill in the blanks on a form and take pictures to verify that they are doing correct repairs.  The inspector cannot be there every day and it will not take much for a tech savvy repair technician to take the ‘right’ pictures.

One OEM will outsource their certification to one company and another will outsource to another. Each of these certification companies will want $500 to $1,000 a month and each will have slightly different standards.

Does the repair shop decide that it will only repair cars of manufacturers that their preferred certification provider has agreements with? What if they do very good work for a customer with a Honda and her husband’s Chrysler needs repair?

The theme of this blog has been that we will probably be in close to the right place in 5 years, but we are not there yet. Certification still needs some time to be truly valid.