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.