OEM Requirements – Are They Realistic?

I have written in the past about the tension between vehicle manufacturers (OEMs) and the other stakeholders in the collision repair industry. In March of 2017 I criticized the OEMs for their insistence on new OEM parts for all repairs

Since that time, vehicle manufacturers seem to have doubled down on the policy with All New OEM Parts On All Repairs. Meanwhile the repair side of the industry and the paying end users, whether insurance companies or vehicle owners, continue to use many used parts.

A hood with a small dent at the front edge is often removed to facilitate the repair and paint process as it is more efficient than dealing with the entire vehicle through the repair process. If that repainted hood is re-installed (paying attention to the possibility of one-time use parts such as washer nozzles or mounting bolts) the entire repair process has been done in an OEM approved manner. A hood has been removed, inspected, repaired, repainted and installed.

“The work required to ready either the new or used part for installation would be very similar.”

If the damage is something that cannot be repaired the correct OEM repair would be to buy a new hood for perhaps $900. However, if a used hood from the same year vehicle were available this could be bought for $450 or $500. A competent technician will be able to validate the condition of the used part. If it has no previous repairs or repaint it is effectively the same as the one that came off the damaged vehicle. The work required to ready either the new or used part for installation would be very similar, with perhaps an additional 15 minutes to clean the used part.

As a business owner with 30 years’ experience I would not be able to offer my customer any good reason why they should pay $400 or $500 more for the new hood. If I was to say that the manufacturer insists on new parts the next question would be why and my only answer would be “because they said so.”

If the replaced part is a welded panel I have no difficulty using a new OEM part and defending the use of that part with a valid technical explanation of why it is needed.

There are many, with an upper case M, cases where OEM procedures are truly critical in the safe repair of a vehicle and OEMs are right in keeping the pressure on to insist that these procedures be followed. Unfortunately, by mixing non-essential requirements, such as new OEM parts all the time, with the truly important ones they are providing an opening for inconsistent interpretation of all of their policies.

Position Statements From Vehicle Manufacturers

“Position Statements” are written by vehicle manufacturers to summarize and highlight certain aspects of their repair procedures. They are not being written and published to reveal new information; they are reiteration and reinforcement of information that is already in the company’s service and repair information manuals and bulletins. They serve a purpose by gathering information from barely accessible locations, summarizing it and putting it forward in a clear format.

One could think that these position statements are written to educate the repair industry about a particularly important aspect of repair, but the reality is that they are written to minimize arguments between progressive repairers and insurance adjusters. 

A valid interpretation of a position statement would be:

“that thing on line 12 on page 47; we really mean it and you do have to do it for a complete repair.”

Unfortunately this did not work as hoped because insurance companies decided that only those repair procedures rewritten in positon statements had to be followed. In response to this at least one manufacturer has stopped writing position statements and has instead pointed to their overall repair instructions and said that they all have to be followed.

The Role of Repairers In Getting To The Right Repairs

One of my ongoing themes has been the need for change in the culture of the collision repair industry. Culture does not develop overnight and it certainly does not change overnight. We have had 50 years of a business style that has very much set a culture.

Because there were very few rules set by government regulators, it was the insurance companies that became the rule setters. Following these rules was at the core of the repairer business model. The rules focused on cost far more than safety, as cost was tangible and safety was not so clearly assessed. To be honest, the way cars were built for many decades did not change all that much and old methods of repair served well enough. Repairers accepted that the insurance companies made the rules and over the years this turned into industry culture.

“Which rules are repairers supposed to follow?”

Now cars are much different and we have the manufacturers making rules through their OEM procedures. While mostly good these are sometimes disconnected from on the street reality, and more importantly have been made with minimal or no consultation with insurers, who pay most of the bills. Repairers are used to a culture of following rules, but which rules are they supposed to follow?

Those repairers who have been changing the internal culture of their own businesses are ready to participate in an exciting phase. They have been paying attention, buying needed current equipment and supporting their staff in their training and education.

These repairers have something to offer that both the insurers and OEMs need. That is real world, honest experience and understanding. They can’t (and don’t) guess how to do a repair, but they can (and do) apply the experience of their entire team into getting that repair done properly and at a cost that makes sense. 

The signals are out there that the insurers and manufacturers will start to talk to each other. As they move forward with these conversations they will be looking for intelligent input from progressive repairers.