Insurance And Vehicle Complexity

For years insurance companies assumed that inexpensive cars were easy to fix and did not need special attention.

The people who bought premium cars had an expectation that they would get top level repair and maintenance service. If the Mercedes Benz sanctioned repair facility told them that these parts and these procedures were needed then that was what they wanted and they let the insurance companies know that. The insurance companies knew that they could not easily fight a determined owner armed with the logic of a proper repair (and also a lawyer) and with so few of these cars on the road the additional costs of their repair could be made to fit into their business model.

Now inexpensive cars have sophisticated technology and repair requirements and there are a lot of them on the road. These cars need the same standard of repair as more expensive cars but the insurance model is not designed for Mercedes Benz level repairs on every car on the road. The long-term solution will be a revision to the insurance business model, but the short-term position is to resist the need for these repairs.

As a step in the right direction, they will pay for the right repair if the repairer shows that repair is needed. If, however, the repairer is not equipped or motivated to do the right repair the insurance company will happily pay for the lesser repair while rewarding that facility with a higher score for cost control.

The How And What of Repair

Many people in the repair industry still believe that the repair tech knows both the “How” and “What” of a repair. This belief should have ended around 2010, but discouragingly it is still prevalent in the industry in 2021.

In facilities that still hold to this outdated model, the technician is assigned a repair and given only the estimate as information. In most cases that information is only whether to repair or replace a part and the time allotted to the task. Based on prior experience he is expected to know what to do. If he had repaired a bent frame rail many times in the past, then the bent frame rail he was dealing with now could be repaired using that knowledge. Until around 2010, with most cars using the same frame material and manufacturing techniques this prior knowledge was usually sufficient.

But today, a vehicle structure can be made of many different types of steel and other materials, each of which have a specific design purpose and specific techniques for repair or replacement. All of this metal looks very similar and if the tech is not given full information about the materials used in the damaged area he will not be able to repair the car to Ready For Its Next Accident condition.

An Analogy Is The Relationship Between The Surgeon And The Support Team

This is no criticism of a conscientious and qualified repair technician.There is a tremendous amount of skill and knowledge in “How” to do a repair but “What” to do can only come from information provided by others. The Pre Estimate Vehicle researcher can verify the material used and the Estimator can use that information as part of his repair report. It is this repair report that the technician uses as the “What” information needed for the correct repair.

An analogy is the relationship between the surgeon and the support team he works with. The highly trained surgeon cannot do much with a sedated patient on the operating table if he is not given specific information.  He has the highly skilled “How,” but he needs the “What” information from the support team to properly apply that highly skilled “How.”

The following post, with photos of a cutaway 2016 Honda Civic model, provides an example of how the How and What come together for successful repair.

2016 Honda Civic Structure And Metals

This 2016 (no longer that new) Honda Civic is an excellent and affordable car that many people will buy and use for everything from city commuting to regular highway travel. It is a car that your family will use. It also looks a lot like a 2015 Civic which is structurally a completely different car.

To meet the equally important objectives of efficiency and safety, Honda applied their significant engineering capabilities to make the structure of the car from, aluminum, plastic composites and 5 different strengths of steel.

The photo below shows a cut away demonstration car with each colour indicating a different grade of steel, each with its own requirements for repair or replacement. To maintain the designed safety features of the car, the integrity of each section must be maintained.

The car that the technician will be repairing will not be colour-coded and it is easy to see that a correct repair to Ready For Its Next Accident condition cannot be done without very complete supporting information.

The well-trained technician will know how to repair or replace any of these components, but if he is not given good information about the construction and material types, he will not know what he should be doing.

ADAS And Getting To RFINA Repairs

Today it is still possible to hide incorrect structural repairs; the owner cannot see the repaired frame rail that should have been replaced or the improperly welded door post. It is the rapidly expanding implementation of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) that will force everything into the open; the owner will notice that the active cruise control radar is giving wrong information, or the lane departure is not working as it should.

As these systems become commonplace the driver’s expectations will also change. Those of us who have been driving for over 20 or 30 years may still be relying on shoulder checks and constant visual awareness. We are getting used to the warnings and signals from our cars, but these are still secondary and in some cases even distracting. But people who have been driving only a few years may well have done most of their driving in cars with ADAS systems and they have become very comfortable with and reliant on these systems. They will know right away if something has changed after an accident and repair.

These systems are not luxury options on expensive cars. $25,000 cars have had many of these systems for several years now and in the near future there will be more cars with these than without.

ADAS systems generally do not involve the structure of the vehicle and it may seem that they are a completely separate issue in repair. However, ADAS considerations require an analytical and research based approach to repair that was not needed for most of the past 50 years. Learning this different approach will carry over to the structural as well, and those repairers who are doing the correct work around ADAS will be much more likely to be paying attention to the less noticeable, but equally important structural repairs.