Wednesday, 23 November 2011 16:54

Voices Heard Amid Revving Engines at SEMA—What Collision Repairers Said and Heard

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by John Yoswick

When you read a sampling of comments from among the 135,000 people in Vegas during SEMA week—no matter how you look at it—you realize SEMA has all the diversity of an automotive city. A city where, for love or profit, all the citizens share a car obsession, but it’s a city-sized population nonetheless.

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About 132,000 people flooded into Las Vegas in November for the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) tradeshow, with about half of those pegged by show organizers as “buyers.” That’s about a 17 percent jump in show attendance over last year. They could have spent a day just checking out the approximately 2,000 cars on display in and in front of the Las Vegas Convention Center for the event.

The Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) said it too saw growth in the training and other events that it held, for the second consecutive year—in conjunction with SEMA. Of the 2,100 total exhibitors—filling a mind-boggling 1 million square feet of  space—153 chose to be located in the newly retitled “Collision Repair and Refinish” section of the show, which included about two dozen more companies than last year.


Peter MacGillivray, vice president of events and communications for SEMA, said there was a 44 percent increase over last year in the number of buyers who listed themselves as interested in collision repair and refinish.

In addition to the collision repair industry vendors, SEMA offers a multitude of tires and wheels and ways to soup-up and trick-out cars and trucks. But for those looking for information and discussion related to the collision industry, there were classes and meetings throughout SEMA week as well.

Here’s a sampling of some of what was heard within SEMA week classrooms and meetings spaces.

“What does new automotive refrigerant mean to you? —It means all new equipment. They’re not interchangeable. You’re going to have to buy new manifolds and a new recovery system.”
—Industry trainer Toby Chess on the new R-1234yf automotive refrigerant now in use in Europe and expected in some 2013 model year GM vehicles.

“Under Illinois law, to reverse a case at the (state) Supreme Court level, you must have a minimum of four Justices. There was already one judge who had recused himself, and so the decision on the important issues, the issue whether to reverse, came down to a 4-2 vote. If you take out Karmeier, the decision [against State Farm] stands. So it’s going to be really interesting to see what the Illinois Supreme Court does because they’re under a microscope.”
—Ohio attorney Erica Eversman, during her class on “A New Legal Era in the Collision Industry,” describing the latest legal effort to get the Illinois Supreme Court to review its 2005 decision throwing out a $1 billion judgment against State Farm related to its use of non-OEM parts. Plaintiffs attorneys argue Justice Lloyd Karmeier, who voted in favor of State Farm, should have recused himself from the case because of what they say was the level of the insurer’s backing of Karmeier’s election campaign.

“I just love this industry and the people in it. I’ve been in for 36 years and hope to be in it another 10 or so.”
—Dan Bailey from A & B CARSTAR in Kansas City, Missouri, upon being the latest to be inducted into the collision industry’s “Hall of Eagles.” Bailey, the former president of CARSTAR’s national corporate organization, was recognized for a career that has included serving on many industry boards and advisory groups.

“During the week of October 10, my company attended salvage pools in the United States where there were 65,000 vehicles up for bid. Of those, 25 percent, or about 16,250, were sold for export out of the United States. My company—which only buys total loss vehicles for end-of-life processing—that week bought 7 percent, or about 4,500 vehicles. Another 20,000 were sold to our competitors for processing in the United States. So that leaves 24,250 vehicles left in the United States from that single week’s sale. I ask you, ‘what happens to those vehicles?’ How many of those vehicle should have remained in your shops for repair for the consumer? This is an issue I think we really need to address. Maybe we can work together to do something. As I see this, if we could have repaired those vehicles, there were over 1 million opportunities [we could have gained] in one year.”
—Herb Lieberman of LKQ Corporation, urging repairers and insurers to work together to reduce the number of vehicles being declared total losses and not being repaired by the industry.

“Customers are looking for more value through the entire transaction. If you look at the insurance (process), typically you get an appraisal inspection, someone hands you a check, and you’re done. We’re starting to toy with the idea of whether post-repair inspections makes sense… I think it opens another dimension in terms of what you can bring the customer. Outside of their home, their automobile is the most expensive investment they make. I think customers are demanding more from that (insurance claim) transaction, and I think we’re going to be charged with finding ways to provide that. Post-repair inspections are something that J.D. Powers highly recommends. Not a lot of folks are doing it. It’s time-intensive. It’s expensive. But the customer has an expectation that it adds value to their insurance and repair transaction.”
—Allstate’s Randy Hanson

“Roger Cada (of State Farm) and I were standing at the American Iron and Steel Institute conference talking to one of the top steel engineers from one of the largest steel manufacturers in the world. Roger asked him, ‘From your research, what’s going to happen to some of these new steels if we heat them or we weld them incorrectly. Will there be a little more intrusion (in a subsequent accident) or a minor change in airbag timing?’ And the guy said, ‘No, from our research, it’s catastrophic failure.’”
—CARSTAR’s Bob Keith

“It may not be the repairers in this room, but we have customers going to repairers that may not or should not be fixing certain things. Or maybe they’re fixing stuff that shouldn’t be fixed. But our hands are tied in some ways. Customers have the right to choose where they want to go.”
—Progressive’s Chris Andreoli

“It’s certainly not the place for an insurance company to steer a customer to a shop. But I do think the manufacturer should play a role in that. I think you’re seeing more and more OEMs getting involved in shop certification. That (certification) doesn’t mean you’re going to get 100 percent correct repairs, but it increases the opportunity that that will happen. And automakers can steer their customers to those shops.”
—Ford’s Steve Nantau

“We used to say ‘repaired to pre-accident or pre-loss condition.’ Here’s the reality of that: A laser-braised roof. You cannot do that in the field. It’s impossible. So the procedures are to weld and glue that roof. You get the same usefulness out of the vehicle. But is that vehicle ‘pre-accident or pre-loss condition’? Our focus is to restore the crashworthiness and usability of the product. You’re going to see more verbiage like that.
—Chrysler’s Doug Craig

John Yoswick is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon, who has been writing about the automotive industry since 1988. He is also the editor of the weekly CRASH Network (for a free 4-week trial subscription, visit He can be contacted by email at

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