With officials from both Honda and Nissan pounding the table recently with terms like “mandatory” and “100% mandatory,” this is a revolution. Only instead of taking back a country, this revolution is about collision repair shops taking back the customer. Collision repairers must protect the interest and safety of the customer by meeting the requirements promulgated by the vehicle manufacturers. Post-collision diagnostic scanning is now a matter of compliance. What is better than a compliance matter that a shop can actually get paid for and turn a profit?
In the never ending struggle between shops and insurers over new and non-included procedures, many shops have become battle fatigued. These mandated scan procedures by automakers are being shrugged off by some as just the latest allowance shops will ask for only to be quickly denied. Not so; this time it really is different. This isn’t fighting over things like color tint or prime and block that are often viewed as overkill or procedures which are included in the labor times despite what the P-pages say. Even if the shop is not properly reimbursed, those ancillary procedures are likely being done anyway.
For instance, if tint color is disallowed, a shop would not purposely mismatch the paint and damage the customer relationship along with the shop’s reputation. That would be cutting off one’s own nose to spite their face. Although some brave shops out there will bill the customer on these additional costs over the deductible, most will suck it up as the alternative; asking the customer for more money is about as desirable as scheduling a colonoscopy.
Many of the previous struggles with certain insurers relate to differences of opinion on what is necessary to restore the appearance of the vehicle. This time it is about safety. A collision shop is tasked with not only restoring the appearance of a vehicle following a collision but the repairer is responsible for restoring the vehicle’s functionality. Automakers recognize this and so do insurers.
Insurers are providing allowances to meet or exceed the recent automaker scan positions. The trick is, you have to ask! And if the responsible insurance company refuses to make the proper allowance, the collision repairer is duty bound to ask the vehicle owner. The automaker mandates apply to non-insurance, customer pay repairs as well. They are not somehow negated in these instances even though some repairers have convinced themselves of that. The repairer has an implied obligation to inform the consumer regardless of the source or method of payment.
Automakers have confirmed that the dashboard light is an insufficient diagnostic tool and numerous trouble codes plus potentially compromised vehicle systems may exist with no outward warnings on the instrument panel. A small number of insurers may be resistant by only paying for diagnostic scanning in the presence of a dashboard indicator or air bag deployment. Any shop that accepts the “no light = no scan” policy without informing the vehicle owner with the option to pay is setting themselves up for trouble. Worse is the shop that perhaps unwittingly conspires with an insurer with the mantra of “what the customer doesn’t know won’t hurt them.” With no warning light on the dash, the average consumer believes all is well as did many in the collision and insurance industry until recently.
The unwitting participation in concealing these important procedures from the consumer works the other way as well. Until a shop asks, the insurer is not denying payment. Any ramifications of a vehicle leaving a body shop without proper diagnostic scanning or calibrations would be clearly on the shoulders of the shop that chooses not to perform these operations. Following some unforeseen event, an insurer would likely say, “We would have paid for it, but the shop never asked.”
The shops already leading the charge may have faced some early resistance as the local field appraiser had no prior knowledge of this situation. Appropriate communication with the insurer and customer is crucial in overcoming objections. Proper documentation of the procedural work performed can also overcome insurer resistance.
Some shops feel entitled to payment by virtue of the OBDII cable pins making contact with the OBDII port in the vehicle. However, scanning and clearing codes is only a portion of what is required. There is real technician work involved on the pre- and post-scans and requisite safety systems inspections and calibrations not always identified by a trouble code. Repairers cannot afford to meet these automaker safety protocols only half way as some shops are doing. If a collision repair shop wishes to reduce their liability and be properly compensated, the value of complete compliance with the automaker position should be delivered to the consumer.
Ignoring the post-repair scan is not without its consequences. One shop I’ve worked with had a vehicle they worked on find its way to the OEM dealership once the owner had it back. The dealership service department diagnosed an issue with the Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) and discovered an unplugged connector. Not only that, the dealer inspected the collision repair and cited welding and workmanship issues that were put in the written narrative of the invoice. Had the shop followed the OEM scan mandate, they could have been paid to scan the vehicle and able to catch the BSM issue beforehand. Now the shop is paying the dealer bill of almost $300 as there is no way they will submit that invoice to the insurer showing a disconnected sensor and harsh criticism on the workmanship. Additionally, the customer will be back to have them correct all of the shortcomings pointed out by the dealership.
I have been out in the field and on the phone with shops locally and in various areas of the country. Sadly, I have found an egregious lack of awareness about the procedures or lack of courage to broach the conversation with insurers, especially with DRP shops. What’s most surprising is some of the dealership shops and OEM certified shops are amongst this group of the unwilling or unaware.
It is time to sit down with the OEM scan position statements and have the necessary dialogue with insurers. Many insurers want to do the right thing by their customers. It is up to you to present the OEM documentation and be clear that the vehicle repairs are not complete until the completion scan, any necessary resets and calibrations and a road test are performed. The outcome of those discussions may pleasantly surprise you.
To assist shops and insurers in this important dialogue, I have created the “OEM Diagnostic Scanning Positions Quick Reference Chart” which is a fantastic tool for shops to use in educating the insurer and customer on the importance of Pre- and Post-Repair Scans in the collision restoration process. Auto body shops certainly would not want a mechanical shop or dealership notifying the customer and identifying trouble codes or procedures which the auto body shop left behind. The chart appeared in the March 2017 edition of Autobody News and is available FREE as a PDF file here.
“While the Quick Reference OEM Scan chart is no substitute for the complete OEM position statements, it provides a convenient overview with the basic essential information to assist the damage assessment and repair planning process,” said Charles Bryant, Executive Director of AASP/NJ. “This chart may also prove to be a useful tool when negotiating with an insurer for the appropriate allowance of these operations which automakers have deemed an integral part of the collision repair process.”
For those shops that are just starting to implement the latest automaker pre- and post-scan protocols, I’d recommend Automotive Management Institute’s (AMI) latest online course, “Management’s Guide to Scanning and New Technology.” It is a terrific overview of why post-collision scanning is important and highly effective in getting the process started. The 108-minute course is reasonably priced at under $50. AMI is a non-profit where the funds go back to creating more valuable content to help auto repair shops. Even shops with a diagnostic scanning program already in place would stand to benefit from the AMI content. Some insurance companies have taken the cue and are having their personnel take the course. For more information, visit www.amionline.org.
Jeff Peevy, president of AMI, recently made a brief appearance with me at asTech™ maker, Collision Diagnostic Service’s booth at the 40th Annual AASP/NJ NORTHEAST® Automotive Services Show in March. Booth visitors were introduced to the AMI course and also learned how the asTech™ remote diagnostics solution offers numerous benefits to their collision repair business. The AMI course was awarded in hourly drawings, the conversation was lively and the interest in pre- and post-repair scanning seemed strong.
I-CAR® offers new courses on diagnostics, calibration and scan tools as part of its “Vehicle & Technology Specific Training.” Also, the newest edition of its “Vehicle Technology and Trends” course is available. Savings of 10-15% may be had when choosing from multiple course packages options. For more information, visit www.i-car.com/VehicleTechnology.
Last Battle Cry
Automakers have clearly shifted liability onto the shoulders of the collision repair industry in a move that I anticipated in an article in the insurance press last May. The pre- and post-scan revolution is here. The first shot across the bow was fired by FCA Group, LLC. (formerly Chrysler Group, LLC.) with their position statement, one month after my article appeared, in June 2016. Since that time, a half dozen more automakers have joined the fray and issued their own statements.
Collision repairers still on the sidelines should know that this is not the equivalent of ‘bringing a knife to a gunfight.’ Quite the contrary. There are stockpiles of ammunition in the form of automaker position statements with a war chest of educational articles, learning courses and industry pundits to lend battlefield support.
In the midst of this diagnostic scanning revolution, collision repairers must decide whether they are going to take the customer back in the name of safe and proper repairs or take cover and wave the white flag. Any liability-conscious shop owner out there knows there is only one correct choice to make. Be one of the smart ones and join the Pre- and Post-Scan Revolution today. Your customers deserve nothing less.
Gene Bilobram has been an automobile physical damage appraiser for over 25 years. His company, Lacey Appraisal Service, Inc. is a physical damage appraisal, consultancy and manufacturers’ rep firm serving the collision repair and insurance industries. He may be reached at (609) 384-8093 or at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss the latest shop tools and solutions in the pre- and post-repair scan revolution. His company is Manufacturer’s Representative for the leaders in post-collision remote vehicle diagnostics and systems calibrations. Gene will personally refund the purchase price of AMI’s scanning course to anyone who takes the course and later purchases any of the post-collision products or services he has to offer. Some restrictions apply. Contact him today for an updated OEM Scan Chart, email alerts, shop diagnostic program assistance and valuable insights into the often challenging process of insurance company reimbursement.
The opinions expressed are that of the author and not necessarily the opinion of any of the companies, individuals or organizations mentioned herein or of this publication.