“[If] someone is [saying the vehicle] really needs to go somewhere else, I’d be extremely disappointed if somebody in our organization looked down on that shop,” he said. “I think with tooling and training and everything else, the days when everybody can repair everything are getting further and further from the truth.”
So are the insurers set up to identify OEM-certified shops on their networks?
Hoffbauer said that’s not happening currently, but is something State Farm is studying.
“We do have conversations with the insured, and if they ask, we can recommend or try to provide advice, but we believe in customer choice, and they can go wherever they’d like to,” he said. “But we would prefer they make an informed decision based on facts.”
Similarly, Thompson said “capabilities-based assignments” are in the works at USAA.
“It does me no good at all to send a vehicle to a shop that isn’t properly equipped to handle the repair,” he said. “It just creates delays in the overall process, which isn’t good for the member.”
Lindorfer said Allstate has information available if a direct repair shop works on a particular type of vehicle, such as the aluminum Ford F-150, but the company’s systems will need to evolve before they can match that up with the customer’s vehicle at the first notice of loss.
“But our adjusters do try to tell them when they are writing the estimate that if they have a vehicle that needs a special type of repair, they need to inquire with their shop to ensure that they are able to repair that type of vehicle,” she said.
John Yoswick, a freelance writer based in Portland, OR, has been writing about the automotive industry since 1988, and is also the editor of the weekly CRASH Network (for a free 4-week trial subscription, visit CrashNetwork.com). He can be contacted by email at jyoswick@SpiritOne.com.