Monday, 10 October 2011 22:44

Collision Repair Standards on their Way, Industry Veteran Alerts

It’s a looming specter in the collision repair industry’s immediate future with potentially serious repercussions. We’re talking about Collision Repair Standards, and they will have more influence over the auto repair and claims industry than any single factor in its illustrious history, according to Dale Delmege, an industry spokesperson with more than three decades of collision experience. Delmege spoke on September 20th to the membership of the East Bay Chapter of California Autobody Association at Scott’s Seafood Restaurant in Walnut Creek, Calif.

“We are at a critical crossroads and some of the most powerful forces in our industry either don’t know it or are picking the wrong route with collision repair standards,” Delmege said. “One way or another, the standards issue will affect every player in this industry, either adversely or positively.”

Devising collision repair standards has been a long ongoing conversation without any results or other action for several reasons, Delmege said. “It’s a complex situation, because it involves the body shops, the techs, the OEMs, the insurers and the end users. It’s a tug-of-war with economic and psychological factors thrown in. On any given day, the insurance companies, OEMs and body shops are pulling mightily in different directions, but repair standards would alleviate a lot of this tension.”

Delmege cited the standards scenario that took place two years ago in the U.K., where all of the parties involved provided input to establish their repair standards. “The shops, OEMs and insurance companies in the U.K. worked together in a voluntary industry study that led to what’s now called PAS125. The government said they were going do it if the industry wouldn’t do it on their own, so they were motivated to act. Now, it’s an easier industry to make a living in, because they created an unmovable anchor and set some standards. Now the mysteries concerning body repairs are gone and there’s less fighting among the parties involved.”

 

If we don’t do the same in this country, the government will take the reins and no one is likely to be satisfied with that idea, Delmege explained. “If we can’t co-exist in this business environment and do it ourselves, we could encounter a national regulatory frenzy. We’ve seen it done too many times before in other industries.” There is a window of time currently available, but if we don’t act quickly, it’s likely we’ll see a ton of class action suits and the uncertainty will further aggravate the already bumpy relationship between the body shops, OEMs, insurers and policyholders.”

‘Collision repair standards are way overdue’ was the takeaway message Delmege left the CAA Chapter audience with. “Other industries have specific standards they use every day, such as in machining, for example. If you’re a machine shop, each part you make is accompanied with a step-by-step set of specifications, describing the methods in careful detail, so that the machinist knows how long it should take to make it and what it will cost. Collision repair doesn’t have this oversight, and all that does is create confusion.”
“Without defined repair collision standards, there are too many questions and not enough answers,” Delmege said. “People buy insurance to feel safe and responsible and when they get in an accident, they logically expect that their vehicles are returned to pre-accident condition. How many cars drive away from a body shop with at least one deviation from an allegedly safe and compliant repair? There aren’t definitive answers, because we have no standards.”

Reporting as an observer, Delmege has visited more than 400 body shops in North America since 1989. Following a career which included various roles in sales and marketing at Black and Decker, and VP Marketing for Ingersoll-Rand Automotive Tools from 1989 to 1994, Delmege served as Senior Vice President Sales, Marketing and R&D, and subsequently Executive Vice President Operations, at Mitchell International, the auto claims repair information provider. Prior to its sale he was also a principal in AutocheX, which measures customer satisfaction following a collision repair.

In 1994, Dale Delmege founded the Chelsea Group to assist auto claims businesses. Since then his company has served the collision repair and auto claims industry in a wide range of capacities. Delmege is also a founder, past director and Chairman of the Collision Industry Electronic Commerce Association (CIECA), and a founder and past director of the National Auto Body Council. He is a Lifetime Member of the Society of Collision Repair Specialists, one of two such honors ever conferred on a non-shop owner. Mr. Delmege produced and facilitated the widely acclaimed VeriFacts Invitational Symposiums in 2009, 2010 and 2011, featuring claims industry CEO’s and Auto Claims VP’s of Allstate, Progressive, Esurance, State Farm and USAA.

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