Jake Rodenroth of Collision Diagnostic Services (maker of the asTech remote scanning system), who said his company did just over 6,000 vehicles scans in December, cited an example of a vehicle problem found in a pre-scan that the shop--and potentially the vehicle owner--would otherwise not have known about. The scan showed one fault code, related to lost communication with the airbag control module, triggering the shop to check the instrument cluster.
“What we found was pretty alarming,” Rodenroth said. “We found this had been a [used] car, and someone had sewn a resistor into the wiring harness to cheat the airbag light from coming on.”
Chuck Olsen of AirPro Diagnostics, another remote scanning service provider, said pre- and post-scanning removes liability issues for collision repairers and insurers.
“I know the condition of the vehicle when it came in, and I know the condition of the vehicle when it went out, so [as the shop] it’s not going to be my fault,” Olsen said.
CIC attendee Gary Wano, an Oklahoma shop owner, posed a real-world analogy for a question often discussed in the industry: Does an insurer owe for a scan if the scan reveals nothing wrong? Wano said a few weeks ago, his son came home from school after hurting his knee playing basketball. As the knee continued to swell, Wano took his son to an urgent care clinic, where, he said, they checked his son’s temperature, heart rate and blood pressure, then decided an MRI was needed to determine if his son had damaged his meniscus. The MRI showed no damage.
“The point I’m making is there were all these diagnostic tests to determine what happened,” Wano said. “And I can tell you from the [paperwork] I’ve received, the tests were all charged out. Even though there was no tear in the meniscus, the insurer would pay for that MRI because it was a concern.”
Panelist Chris Evans of State Farm called the analogy a good one.
“There was ‘technology’ in the area of the damage, right,” Evans said of Wano’s son’s knee. “So it made sense to do everything that the doctors did.”
Evans said he recently took his own vehicle in for collision repair, and a scan was involved in part because one of the car’s adaptive headlights had to be replaced.
“Our developing position at my company as we try to get our arms around this is: Do what makes sense,” Evans said. “In that situation, the body shop did what made sense. There’s technology there. There was an accident. It made sense in that scenario to do what they did.”
Panelist Darrell Amberson, vice president of operations for Minnesota-based LaMettry's Collision, said his company now scans virtually every car coming into their eight shops.
“Right now we’re scanning over 1,000 cars a month,” he said.
He said that to do that well, and to be paid for the process by insurers, requires a disciplined process.
“You start with getting the customer’s authorization to obtain the data, taking photographs of the scan tool on the car so you can prove to the insurer or anyone else that you really scanned the car,” he said. “Sometimes we even photograph the different codes that come up on the scanner.”
One challenge, he said, is that scan times can vary widely from one vehicle model to another.
“And if you find fault codes, it leads to all sorts of questions,” he said. “Sometimes the scan will point you in the direction and give you some insight [into what needs to be done]. Other times you have dig into it further.”
Others on the panel concurred that there’s a need for training related to scanning. Mark Allen of Audi of America said his company hasn’t yet joined the nearly two dozen other automakers putting out position statements on scanning despite the need to ensure systems have been calibrated and reset.
“To pull codes sounds great, but there’s a danger here,” Allen said. “If someone goes in and does a pre-scan, pulls the codes and clears the history, we don’t know what happened to that car. We lose all the back-history on that car. You’re not just affecting the collision world. You’re affecting any of the campaigns we do to update those computer systems for the function of that entire vehicle system.”
That segued the discussion into another related topic: the need for shops to consistently use automaker repair procedures.
“If you don’t use the [OEM] information together with the information and results you get from the scan, there’s really not much sense in doing a scan anyway,” Olsen said. “The process isn’t just about scanning the car. It’s interpreting the results that you get from that scan, and then using the service information and procedures.”
Panelist John Eck of General Motors noted that a survey of shops his company did last year found results similar to other surveys in terms of shops’ regular review of OEM repair procedures.
“It’s less than 20 percent pulling repair procedures [for all repairs],” Eck said. “It’s unacceptable. There are no two accidents that are alike. We change repair procedures often. I understand the cost and the process and the payment issues [related to looking up OEM procedures]. But we’re talking about a safe repair. We have to work with the information providers to find better ways to make it easier, to provide the information to shops in a faster, more intuitive way.”
State Farm’s Evans agreed there’s a need for more OEM scanning and repair information within the estimating systems.
“I believe in the very near future, they are going to become a critical element in this whole process,” Evans said.
GM’s Eck was asked if he has concerns about the industry being ready to repair the autonomous vehicles that are being developed. Eck said his concerns are more immediate. He said he recently learned of a relative who had been in a vehicle accident, and he immediately began texting that person to find out who was doing the repairs, and suggesting questions to ask the shop.
“We’re on the inside so we know what we really want [for them] out of that repair, and what may not happen,” Eck said. “I’m concerned about the vehicles being sold today, that the industry as a whole isn’t prepared to fix even today’s non-autonomous vehicles.”
He said that obviously there are shops that have the training, equipment and information to repair vehicles properly, but “by and large, the masses” may be five or 10 years behind.
Eck acknowledged his company needs to do more to educate insurers as well, pointing to Mercedes-Benz as a company doing that well.
They’ve done a fabulous job with insurer training, so that insurers understand the type of vehicles their policyholders are owning,” Eck said. “We need to take those best practices and see how General Motors can improve information communication to insurance companies.”
CIC’s next meeting will be held April 19-20 in Pittsburgh, PA.
John Yoswick, a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon, who has been writing about the automotive industry since 1988, is also the editor of the weekly CRASH Network bulletin (www.CrashNetwork.com). He can be contacted by email at john@CrashNetwork.com.