Sunday, 26 October 2008 17:00

Yoswick --- What I'd Say At a NACE Podium

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As the collision industry gathers in Las Vegas in November for the annual International Autobody Congress and Exposition (NACE), here is what some shop owners around the country said they would like to hear from industry leaders speaking at the event. It’s the message they say they’d convey if they had an opportunity to address the industry.

A call to action

Stephen Behrndt said he’d like to see the entire industry adopt what he calls, “the Coalition For Collision Repair Excellence (CCRE) methods of operating a collision repair facility.” Behrndt is president of Crawford’s Auto Center, Inc., in Downington, Pennsylvani. He is on the board of directors of the Pennsylvania Collision Trade Guild and the Coalition for Collision Repair Excellence.
    “All collision repair professionals should work diligently to eliminate any third-party interference that hinders our ability to work independently and profitably,” he said. “All collision repairers should use the principles of job costing in operating their facilities as a means of repair order reimbursement based on real labor time and expenditures.
    “All repairers must learn how to collect proper paint materials and allied products based on their shop’s actual usage, calculated by digital scale and automated software available in today’s marketplace,” Behrndt said. “The dollar-per-paint-hour method of refinish material reimbursement is inaccurate and fraudulent. (Editor’s note: In September, California passed legislation declaring “paint capping” illegal.)
    He also said the automated estimating systems used in the industry are clearly not designed for the repair industry.
    “They are only guides (based on new, undamaged vehicles, not those damaged in accidents), and have been exploited and manipulated by insurance corporations who have their own financial motives to lower the value of actual repair procedures,” he continued. “They are nothing more than ‘guesstimating programs,’ written for the purpose of identifying a potential loss value. What they produce should not be confused with a properly written repair analysis that identifies real labor and actual parts and procedures required to repair damage vehicles.”
    “I believe we should eliminate insurance company estimates in the collision repair marketplace. I believe collision repair industry standards should be created by collision repair professionals, in conjunction with the auto manufacturers, and accepted as proper repairs methods.”
    Lastly, Behrndt said, “I believe we must organize a nationwide movement within the collision repair industry to address the non-compliance with (and necessary enforcement of) the 1963 Federal Antitrust Consent Decree, challenging as a unified industry the United States Justice Department to seek compliance with the decree by all insurance corporations and companies doing business in the U. S.”

Times of opportunity

“As collision shop owners and managers, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the daily challenges of managing a collision repair shop,” said Diane Rodenhouse, the owner of Rodenhouse Body Shop in Grand Rapids, Michigan. ”We read in our industry magazines that the paradigm of the collision industry has changed: DRPs, ‘concierge’ programs, disharmony between associations, and many more issues. What should we do?”
    These challenges, says Rodenhouse, are also opportunities for change.
    “Our industry is in crisis and we must all be willing to change,” she said. “Before change can be made, group unity must be forged and insight must be achieved. Before insight can be achieved, knowledge must be given.”
    Where does the knowledge and courage to change come from?
    “I believe that knowledge gives our collision industry the power to unite,” she said. “To receive this power to change, we must gather as many tools for our ‘toolbox of knowledge’ as we possibly can. When issues arise, having the right tool at the right time will give us power to make these challenges opportunities for change.”
    NACE offers the opportunity to add “tools of knowledge” to one’s “business toolbox,” Rodenhouse said
    “When we take advantage of attending the classes, we also network with others who desire to build their ‘tools of knowledge’ and face the same issues we do,” she said. “Only when we build a united network of individuals will these challenges become opportunities for change. By uniting, we will have the courage and power to change our collision industry. United with knowledge, we can make 2009 an opportunity for change.”
    Education is ignorance’s greatest competitor
    Patty Denny said her message to the industry, if she had a chance to speak at NACE, might be a little different.
    “How often do consumers wonder: Who should I insure my beloved car with?’ Will my insurance bring my beloved vehicle back to pre-accident condition?” Denny said she would say to the gathering of shop owners.
    “As a collision repair person, I have heard it many times over the past 25 years: I thought I had coverage for that. Somewhere in translation the words aftermarket  and remanufactured have been diluted.
    Most people believe that when they are in an accident, they will have OEM parts put back on their vehicle. It is so important to let consumers know that they have to ask the correct questions when searching for good insurance.”
    Patty Denny owns and operates Denny’s Valley Autobody, Inc., in Puyallup, Washington. She said her daughter Pamela helped draft some of the questions they believe the industry should push consumers to ask. They include:
    •Is there a rider available if I only want OEM parts put back on my vehicle?
    •What if the shop I choose has a posted labor rate higher than your company is willing to pay? Or what if other shops in the area charge the same posted rate, but there is a DRP shop that dropped its labor rate in order to sign a contract with you? Will I have to pay the difference?
    •What exactly does ‘full coverage’ mean? Does it include towing and rental vehicle?
    •If I buy insurance from your company, will I be forced to go only to the shops that you signed contracts with?
    “How are we in our industry working to get this type of information in our consumer’s hands?” Denny said she would ask those in the industry. “We all tend to work independently, which results in an industry where our needs are consistently un-met. I believe state insurance commissioners should produce a brochure about how insurance works. When a person applies for their driver’s permit, this brochure should be handed out.
    “If more consumers understood what is covered, and how insurance works, then it becomes easy,” Denny said. “The key part of education is learning exactly what to expect.”
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