Part of what’s behind the Gisler’s anger and that of others is that the return of the bumper refinish prompt was actually a reversal of a decision CCC won applause for earlier in 2008. CCC announced last January that it had determined “unequivocally that... refinishing non-metallic bumpers requires use of a material that is not recommended on the rest of the vehicle,” and thus it was inappropriate to even ask if the bumper was being clearcoated in the same process with other parts of the vehicle. By spring, the prompt had been removed from Pathways.
Its return has met with widespread condemnation of CCC.
“Your answer of, ‘This is what we did and this is why we did it,’ isn’t good enough,” industry consultant and CIC Database Task Force leader Lou DiLisio told CCC representatives at CIC in Scottsdale. “Not for (CIC) as a body, not for us as a Task Force, not for us as an industry.”
The Task Force had considered the removal of the prompt as among its hard-won victories. DiLisio said that had required months of meetings with CCC and documentation from – and even meetings with – the paint manufacturers to convince the estimating system provider that shops typically refinish plastic bumpers with a different clearcoat—usually one including flex additive—than that used on other parts of the vehicle. Because this is done as a separate procedure—not a continuous process—including the prompt was inappropriate, the Task Force explained, a perspective CCC seemed to share for at least several months.
The use of the prompt has real financial stakes for both shops and insurers. One West Coast shop said a two-tenths non-adjacent panel overlap deduction for clearcoat on five jobs a week would cost the shop $3,952 in annual sales.
What’s more, Mike Quinn of Arizona-based 9-1-1 Collision Centers points out that by indicating the bumper is being refinished in a continuous process with other panels, Pathways considers the bumper the first major panel, which results in color-coat overlap also being deducted for subsequent panels.
The solution seems at first clear-cut: If the bumper is not being clearcoated in the same process, just indicate that when prompted and the overlap deduction will not be made.
But part of what frustrated repairers about the prompt in the first place is that some insurers have required shops on their direct repair programs to answer the prompt affirmatively (and thus remove the overlap from the estimate), no matter what clearcoat product or process they are using.
Indeed, even before Pathways 4.5 had been delivered to shops late last year, Nationwide Insurance had provided documentation to its Blue Ribbon direct repair participants with step-by-step instructions on how to turn the prompt on. And the documentation that comes with Pathways 4.5 says the latest versions of the software “introduces several enhancements to make estimating easier and support good relations between DRP repairers and insurers.”
In a December press release lambasting CCC, the Task Force said the use of the prompt goes “against all paint manufacturers’ information,” and questions why the Task Force was not notified in advance of the change.
“Most disturbing though, is the apparent fact that the paint manufacturers were first formally contacted on this issue (by CCC) just this month, while the decision to reintroduce the refinish prompt was made as early as September,” the press release states. “One can’t help but conclude that CCC made the decision first, and then later, only after being challenged, unsuccessfully attempted to generate and furnish documentation supporting the decision. This type of biased alteration to the system without justification from (paint) manufacturer recommendation is exactly the type of activity that causes the industry to question the accuracy of the databases as well as the motivation of those responsible for these decisions.”
At CIC in Scottsdale in January, CCC representatives defended their decision to reinstate the bumper refinish prompt. Jim Dickens, general manager of CCC’s automotive services group, first acknowledged that “in hindsight it was a mistake on CCC’s part not to make a notification” of the change in advance to the CIC Database Task Force.
But he also pointed out that the prompt is not turned on when the software arrives at a shop.
“ The bumper prompt remains off. What we are doing is facilitating the ability for somebody to turn it on,” Dickens said. “Our recommendation is that the estimate be written to reflect the process used. So if you aren’t using a continuous process, you should not answer ‘yes’ to the prompt. If you never use a continuous process, don’t bother to turn (the prompt) on.”
He said the use of the prompt is “easily discernable” on a printed CCC estimate because it will include a separate line indicating the overlap removal.
He said the change was based on the company’s research into new paint materials, some of which work on both plastic and metal and do not require flex additives, and by paint manufacturer statements that using the same clearcoat used on flexible parts can be applied to non-flexible parts without diminishing the integrity or warrantability of the final product. (The paint companies also say, however, doing so makes little sense in most cases because of the additional materials costs, and the additional time required to force-dry flexed clear.)
Some repairers, Dickens said, told CCC they sometimes choose to paint bumpers using the same paint materials over plastic and metal parts on some small jobs when they’ve weighed “taking the time to set up and go again (painting the bumper separately) versus the cost of flex additive.”
“There’s two different processes we see...and we have given people the decision,” Dickens said.
“If I go out and ask 100 shops, I’ll find 25 of them will tell you they are using the same clearcoat on the bumper as the rest of the car,” CCC’s Bruce Yungkans said at CIC in Scottsdale. “If I find 25 out of 100, I would say that’s common. It may not be predominant but it certainly is common.”
Shop owners at CIC weren’t buying CCC’s defense. If the 25-out-of-100 is CCC’s criteria for such changes, Curt Nixon of “L” Monty Body Shop in S. El Monte, Calif., responded, why doesn’t Pathways automatically add the 4-wheel alignment that is always required after replacing a lower control arm?
And the bumper clearcoat overlap deduction may be noted on printed CCC estimates, Barry Dorn of Dorn’s Body & Paint in Mechanicsville, Virg., said, but most shops won’t know to look for that, and nothing he received with Pathways 4.5 explained the change.
“Even three out of the four insurers I spoke to just can’t believe you did what you did, either,” DiLisio told Dickens and Yungkans. “There are insurers out there using this tool against the repairers. Nothing in any of the documentation (CCC sent to the Task Force) substantiates the change.”
DiLisio said that a year after the Task Force thought the months of meetings and documentation gathering from paint companies on this issue was over, the process will begin again. CCC has agreed to again meet with the Task Force and the paint companies to discuss the issue.
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 (www.CrashNetwork.com). He can be contacted by email at jyoswick@SpiritOne.com.