Wednesday, 11 August 2010 18:33

Committee Prompts Discussion of Means to Implement Future Repair Standards

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If the industry developed a formal set of “repair standards,” what then?

That was the question a Collision Industry Conference (CIC) committee attempted to prompt discussion of at CIC’s meeting in Chicago in July.

Jeff Patti, chairman of the Industry Standards Committee, said his committee felt than in addition to working on the proposed set of standards, it should also begin the process of considering what might be the next step.

He outlined the proposed creation of a non-profit organization that would oversee the final development and implementation of the standards. Although designed primarily to prompt discussion of the topic, Patti’s proposal included details down to the level of potential costs for launching such an organization and possible fees for those wishing to participate.

Such an organization, Patti said, would be limited to one focus: the development and implementation of the standards.

It would work to gain consensus from “all stakeholders in the industry” for the standards, he said, thus following the guidelines established by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the body that essentially sets standards for standards-development.

“Its mission would be to establish and manage collision repair standards developed by collision industry stakeholders,” Patti said. “That’s everybody in this room. Everyone will have a say in what goes on. This won’t be limited to any one particular segment.”

As hoped, the proposal did prompt discussion at CIC. Scott Biggs of the Assured Performance Network said he felt that rather than create another industry organization that would need to build awareness, creditability and funding, the standards could instead be overseen by an existing industry organization such as I-CAR.

Others questioned the need for involvement of anyone other than collision repairers in creating repair standards.

“It’s ultimately the repairer who would abide by the standards,” Aaron Schulenburg, executive director of the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCARS), said.. “When you have ‘stakeholders,’ there are special interests involved. There are lots of organizations out there that are directed for consumer protection that are easily swayed and don’t necessarily protect the consumer. There’s a lot of skepticism out there about abiding by repair standards that are developed by other entities with vested interest in how they want us to act.”

CIC administrator Jeff Hendler agreed.

“Developing standards for the collision repair industry does not need to involve insurers, database providers or anybody else but those people touching that car,” Hendler said. “The body shop person already is standing side by side with an insurer who is saying, ‘Yeah, I know that’s the right way to repair the car, but we won’t pay for it.’ That’s BS.”

Patti and others said that part of what ANSI requires in the development of standards is consensus of all affected stakeholders. Part of why the standards should be overseen by an independent sole-focus organization, he said, is to avoid influence by special interests.

“This has to be a consumer driven organization,” he said. “We have to look out for our mutual customer.”

Schulenburg also questioned how effective the industry would be at trying to implement “voluntary” standards.

“Things that are voluntary tend not to be followed, and those that do follow them in our industry often see no benefit for doing so,” he said. “We’re often held to the lowest common denominator.”

The discussion of the issue will continue at a meeting scheduled for Las Vegas on November 4, the day following the next regular CIC meeting.


Ford compares non-OEM parts

Also at CIC in Chicago,  Ford Motor Company announced the findings of its comparison of some Ford service parts to corresponding non-OEM replacement bumper beams, bumper brackets, and radiator core supports, Ford cited some critical differences. Spot welds on some of the non-OEM parts did not meet Ford specifications, for example, and the type of material (as well as its thickness and weight) often differed from the OEM part.

The non-OEM radiator core support for the 2004-07 F-150, for example, was made out of plastic rather than magnesium and steel like the OEM service part. A non-OEM replacement for the 2005-09 Ford Mustang’s single-piece ultra-high-strength steel bumper beams was found to be made of two mild-steel pieces welded together. A non-OEM bumper bracket for the 2006-08 Ford F-150 were half as thick and weighed less than half what the OEM parts weigh.

Paul Massie, powertrain and collision product marketing manager for Ford,  said he believes that Ford’s analysis of the parts shows they are not of equivalent “like kind and quality,” a requirement for replacement parts in 20 states.

But Massie said that perhaps more important than comparison and testing of individual parts is to determine how they impact the overall response of the vehicle in a collision. Non-OEM bumper parts that are thicker or heavier than Ford parts, for example, Massie said, could affect that response just as much as those that are lighter and thinner.

That’s why Ford engineers also conducted simulated computer modeling of the non-OEM parts’ response in a crash, again finding significant differences to the Ford parts.

"The use of these tested aftermarket copy parts will change the dynamics of the crash process resulting in a differing response from the vehicle safety systems than those calibrated by Ford Motor Company," the company concluded based on its research.

Massie said he hopes Ford will do some actual crash testing of the parts, but recognizes there is ample competition within the company for the research time and funds that would require.

Other news at CIC

In other news and discussion at CIC in Chicago:
– A CIC subcommittee shared a document outlining proposed standards for the digital images of damaged vehicles that insurers require. The goal of the standards is to help reduce some of the variation in insurer requirements, subcommittee chairman Randy Hanson said, although as with all standards, it won’t eliminate some individual circumstances under which an insurer may require additional digital images. “But for the everyday claim, 80 percent of them that you deal with every day, we think there’s a great case for standards,” Hanson said. An outline of the proposed standard is available under the “Repairer-Insurer Relations Task Force” section of the CIC website (www.ciclink.com).

– State Farm explained that “Select Service” shops will now receive a 3-digit number - similar to a credit score - from the insurer based on its measurement of the shop's performance. The number, on a scale of 1 to 1,000, will be updated monthly and is established using a proprietary formula that takes into account the key performance indicators (KPIs) State Farm uses to track each shop's performance. The report also indicates how the shop's number compares with other shops in the program (even taking into account, State Farm’s George Avery said, such things as differences in the types of vehicles repaired), and lists three areas that the shop could focus on to improve its score.

– Mike Quinn, co-owner of Arizona-based 911 Collision Centers, was named as the next chairman of the conference. Quinn has been a long-time participant at CIC as well as in the National Auto Body Council (NABC). His company operates seven shops in Arizona and Nevada. He will succeed Russell Thrall who completes his second year as chairman at the last CIC meeting of the year on November 3 in Las Vegas.

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