“Collision industry surveys indicate that database manipulation continues to be a top concern for repairers,” Lou DiLisio, chairman of the CIC Database Committee, said in a prepared statement by the committee on behalf of the members of three national repair shop groups. “The CCC bumper prompt issue is both a prime example of this manipulation, and an opportunity for the repairers to draw a clear line in the sand and say, ‘Enough is enough.’“
The subject of the committee’s anger was the reinstatement by CCC of a refinish prompt in version 4.5 of its Pathways estimating system. The prompt asks the user if a plastic bumper is being refinished in a “continuous process” with other parts of the vehicle. If the estimator indicates that it is, Pathways automatically deducts overlap from the clearcoat refinish time for the bumper.
After reviewing information challenging the prompt from the CIC committee and refinish manufacturers, CCC a year ago removed the prompt from the system, saying 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. But last December, the committee learned – apparently months after some insurers had been told by CCC—that the prompt once again would be available in Pathways 4.5.
DiLisio said the committee this spring again held a meeting with CCC and representatives of the paint manufacturers to reiterate to CCC all the information that led to the removal of the prompt. But CCC wrote to the committee just prior to April’s CIC meeting in Hartford, saying it was unmoved.
“Estimators are responsible for ensuring that the estimate written is consistent with the operations, parts and labor that will be used to repair the damaged vehicle,” Jim Dickens, general manager of CCC’s automotive services group, wrote to the committee. “In many instances, that repair properly may be done in more than one way. Therefore, CCC’s estimating tools are designed to provide the flexibility for the estimator to make choices within the estimating system… It is clear that there are thousands of repairers who use the same clearcoat on flexible bumpers and non-flexible parts. It is recommended, warranted and trained that way by a top five refinish manufacturer. In light of this, CCC will continue to provide the estimator with the option of enabling the “bumper prompt” as programmed in Pathways version 4.5.”
Dickens has 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,” he 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.”
Awareness a Concern
At CIC, DiLisio acknowledged that Dickens is correct that one of the five largest automotive refinish manufacturers has one product that does not require additional additives to the clearcoat and could thus be used on both sheet metal and flexible bumper covers. (That product, however, does require an additive in the basecoat.) But all of the other paint manufacturer product lines—so by far the majority of all bumpers refinished—require an additive and thus cannot be sprayed in a continuous process with the rest of the vehicle, DiLisio said.
Shops receiving a CCC estimate also may not realize it was prepared with the bumper prompt turned on and thus might not know the overlap deduction is inappropriate if they are spraying the bumper with different clearcoat than the rest of the vehicle, DiLisio said. And some insurers have required their direct repair shops to answer the prompt in the affirmative no matter which pant system or process they are using.
“I know you’re going to say, ‘We don’t have any control over what an insurer does in the marketplace,’” industry consultant Tony Passwater told Dickens at CIC in Harford. “But that’s like the cop-out by the bartender who doesn’t believe he has any responsibility to make sure that guy who’s had 27 beers doesn’t go out and drive. The fact is you do have some responsibility to our industry for that.”
Bruce Yungkans, who also represented CCC at CIC, said it will be “obvious” on a CCC estimate when the prompt has been turned on because following the bumper line on the estimate will be another line indicating a two-tenths “overlap major non-adjacent panel” has been deducted.
DiLisio told Yungkans that “may be obvious” to him, but most shops won’t know to look for that. Andy Dingman of Dingman’s Collision Center in Omaha, Neb., agreed.
“If someone else is going to choose that (prompt option) for a repair facility, I hope you as an information provider are going to do more to give the information that that prompt has been chosen,” Dingman said. “A very large percentage of shops don’t even know about this.”
“We’ll take that suggestion into consideration,” Yungkans responded. “We still think that it’s obvious when you see the overlap line that it’s a clear indicator of which way you answered the prompt. But we’ll discuss what we can do to make that more clear on the estimate.”
To see sample estimates showing what to look for on a CCC estimate to determine if the bumper prompt has been used – and to see the $128 difference it can make on an estimate that includes two bumpers–visit www.crashnetwork.com/ WhatsInCrash.html.
Issue Remains Unresolved
CCC this spring also announced it is forming a new “Technical Advisory Panel” to “review modifications and provide recommendations” for the company’s estimating system. (DiLisio called this “admirable” but “a year too late.”) Yungkans also pointed out that CCC has been responsive to industry concerns about its system posted on the Database Enhancement Gateway (DEG) website.
But Aaron Schulenburg, now the executive director of the Society of Collision Repair Specialists but previously the administrator of the DEG, said it’s wrong for CCC to equate correcting errors in its product reported via the DEG to being responsive to industry needs and concerns.
“We’re just making the product more accurate through (the DEG),” Schulenburg said. “Adding a tool like this (bumper prompt) isn’t making it more accurate. It’s just giving an option for people to do whatever they want regardless of what is the approved procedure for doing the operation. Period. Where are the (options for automated) add-ons for things like ‘fill, sand and featheredge’? We know not everyone does it, but we know people do, so where’s the option to add that in? Where is the option for ‘color sand and buff’ so that doesn’t have to be a manual entry?”
“At some point in time will there be different prompts for someone who uses air tools to put on a panel versus someone who uses hand wrenches to put on panels?” Oklahoma shop owner Gary Wano asked.
It was clear from the discussion at CIC in Hartford that the CCC bumper prompt is not something many in the industry are willing to accept.
“The committee contends that (it) is just as indefensible today as it was when it was first introduced,” the CIC Database Committee statement reads. “These estimating products need to be trusted by all end users for them to be of any value… When an estimating solution…seeks to accommodate or reflect market desires and pressures, we are left with chaos and the reinforced perception that these estimating systems and their underlying databases are the subject of manipulation… We challenge CCC to explain how our industry is bettered by the reintroduction of a tool that has had a long history of abuse by parties seeking to artificially influence estimate values.”
Audatex and Mitchell on Bumper Clearcoating
CCC Information Services’ estimating system handles the clearcoat of flexible bumpers differently than its chief competitors.
“The Audatex system assumes the bumper cover is refinished off the car,” Rick Tuuri of Audatex said. “It’s a separate operation and it does not roll-up into the 2.5 system-generated clearcoat threshold.”
Wayne Krause of Mitchell International said his company’s estimating system handles bumper refinishing similarly to Audatex.
“Our systems are calculated with the thought process of (the bumpers) being refinished off the vehicle, and they are not subject to overlap,” he said.
The CCC system is based on the Motor Information Systems database and estimating guide.
“According to Motor, bumpers are not excluded from the clearcoat cap,” said Bruce Yungkans of CCC. “In the other two systems they are.”