Thursday, 23 September 2010 18:41

Automaker Announcements Carry Implications For Repairers

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A number of automakers in recent weeks have issued bulletins, launched programs or made announcements that could impact collision repairers —whether  at dealerships or independent shops. Here’s a wrap-up of this recent news from the OEMs.

Mercedes
The slight rebound in vehicle leasing in the last few years is seen as good news for collision repairers because consumers tend to have damage on leased vehicles repaired. But Mercedes-Benz now offers a new lease protection product that waives up to $7,500 in wear-and-tear charges and up to $200 in missing parts on a vehicle being returned at the end of a lease. Unlike other lease protection plans, this waiver doesn’t require the consumer to wait to get reimbursed for the wear-and-tear charges they pay out of pocket. That’s likely to make the program more popular with dealers, who have found any money the customer has to pay out just decreases their down-payment on the next vehicle.

Volkswagen
Volkswagen of America has launched a certified collision repair facility program for its dealers and independent body shops. The automaker says the national launch follows a pilot program with 15 shops. Certification under the program requires nomination by a dealer, specific technician training, use of VW-approved equipment, and an onsite inspection. Certified shops will be listed on VW’s website and will have access to vehicle-specific training on a dedicated program website. Volkswagen will also provide customers with free 24-hour towing of vehicles under warranty to its certified shops. Dealers can nominate a shop (or independent shops can request more information) by contacting Volkswagen at VWcollisionparts@VW.com.

Ford
Ford’s latest findings regarding non-OEM structural parts have been widely reported. But while non-OEM part advocates are quick to point out that Ford’s testing involved only “computer-simulated” crash testing, Ford hasn’t ruled out doing some actual crash testing.

In discussing such testing, Paul Massie, collision product marketing manager for Ford, said he recognizes there is ample competition within the company for the research time and funds that would require.

“Our engineers, our resources, our safety department are all dedicated to building the next generation of Ford vehicles,” Massie said. “There aren’t extra resources to stop what they’re doing and look backwards, so [looking at it] shows you the importance of this issue.”

Honda
American Honda is urging collision repair shops to check for any applicable safety recalls when repairing a Honda or Acura vehicle. The automaker attempts to notify the current registered owner of any vehicle being recalled, but said not all owners receive such notices. Recall information from Honda is available by VIN at www.recalls.honda.com or www.recalls.acura. com. Recall information for all makes of vehicles also is available through the Big Three estimating systems or through the NHTSA (www-odi.nhtsa. gov/cars/problems/recalls/recallsearch.cfm).

Positions on Parts
Honda, Hyundai, Toyota and Nissan are among the automakers to recently issue bulletins or position statements regarding the use of crash parts used in the repair of their vehicles.

“Hyundai Motor America does not support the use of aftermarket, imitation or recycled collision repair parts,” the company’s statement reads. “The use of such parts or other non-original Hyundai equipment for the repair of any collision-damaged vehicle may negatively affect crashworthiness and occupant safety during a collision therefore is not supported by Hyundai. Additionally, Hyundai does not support the use or re-use of components removed or recycled from an existing collision-damaged vehicle.

Like the Hyundai statement, the Nissan memo to its dealership parts managers states warns that the parts of the vehicle are designed to work together as a system and integrating non-OEM parts into these systems can change the crash performance in a future collision. Nissan said this is particularly true “with regard to safety and structural components.

American Honda earlier this year issued a position statement, similar to one from Toyota late last year, that it does not support the use of non-OEM or used structural parts or supplemental restraint system parts in the repair of its vehicles.

But in August, Honda also issued a bulletin more broadly cautioning against the use of “aftermarket, counterfeit or gray-market” parts in the repair of Honda or Acura vehicles.

That prompted the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA) to complain to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The AAIA says Honda’s statements violate the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act by saying failure to use Honda replacement parts will cause consumers to lose warranty coverage on their vehicle.

Honda’s position statements do not say the use of non-OEM or salvage parts void the vehicle’s warranty. They say Honda’s warranty does not cover any part not purchased from an authorized Honda dealer, and that Honda is not responsible for “any subsequent repair costs associated with vehicle or part failures caused by the use of parts other than Honda parts purchased from an authorized Honda dealer.”

But Kathleen Schmatz of AAIA is asking the FTC to force Honda to retract the statements, saying they are using unsubstantiated warnings. “To our knowledge, Honda has provided no specific evidence to support their claim that there are problems with use of non-Honda aftermarket parts for their vehicles, or that use of such parts creates warranty-related issues for their customers,” Schmatz said.

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