Thursday, 23 December 2010 19:49

2010 Year in Review—Words Spoken Signal Issues the Industry will Address in 2011

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Looking for a preview of what lies ahead for the collision repair industry? Look no further than some key statements made in 2010 that likely will continue to reverberate in 2011.

With these changes, it will become quickly and increasingly more apparent which business are prepared through training to address the increasing complexity of repair…and (which) businesses have failed and continue to fail to prepare themselves for the future. By not selecting a Gold Class business, the consumer is unknowingly accepting the risk of having repairs completed by under-trained workers.
—John Edelen

Now-retired I-CAR CEO John Edelen last summer unveiled I-CAR’s new “Professional Development Program” and revised requirements for its “Platinum Individual” and “Gold Class” recognition programs, promising to make the training more relevant and the recognition programs more meaningful. Edelen oversaw a turbulent three-year period within I-CAR, winning mostly praise for his efforts to turn the organization around after several money-losing years and declining student numbers.

Now this month it becomes up to new CEO John Van Alstyne to pick up where Edelen has left off. His 2011 to-do list will include helping the industry understand the transition to the new recognition requirements, continuing the overhaul of the curriculum, looking at new ways to make I-CAR training affordable and accessible, and perhaps getting more insurers, who have largely dropped anything but vague training requirements in their DRP contracts, to once again mandate attainment of Gold Class or similar training levels.

When I think of things I know a single store can’t do that an association can do, one thing that comes to mind is to help us stop insurance companies from mandating use of certain estimating systems, CSI providers, or rental car companies. It’s unbelievable that we have to use, for example, Enterprise for some repairs and Hertz for other repairs. I think the repairer should be the person that makes that decision.
—Dan Bailey

Dan Bailey, president and chief operating officer for the CARSTAR collision repair franchise chain, put into words this year what many shops have been saying for years: that micro-managing by insurers can add as much inefficiency and cost as it saves.

In an effort to highlight this issue, the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) is expected in 2011 to complete a matrix it is building that show which insurer direct repair programs (DRPs) require use of a specific vendor for such services. The goal, SCRS Executive Director Aaron Schulenburg said, is to show that some programs are more restrictive than others in terms of vendor choice, and to show the burden and added expense such requirements can have on shops participating in multiple DRPs.

The bottom line is if these bumpers do not protect occupants or (allow) more damage to vehicles, it’s insurers that are going to pick up the cost of either the personal injury associated with the problems, or the additional damage associated with poor-performing bumpers in low-speed collisions.
—Jack Gillis

This quote from Jack Gillis, executive director of the Certified Automotive Parts Association (CAPA) was just one of many related to non-OEM structural parts this past year. Though clearly no one expects full resolution of the long-simmering battle over non-OEM parts in 2011, a number of interesting developments could take place.

First, 2011 will see CAPA facing competition for its non-OEM parts certification with NSF International, which says its program similarly identifies parts that are comparable to OEM. NSF launched its program early last year in part because CAPA wasn’t certifying non-OEM bumper parts (it now is), though there are clear differences between the two programs. NSF also last year launched a certification program for distributors of such parts. Whether either or both CAPA and NSF programs survive will clearly depend on how well they are accepted by insurers, shops and parts manufacturers and distributors.

I think the people in this room will make that decision over time,” NSF’s Bob Frayer told representatives of all those segments of the industry at a meeting last fall. “I think a year from now we’ll be talking again and see how we’re doing.

It will also be interesting in 2011 to see if both sides continue the crash-testing of non-OEM parts conducted this past year. Ford last fall shared crash-test results it says clearly show that use of non-OEM parts lead to increased damage—and possibly unnecessary firing of the airbag—while CAPA said its testing showed non-OEM bumper parts that meet its standard perform comparably to OEM. Both sides may seek to bolster their argument through more such testing.

OEM parts proponents hope in 2011 to gain more public push for the use of OEM parts through the press, following up last year’s Consumer Reports’ piece that recommended to car owners to check the paperwork on previous collision repairs and “if knockoffs were used, demand that they be replaced with original equipment.”

And the aftermarket parts industry, determined as one LKQ Corporation executive said last year to “really get in front of these guys who are coming after the industry,” will continue its push for federal legislation to prevent automakers from getting design patents on sheet metal parts.

You can’t have the have a definition of sub-standard before you have a definition of standard. We could (with standards) eliminate half the argument and half the confusion and a lot of the inefficiency. The question to the industry is: Do we have the appetite? Is it now time for standards? If the answer is yes, what is the next step to actually creating something?
—Scott Biggs

Scott Biggs of Assured Performance Network has been among those calling for the development of formalized standards in the industry for some time. While associations and committees of volunteers at the Collision Industry Conference (CIC) have been making some progress on such standards in recent years, 2011 is seen by some as the year to really jump-start the process.

A meeting in Palm Springs in January will serve as a follow-up to one held in Las Vegas in November. At that earlier meeting, a small group resolved to hire a temporary project manager to take the work to date by a CIC committee and develop a plan, timeline and budget for completion of formalized standards, and for the creation or designation of an entity to oversee and implement adoption of the standards within the industry.

While there are still many unanswered questions and plenty of work to be done, the effort may languish if serious momentum isn’t gained this year.

“Take time to get consensus, but don’t take too long,” recommended Leslie Upham of Thatcham last fall when discussing her organization’s role in the implementation of shop and repair standards in the United Kingdom.

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