Wednesday, 23 November 2011 17:07

CIC Committee and I-CAR Respond to Association Statement on ‘Industry Standards’

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In response to ongoing efforts over six years by the Collision Industry Conference (CIC) to develop a set of formalized repair standards, four national repairer groups have jointly issued a statement calling the published automaker repair procedures the “official industry-recognized repair standards for collision repair.”

At CIC in Las Vegas in early November, the Alliance of Automotive Service Providers (AASP), the Assured Performance Network, the Automotive Service Association (ASA), and the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS), jointly read a statement that said where OEM procedures exist, they should “be the basis for the establishment of training, testing, repair practices and documentations.”

The groups said they recognize OEM repair procedures are “incomplete in comparison to the full scope of vehicles and repair operations that exist in the marketplace,” but they should serve as a baseline from which further development of procedures occur.

Although a CIC Repair Standards Advisory Committee has explored the idea of a new industry organization being formed to finalize and implement industry standards, the four groups issuing the statement instead called on I-CAR to create an industry council “to identify gaps in existing OEM procedures” and to develop processes to close those gaps, vetting any industry-proposed alternatives, modifications or additions to OEM procedures.

Following the announcement, I-CAR CEO John Van Alstyne said that he sees some potential merit in the proposal.

“We see that I-CAR is positioned uniquely to engage in that dialogue with the OEMs on behalf of the industry,” he said. “But that said, we have a lot of stakeholders associated with I-CAR. We have a mission and vision, and need to see if this is a fit. So I’m taking on the challenge of taking this request back to our board. That process will start this afternoon actually. So we will be getting back to you with our response.”

Although the statement by the four organizations made no specific reference to the standards work being done at CIC, AASP and SCRS last summer at CIC raised concerns that “other industry segments and participants who don’t necessarily support (OEM repair recommendations) as the standard are involved in this activity and committee.”

But at CIC in November, Russell Thrall of CollisionWeek, who co-chairs the CIC-formed Repair Standards Advisory Committee, said he views the associations’ new statement as a positive sign of their engagement in the process. He said it fits with what the committee has seen as its charter, namely to “develop and publish nationally recognized collision repair standards which follow the manufacturers’ recommended procedures for safety and reliability.”

He also provided an update on the committee’s work, saying it will now be the first quarter of next year before a consultant’s report is released on what consensus exists within the industry about standards and a possible new organization to oversee the development and implementation of them.

“That position statement (announced today) certainly is going to inform a lot of what appears in the research work,” Thrall said.

The consultant has conducted more than 40 interviews with repairers, insurers and industry vendors, Thrall said, and held a conference call to gather input from 18 state and local repairer trade groups. About 43 percent of those individually  interviewed were repairers (another 17 percent were shop network or association representatives), including both single- and multi-shop businesses; Thrall said he wasn’t sure how many shop locations in all those companies represented, but he said their combined annual sales exceed $1 billion.

The consultant’s report will consist largely of the opinions expressed in those interviews, Thrall said.

“There is some consensus in broad areas, and there’s a lot of areas where there isn’t consensus,” he said, as a preview of the findings.

Thrall said funding for the $60,000 research project is being raised through industry donations, which as of early November totaled about $46,750 from 35 sponsors. (An additional $7,500 was raised at that CIC meeting following Thrall’s presentation.) The names of the sponsors are included in the committee’s report on the CIC website (www.CIClink.com). Thrall said the bulk of the donations have come from repairers and suppliers, though there has been “some significant insurance company and OEM representation.”

‘Data leaks’ explainable so far
Also at CIC in Las Vegas, the Data Privacy Committee reported that it has yet to find a valid example of a consumer’s accident or estimate data “leaking” from a shop’s estimating system, for example, to a vehicle history service such as CARFAX.

The committee announced a survey last July seeking examples of such occurrences, but Tony Passwater, chairman of the committee, reported in Las Vegas that not a single response to the survey had been received.

Passwater did, however, receive several reports of apparent data privacy issues, which he then investigated. In one, for example, a shop owner’s son was in an accident but did not submit an insurance claim. The shop wrote an estimate and fixed the vehicle, and about a month later when the vehicle was traded in, the accident appeared on the CARFAX vehicle report. The family presumed the information could only have gotten to CARFAX through the estimating system.

“But the information on the CARFAX report came from the police report, which is public information,” Passwater said.

He said he’s heard at least five variations of that type of story, but none have seemed to indicate a real data privacy concern.

“If there really is an instance where this actually takes place, we’d love to know about it and be able to document it,” he said.

“I’m encouraged to hear that the gossip and stories that after all we’ve heard about various organizations getting information about an accident that was leaking out of shop’s computers and from frame machines software or estimating software, that there’s nothing to this point showing proof of that,” CIC Chairman Mike Quinn said, following Passwater’s presentation.

Words matter
The CIC Definitions Committee generated some discussion at the Las Vegas meeting with its proposed definitions for multiple words used in the industry to describe used parts. The committee, for example, has proposed calling a “recyclable” part (or a “used” or “salvage” part) one that has been removed from a donor vehicle, while a “recycled” part is one that has been removed from a donor vehicle and reused on another vehicle.

The committee has proposed defining “like kind and quality (LKQ)” as “a generic term used to describe any part that may be used to replace another part (typically assumed to be a used part).”

Ron Guilliams, who chairs the committee, was asked why there was a need for definitions for multiple terms for the same thing, and why the committee was including the “LKQ” term, which could be confused with parts distributor LKQ Corporation.

Guilliams said all of the terms are used within the industry, and therefore the committee felt its charge is to define them.

“The committee doesn’t have the authority or reach to be able to change what people are describing things as out in the industry,” Guilliams said. “As long as these terms are being used by different databases and by insurers, we felt that we needed to define them.”

But Dusty Womble of Roger Beasley Collision Center in Austin, Texas, said he’s concerned that the term “recycled” could be misleading to a consumer. The public, Womble said, generally thinks of recycling as breaking something down into its core substance to be used in a remanufacturing process. Paper isn’t recycled by just erasing the print on it, he said; it’s turned into pulp and reformed into paper. Plastic bumpers are “recycled,” he said, only when they are cut into tiny chips to be melted down and reformed into another product.

“Most used parts aren’t really being recycled,” he said. “You’re not tearing it down and remanufacturing a product. You’re cleaning it up and reselling it.”

Guilliams said the committee would take that into consideration, but also is developing definitions for “rebuilt,” “reconditioned,” and “remanufactured” that may help clarify the issue.

CIC’s next meeting will be held January 12-13 in Palm Springs, Calif.

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