Based on a “repairer-only” meeting the night before the CIC discussion in Palm Springs, CA, a number of CIC attendees reiterated that repairer organizations have already declared that OEM repair procedures are the industry’s standards for repair, and that I-CAR has agreed to work with the automakers to fill in the “gaps” where no such procedures exist.
“We don’t need a new third-party entity. We don’t need a committee at CIC,” Jeff Hendler, the administrator of CIC, said, as the “Repair Standards Advisory Committee” opened its discussion. “The repairers who just stood up told you: We know what the procedures are. We just need this group to understand that those are the procedures, that is the source.”
“Yes, there are gaps (in the OEM procedures),” Scott Biggs of the Assured Performance Network said. “We’ve asked I-CAR to (address those). I-CAR and its board responded and said, ‘Yes, we will.’ They have put the apparatus in place. That’s now happened. They have staff working on it. The repairers here wanted to make sure that you have all heard us loud and clear: We’re not going down some other bunny trail.”
But proponents for “business standards,” which address—for example, the types of equipment and training shops should have—argued that that type of standard must be developed and implemented hand-in-hand with repair standards in order for either to be effective. Mike Monaghan, a former shop owner who helped develop a set of shop and repair standards in the United Kingdom, said those all-encompassing standards identified “what a good body shop should look like.”
“I’m fully supportive of OEM methods… but until you identify what ‘good’ looks like, you will be here in another 15 years, having the same discussions,” Monaghan said.
It’s the shops without the right equipment, training and processes, he said, that “compromise your industry, and compromise the insurer’s ability to do the job fairly and understand what a true cost of repair is.”
Monaghan said the standards effort in the U.K helped weed out substandard repairers, thinning the market from 18,000 shops to about 3,000 shops—1,000 of which meet the standards and now do 80% of the repairs.
“When you have 38,000 shops approximately in the U.S., all in this room know that the good majority of those should not be practicing collision repair today,” Monaghan said. “They are not safe.”
Alternative to automaker certifications?
Steve Nantau, a recently retired Ford Motor Company executive who has worked on the standards issue at CIC for a number of years, acknowledged that some of the discussion in the past has been thwarted by confusion over what aspects of standards the committee was addressing. He noted that even the committee’s “Repair Standards” name may have been unintentionally misleading.
But as more and more automakers have developed requirements for their own shop certification programs, Nantau said, some on the committee saw industry-defined shop standards as a way to avoid, for example, a shop needing five different brands of welders just to comply with multiple automaker certification requirements. An industry-defined shop standard would also be open to any qualified shop, rather than having automakers pick and choose among equally-qualified shops, Nantau said.
But Aaron Schulenburg, executive director of the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS), said he believes collision repairers are more interested in having widespread acceptance and implementation of OEM procedures as the repair standard rather than working toward more all-encompassing shop standards.
“I don’t think we want to go down the road of this is how you must run your business and how your business must be,” Schulenburg said. “Establishing a standard of how a repair is performed benefits all. Then leave the certification process up to the open market. Let’s stop trying to bite off the certification part right now. Let’s establish a baseline repair standard, which the (repair) industry already recognizes.”
Tim Adelmann, executive vice president for business development for 137-shop ABRA Auto Body & Glass chain, said he too is interested in whether all segments of the industry will accept any standards that are developed.
“Today, we can get all the data we need to do a proper repair,” Adelmann said. “The thing that concerns me is buy-in from the body: Do we all agree that this the right way to fix the car?”
He said although CIC brought shops and insurers together to develop standards for the digital images needed to document claims, that standard hasn’t been widely adopted, and insurers still have varying requirements for digital images.
“So my fear as a collision repairer is that we’ll have a standard or repair procedures but we don’t have consensus with OEMs, repairers and insurers,” Adelmann said.
Bad repairers exist
As another example, Adelmann said most direct repair programs have training and equipment requirements that clearly aren’t being followed or enforced.
“We hire technicians that come from body shops that are on direct repair programs yet they are not I-CAR trained, and they’ve never used a resistance spot welder,” Adelmann said. “The shop they came from didn’t have a measuring system. But these shops are participating in direct repair programs.”
“There are bad repairers out there,” Schulenburg agreed. “Let me say it right now: I represent repairers and some of them probably aren’t that good. But there are a lot of insurers in the room who aren’t paying for OEM repair procedures, though there are carriers out there who do. I guess instead of saying we all agree the OEM repair procedures are recognized, so let’s move on to the next step. Why don’t we instead focus on getting those procedures recognized. I think we’re moving too far forward before we get that.”
But, Nantau countered, how do you ensure OEM procedures are actually being done without some sort of third-party audit system? That was what the committee was postulating when it stopped to gather input—which turned out to be conflicting—on whether this is the direction the industry wants to go. (A survey of CIC participants just prior to the standards discussion at the meeting in Palm Springs found that 79% were in favor of shops being inspected to ensure compliance with requirements for tools, equipment and training.)
CIC Chairman George Avery said the topic will remain on CIC’s agenda in 2013.
“My [point] is that this will not be solved here today,” Avery said. “But we’re going to take it in steps. I’m committed as the chair of CIC to take these things step-by-step, with the right people. I think having this conversation is very valuable.”