Friday, 23 January 2015 00:00

Retro News: CA's BAR Talks About Fraud, 'Internet Body Shopping', in OH, DiLisio on Getting Involved, Edelen on Skills Erosion

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20 years ago in the collision repair industry (February 1995)

In the videotaped interview with an official of the California Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR), BAR’s Allen Wood explained his agency’s concern with the fraud and lack of training it has found in the collision repair industry in California.

“It’s to the point where it’s so bad we have to do something about it,” Wood said. “We’re going to get more aggressive in the area of autobody in the next 12 months. You’re going to see it.”

Wood said the BAR’s field staff of about 200 people works closely with insurance and law enforcement agencies and uses a fleet of about 300 vehicles to conduct undercover investigations of suspected shop fraud.

“I would like to think that any autobody shop owner in the state of California, when any car drives to his front door, should think maybe that’s a Bureau of Automotive Repair car because it can happen to anybody, any time, any day,” Wood said. “We have done everything from suspending licenses to revoking licenses.”

Wood said one of the most common problems found are repair invoices that do not accurately reflect what was done to the vehicle.

“If an autobody repairer prepares an accurate estimate and an accurate invoice, and does what he says he’s done, he’s not going to have any problem at all with the Bureau of Automotive Repair,” Wood said.

– As reported in Autobody News.

Indeed, in the decade that followed, the California BAR cited or shut down a number of shops in that state for fraud, including several Caliber Collision shops. After retiring from the BAR, Wood later served as the executive director of another California autobody association. California lawmakers last year passed a law requiring the BAR to demonstrate to a legislative committee “a compelling public need for the continued existence of the bureau and its regulatory program.”

15 years ago in the collision repair industry (February 2000)

Bob Juniper is bent on enticing car owners to enter the illusion created by the Internet. They never have to see one of Juniper’s 12 Three-C Body Shops in central Ohio. With a few clicks of a computer mouse and a phone call, they can arrange to have their vehicle fixed. In the near future, the phone call will be unnecessary. Customers will know Juniper and his shops without ever talking to him or setting foot insider one of his repair bays. Three-C could be in central Ohio or central California. It could have clean, well-furnished waiting rooms, or no waiting rooms at all. Customers won’t know or care. They will know Three-C only by what they see on their computer screens.

“We have a digital camera in our spray booth,” Juniper says. “When a car comes in, we call the owner and tell him to go to our website and take a look. They really get a kick out of that.”

– From a column by Tom Slear published in Collision Expert on the role the Internet is likely in the collision repair industry.

Three-C now has one primary repair facility with three satellite claims centers (and offers mobile and online estimating). But it also offers “The Pink Button,” a mobile phone app that it says allows customers with one click of a button at an accident site to arrange for a loaner car and a tow of their vehicle to Three-C.

10 years ago in the collision repair industry (February 2005)

Lou DiLisio, in his second year as chairman of the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS), doesn’t always disagree with those who question how much associations accomplish, but he defends their importance and value.

“I will be the first to admit that associations do not provide all the answers, but there is no question some of the finest people in the industry get involved to make things better for all the rest – albeit not as quickly or as completely as anyone would like,” DiLisio said. “But [getting involved] is better than staying in the shop complaining, with little if any chance of changing things. I can honestly say that I was like that years ago as well. It wasn’t until I became involved that I realized just how hard these organizations work on our behalf.”

But, he said, too often people view industry issues too simplistically.

“The reality is that there are extenuating circumstances to every situation and it often requires patience and compromise—which is mistaken more often than not as passive behavior,” he said. “I feel it is important for those who stand on the sidelines to become involved. I completely understand that is difficult to do, but the most important thing to remember is that no matter how little appears to be accomplished, at least something is being done. With the participation, guidance, support and commitment from others, we would be able to accomplish so much more.”

DiLisio hopes that shop owners will see the fact that there are multiple associations as an opportunity and not a discouragement to participation.

“We are collectively working together on a number of issues to promote a united front and remove redundancy from specific tasks,” he said of the three associations. “There are only so many dedicated and involved individuals in the industry who have stepped up to serve at these levels, and we’ve all finally realized that with limited resources and even more limited time, we need to work together in order to be most efficient in achieving our goals.”

– From an article in Automotive Report on the three largest associations representing the collision repair industry.

DiLisio, a former shop owner, has worked as a consultant in the industry since 1999.

5 years ago in the collision repair industry (February 2010)

During a panel discussion at the recent Collision Industry Conference (CIC), I-CAR CEO John Edelen shared his opinions on the nation’s economy and some of the industry’s challenges.

About a year after he delivered a fairly bleak short-term assessment of the economy, Edelen said he continues to believe unemployment could remain high for as much as the next five years, with Americans slow to return to “pre-melt-down spending habits.”

He said what keeps him up at night is the growing challenge Americans will face in finding skilled craftsman to repair their refrigerator, HVAC or car—or what he called the “erosion of careers for young people who want to work in a skill-based environment.” Pressures on margins for shops and insurers, Edelen said, “suggests to me that there will continue to be an under-investment by our industry in technical development. That combined with the workforce that we have access to, at the education level and the salary level that employment segment is willing to work at—it all doesn’t create a very pretty picture.” He said insurers and repairers have yet to identify and develop a win-win solution.

“Do I believe it’s there? I absolutely do,” Edelen said. “But in an industry that has always been a zero-sum game, where for me to win you have to lose, I just don’t see us making the progress that really can be made. It’s a mentality that needs to change.”

– As reported in CRASH Network (www.CrashNetwork.com), February 22, 2010.

Edelen, previously an executive with Allstate, retired from I-CAR later in 2010 after leading the organization for about three years.

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