Thursday, 26 August 2010 17:34

The Lack of Industry Leadership

Written by Lee Amaradio Jr.

I am a member of the CAA, the SCRS and a Gold Pin holder of CIC; I have some questions for all these organizations.

My first question is to the board of the CAA. As a member of the CAA, I want to know where the board stands on aftermarket parts? Do you agree with the aftermarket parts companies when they say they have tested their parts and they are the same as OEM parts according to the law that reads that the parts must be of ‘like kind and quality’ to the OEM’s?

Or, do you agree with the recent tests that have been conducted by Ford Motor Company that proves that they are not the same? I want to know where you stand on this issue because as this industry issue has come to the forefront at CIC (with Toby Chess and his now famous rebar test) you have been quiet as to where the CAA stands on this issue. It seems that you should have some opinion and I would like to know what it is and why you have chosen to keep quiet on such a controversial industry issue.

As a member of the CAA, I want to feel comfortable that the organization is looking after my best interest as a shop owner.

My second question is to the SCRS. As a member, I would like to ask you the same question. As the Society of Collision Repair Specialists it seems to me that the SCRS would be very outspoken about this ongoing issue with aftermarket parts and vehicle safety. It seems to me that you have chosen to remain quiet also. I really don’t understand why as an organization that is so highly respected within the collision industry—with a board that consists of people I highly respect—so please answer: why are you not taking the lead on this issue? Correct me if I am wrong, but I don’t believe that any of your members really need to be told of the difference between an aftermarket part compared to an OEM. Where do you stand on the use of aftermarket parts? We want to hear from you please.

My question to the CIC board. As an associate member, I want to know why after all of these years do we keep re-hashing the same issues over and over and keep fooling ourselves into thinking things are getting better. As the recognized industry forum where everyone in the industry can come together for the good of all why do we keep pretending that we are all on the same page? Our industry leaders don’t lead and we never accomplish anything significant. Why didn’t some one step up and encourage Toby Chess when he was threatened and demand that he do his rebar test anyway and then threaten those that threatened him.

Instead, all of the so-called collision industry leaders failed to lead at a time when leadership was crucial and necessary. We are so worried about anti-trust and being politically correct that we are failing to guide this industry through desperate times.

True leadership always comes with a price and there are tremendous risks involved. Nothing will ever change by taking the safe road, but things will change by taking the high road. I would have never started my business if I hadn’t been willing to risk everything at some point. We are a fragramented industry because we lack the direction of a defined leader.     We are compiled of a bunch of associations that either have their own agendas or are just using them for networking purposes.

Right now, today, we know that over 50% (I think more like 80%) of the vehicles are repaired improperly after a collision. Today the majority of collision repair shops lack the equipment and training to repair collisions properly. Vehicle safety is put on the back burner  because most shops are not informed or forced to repair the vehicles properly. Collision repair is evolving so rapidly that even the well financed well informed shops are having trouble keeping up. So why do we keep fooling ourselves and act like things are going to get better. We can’t even speak out against Aftermarket bumper rebars at our own industry meeting without some one overpowering us and stopping Toby’s test. If things are to change it will only be when the CIC, CAA, or the SCRS stop trying to be so politically correct and really stand up for the repair process. Its time to take notice that there is a safety problem!! Now that Paul Masse from Ford Motor Company has completed testing that is pretty powerful and hard to ignore collision shops and insures are opening themselves up to huge liability problems.

How can I be so bold as to say the things I am saying? Because they are true! After Toby was stopped the CRA contacted him and we were able to do the same test for Channel 7 and Fox News with Assemblyman David Jones. After this Allen Wood and I went to Congresswoman Jackie Speier’s office and saw her do the test with her own hands. After this meeting Jackie was so concerned that she ask me if we could get some national support for this or was it just a California issue. I told her I was sure I could get national support. I made a call to Aaron Schulenberg, the president of the SCRS, and left a detailed message asking him if he wanted to be involved. I didn’t get a return call for weeks (after the fact) with a message that he was sorry for not getting back to me. Wow. I thought this was a big issue. I mean how we repair vehicles: safety in collision repair is something that we, as the repair providers, are assuming the liability for.

We met with the Deputy Attorney General Paul Stein from the State of California, along with the Chief Council to the Insurance Commissioner, and we did the test for them. The department of insurance thought tracking would solve the issue because the CAA had told them that this was the primary problem and the A/G wanted proof that the parts were not the same (he has his proof now thanks to Ford). But they both ask me the same questions, if this is such a big industry problem where is every one else. We told them the truth, they are either receiving funding from A/M parts companies or they are afraid. So at the end the A/G wanted proof and the DOI didn’t believe we have a problem other than tracking the parts.

These are facts and while I am purposely not trying to sound politically correct, you can see we lack defined leadership because we all have a different agenda. I have my agenda and I dislike being treated like a fool and having substandard aftermarket parts shoved down my throat. It’s not the fact that I am being forced to use them but that people continue to insult my intelligence by telling me they are the same.

Someone expects me to deceive my customers for their monetary gain. This is such a stupid issue that we should be embarrassed as an industry for even wasting our time and energy discussing it. Call a spade a spade and move on but please quit trying to prove that aftermarket parts are the same as OEM because no matter how many foo foo certification companies you start and no matter how many stickers you stick on them, they are “NOT” the same.

We have asked many insurance adjusters to bring their family cars by and let us install an A/M core support and bumper assembly for no charge. Even though they swear they are ‘like kind and quality’ we still have no takers. I really doubt that I could get any A/M vendors to take me up on my offer.

So we need a defined collision repair process defined by the OEM’s, not the insurer. The use of programs such as ALLDATA® and Verifacts™ should be mandatory. We need leadership that is willing to call a spade a spade (the CRA).

We need laws that protect the consumer from substandard repairs (Jackie Speier).

We need an Insurance Commissioner (David Jones) that enforces the law and an industry that make his department accountable.

We need to stand up against the politically correct associations (tell the truth) and demand leadership that is directed at our best interest as collision repairers.

We will never be able to please everyone (too bad) but doing what is right is always the safe road to follow and I still believe that, when people have choice, most will do the right thing.

We need a real shop certification program (the kitemark program run by Thatcham® in the UK comes to mind) that is going to upset the majority of shops. You have no business repairing collisions if you are not qualified to do so (Sorry for sugarcoating it).

Our leadership should not come from anywhere but inside the collision industry. Presently we are being led in five different directions by associations that will not even speak to one another. This is the real problem and the reason nothing ever changes.

The truth hurts, doesn’t it?