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Thursday, 31 October 2013 23:51

Choice Autobody Repair Association Advocates for Both Consumers and Repairers

Consumers play a vital role in the collision repair industry—and educated consumers are the best customers. Choice Autobody Repair Association (CARA) recognizes the importance of educated consumers as customers and believes that trade associations help repairers perform better for their customers.

In fact, President Rick Finney explains CARA’s mission as “to educate the consumers of the collision industry, educate the consumers on their rights, so that if they are ever involved in an automobile accident, they (the consumer) can make an educated decision on who they want repairing their automobile. Give back the choice to the customer about who repairs their vehicle. Make the consumers the decision maker!”
CARA is a non-profit association dedicated to educating consumers, and they believe “it is their choice who repairs their vehicle. We’re not anti-DRP or anti-insurance—we’re simply pro-consumer. We want to empower the motoring public with the confidence that it’s their opportunity, right and power to make you their choice.”
CARA was established in late 2005 when Finney and several other shop owners in the Ohio Valley decided to form their own, consumer-based organization. “We felt that it was very important the consumers were aware of their rights after being involved in an automobile accident. We have had a very good response from our consumer awareness campaign.”
Though CARA is based in OH, they are actually a national association with members throughout the US. They recently started a Southwestern Michigan chapter in Battle Creek, MI, plus they are planning to add many more chapters throughout the country in the near future. Currently, CARA has around 50 members, and they offer both associate and corporate memberships, each of which features various benefits, such as discounts on BASF management training, Collision Billing Services and a plethora of other purchasing discounts. CARA also makes documentation available to members, and they distribute informational fliers to consumers.
One of CARA’S most important goals right now is to strengthen the association by attracting new members. Finney notes, “Whenever I talk to a shop owner, managers, etc., I hear the same issues, no matter where the person that I talk to is from. Ohio, Michigan, Florida or California, the same issues. We need to attract new membership so that we can better address the issues that we are business owners face on a daily basis.”
Other goals include continuing to address industry issues by working with other associations to share information and ideas, in addition to improving matters for their members and their customers. Finney “would like to show our membership that we need to regain control of our business as well as our customer base.”
With so many lofty aspirations, it is no surprise that one of the biggest challenges CARA faces, like many other associations, is dealing with the cost of maintaining operations. Finney elaborates, “we have many issues that we need to address, and like anything else, it takes time and money. In my opinion, we as an industry need to start meeting more often with various agencies on a consistent basis and bring to their attention what some of the issues are that our membership faces in their daily business practices. I would personally like to meet with the automobile manufacturers, paint manufacturers and departments of insurance.”
In addition to growing their association with new members, CARA is also in the process of scheduling meetings to address some of the issues plaguing the industry, such as the issues related to purchasing paint materials. Addressing the ongoing controversy of PartsTrader, Finney asks, “what is the benefit for shop owners and their customers? PartsTrader is just another way for an outside entity to control your business. In my opinion, this is bad for our industry, period!”
Finney believes that Right to Repair is a consumer issue, and “every consumer has the right to have their vehicle repaired wherever they choose. Having said that, as shop owners, we believe we should have access to the information so that we may be able to properly repair our consumer’s vehicle as well.”
When asked about CARA’s stance on the PARTS Act, Finney notes, “I have read in a consumer reports issue that consumer groups estimate the cost of collision repairs would raise by 1 billion a year, nationally, and consumers would foot that bill through their insurance premiums. It is my understanding that when the insurance industry calculates the cost to the consumer, they are calculated with the repairs installing new OEM parts.
As far as the aftermarket parts issue, we keep hearing they are guaranteed to fit and have a lifetime warranty. I believe we would all like to hear how they must be crash tested and be subjected to the same testing as the OEM parts are subjected to.”
Overall, CARA’s viewpoint on many industry issues reverts back to their mission statement and their belief that is should be the consumer’s choice as to who repairs their vehicle, as is inherent in the very name of the association.

CARA
PO Box 392
Cadiz, OH 43907
740-942-3107
www.c-a-r-a.org