The importance of a proper collision repair curriculum was stressed on Wednesday, June 1 during a press conference at HC Wilcox Technical High School in Meriden, CT, where the ABAC and U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) met with students.
Tony Ferraiolo, President of the ABAC, noted, "Connecticut’s technical schools are the foundation of this industry and the source of many of the best and brightest technicians in our industry. It is so important for the students to be trained properly because it gives them the ability to be productive from day one. The complexity of this industry makes it very interesting and challenging. These future technicians will be counted on to repair vehicles properly and safely for the consumers.”
As part of its efforts to support the collision repair program at HC Wilcox, the ABAC donated an improperly repaired car to the school for students to learn from. The vehicle, purchased from a woman whose car was unsafely repaired through an insurance company's concierge's facility, was deemed unsafe to operate due to poor workmanship and the use of imitation parts. When the owner of the vehicle brought her car to an independent collision repair facility, the shop ruled the car a total loss because it was completely unsafe for the road.
The ABAC acquired the vehicle and donated it to the school to use as an educational tool, demonstrating how a seemingly safe vehicle could be dangerous and unfit to drive. According to Ferraiolo, "Poor and unsafe repairs often involve the use of imitation parts or repair procedures that do not conform to manufacturer specifications. The ABAC encourages the use of OEM factory parts and repair standards. Independent shops that do not have contractual agreements with insurance companies do not get pressured to cut corners or use imitation parts. Remember, in the state of CT, you have the right to have your vehicle repaired at the repair facility of your choice."
The ABAC donated the shoddily repaired vehicle to allow students to dissect the car to determine where imitation parts were used, where poor workmanship could be found, and where corners were cut. "We want the students to learn how to properly repair a vehicle," Ferraiolo stressed.
Addressing the students, Ferraiolo stated, "This vehicle behind us is an example of what happens when insurance companies get in the business of fixing cars. This car was repaired and returned to the customer supposedly completed and roadworthy. After it was inspected by an independent repair facility, it was deemed a total loss and completely unsafe for the road. Insurance companies should not interfere with our ability to perform a safe repair. Compromising safety just to save an insurance company a few dollars on claims is completely unacceptable. Cheaper is rarely better when you’re talking about the safety of an automobile. Cutting corners and using imitation parts may compromise safety when involved in a crash. We applaud Senator Blumenthal for fighting with us on this issue and raising awareness.” He continued by reminding attendees: "Your car, your choice. You cannot rely on an insurance company to take care of your repairs. Your life may depend on it. You need to bring your vehicle to a shop that you can trust.”
Next, Senator Blumenthal addressed attendees, thanking the ABAC and everyone involved for their generously significant donation. He boasted, “There is no body that is more important than our Vocational Tech schools. I brag about our Connecticut Vo-Tech Schools literally everywhere I go, on the floor of the Senate or when I meet with people. They (the schools) provide real skills for real jobs. I’m being told that there are openings for jobs, but we don’t have people with the right skills. That’s why the Vo-Tech schools are so important to our economy.”
Blumenthal also pointed out, "Consumers, whether purchasing, driving, or repairing their vehicle, deserve to have choice and reliability in every step of vehicle ownership. I commend the Auto Body Association of Connecticut – a group that I have worked with for more than a decade on these issues – for continuing the fight in Connecticut and for their willingness to highlight for consumers the need to be proactive in choosing their repair shop and ensuring that all parts are certified.”
Further expressing the ABAC's commitment to education at CT trade schools, Ferraiolo presented a $10,000 donation to the HC Wilcox Technical High School to help support and enhance the automotive program and curriculum currently in place. He said, “The ABAC has been a devout supporter of the auto program and we hope to continue supporting the development of critical and necessary trade skills in the State of Connecticut.”
Additional speakers at the press conference included the school's principal, Joyce Mowry, as well as Dave Kapitulik, educational consultant for transportation technologies and key coordinator for the CT Technical High School system.