Over the last two weeks of February 2014, Mosley will be visiting eight cities, all the way from Seattle, WA, to Palm Bay, FL, as part of his commitment to deliver information and assistance across the country. Though MSCRA’s primary service area is the state of Mississippi, the association is very supportive of neighboring states, and they strive to help industry members in other states form associations for the bettering of the industry as a whole. With 59 member shops, MSCRA routinely has at least 100 people at their association meetings, representing their members’ interests.
MSCRA was established in 1999 because a group of MS shop owners were concerned that using imitation parts did not serve to restore the vehicle to its pre-loss condition. As they formed a group to educate themselves, the consumers and their legislators, they seemed to be making a lot of progress.
State Senator Richard White, a member of the Insurance Committee, agreed to meet with the group, claiming to be 100% on-board with their mission to protect consumers. At Senator White’s suggestion, the group hired a lobbyist, attended meetings and testified before the Senate’s Insurance Committee.
After helping the group draft a bill to protect consumers, Senator White instructed them to get the phones ringing at the Capitol to garner support for this issue, so the involved shop owners called their customers who had voiced concerns over the use of imitation parts, asking them to call their legislators to express support for the proposed bill.
On the morning that the bill was scheduled to be put to a vote before the Insurance Committee, Mosley and Doug White, a fellow shop owner, met at the Capitol, prepared to answer any questions the committee members might ask about the bill; however, their anticipation quickly turned to shock and disappointment when Senator White invited them to his private office where he informed them that he would not introduce the bill because “we had put him between a rock and a hard place with his fellow committee members,” Mosley recalls. “He said there had been so many people calling them, pressing them to support the bill, that he feared they would be looked down on by the people they represented, [but] if the committee voted for the bill, they could forget any campaign funding by the insurance industry.”
When Mosley questioned whether the matter really came down to an issue of money instead of doing what he knew was right for the public, he was appalled at Senator White’s response: “I will never forget his reply —‘whether you like it or not, the money the insurance industry puts into these campaigns is the grease that makes the wheels of this Capitol turn.’ You can imagine how betrayed we felt as an association. We gradually quit meeting regularly. It was back to every shop for themselves.”
Thus matters with MSCRA stood for a decade until May 2012 when Mosley and his comrades learned about State Farm’s introduction of PartsTrader. Many shops in MS began calling one another as it quickly became obvious that they needed to reunite with the objective of preserving their businesses. Mosley was “disappointed in the lack of respect this giant corporation had for the small businesses that make up this industry.”
MSCRA is opposed to PartsTrader and any other parts procurement program forced on the industry instead of being offered as a possible solution to be accepted or rejected based on its performance. “I have been in many states and talked to thousands of people, and the overwhelming response is that PartsTrader is a failure! State Farm recognizes this but pushes forward, destroying relationships and businesses with no regard to anything but the premise that it will save them money,” Mosley shares, continuing, “the quality of a repair is directly related to the parts used in the repair, and when the shop loses any part in the decision-making process, quality could be sacrificed. This is not fair to the consumer or the shop who is ultimately responsible for the repairs.”
Along with their campaign against PartsTrader, MSCRA has a plethora of short and long-term goals that they strive to achieve. In the present and immediate future, the association’s goals “are to promote growth in the association, educate our members, educate the consumers we serve, and strengthen our ability to work with the insurance company on a united front,” Mosley explains.
Looking forward, MSCRA hopes to ensure that every member shop has the necessary information to acquire training specific to the repair being performed, and they hope to do this by becoming a resource for every member in their attempts to level the playing field. The association plans to supply members with information on equipment and factory resources as well as by securing I-CAR training opportunities in an effort to aid shops in achieving I-CAR’s Gold Class status.
MSCRA is also dedicated to building their reputation with MS consumers so customers will feel comfortable putting their trust in any shop that displays a MSCRA plaque. In conjunction with this plan, the association hopes to build a warranty program among all association members to ensure the customer is aware that their repair is covered by any member shop in MS. Mosley explains the benefits of this plan: “This serves to combat the steering efforts of some insurance companies when they tell the consumer ‘we don’t guarantee their work.’ We could see the DRP would not be a viable option for shops that were not willing to allow the insurance industry to run their business.”
MSCRA also intends to work with state and national officials to protect consumers by exposing bad legislation and promoting safe legislation designed to benefit both the repairers and the consumers.
Currently, MSCRA is gathering support for legislation that will protect the consumer when they have their vehicle repaired. In conjunction with federal officials, the association is assessing the 1963 Consent Decree in order to determine the degree to which it can be enforced; many agree that this federal consent is equally enforceable as it was half a century ago.
Mosley explains, “the importance of the 1963 Consent Decree is it places the body shop in control of the repair and the insurance company in control of the insurance. What could be more important or fairer for all?”
Like with other associations, MSCRA faces challenges when attempting to support legislation to improve the collision repair industry. “The problem with any legislation is the amount of money the insurance industry will pour into campaigns via lobbyists and donations to buy decisions that tend to prioritize their profits over the consumer’s safety,” Mosley laments.
Still, Mosley is optimistic about his belief that MSCRA’S actions will positively impact the future of this ever-changing industry. “The pressure created by the ever evolving greed of the DRP relationship and the PartsTrader scheme is having a galvanizing effect on the collision repair industry. The industry is changing with repairers realizing they are needed now more than ever. As repairers, we are also realizing there are fewer and fewer who are trained and equipped to repair the cars we are beginning to see and will continue to see in our shops. The insurance industry is trying to reign in any control they can exert over our industry as it changes. They make deals with MSOs in areas where the repairers are not bowing down and accepting their cost-cutting measures that can lead to poor quality, unsafe repairs. They did not expect the resistance they are experiencing from the repairers. I ask every shop owner to start making business decisions based on good business principles and stop giving in to fear. I encourage them to market their business and their conviction to serve the consumer over the insurance industry. When the public knows what a shop stands for, they will pick the independent shop out of the maze of consolidators… By educating our shops and consumers and making repairs that don’t sacrifice quality for insurance profit, we will grow strong businesses with loyal customer bases.”
MSCRA also faces many challenges similar to those impacting other associations across the country. Mosley acknowledges these difficulties, even as he looks forward to a brighter future: “Probably the biggest challenge is helping a shop owner overcome the fear that he will be ostracized by the insurance industry for coming to the association meetings, much less being a paid member. Beyond that, we are faced with keeping the interest of the shop owners by providing a tangible benefit for the money they spend on their membership. This isn’t going to be a problem in the near future. With all the changes our industry is facing relating to vehicle construction and repairability, the need for knowledge will generate the interest. We are committed to providing the information to ensure our members can succeed.”
At MSCRA’s last meeting, they addressed the need to secure services from a company to inspect member shops and identify any concerns that could result in problems with OSHA. MSCRA stresses the importance of a safe, healthy workplace, and identifying the cause for concern, Mosley explains “OSHA is working to identify isocyanate hazards, and we don’t want any shops’ employees to suffer from isocyanate sickness nor do we want the shop facing fines that could have been avoided with the proper training.
The association also recently furnished members with information on new tool and equipment requirements, provided by Ford, pertaining to the introduction of the 2015 F-150 with its aluminum body and high-strength steel frame. MSCRA has already begun setting up I-CAR training for the aluminum F-150 to have available when the vehicle is released late this summer.
This year will also see the continuation of the association’s activities against insurer-mandated parts procurement programs as Mosley and “many members of our association feel the PartsTrader scheme and the direct repair programs are illegal and are a tortious interference in our business relationships which leads to a direct violation of our fiduciary responsibility to our customers.
“Because of that, we are dedicated to taking the fight on for the consumer and for our right to do business to the highest courts in the land. We are working tirelessly to expand this effort from coast to coast, and the reception from our industry has been a humbling experience for all. Many brave men and women are paving the way for all who stay in the repair business and those who come after we are gone.”