Twitter You Tube Facebook Autobodynews Linked In

Thursday, 21 April 2011 20:50

Revisiting Paint by Numbers: A Deep Dive into Refinish Data

Recently, I published an article on refinish times broken down by vehicle type, age and origin in the Q1 Mitchell Industry Trends Report (ITR). I wanted to see if all vehicles received the same treatment in the refinish process regardless of these factors. “Paint by Numbers: A Deep Dive Into Refinish Data,” drilled down into the refinish data for a year’s worth of appraisals and compared these elements to determine if there were significant differences in the refinish process.

At the outset, I want to state clearly that this article examines the data only and is not intended to be construed as advocating or refuting any OEM refinish procedure or recommendation. I firmly believe that every damaged vehicle is unique and the proper repair procedure must be done on an individual basis. This determination should include the vehicle’s design, age, condition, finish, location and extent of damage, automaker and paint company recommended procedures, and last but certainly not least, the customer’s expectations.

 

Our data immediately pointed out that there are in fact differences in the refinish process appearing on the appraisals. According to the data domestic made vehicles, including trucks/SUVs and older vehicles, received slightly fewer additional paint operations. Trucks and SUVs have slightly fewer hours added for blending into adjacent panels, averaging 1.35 hours of blend vs. 1.4 on average for passenger cars on estimates where a blend was specified. Surprising? That’s one way to put it.

 

The original ITR article spurred a great deal of discussion in the collision repair industry. Many expressed that the data didn’t represent what was truly indicative of the operations required; rather they felt it was representative of what insurers paid for. In fact, the data does reflect what was written and accepted for the repair because the estimates were “aged,” meaning at least 90 days had elapsed before we queried the data. Note, I said accepted because these repairs reflect that an appraisal was written, a claim was made and presumably the repairs were done in accordance with the appraisal.

 

I also received many questions about the difference in allotted hours for blend into adjacent panel time vs. full refinish operations and believe it is important to clearly state the differences between the two in the Mitchell Procedure Pages.

In order to explain the differences we need to clarify our refinish labor time premises.  The steps for refinishing a new undamaged E-Coated panel include:

* Solvent wash
* Scuff panel and clean
* Mask adjacent panels
* Prime or seal as required
* Final Sanding and clean
* Mix materials
* Adjust spray equipment
* Apply color
* Clean equipment

Mitchell refinish labor times also allow for flash times between coats.
When blending a panel the reduction in labor time is due to not having to perform the following steps:

* Prime or seal as required
* Final Sanding and clean
* Mix materials
* Adjust spray equipment
* Clean equipment

The largest portion of not included time is for flash time between coats.  The blend formula is to be used in conjunction with refinishing an additional panel on the vehicle and therefore would not allow for the already included flash times on the original panel.

Were vehicle owners charged for the additional operations that were not approved for reimbursement by insurers? While this occasionally does happen, and is not a great customer experience for the vehicle owner, it is safe to assume that this practice does not occur on every estimate where additional paint operations are performed but not reflected in the uploaded estimate. Again, the fact that calling for a blend on a truck or SUV is less frequent than on smaller passenger cars points to the fact that with the larger panel areas found on trucks and SUVs there is more of an opportunity to blend within the damaged panel. Some may object to this conclusion and say cost shifting was involved, meaning that the additional costs were spread into other areas of the appraisal so that a shop could be compensated for what was truly required. Unfortunately, that may be the case and there is no way in the data to isolate instances where cost shifting is occurring. It is important to note that when we looked at blending within the panel, we did not evaluate how many refinish hours were specified on the appraisal for a specific panel vs. full refinish time. It is very likely that the full base and clear coat were specified in the damaged panel, however, that data is nearly impossible to separate in a data pool of several million estimates. We focused on the blend operation as called out in the appraisal.

In looking at the results of the original refinish study, I did not fully explore the question of geography in the initial finding. Does the area of the country affect how many hours of blend time are reported? Herein lies the key; areas in the Midwest and South had fewer hours of blend time, and they also have the largest population of trucks/SUVs as well as more domestic vehicles than foreign.

When broken out by West Coast, Midwest, Southern and Eastern states, the blend time is lower in states where there are higher volumes of trucks and SUVs being repaired. We can conclude that in today’s collision repair environment, older vehicles, domestic vehicles and trucks and SUVs receive fewer blend hours in part because the panel is being blended within the panel and in part because of the geography of where the vehicle is located.

The focus on refinish operations is particularly important as we see dramatic increases in the cost of a barrel of oil.  As Mideast turmoil adversely impacts the cost of oil, Americans are shifting towards smaller vehicles. Increases in paint costs because of rising oil costs will soon follow.  While refinish operations have been an area of contention between some collision shops and insurers, when the price of oil rises, so does the frequency of contention and the volume of questions our editorial department receives related to refinishing.  Looking towards the future, as we start the shift away from large SUVs, the increasing number of smaller vehicles on the road will increase the necessity of blending into adjacent panels.

Statements and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.  They are not offered as and do not constitute legal advice or opinion of Mitchell International, Inc.

Read 1086 times