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Thursday, 26 July 2012 17:05

AASP/NJ Director Charles Bryant Says "don't insult our intelligence"

AASP/NJ Executive Director has issued an open letter to the industry with the main theme of, “Don’t Insult Our Intelligence.” Writes Bryant:

There has been plenty written already on State Farm’s PartsTrader program. The fox (State Farm), via George Avery, is actually surprised that the chickens (collision repair industry members) are nervous and upset at their uninvited entrance into our coop to “fix” something that we contend isn’t broken, and at their offer that we can’t refuse…literally.

They keep telling us that this is a 'win-win' proposition. In reality, 'win-win' is an overused phrase to describe an arrangement that’s almost always 'win-lose.' There are, however, some true 'win-win' scenarios in our industry, and so it would not be fair to refute Avery’s claim without a closer look.

Before we do that, though, let’s first agree on a couple of assumptions. First, I’m going to assume that, within the vast empire of State Farm, there are some fairly intelligent people who are capable of analyzing the business of auto insurance, the business of collision repair and the claims management process. They do this not because they have nothing better to do, but because they have been tasked with the pursuit of higher profits. Despite what [President Barack Obama] has been telling everyone, our capitalist system was built on the selfish pursuit of profit and wealth. State Farm shouldn’t apologize in its quest to maximize profits, but neither should the collision repair industry. Profit is both good and necessary.

Second and just as important, I’m going to assume that the collision repair industry also contains many highly intelligent people – people who have built and currently operate successful businesses. People who are constantly innovating and looking for new ways to improve their processes. People who know how to crunch numbers. People who know what it takes to generate a profit, which allows them to invest in their businesses and to fairly compensate themselves and their employees. So, as the title of this article states, while [State Farm/Avery/PartsTrader] continue to tell us that this program is a good thing for the collision industry, I ask that they at least refrain from insulting our intelligence.

The parts component within collision repair is a complicated one with a multitude of variables. So why does State Farm want to get into the parts business, especially when it involves significant resources within State Farm to manage it and a fat check being cut to a third party (PartsTrader)? The simple answer is that they want to lower their average severity, which is an Orwellian way of saying they want to pay out less. Yes, they believe that this program will mean smaller settlement checks than would otherwise be written, and if I’m smarter than a fifth grader, that means more dead presidents in the pocket of State Farm. There, I said it, in simple language without using ambiguous and insulting phrases like “seeking greater efficiency.” State Farm simply wants more profit! There is no such thing as too much profit, and as Avery reminded us at the Collision Industry Conference (CIC) in July, State Farm is a mutual company which is obligated to maximize its profits.

But repairers have the exact same desire to maximize their profits, and they’re similarly obligated to maximize their profits on behalf of their families and employees. So if they’re buying parts at a discount of 25 percent, their goal is to somehow find a way to get this number up to 27 or 30 percent.

That said, all that’s left to determine is whose pocket(s) that additional profit will come from. From a common sense “napkin” analysis, State Farm’s additional profit will either come from the parts vendors or the repairers, or both. If you carefully read all the statements that have been issued by PartsTrader and State Farm, nowhere will you hear from either party that this program is guaranteed to not negatively impact the profitability or the profit margins of the repairer. They haven’t made these statements because they know they can’t.

The dollars State Farm desperately needs/wants will have to come from somewhere. The reports that came back from the PartsTrader program in New Zealand (NZ) were alarming – the program almost eliminated gross part profit margins there. PartsTrader responded by stating that the U.S. program is different than the NZ program and thus shouldn’t be compared. Is this an admission that the PartsTrader program in NZ did indeed harm the collision repair industry? If this is true, what steps has PartsTrader taken in NZ to remedy the harm their program has done? Are you, the fox, telling us that while yes, you did kill and eat the chickens in NZ, you won’t do the same here in the U.S.?

If the above assumptions are correct, then we can dispense with all the carefully worded statements that do nothing but insult our intelligence. Rob Cooper of PartsTrader assures us that it’s a good tool for repairers and that their “interests are in the right place,” while pushing a product in the U.S. that has no voluntary collision repair customers, only those who have been coerced into using it. State Farm “knows it is getting into our business”; it simply wants higher profit, and doesn’t seem to care if it’s at the repairer’s expense. The battlefield is set.

 

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