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Wednesday, 28 May 2014 22:44

Idaho Autobody Craftsmen’s Association Combats Threats to the Industry

Nearly two years after reforming under strong new leadership, the Idaho Autobody Craftsmen’s Association (IACA) continues to arm themselves in preparation to combat threats to the collision repair industry. Though the group has made some progress, there are still plenty of problems that need to be addressed and rectified, and IACA strives to tackle these issues through education and by attempting to enlist more collision repair professionals in the struggle.

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Matt Thornton, IACA president, knows that the only chance to reform the industry is by presenting an informed, unified front against those who would compromise the integrity of repairs, and he shares the association’s progress, plans, and problems in hopes of collaborating with other like-minded associations to seek solutions to these shared dilemmas.

Founded in the 1980s, IACA continued to be an active voice in the industry until the late 1990s, when the association fell apart and dissolved because of a lack of participation. Over a decade later, in the summer of 2012, Thornton and two other shop owners from his area discussed how to handle the changing environment of the collision repair industry and threats posed to the industry by third-party entities. Deciding that the best way to address the issues plaguing the industry was to restart IACA, they scheduled an initial meeting, spreading the word through vendors, and expected 15 to 20 people to participate; Thornton was pleasantly surprised when over 40 industry professionals attended their first meeting in August 2012.

After affiliating themselves with the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) in the fall of 2012, IACA held a second, more formal meeting in November 2012, which attracted nearly 60 attendees and featured presentations by Bruce Halcro, then chairman of the Montana Collision Repair Specialists (MCRS), and Aaron Schulenburg, executive director of SCRS. Halcro discussed the trials his association has experienced and offered assistance to IACA during the first years. Schulenburg encouraged active involvement in associations and shared information on current industry issues as well as SCRS activities.

A non-profit trade organization, the IACA multi-faceted mission includes providing a platform for the exchange of ideas and information relevant to the industry, projecting a positive image of the industry to the general public, representing the industry in matters of shared concern on a local, state, and national basis, and improving the overall quality of member business through educational opportunities. Their mission is designed to help achieve their goal to “influence positive change for our members and help educate ourselves in matters of shared concern to present a unified voice,” Thornton says.

Since reorganizing, IACA has hosted several educational events with Mike Anderson from, with help from Axalta Coatings. They’ve also met with their state’s Department of Insurance and several state legislators as they explore legal options for correcting industry issues. And this past winter, they hired a lobbyist to guide them through the legislative process. Specifically, Thornton anticipates their their upcoming legislative activities will address “mandated software usage, parts issues, and steering, among other minor issues.”

IACA more immediate goals are to learn more about the legislative process, to build relationships with other state associations, and to increase their membership base. Currently, IACA has 44 members throughout the state of Idaho, but like most associations, they struggle with attracting new members who will be active participants. The main reason this is such a challenge is “due to the size of our state and the population being very spread out,” Thornton explains. “It’s over an eight hour drive from Boise, ID, to Coeur d'Alene, ID, in the north and five hours to Idaho Falls, ID, in the east...Our biggest hurdle right now is getting our message out to other more rural areas of the state.” IACA hopes that their member benefits, educational opportunities, and access to current industry information will aid in generating interest from collision repair professionals from all over their state.

IACA faces many of the same challenges as other associations, such as education and fair trade issues, but Thornton says “we feel that the biggest challenges are intrusion in our businesses by insurance companies and keeping up with new technology; education is key to overcoming both of these issues.”

Although IACA has not issued an official stance on PartsTrader and other insurer-mandated parts procurement systems, Thornton notes, “the general consensus is that the insurance companies are the only ones who benefit from it. If the product is so great, why do we have to be forced to use it? Not one shop would actually choose to use it if it was not mandatory, even if it was free. As a general rule, we support anything that promotes fair trade and a level playing field. Unfortunately, things in this industry are coming to a breaking point that will drive more and more lawsuits and legislative activities, in our opinion, and we, as independent business owners, have no choice but to stand up and say ‘NO’ for once in our careers.”

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