Prosser, Washington, November 7, 2013 - As more and more accounts of repairs performed with disregard to recommended procedures continue to emerge throughout the industry, so too does the call for widespread acceptance of repair standards as well as their enforcement. In its final presentation after a seven-year run, the Collision Industry Conference (CIC) Standards Committee facilitated a November 6 panel discussion on the topic of repair standards to conclude the first day of CIC during the 2013 SEMA Show. The eight-person group of expert panelists consisted of the following:
- Barry Dorn (Dorn's Body and Paint/past SCRS chairman and current president of the Washington Metropolitan Auto Body Association [WMABA]);
- Lillian Maimone (Marco's Auto Body);
- Doug Craig (Chrysler Service Engineering);
- Rick Leos (Toyota Motor Sales);
- Mike LeVasseur (Keenan Auto Body);
- Jim Thompson (American National Standards Institute);
- Tim Adelmann (ABRA Collision & Glass); and
- Randy Stabler (Pride Auto Body).
The discussion, moderated by Standards Committee Vice-Chair Paul Krauss (Craftsman Auto Body), questioned the panelists on a variety of issues related to repair standards including specialization, their impact on repair costs, third-party involvement and whether a need exists for an industry body to manage standards put in place.
The first topic of discussion was on whether repair facilities of the future would be specialized by type. The general consensus of the panel was that any segmenting of the industry would have to occur at the behest of either the repairers themselves or the motoring public. While one repairer noted that any measures to streamline the industry into specialized segments would take time before all sectors embraced the change, another panelist suggested that the need to do so was nonetheless necessary, stating that until specialization of the industry occurs, improper repairs would be destined to occur in the marketplace. When posed with the question of whether standardization within the repair process would lead to increased repair costs, the majority of panelists agreed that this would be a probable occurrence.
When asked if standards could include OE/third-party specifications within the repair process, Toyota's Leos was quick to offer insight from a manufacturer's perspective. "There is one standard: The OE," he said. "The standard is our engineers. They build the cars; the only way to fix the car is the way those who made it tell you to. That's it."
As the discussion shifted to the need or role for a third party to validate repair facilities and technicians, panelists were in agreement that verification is a prudent part of any business model, though it was noted that repairers should be cognizant of the need to keep any validation practices objective and out-of-house. Shop owner Maimone, who supports third-party assistance on shop validation, provided a comparative example of health departments performing random inspections on the food service industry to emphasize the objective critical service outside parties provide to business owners.
When asked if an industry body should be created to manage all aspects of repair like CIECA, SCRS' Dorn suggested the intent to level the playing field may be an unattainable goal. He highlighted information obtained on a recent SCRS venture to the UK, where consistent standards are in place. "First of all, I think CIECA has done a phenomenal job at what they do," he said. "But frankly, the multitude of shops and associations we spoke to, ranging from the small to the MSO and everywhere in between, said in terms of leveling the playing field, that's not the case. Those folks told us that it didn't necessarily solve anything. Those who made the investment and went through the processes experienced their reimbursement rates going up for a time, followed by the carriers shifting the work to shops that did not adhere to those same standards. We heard a lot of 'If we knew then what we know now, we wouldn't have done it.' That's first hand experience."
Citing the fact that shops in the UK are still currently facing issues of nonpayment and partial reimbursement despite insurers' acceptance of repair standards there, Dorn reminded the CIC body that repair standards being accepted in the US could be hugely successful - but only if done right. "If implemented - and enforced - properly throughout the industry, having repair standards accepted industry-wide would be a huge boon to repairers," he added. "However, the UK model has shown us that, while beneficial in its intent, standards must be both accepted and applied - by all facets of the industry - to make it work."
Additional concerns were expressed in the possibility of special interest groups' involvement diluting the intent of any endeavors in this regard, with others suggesting that a lack of action by the industry on standardization may lead to an eventual government intervention.
When asked how standardization efforts could best move forward to serve the industry, panelists stressed that an economic advantage must be present to provide an incentive toward change of this nature. Additional comments included increased customer awareness as well as an aside to consider the effects the towing industry is having on distributing non-drivable vehicles to shops that may not be following proper repair procedures, and that are faced with no consequences when unsatisfactory repairs are discovered through returns or re-repairs. As one panelist stated, the issue is not about standards, but rather the enforcement of standards that already exist.
Following the discussion, the floor was opened up to questions and comments from the CIC body for an Open Mic session. SCRS Chairman Ron Reichen (Precision Body & Paint, Beaverton, OR) stressed the fact that the collision repair industry is in the vast minority of high-liability industries that are not held to adherence and policing of generally-accepted standards. "Are standards needed in this industry? Absolutely," he opined. "Numerous industries are already held to standards of training, licensing and general business practices, such as the medical field, food service industry and even skilled labor fields like plumbing and electrical repair. In many cases, these industries are self-policing. To consider that the collision repair industry - which operates with as high of a level of liability as we do - is neither required to follow certain standards of operation nor held accountable for violating them is absurd to me. Toby [Chess, who provided an overview of inferior repair processes using real-world examples earlier in the day]'s presentation showed the perils of what can happen when repair standards are not followed. As vehicles continue to evolve and feature new materials and processes, the need for repairers to follow a set number of approved guidelines in performing safe repairs is paramount."
Past SCRS Chairman Gary Wano (G.W. & Son Auto Body Shop, Oklahoma City, OK) also voiced his concerns to the panel. "With respect to the OEs here, and appreciating their efforts in this regard, I am concerned with processes and procedures being referred to as 'recommended' versus 'required,'" he stated. "Changing the word tracks to reflect that these procedures are not only recognized as proper by the manufacturer, but also accepted as the standards, would help tremendously in validating them to outside parties." (Wano's comment was addressed by Leos and Craig, who asserted that technical information verbiage is created under the direction of the respective automakers' legal departments.)
As the panel and first day of CIC drew to a close, the discussion reinforced the need for continued discourse on the repair standards debate long after the dissolution of the CIC Standards Committee.
For more about SCRS' RDE seminars, please visit www.semashow.com/scrs. Onsite registration will also be available if attendance is not at capacity.
About SEMA and the SEMA Show: The SEMA Show is a trade show produced by the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA), a nonprofit trade association founded in 1963. Since the first SEMA Show debuted in 1967, the annual event has served as the leading venue bringing together manufacturers and buyers within the automotive specialty equipment industry. Products featured at the SEMA Show include those that enhance the styling, functionality, comfort, convenience and safety of cars and trucks. Additional details available at www.semashow.com or www.sema.org, (909) 396-0289
About SCRS' RDE Series: REPAIRER DRIVEN EDUCATION (RDE) series will feature over 21 seminar offerings, many of which are uniquely designed and being offered only at the 2013 SEMA Show. The series will be offered either as individual sessions, or as a package, and registrants will have the option to attend seven regular session seminars each day of the show. Each of the courses has been individually selected or crafted by SCRS because the content specifically focuses on information that is relevant to collision repair professionals and appeals to the diverse array of marketplace perspectives within the collision repair industry. Register at www.semashow.com/scrs
About SCRS: Through its direct members and 40 affiliate associations, SCRS is comprised of 6,000 collision repair businesses and 58,500 specialized professionals who work with consumers and insurance companies to repair collision-damaged vehicles. Additional information about SCRS including other news releases is available at the SCRS website: www.scrs.com. You can e-mail SCRS at the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org.