Columns

We feature some of the best columnists in the industry including Toby Chess, Rich Evans, Tom Franklin, Mike Causey, Dale Delmege, Walter Danalevich and Lee Amaradio.

We have contributing writers from different regions of the country: Ed Attanasio, David Brown, Chasidy Sisk and Rachael Mercer.

We also have guest columistslike Richard Steffen of the CRA, and David McClune from CAA.

Collectively they represent a unique perspective with hundreds of person-years of experience. Let us know what you think, by posting responses to their columns.

 

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Lee Amaradio

Lee Amaradio, Jr. is the president and owner of “Faith” Quality Auto Body Inc. in Murrieta, California. Lee is president of the Collision Repair Association of California (go to CRA at their website ) as well as an advocate for many other industry groups. He can be contacted at lee@faithqualityautobody.com

To read Lee's columns prior to last January search "Amaradio" on this site from the home page

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Hey Toby! by Toby Chess

Toby Chess is an I-CAR program instructor, Training specialist, and former salvage yard operator. Toby is universally known in the collision industry for his work with first responders and advocacy for body shops and consumers. He can be reached at tcspeedster@yahoo.com

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David M. Brown

David M. Brown is a native of Philadelphia who has lived in Arizona for 30 years. He writes about subjects he is passionate about, including the car industry. A father of two, he is mentored by his border collie/pointer, Haylie, who is much more concerned with thrown tennis balls than with a beautifully repainted Aston Martin.

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Dale Delmege

Dale Delmege has a wealth of industry experience and shares his management tips by answering questions in this column. Dale has been Collision Industry Conference Chairman 1999–2000 and is a Lifetime Member (since 2001) of the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS). He is also a National Auto Body Council Founding Member and Director; a CIECA. Founding Member, Director, and Chairman.

ASK DALE at DaleSR@cox.net.

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Gonzo Weaver

Scott "Gonzo" Weaver owns a Tulsa Auto Electric Shop and has a knack for telling true stories of his adventures in auto repair. The following short stories are excerpted from his book, "Hey Look! I Found The Loose Nut", which provides a Good Laugh for Mechanics of Any Age. For more information, Contact Scott Weaver at Gonzosae@aol.com and see his website at www.gonzostoolbox.com.

You can purchase his book from Amazon at: Hey Look, I Found the Loose Nut

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Tom Franklin

Tom Franklin has been a sales and marketing consultant for forty years, specializing in automotive and auto body. He has written numerous books and provides marketing solutions and services for many businesses. He can be reached at (323) 871-6862 or at tbfranklin@aol.com.

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Stefan Gesterkamp

Stefan Gesterkamp is a  Master Craftsman and BASF representative who has been in the automotive paint industry for 27 years. He started his career in a custom shop before turning to collision repair. Stefan graduated from the University of Coatings and Colorants in Germany and is the author of “How to Paint Your Show Car.” You can order Stephan's book from Amazon. Contact him at: stefan.gesterkamp@basf.com

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Mike Causey

Mike Causey is a consumer advocate and lobbyist for the Independent Auto Body Association (IABA) and healthcare groups, as well as Organic farming and Healthy Eating. Mike is a writer and speaker on numerous consumer issues and legislation. Contact him at: Causey & Associates, P.O. Box 16725, Greensboro, NC 27416 Email: gocausey@aol.com  Phone: (336) 210-1947

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Dan Espersen

Dan Espersen is ALLDATA® CollisionSM Program Manager. Dan is a Gold Pin Member of the Collision Industry Conference (CIC) and holds an AA Degree in Automotive Technology. He has 17 years of experience in the collision industry and 17 years of experience in the automotive industry.

Dan writes the ALL OEM INFORMATION semi-monthly column with Tom McGee, who writes the alternate month.

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Tom McGee

Tom McGee is National Account Manager for ALLDATA Collision. He has had a long career with I-CAR, including as President & CEO. Tom is an ASE certified Master Collision Repair/Refinish Technician. He has also run his own collision facility and been a career and technical school instructor. He can be reached at Tom.McGee@alldata.com. For other Tom McGee articles in Autobody News, go to:
http://www.autobodynews.com/tom-mcgee/index.php   —   JEFF WEBSTER is an ALLDATA Technical Writer.

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John Yoswick

John Yoswick is a freelance automotive writer based in Portland, Oregon, who has been writing about the collision industry since 1988. He is the editor of the weekly CRASH Network (for a free 4-week trial subscription, visit www.CrashNetwork.com).

He can be contacted by email at jyoswick@SpiritOne.com.

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Ed Attanasio

Ed Attanasio is an automotive journalist based in San Francisco. Ed enjoys sports of all kinds and is a part time stand-up comedian. He can be reached at era39@aol.com.

See also Ed's Shop Showcase columns.

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Janet Chaney

Janet Chaney has been a long-time contributor to Autobody News. She's a former shop owner and now owns and operates Cave Creek Business Development in Stevensville, Montana. Janet supports many auto body associations can be reached at janet_chaney@earthlink.net

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Walter Danalevich

Walter Danalevich, AAM, has owned Santa Barbara Auto Refinishing in Santa Barbara, California, since 1979. He enjoys sharing his shop management tips with other shop owners and would like to hear about yours. Contact him at sbarbody@earthlink.net

See also his shop website: www.sbautobody.com

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Insurance Insider

The "Insurance Insider" is a corporate-level executive with a Top 10 auto insurer in the U.S.. Although he needs to remain anonymous, he will answer questions emailed to him in future columns. Got a comment or question you’d like to see him address? Email him at Auto.Insurance.Insider@gmail.com

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Rich Evans

Rich Evans is the owner of Huntington Beach Bodyworks and an award winning painter and fabricator. He offers workshops in repair and customization at his facility to share his unique talents. He also appears on a new show on Speed Channel, Car Warriors. See his Twitter (left) and Facebook (right) feeds for more on Rich's active projects.
For contacts and design samples visit www.huntingtonbeachbodyworks.com

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Williams, Larry

Larry Williams is an innovative, award winning parts manager who has been managing profitable parts departments for over 30 years. He recognizes the importance of OEM parts management to collision repairers and now works as a consultant to the industry. He can be reached for consultation at ljoew2@gmail.com.

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Business Beat

Business Beat is a new column launching May 2012 in Autobody News. It will focus on investment activities in the automobile and collision industry and will feature guest columnists on a regular basis. Opinions herein are strictly those of the author. Autobody News accepts no responsibility for investment actions taken or not taken based on this column.

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Sisk, Chasidy Rae

Sisk, Chasidy Rae

Chasidy Rae Sisk is a freelance writer from New Castle, DE, who writes on a variety of topics. She can be reached at crsisk@chasidyraesisk.com.

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Alicia Basteri

Alicia Basteri is Online Editor at Autobody News. Contact her at abasteri@autobodynews.com.

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David Luehr

David Luehr

David Luehr is the owner of Elite Body Shop Solutions, LLC a collision business consulting firm based in Nashville, Tennessee. He is a 30-year veteran of the collision repair industry and has served on several industry association boards across the USA as well as leadership positions with companies such as Manheim and ABRA. David is an expert in Body Shop Operations and specializes in Lean and Theory of Constraints methods. Email him at dluehr@msn.com

 

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As a newbie to the collision repair industry, I was one of the 65 new Women’s Industry Network (WIN) members attending their first WIN Annual Education Conference, which was held May 5–8, 2014, at the Paradise Point Resort & Spa in San Diego, CA.

I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect—and was more than pleasantly surprised!

Even before arriving, after joining WIN and registering for the conference, I received a personal email from a WIN member warmly welcoming me to WIN and offering assistance with any conference questions. This was to set the tone for my experience.

Download a printable PDF of this article.

Day 1: Monday, May 5th

The meeting kicked off on an uncharacteristically blustery day (for San Diego, anyway). I received another warm welcome at the registration desk, and was super stoked to unwrap a stylish black pashmina from my welcome packet—it certainly came in handy!

As I walked into the conference room and looked around for a seat, I paused and smiled as I realized that it was a room full of women (well, there were a few men). I settled in next to friendly faces as the emcee, Michelle Sullivan, welcomed a record number of 178 conference attendees.

“When I think about why I get so excited about WIN, for me it is all about camaraderie—camaraderie is the spirit of WIN.” Sullivan then introduced the theme of the conference by inviting attendees to “Power Up!”

Next, 2013-2014 WIN Board of Directors chairwoman Margaret Knell recognized WIN achievements over the past year, the 2014 WIN Conference sponsors, as well as committee chairs, co-chairs, and other members. In addition, she presented Denise Caspersen and Ruth Weniger with the 2014 WIN Cornerstone Award, which is awarded to individuals on the WIN Board of Directors who exemplify the values and vision of WIN.

Laurie Cusic, senior facilitator for Brody Professional Development, then presented “Bridging the Generational Gap,” which addressed the need to understand generational differences in a workplace with four distinct generations—traditionalists, baby boomers, generation Xers, and millennials (or generation Yers)—and attendees participated in a related networking event.

My overall first impression was that there was great energy in the room, and, unlike a lot of other conferences, everyone seemed genuinely excited—and “powered up”—to be there, friendly, supportive, and proud.

This feeling was solidified during the welcome dinner at Paradise Cove, where attendees mingled with old friends and new over a luau-themed menu, followed by roasting marshmallows in a bonfire to make s’mores.

Day 2: Tuesday, May 6th

Attendees started day two with the annual WIN Scholarship Walk to raise funds for the WIN Scholarships.

Following a continental breakfast, charismatic keynote speaker Dr. Verna Cornelia Price, CEO of The Power of People Consulting Group and author of “The Power of People: Four Kinds of People Who Can Change Your Life,” tapped into the WIN “Power Up!” theme with her message of “The Power of You!” Dr. Price explained that you are born with power; no one has more power than you; no one can take your power (but you can give it away); and your power multiplies when you use it. She also talked about the four types of powerful people: adders, subtractors, multipliers, and dividers.

Next up, the engaging Colette Carlson, founder of “Speak Your Truth”, talked about “The Hard, Cold Truth—Working Hard Isn’t Working,” including how to communicate successes, cultivate connections, and develop strategic relationships.

After lunch, attendees went to one of three workshops about technology (“Mastering the Muck of Your Technology” by Kathi Burns), negotiation skills (“Truth About Negotiation: A$k and You Shall Succeed” by Colette Carlson), or sustainability (“The Green Revolution” by Mike LeVasseur).

The day ended with the WIN Annual Membership meeting, which provided the 2014 Report to the Industry including reports from the Communications, Membership, Finance, Scholarship, Nominating, and Governance committees. In addition, the WIN Board of Directors, new WIN Executive Committee, and WIN Scholarship winners in attendance were recognized.

The evening festivities started with a cocktail reception, followed by the annual WIN Gala and Most Influential Women Ceremony. After dinner, WIN colleagues and friends recognized and introduced the honorees: Frederica Carter, president of F. Carter Events, LLC (former communications manager at AkzoNobel); Jordan Hendler, executive director of the Washington Metropolitan Autobody Association; and Leanne Jefferies, director of Collision Programs for AIA Canada. And last but not least, dessert was served!

Day 3: Wednesday, May 7th

After a continental breakfast, John Kett, president and CEO of Insurance Auto Auctions (IAA), presented “The Increasingly Interconnected APD System,” covering the operational and technological forecast for IAA and key information about the direction of the industry.

Following the break, Jane Hylen, senior vice president of North Central Operations Enterprise Holdings, presented “Keys to Success” within the automotive industry.

Tracy Holberry from Sherwin-Williams presented the 2014 Scholarship recipients in attendance, Stephanie Baker and Suzanna Hernandez, with a certificate for tuition and travel-related expenses paid in full for any automotive training course at a Sherwin Williams Training Center of their choice.

Margaret Knell closed the conference with a summary of the events and officially passed the torch to Denise Caspersen, newly-elected chairwoman of the WIN Board of Directors.

Summary

If you’re a woman in the collision repair industry, I highly recommend that you join WIN and attend the 2015 WIN Annual Education Conference.

If you’re already a WIN member, WIN asks that you please consider joining a committee as WIN is entirely volunteer-based. Sign in and click on the Committee description to find full descriptions and contact information.

If you missed the 2014 conference but will be attending the 2014 NACE/CARS Expo and Conference, stop by the WIN booth.

Gender marketing—it sounds like it would be prejudicial and maybe even illegal. But in many collision repair shops, the marketing is already heavily gender-oriented. A shop that focuses on race cars, muscle cars, classic cars, and sponsoring events around these interests are already marketing to a mostly male audience. Add to that emphasis all-male estimators, and you have a shop that has a definite male gender focus. Considering that as many as half of the collision repairs coming into the shop are brought in by female customers, adding a female focus to marketing would hardly be prejudicial.

Thursday, 10 April 2014 23:33

Is the Return Phone Call an Endangered Species?

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I ran into someone at the 2013 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show who apologized profusely.

“I was meaning to call you back,” he said. “I know you left a message.”

“The one from 2012 or the one from 2013?” I inquired as nicely as I could.

Why don't people call each other back anymore? What is the psychology behind not returning phone calls? Do you have a group of friends or business associates in your life who will NEVER call you back, no matter what? The sad fact is that most of us do.

For many years, body shop owners in general weren’t enamored with the idea of hiring a company to design and develop their websites, thinking that they cost too much and would not bring enough new customers to their shops. But now most of those naysayers and doubters realize that a good, easy-to-read website that has intuitive navigation and is leveraged for searchability is a necessity, rather than a luxury. And that’s why companies such as Autoshop Solutions, an automotive website design and Internet marketing company based in Apex, NC, are flourishing.

Looking for tips, tools and resources to help your business, defend your positions or do your part for the industry? Here’s a collection of links to sites, documents and information you may find interesting and useful.

20 years ago in the collision repair industry (April 1994)

Retired Automotive Service Association (ASA) lobbyist Don Randall told the group that current antitrust laws are strangling collision repairers by giving insurers an unfair advantage to meet and set policy language and contract definitions. In essence, he said, insurers have the ability to set market prices while collision repairers do not.

“Our system is control losses, which sounds like a pretty good idea,” Randall said. “But that system is destroying the free enterprise system in this state.”

Insurance policies, he said, are laden with loopholes that give insurers the opportunity to change a $100 deductible into one costing much more.

“In the event of a loss, ‘We will make you whole,’ but who decides what is whole,” Randall said. “You have a variable. If you take the car to the shop of your choice, and it isn’t one they choose, they may say to you, ‘You just pay the difference between the one you picked and the one we picked.’ They may also say, ‘We don’t pay for…’ or “It is not customary…” or ‘It is not usual and ordinary.’ They are now engaging in ‘dancing around the contract.’”

Randall railed against the current direct repair programs, saying they breed corruption and cheating.

“It’s wrong and it ought to be stopped,” he said. “But it will not stop until this industry gets organized.”

–  from coverage of a forum in Portland, OR, sponsored by Fairness in Auto Insurance Regulations (FAIR)

15 years ago in the collision repair industry (April 1999)

Could the computerized estimating systems be improved to improve the ease and accuracy of estimating? Three Collision Industry Conference (CIC) committees continued exploring this issue at the CIC meeting in Denver in April 1999.

Bob Matejzel of the CIC Estimating Committee said his group has identified an initial list of about a dozen procedures that it believes the estimating systems should automatically remind users about. As an example, Matejzel said that if replacement of a lower control arm or other front-end suspension part is entered on an estimate, the system should in some way prompt the estimator to also include an alignment on the estimate.

Matejzel said the industry information providers are focusing much of their efforts this year on Y2K compliance issues. But he said his committee, which includes insurers and shops, will continue to meet with the estimating system providers to discuss these changes throughout the year.

“If you’d been at one of this committee’s meetings, you’d have actually seen a group of repairers and insurers stand up and face the information providers and say with one voice, ‘This is what we want,’” said CIC chairman Dale Delmege of the committee’s meetings earlier this year. “That was a magic moment in this industry.”

Linda Holcomb said the CIC Write It Right Committee’s discussions with the estimating system providers has also focused on the need to make the systems easier to use.

“Our estimators are really spending a lot of time writing estimates, and we’d like to see that done quicker,” she said.

– as reported in Autobody News

10 years ago in the collision repair industry (April 2004)

A videotape of an interview with one vehicle owner about his experience with an auto claim generated some discussion when shown at the Collision Industry Conference (CIC) in Nashville TN, largely because of who the vehicle owner is: Joe Maxwell, the lieutenant governor of Missouri.

“The thing I was most amazed by was how quickly I was contacted by [the other driver’s] insurance company, which almost immediately called me and said they already had the check in the mail to pay for my automobile,” Maxwell said. “I asked ‘How did you even know how much damage was done?’ They said, ‘Well, from the report.’ So I was offered a settlement before anybody even viewed the damage to the vehicle.”

Maxwell said that while the insurance company representatives were pleasant and that he never felt harassed, they did refer him to a shop in Columbia, MO, 45 miles away. When he told the insurer the first check they sent would not cover the cost of repairs, they made an appointment to send someone out to look at the vehicle at his office. Maxwell doesn’t know if that happened. The shop received a revised estimate—still insufficient to cover the cost of repairs—but Maxwell said the adjuster never contacted him.

“They claim the guy came and viewed the car, but he never came into the building, never jacked the vehicle up,” Maxwell said. “The car was parallel parked on the street and the damage was on the driver’s door side so the guy would have had to lay down on the street to look under the car, which wouldn’t have been safe. And clearly without opening the door, which was locked, they could not have seen all the damage. So that troubled me some.”

Maxwell said he’s concerned that many people in his situation would have accepted that first check and “in doing so accept settlement on the claim and then discover it wasn’t enough to have a professional, quality job done.”

He said he’s also concerned about insurers steering work or owning shops.

“The idea of having an insurance company that would control where I repaired my car is kind of like having a fox watch the chicken house,” he said. “You may wind up with less chickens.”

– as reported in Autobody News

5 years ago in the collision repair industry (April 2009)

Under a settlement agreement reached last week, LKQ Corp. will be the only company allowed to sell certain non-OEM collision parts for Ford vehicles. The non-OEM parts involved are those designed to replace parts for which Ford owns design patents.

As part of the agreement, LKQ will pay Ford a royalty fee for each part sold, and has agreed not to challenge the validity of Ford’s design patents during the term of the agreement (which extends until October 2011, but may be renewed). Other details of the agreement were not disclosed.

Ford said the settlement “does not endorse the quality or use of non-OEM replacement parts sold by LKQ Corp.”

The agreement ends two legal battles Ford has waged to protect its design patents on collision parts for its F-150 pickup and Mustang. It also is likely to split the non-OEM parts industry which has been working as the “Quality Parts Coalition” to limit automakers’ rights to hold design patents on collision parts.

– As reported in CRASH Network, April, 2009. LKQ currently faces a lawsuit from Chrysler over the sale of parts that the automaker claims violate its design patents. The Quality Parts Coalition continues to back proposed federal legislation that would slash (from 14 years to just 30 months) the time that automakers can use design patents to prevent other companies from producing replacement crash parts.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014 23:57

A Missing Hat In Most Shops

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By now, most shop owners know the collision repair world is changing rapidly. Last month I wrote about the Sci-Fi Shop of the Future. New materials and new smart cars require new skills and new technology. But what is changing even faster is the way people communicate with one another. Facebook’s recent purchase of WhatsApp for 19 billion dollars to enhance the mobile segment of its 1.2 billion users says that mobile communication between users may become the predominant way people communicate in the future. But how many shops employ someone solely for the purpose of connecting with this segment of the population? And is there any good reason to do so at this time?

My answer would be that it all depends on how much a shop’s business depends on connecting with relatively young vehicle owners and drivers. Older customers are usually more affluent and drive higher-end vehicles. If a shop maintains a database of at least ten years of past customers, the odds are good that more than half of those customers is older and possibly less tech-savvy. More importantly, these prior customers and their friends, families, and contacts may make up the biggest part of your future customer base outside of insurance and dealership referrals. As the new market becomes more and more tied to websites, Facebook, Twitter, and other media, the general game depends on who can come up with the most captivating message and images on the new media. But you have an advantage most new media people lack: Your ten years or more of accumulated customer contacts are a solid, experienced crowd. Now the time has come to maximize that resource.

It’s time to take a new look at your professional image. Unlike service stations and mechanical shops, your customers don’t come in for regular maintenance or simple battery and tire purchases. In a sense, they’re somewhat like the family doctor whose patients come in for annual checkups and exams. But the collision shop owner is more like a surgeon who only sees a patient when a major operation is needed. And so much of your marketing must be similar to that of the surgeon or other professionals who only see clients in extreme times of need. How do they build a reliable client base?

Many professionals must rely heavily on client referrals and contacts. To build on these, most seek to join clubs, associations, and charitable organizations that their clients frequent or belong to. If they belong to a particular religion or philosophical group, they will participate in that group to have an opportunity to meet with various members and become known as a specialist in their specific field. High-priced professionals like CPAs, lawyers, and surgeons can afford to invest serious time in developing a deeply personal relationship with a potential client. A typical body shop owner can’t afford to dedicate substantial time to any one potential collision repair customer. So how can a shop owner do the kind of depth marketing that will gain the loyalty of this kind of reliable referral source?

One shop owner in the California San Fernando Valley had a wall full of contacts. He belonged to the Knights of Columbus, the Sheriff’s Supporters League, and the American Legion. He sponsored a Boy Scout Troop, a Ladies Auxiliary, and several school sports teams. It sounded like this guy was everywhere and his volume of business attested to the effectiveness of his efforts. How did he do it? Obviously not alone. Later I learned that his sister had started a woman’s business referral service. His son was active in the business at a young age. In general, I don’t think he had paid public relations people doing any of this work, but it’s not much of a stretch to consider that possibility. Family is great if you have it, but, if not, can it be cost-effective to employ a real public relations person to handle this in-depth membership and schmoozing activity?

Many businesses calculate the lifetime value of a customer. Figuring one collision repair every three to five years generates an approximate number. But this ignores the people in that customer’s surrounding universe. The opportunity to specifically refer a repair facility just when an accident happens is quite rare. That’s why the public relations person is needed to amplify the praise of a satisfied customer in a group. This marketing person must have the ability to speak for the shop at groups, community events, company meetings, and more. He or she should be of a comparable age to the prospective customers, with a background in sales and public speaking, but with enough familiarity of the collision repair shop to present a credible story and reason to patronize the shop. As the crowd turns to social media, personal contact still has the advantage.

The Wisconsin Auto Collision Technicians Association (WACTAL) held the 2014 WACTAL Conference and Trade Show Friday–Saturday, February 21–22, 2014, at the Wilderness Resort in Wisconsin Dells, WI.

The conference began on Friday morning with a slew of educational seminars. Greg Horn, VP of industry relations for Mitchell International, educated attendees on the current state of the collision repair industry by exploring claim frequency trends and key performance indicators (KPIs). He also touched on advancing vehicular technology in terms of changes in vehicle construction and the increase in cars being manufactured with accident avoidance systems.

Mark Mueller of PPG Refinish followed with "The New Collision Repair Administrative Paradigm." This seminar sought to teach participants a better way to deal with the pressures related to an increase in administrative responsibilities for managing claims.

After lunch, Tony Passwater, president of AEII, presented "How Have We Gotten Where We Are Now?" during which he examined the strategies used to force the collision repair industry into its current state, as well as how to identify and counteract these practices to improve the industry’s future.

WACTAL members met for a brief meeting before opening the trade show on Friday night. This was followed by the Hospitality Social, which provided attendees and exhibitors a chance to relax and network while enjoying the hors d’oeuvres sponsored by BASF, Body Shop Supply Co., Broadway Automotive Group, Finishmaster, Motors Service & Supply, PPG, and West Bend Mutual Insurance.

In "Salvage Vehicle Inspection – What You Need to Know" on Saturday morning, trooper Quinn Sieber, salvage vehicle inspector for the Wisconsin State Patrol, reinforced the illegality of removing VIN tags.

With the conclusion of the informational seminars, the trade show reopened on Saturday, an exciting expansion from previous years when the show was only open one day.

Nearly 30 companies exhibited at the 2014 WACTAL show, including 3M, Akzo Nobel, Axalta Coating Systems, Mitchell, BASF, PPG Industries, FinishMaster, and many others.

All aspects of the event were well-received by participants, though stormy weather on Thursday and Friday impacted attendance slightly.

Much of the agenda at the Collision Industry Conference (CIC) held in Palm Springs, Calif., in January was devoted to CIC’s biennial planning session, where participants discuss what topics CIC committees will take on in the coming year or two. But the quarterly meeting also included a number of informational sessions for attendees.

I-CAR CEO John VanAlstyne, for example, offered an update on not only his organization’s training activities, but also its efforts to improve the availability and accessibility of OEM technical information for collision repairers. He said that I-CAR had budgeted over $1 million on that ongoing project over two years, and that the website portal I-CAR is developing to improve access to OEM technical information is being beta-tested and will launch soon.

He said I-CAR also has worked to make its training more affordable. For the fourth year in a row, he said, there would be no price increase for training for Gold Class businesses, and pricing has been reduced for I-CAR newly-renamed “Welding Testing and Certification.” The welding program discounts increase based on the number of students a company is registering, part of I-CAR’s effort to get training to more technicians, VanAlstyne said.

He said I-CAR soon will be rolling out aluminum welding and other training courses specific to Ford’s 2015 F-150 pick-up, which hits showrooms late this year.

About half of the I-CAR training that students choose to take is now online, up from just 3 percent three years ago, VanAlstyne said. That and the expanded focus on being a source of technical information beyond training is part of I-CAR’s shift in scope.

“We’re working to make information on-demand and accessible, so people get the training and information they need when they need it,” he said.

Also during the meeting, CIC committees offered a preview of some of what they hope to address at upcoming meetings. Steve Regan, chairman of the Governmental Committee, said his committee will have a presentation on the topic of “most-favored nation” clauses at the next CIC, being held April 9–10 in Portland, OR. The clauses are often found in insurer direct repair program agreements, requiring participating shops to give the insurer the best pricing offered to any other. Several states have now banned the clauses in health insurance contracts, and the Automotive Service Association has urged the U.S. Department of Justice to review most-favored nation clauses in DRP contracts.

Regan said his committee is also planning a presentation for later this year on legal and liability issues related to autonomous (or “self-driving”) cars.

Gene Lopez, chairman of CIC’s Education and Training Committee, said his committee is working on presentations related to coaching and developing mentoring and peer-to-peer training relationships within an organization.

CIC Chairman George Avery led a discussion about the future of CIC’s Data Privacy issue, which may be renamed to incorporate a broader scope of “information technology” issues. There appeared to be general consensus the committee is still needed. Several attendees noted the recent controversy when a Ford marketing executive said the automaker tracks customers through vehicle GPS and other technology—only to later retract the statement. A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that automakers and navigation system providers gather a lot of data on where drivers have been, and there are no standards for how long the data is retained nor a way for drivers to ask that their data be destroyed. Avery said he would be seeking a new chairman for the CIC committee that works on data privacy issues.

Chris Northup of the CIC Parts and Materials Committee cited a laundry list of topics still to be addressed by subcommittees, including: aftermarket parts certification standards, parts inventory/availability issues, recycled parts clean-up times, multiple recycled parts standards, impact of OEM price-matching policies, etc.

Randy Hanson of Allstate this year becomes chairman of the CIC Insurer-Repairer Relations Committee. Outgoing chairman Rick Tuuri said the committee will continue to “identify areas for insurers and repairers to work together for efficiencies.” CIC attendee Rick Sherwood suggested that the committee go back to some of the recommendations the committee developed – such as best practices related to digital images, which was finalized in 2010 – to find out if insurers are aware of them and whether or not they’ve adopted them.

“So rather than just bring a recommendation, which I understand is CIC’s mission, get some feedback that might assist in refining these things as we go forward so they are more actionable at the end of the day,” Sherwood suggested.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014 01:47

The Sci-Fi Shop of the Future

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The week of Jan 13, 2014, Ford Motor Co. announced the completely re-engineered Ford F-150 pickup truck featuring aluminum from the hood to the tailgate, 700 pounds lighter than the previous model. Mercedes Benz introduced the next C-Class sports sedan with a body built mostly of aluminum, and Audi’s A8 luxury sedan had an aluminum chassis almost 20 years ago. At the time an Audi executive said, “there are only a handful of shops capable of repairing it. It has to be shipped to one of those centers to be fixed.”  For them the next step is the doors and the body. And aluminum isn’t the only challenge for collision repair centers. The BMW Electric 13 is mostly made from plastic-like carbon fiber.

If this wasn’t enough of a challenge, Ford has teamed with MIT and Stanford University to make self-driving cars more intuitive. Radar-like LiDAR infrared sensors bounce infrared light off objects as far as 200 feet away to generate data to make a 3-D map to plan a path to safely avoid pedestrians, bicycles and other vehicles. Recently a blind “driver” at the Santa Clara Blind Center” made a completely safe shopping trip in a self-driving car, preprogrammed by a Google engineer. The repair facility of the future will also be faced with vehicle programming systems, radar-like systems, mapping devices and more. These technical advances will strain collision shop finances as more tools, equipment and highly trained technicians are required. But how will this affect a shop’s marketing strategies?

The most forward looking shop owners may well realize the great marketing potential that these technical advances offer. The new generation of young adults is already more tech-savvy than most shop owners. The Internet and cell-phone advances have made this generation well aware of the need to keep on top of new technology. The shop that positions itself as a leader in new automotive repair technology can capture the “hearts and minds” of this generation if handled correctly. What should a shop do?

Because more and more people are turning to the web when shopping for a repair facility, a shop should turn the home page into bold advertisement for the shop’s technical know-how. While young people may be keenly aware of applications for their tablet, cell phone and computer, they are not likely to know much about repair challenges a shop faces when repairing their late model vehicle. Images of damaged aluminum and carbon fiber parts with captions explaining a little about these challenges may capture their attention. A little research should let you know how many shops in your area are equipped to deal with these repair challenges. If you are one of the few that can do it, this is a prime time to shout out your superiority over the competition, not just in general but with specific numbers.

Photos and information about equipment may not impress a vehicle owner looking for a repair, but insurance executives who check out your website will definitely be concerned with the makes and qualities of your frame machine, welding equipment, electric and hybrid handling processes and more. It’s important to provide educational information for these different publics on your site and in your printed literature. Most of what you put on the web can also be inexpensively reproduced in some simple printed handouts for less web-savvy customers who come to the shop.

The next step in demonstrating a future-orientation can be accomplished with employee uniforms, data-entry pads and display screens that can show a repair prospect shop areas where his or her vehicle will be processed in a way that is different from the competition. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to put technicians into star-trek-like uniforms with labels that say “hybrid specialist”, “autonomous vehicle specialist” and more. Customers should feel confident that this shop can handle the vehicle that has become a sort of robot, sensing the driver/passenger’s preferences in temperature, seat position, music, lighting and destination.

As a shop moves more into servicing late model vehicles with these futuristic advances, it would be wise to re-imagine the shop in a futuristic way. Even the furniture in the waiting area could be fashioned after airport seating and modernistic showroom designs. Large blown-up photos on the wall of late-model vehicles with captions can complete the image of a forward-looking shop of the future. Website and social media sites are great places to capture images of a space-age shop, service areas and personnel. Shops that grabbed the position of first to have water-borne paint, aluminum welding and frame machines, and high-tech sensors to handle on-board computer systems, could now be the first in the area to be recognized as the Sci-Fi shop of the future.