A glimpse at future vehicle technology and what it may mean for collision repairers and insurers filled much of the agenda at I-CAR’s annual conference in Detroit in late July, but the organization saved perhaps its most significant news for a presentation at NACE the following day.
There, Jason Bartanen unveiled the new “Repairability Technical Support Portal,” I-CAR’s effort to put repair procedures and vehicle information as close to technician’s as the nearest computer, tablet or smartphone screen.
“We really want to put this information into technician’s hands,” said Bartanen, director of industry technical relations for I-CAR. “They may not walk up to the front of the shop to ask a technical question. But if they have the answer in their pocket, maybe they are more likely to take a look to see what they can find on the website.”
After more than a year in development, the website is available through the “Technical Knowledge” section of I-CAR’s website – www.i-car.com – or directly at http://rts.i-car.com. It feature six primary features:
1. The “OEM Information” section includes a page for each automaker, listing what types of collision repair procedures and information each makes available and how to access it. But Bartanen said the section offers not just links to the automaker’s repair information websites (though there are short videos explaining the navigation of each automaker site) but often some of the actual procedures, bulletins and information technicians or estimators may need. In the Acura section of the portal, for example, Bartanen opened a bulletin showing that sectioning cannot be done on the B-pillar reinforcement on the 2014 Acura MDX.
2. Another section, searchable by year-make-model, offers a guide to automaker information on which parts require inspection or replacement following an airbag deployment.
3. The “partial part replacement” section, also searchable by year-make-model, lists what sectioning procedures are available from the automakers. The procedures themselves still generally need to be downloaded from the OEM website, Bartanen said, but this guide at least allows users to know whether what they are looking for exists at those sites.
4. A “collision news” section of the portal is replacing I-CAR’s long-standing “Advantage” newsletter, and will include three or four new articles a week; this is where, for example, I-CAR announced in July that in part due to I-CAR’s encouragement, Kia Motors recently released comprehensive collision repair manuals in the United States for the first time. Bartanen said shops and technicians can receive “push notifications” about news posted to the portal by following the “@tech_briefs” Twitter feed (no push notifications are available via email at this time).
5. I-CAR has posted it “Uniform Procedures for Collision Repair” (UPCR) at the new portal. First developed in the late 1990s but more recently updated, the UPCR outlines industry-accepted repair procedures for such things as adhesive bonding, corrosion protection and wheel alignment.
6. The “Ask I-CAR” section is just that, a way for a portal user to email or call I-CAR with a technical question for which they haven’t been able to find an answer. In a live demonstration of this feature, Bartanen called I-CAR’s toll-free number and said he was looking for sectioning procedures for the B-pillar on a Dodge Dart; within minutes, the I-CAR representative checked the Dodge OEM information website and found that given the type of steel used for that B-pillar, Dodge offers no sectioning procedures. She also emailed Bartanen that information, and posted it to the portal in a searchable (by year-make-model) database of other such questions I-CAR has researched.
Bartanen said more information will continue to be added to the portal; many automakers, he said, are anxious to use the portal to put technical information and procedures into collision repairers’ hands, often at no charge.
Current I-CAR Statistics
I-CAR also used its annual conference to update the nearly 400 people in attendance on the organization’s other current and future activities.
I-CAR CEO John Van Alstyne reported that 56,000 student from more than 8,600 businesses received I-CAR training last year. That training now includes 77 live classroom courses, almost an equal number of online course, and 14 virtual classes that are taken online but with an I-CAR instructor teaching the course live.
He said about 3,000 businesses have achieved I-CAR Gold Class status, and about 2,300 more have been categorized as “Road to Gold,” businesses that are working toward achieving Gold Class status.
I-CAR reaching out to consumers
Those businesses, and others with I-CAR-trained technicians, may be glad to hear that I-CAR is launching a consumer awareness campaign to help drivers understand the value of having their vehicles repaired by trained shops and technicians.
“During my first three years with this industry, I have been told many times that the consumer just doesn’t care about collision repair until the moment their car is hit,” Van Alstyne said, acknowledging that he too had previously not thought much about the topic before joining I-CAR in late 2010. “But no one ever told me I should think much about repairs, so I was ignorant.”
With that in mind, he said, I-CAR first benchmarked the level of awareness among consumers about collision repair, finding it very low. As part of this benchmarking, he said, “We gave them some information about things they should be aware of, and their interest perked significantly. They cared and wanted more information.”
“We need to educate and empower consumers to help them make informed collision repair decisions,” Van Alstyne said.
Speaking at a press conference following the day-long conference, Ann Gonzalez, senior director of marketing for I-CAR, said the organization is now working with a Detroit-based agency on a “larger-scale national and regional creative campaign,” to reach consumers. That will include public service announcements and social media advertising, she said. Those campaigns, which focus on “safe repairs” and “trained technicians” are currently being tested in some markets.
Elise Quadrozzi, I-CAR’s director of development for the insurance segment, said as more insurers include Gold Class or other training requirements as part of their direct repair program (DRP) agreements, they are interested in reaching consumers with a similar message about the value of that training.
“So I think you will see some initiatives coming to fruition pretty quickly where they will start to include that in their messaging. not just as part of the DRP structure, but actually as part of the messaging out to their consumers,” Quadrozzi said.
By getting this information directly to vehicle-owners, Van Alstyne said, “the consumer is going to help our industry do more of the right things.”
Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell has filed a lawsuit against State Farm Insurance alleging the nationwide insurer has engaged in a pattern of unfair and fraudulent business practices aimed at controlling the auto repair industry and forcing unsafe repairs on vehicles without the knowledge or consent of Louisiana consumers.
Attorney General Caldwell said, “State Farm has created a culture of unsafe business practices in which consumer vehicle repairs are performed with cost-savings as the primary goal rather than safety and reliability.”
The suit, filed in Louisiana’s 19th Judicial District Court, alleges State Farm violated Louisiana’s Unfair Trade Practices Act and Monopolies Law by using scare tactics to steer Louisiana consumers to State Farm’s preferred repair shops and forcing shops to perform vehicle repairs cheaply and quickly, rather than in accordance with consumer safety and vehicle manufacturer performance standards.
The lawsuit alleges that State Farm steers consumers to direct repair providers that have signed agreements with the insurance company. As part of the terms of the agreement, those repair shops must comply with the standards for repair laid out by State Farm. The insurance company, not the repair shop, dictates how long the repair should take, what types of repairs are made and the quality of replacement parts. In many cases, the repairs are completed with sub-standard parts without the consent of the policy holder.
“In some cases, we’ve found that these parts are nothing more than used junk yard parts. In others, we’ve found them to be foreign knock-off parts of questionable quality,” said Caldwell. “Auto repair is not an industry where you can cut corners to save a little money,” he said. “It could be a matter of life and death.”
Caldwell says the suit aims to change the culture of unsafe business practices led by State Farm in the auto insurance and repair industry. State Farm currently holds the largest share of auto insurance policies in Louisiana. In 2012, State Farm wrote one third of all auto insurance policies in the state totaling over $1 billion in premiums.
“Each month Louisiana consumers give their hard earned money to State Farm under the assumption that the insurer will take care of them if an accident occurs. This simply isn’t happening. Quite frankly, State Farm has been there for State Farm, not the Louisiana consumer,” Caldwell stated.
State Farm responded to the suit saying it does not reflect its history of advancing automotive safety. According to State Farm spokesperson Dick Luedke, answering a question by a trade media source, “The description in this lawsuit is not in line with State Farm’s mission to serve the needs of its customers, and our long, proud history of achievements in advancing vehicle safety. We are reviewing the lawsuit and will have more to share soon.”
Luedke also pointed toward a State Farm website that outlined the auto insurer’s involvement in advancing safety issues including the fact that State Farm is a Founding member of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
A PDF copy of the lawsuit can be found at www.autobodynews.com.
Assured Performance Network Makes the Case and Details Growing OEM Insistence on Being Part of Repair and Certification in the Future, NACE Attendees Clearly ImpressedWritten by Ed Attanasio
NACE is known for new product releases, fast breaking technology and fancy classic cars, but it’s also a place to get the latest news in the collision industry. Scott Biggs, the charismatic CEO, President and Founder of Assured Performance Network in Irvine, CA, delivered the goods when he spoke to a full room at this year’s NACE show. The message Biggs conveyed concerned the present and growing importance of manufacturer certifications and the associated referral programs that will soon become prevalent in the collision industry. His speech was both timely and relevant to any body shop, whether it’s a small independent all the way to a large MSO.
The times are a-changing and you don’t need to be Bob Dylan to see it, according to Biggs. “You need to know that this isn’t your grandfather’s or even your father’s certification program. The biggest difference is that now the automakers are rewarding the shops that invest in compliance with customer referrals.
OEM’s have already begun to refer their vehicle owners to these forward-thinking shops for their collision repair needs, and this will only increase over the coming months. The playing field has changed and business as usual is over. The biggest automakers with mass-produced and mass-market brands are using a very aggressive referral approach and that will place the certified shops at a whole different level.”
That Ford is leading the pack with this body shop certification program is a clear indication of where things are headed, Biggs explained. “Ford has made a new truck (the best selling vehicle in the country for 30 years) that cannot be fixed in the old-fashioned way—period. Following suit are other OEM’s. If you want to repair any of these vehicles, and there will be millions of them soon, you’re going to have to do it the right way—which requires new tools, equipment, training and facilities. Shops who do not embrace these changes put themselves and their customers in a very tenuous and unsafe position. So, certification really isn’t even elective in this case—it’s essential to be on the playing field in the future.”
Assured Performance has positioned itself right in the middle of this obvious game change. They are a legal co-op, a non-profit consumer advocacy organization and management company. Combined, they operate as a third-party administrator for body shop certifications and marketing programs for Ford, Nissan, Chrysler, Enterprise, GM and others. They also provide consumer awareness to thousands of media outlets and manage various vendor rebate programs. Uniquely, Assured Performance has the distinction of administering more than $13.5 million dollars of supplier rebate rewards to their members since 2004 which helps shops reinvest in their business.
“We’re helping all of the shops to keep pace with a rapidly changing marketplace. We welcome those that want to be a part of the future; our best estimate is that, to-date, only about 1 in 10 shops have already begun this journey,” Biggs said. “Our industry needs to urgently embrace this challenge to meet the repair needs of today‘s vehicles.
The company has already enrolled nearly 1,600 shops in their joint-effort OE Certification program and is well on their way to their objective of 2,000 shops by year-end 2014 and 3,000 by year-end 2015. Ford, Nissan, Chrysler and others now have similar coverage by leveraging the Assured Performance platform. Regardless of where a consumer lives or travels, they will have a Certified Collision Repair Provider choice, according to Biggs.
To handle the anticipated further growth of its third-party certification program, Assured Performance has added several industry veterans to its team. A significant recent addition for Assured Performance is Ronald Doerr, the company’s new Senior V.P. of Strategic Initiatives. Through 30-plus years working for GM on the OEM parts side, he brings a broad industry perspective and is respected across multiple market segments.
“I’ve known Scott Biggs and witnessed the evolution of his company over many years,” Clark said. “Scott has asked me to help the company in getting all of the pieces together as we move forward in the certification aspect of the business. As a former member of the OEM Roundtable, I’ve seen first-hand how these programs have grown and changed. Multiple carmakers building multiple vehicle models that require multiple shop repair capabilities have created a confusing and unmanageable environment for most shops.
“Cars have become so much more complex that certification is going to be more and more integral to the day-to-day operations of a body shop, regardless of where they are or what their business model is,” Doerr explained. “Assured Performance has interpreted and simplified the many moving parts, leveraging their commonalities instead of the exceptions. Assured Performance’s program has struck a chord with the OE’s and the industry because they all see a definite need. Shops can get the certification they need and in return, the OE’s are stepping up with things like referral programs.”
To ensure that the company has first-hand shop knowledge and experience, Assured Performance has five former shop owners and MSO managers onboard. Aaron Clark is one such former body shop owner. He is now Assured Performance’s V.P. of Certification and Network Development. Clark sold his seven shops at the end of 2012, anticipating retirement, but started working for Assured Performance a few months later. He‘s happy and excited to be with a growing company during an ideal time in the collision industry’s history, he said.
“The certification arm of this company is gaining more and more momentum every day because getting onboard with this program has quickly gone from an option to a necessity for body shops.” Clark said, “I was prepared to step away from the business after selling my shops, but when this opportunity was presented, I could not resist. We have a chance to reinvent this industry in a positive way and work to create something that never existed before.”
At NACE, Ford representatives discussed the details of repairing the 2015 F150 and their National Body Shop Network program and Clark elaborated on it. “As the maker of the number one selling vehicle representing nearly 700,000 sales per year, it was no wonder that all of their presentations had standing room only over three days,” Clark said. “The high-point of the presentation was how shops would be rewarded with official Ford certification—recognition for making the investment to become re-tooled, re-trained and re-equipped. Further, shops that can make the grade will ultimately receive referrals from not only Ford, but Nissan, Chrysler and others through their aggressive OEM consumer-facing awareness and marketing efforts.”
Chrysler, Nissan, and Ford are the first ones to announce a referral program and others will be unveiling their programs right after the first of the year. Clark sees the referral aspect of these certifications as a real shot in the arm for the collision industry as a whole. “These are 100% OE-driven customer referral programs that didn’t exist before, so it’s huge,” he said. “There is no question here—you will have to fix these new vehicles differently and therefore shops are going to have to invest in the training, tools and equipment. If you’re going to have to do all those things regardless, why wouldn’t you want to be recognized for it and receive referrals for doing it?”
The standard certification-recognition requirements used by Ford, Chrysler, Nissan, etc. are those developed by Assured Performance in cooperation with many OEM’s. Assured Performance supports the open competition approach to procure the tools and equipment required. This key aspect is illustrated well in Ford’s aluminum repair requirements for the new F150. To be Ford certified-recognized through 2015, the shop must become “aluminum capable” including having separate aluminum repair tools, a separate area (curtains or walls) for aluminum work, and specific repair training and welding certification provided by I-CAR. While Ford has these requirements, the shop can buy from several good choices where competition exists.
Assured Performance’s approach to body shop certification is unique in other ways as well. Instead of a surprise “pass-fail” test, Assured Performance uses a business development process. Even before the shop enrolls for the first time, they are able to evaluate their readiness by following the online capabilities assessment referred to as the “Pre-flight Checklist.” Shops interested in becoming certified are able to complete the “Capabilities Assessment” to review the requirements, see their deficiencies, and generate a business development plan, helping them get from where they are now to where they need to be, according to Doerr.
The turnkey system designed by Assured Performance even develops a shop—specific calendar, budget and equipment matrix with vendors listed to help the shop streamline the entire process. Even I-CAR working in conjunction with Assured Performance has developed a program called “Road to Gold” to address the evolving needs in the area of training. Equipment and tool vendors have also joined the effort, providing expedited online ordering and pricing to simplify and streamline the process of retooling for the shops willing to make the journey.
“Every aspect of this program is administered by Assured Performance, starting with the enrollment process, the shop capability assessments, their business development plans, the annual on-site physical audit-inspections, necessary online support systems, proof of compliance documentation, and even shop marketing,” Ron Doerr said. “Assured Performance’s joint-effort approach eliminates redundancy in equipment and duplication of the fees and the overall cost for a body shop to become certified. The cost savings for each shop is in the thousands of dollars, annually – a huge windfall by any calculation. And, in aggregate, the OEM’s are probably saving millions in non-core expenses - they can focus on building great cars and trucks and promoting the certified repair network while Assured Performance quarterbacks the improvements in repair business capabilities - truly a best path forward for all.”
A former Philadelphia police dispatcher and the co-owner of a Frankford auto-body shop pleaded guilty yesterday to participating in a bribery scheme involving the tow-trucking business, according to Julie Shaw, writing in the Philadelphia Daily News.
Dorian Parsley, 44, the ex-dispatcher, admitted before U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno that she had taken cash bribes from tow-truck operators in exchange for giving them confidential police information about the locations of accident scenes.
In a separate hearing before the judge, William Cheeseman, 43, co-owner of the K&B Auto Body shop on Kinsey Street near Worth, pleaded guilty to one count of bribery.
Two other defendants, Stepfon Flowers and Chad Harris, who at times worked as tow-truck operators for K&B, are expected to enter guilty pleas tomorrow.
According to a federal indictment unsealed in May, Parsley circumvented the Police Department’s rotational towing program by surreptitiously texting the locations of car accidents and disabled vehicles from her personal cellphone to the tow-truck operators, who paid her cash bribes for the information.
The rotational program was instituted in 2011 after a series of highly publicized, violent encounters among tow-truck operators competing for business. In one case in September 2010, a Philadelphia tow-truck driver killed a rival operator.
Under the newly instituted system, the location where a tow truck was needed was to remain confidential until given by police dispatch to the next tow-truck operator on the city’s call list.
Parsley, by giving the tow-truck operators advance notice of the location of an accident, ended up giving those operators an unfair advantage, authorities said.
She pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiracy, solicitation of a bribe and honest-services fraud. The bespectacled former dispatcher with short hair told the judge yesterday that she is not currently working.
Parsley first accepted bribes from Flowers, who in turn introduced her to Cheeseman. She later began to accept bribes from Harris. In total, from April 2011 to December 2013, Parsley received $35,400 in bribes from the three men, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Chun Barry said.
Parsley, most recently of Van Kirk Street near Oakland in Oxford Circle, worked as a civilian dispatcher from January 1998 to November of last year, when she was transferred to a different department of the police force. She was fired from the force in May.
Cheeseman, of Delran, N.J., agreed in court that the value of the confidential tips he received from Parsley was potentially worth about $9,000. His lawyer, Fortunato Perri Jr., said afterward that Cheeseman did not personally go out to tow the vehicles when he got the information from Parsley, but instead had given the assignments to another tow-truck operator.
Parsley faces a maximum 35 years in prison when she is sentenced Oct. 21. Cheeseman faces a maximum of 10 years at his Oct. 24 sentencing.
Motorists breezing through parts of Pennsylvania are now able to set their cruise control at 70 mph without having to worry about getting a speeding ticket. Pennsylvania is the latest state to join the 70 mph club. A 100-mile section of the Pennsylvania Turnpike south of Reading went from 65 mph to 70 mph last month. Pennsylvania also increased the speed limit from 65 mph to 70 mph on stretches of Interstates 80 and 380.
Altogether, 37 states now have speed limits of 70 mph or higher, with some highways in Texas, Utah, Idaho and Wyoming allowing drivers to zoom up to 80 or 85 mph, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.
New Jersey’s Department of Transportation told The Press of Atlantic City that there are no discussions with the Legislature to increase the speed limit from 65 mph to 70 mph on any highways or the state’s three toll roads.
“Raising the speed limit above its current levels would neither be safe or prudent,” NJDOT spokesman Steve Schapiro said. “Higher speeds lead to an increase in the number and severity of crashes, injuries and fatalities.”
CollisionMax Autobody and Glass Repair Centers has reached an agreement to advertise on 97.5 WPEN-FM “The Fanatic,” a Philadelphia sports talk radio station, the company announced.
Under the terms of the agreement, CollisionMax will sponsor the station’s “FanVote of the Day” listener poll, in addition to airing ads daily. To vote, listeners can go to the radio station’s website. http://www.975thefanatic.com. Recent polls asked readers to name the best quarterback in the NFL’s Eastern Conference, and who should be traded by the Philadelphia Phillies.
“We’re thrilled to be advertising on The Fanatic,” said Rich Tornetta, CollisionMax’s marketing communications manager. “Our radio advertising has been very effective for us, and our relationship with The Fanatic expands our reach to another listening audience.”
For the past two years, CollisionMax has been advertising on WPEN-FM’s sister station, WMMR-FM, Philadelphia’s leading rock format radio station. Both stations are owned by Greater Media Philadelphia.
Police say they have arrested a homeless man responsible for dozens of vehicle break-ins on Long Island in the past two months. Suffolk County police say 36-year-old Keith Keene was arrested Sunday in North Bellport after one of his victims recognized him from surveillance video. They say she called out to several onlookers who helped detain the man. Keene was arrested on grand larceny and petit larceny charges and is scheduled to be arraigned on Monday. It wasn’t clear if he had a lawyer. Police say Keene would ride around on a bicycle looking for unlocked vehicles. They say he stole cash, wallets, pocketbooks, jewelry, gift cards and electronic items. The thefts happened in Medford, East Patchogue and North Bellport.
Carubba Collision Presents Scholarships to Buffalo, NY High School Students at Upward Bound Awards Banquet at Buffalo State CollegeWritten by Administrator
Carubba Collision Corp. President, Joe Carubba, presented scholarships recently to a pair of Buffalo high school students at the Upward Bound Awards Banquet held at the State University of New York College at Buffalo campus in Buffalo, New York. Mr. Carubba provided the scholarships at the Hal D. Payne, Educational Opportunity Lifetime Service Student Scholarship Awards Program.
The two recipients of the scholarships were Terrell Johnson, a 2014 graduate of the Charter School for applied Technologies who will be attending Buffalo State College and Saw Mey, a 2014 graduate from Lafayette High School who will also be enrolled at Buffalo State College this fall.
One of eight federal TRIO Programs created for disadvantaged students, Buffalo State’s Upward Bound serves 9th through 12th graders from Buffalo annually. Activities include a mix of tutoring, afterschool programming, and a six-week summer residence at Buffalo State offering core academic subjects. Ninety percent of participants enroll in college after high school, including several at Buffalo State.
Delivering the keynote address at the event was former US Congressman Louis Stokes of Ohio. Mr. Stokes, who served in the House of Representatives from 1969 through 1999, was the first African-American to represent Ohio. Congressman Stokes chaired several congressional committees, including the House Select Committee on Assassinations that investigated the murders of President John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
“These young students who have achieved so much in high school deserve every opportunity to be successful in their college careers and in life” stated Joe Carubba. “I am honored to help out with these scholarships” Carubba added.
“Joe Carubba and Carubba Collision Corp. have made such a difference in our community because of their continual support and generosity” said Upward Bound Program Director Don Patterson.
The Alliance of Automotive Service Providers/New Jersey (AASP/NJ) has a Labor Pool service which helps match industry professionals with jobs at auto body and repair shops throughout the state. “If you have a skill related to the automotive industry and are looking for work, don’t wait! Call the AASP/NJ Labor Pool today and let us know that you are available,” the association states on its website. “We may have a job waiting for you.”
AASP/NJ has struggled to bring younger generations of workers into its professional fold. The Labor Pool approach helps to ensure that that the industry is leveraging the workers it has more effectively. “AASP/NJ understands that finding qualified employees in our industry is getting more and more difficult each year,” Executive Director Charles Bryant said. “It’s not a new problem, but it is one that is increasingly growing with the lack of young technicians coming into the automotive repair industry.”
Other benefits offered: The group offers a variety of other perks for its members, including discounts on payroll and human resource services, a member insurance offering, help with compliance and renewals, and access to legislation and forms relevant to the industry.
And if the group’s members need to refer their customers to a rental car service—a common need after an accident—they also can participate in a revenue-generating program with Hertz, which could become a potential revenue source for auto body repair shops. Did someone say “mutually beneficial”?
Bulletin - CAA San Diego Chapter Meeting
Subject: “Estimating vs Blueprinting” and the Leadership It Takes to Get There.
Date: Tuesday – August 19
Where: Tom Ham’s Lighthouse, Harbor Island – San Diego
Times: 6:30pm Check-in and Meet and Greet
7:00pm Meeting Starts
Come and participate with someone knowledgeable in production and lean leadership.
Share with the group what works for you and questions you may have.