First let me say that there is no “right” answer to most of the challenges a collision owner faces today. Things that worked in the past will no longer cut it today and we need to constantly re-invent the wheel. I will give some examples of ways to cautiously move forward in today’s market.
The danger in focusing on the past is that we sometimes forget to deal with the present in a productive manner. By this I mean that we want everything to be as is was and keep thinking that things soon will return to the way they were pre-recession.
As the financial pressure mounts with the U.S. recession going on three years now, the collision industry is rapidly falling behind the technology curve. Many shops are unable to afford the training and new equipment required to repair today’s modern vehicles.
I read about the aftermarket parts testing conducted by ABPA (ABPA Says Aftermarket Bumper Outperformed Ford Counterpart in Crash Test—Page 47 this issue) and I have to say that I expected as much. Not unlike CAPA certification, the results will always favor the aftermarket part. In the article they stated that is some cases the aftermarket performed “better than the OEM.”
As 2011 approaches and we move forward into another year in the collision industry, we can be sure of one thing: vehicles are changing. The way we as collision repairers do business is also changing. We are running our companies leaner. We are measuring our efficiencies and comparing our numbers with other shops around us. We have all become better at running businesses. We have changed drastically in how we manage our customer.
What gives me the right to comment on any of the above issues and why would I want to bite the hand that feeds me? If there were no problems with aftermarket crash parts why would I even care?
I am in business to make money, and to stay in business I need to treat my customers fairly and honestly. Part of being in business responsibly is serving my customers by giving them good and honest value for their money. If there were no problem with these parts I would embrace them and present them to my customers as an added value. I would be an advocate, not a critic, of the aftermarket part.
I am a member of the CAA, the SCRS and a Gold Pin holder of CIC; I have some questions for all these organizations.
My first question is to the board of the CAA. As a member of the CAA, I want to know where the board stands on aftermarket parts? Do you agree with the aftermarket parts companies when they say they have tested their parts and they are the same as OEM parts according to the law that reads that the parts must be of ‘like kind and quality’ to the OEM’s?
We all have worked really hard the last two years in anticipation of an upturn in the economy. What now? I haven’t seen much of an upswing. Although, as a matter of fact, I haven’t seen things get any worse either. We have made our adjustments and we just seem to be plugging along.
I try to write articles to help others out; articles that try to motivate shop owners and managers to do a better job. I have come under attack many times from some in our industry for voicing my opinion and being the person that is willing to speak up and say the hard truth.
Last month Toby Chess wrote an article in Autobody News (see Dec. 09 issue) that was about two repairs on completed by two different shops on Mercedes Benz vehicles that were not only repaired in a substandard way but safe to say in an un-safe manner. I want to add to what Toby had to say because this is not the exception but the norm.
There is the way “it should be” and then there is “the way it is.” Deal with the way it is and forget the way it should be. “It should be” will never benefit you; you will become bitter and cynical and could become distracted from the problems at hand.
I have watched our industry take two steps backwards and one step forward for over thirty years. Because of this “every man for himself” attitude that runs predominately within the collision industry, we are unable to control the repair process even when it comes to safety. I have heard it said that most shops really would fix the cars correctly but they are being hindered because they are not being paid enough. I say “Bull.”
One of my favorite movies was the Western miniseries Lonesome Dove, starring Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Duvall along with Robert Urich and Danny Glover. This was a story of the legendary Texas Rangers and the old West. There were several great parts but a theme throughout the entire movie was that these men had a bond that was all about integrity and honor. There is a scene that comes to mind where they were forced, because of their integrity, to hang one of their friends because he had stepped outside of the law and, most importantly, he had breached their unwritten code of honor.