Pierini also said that CAWA will continue to support work done by the Quality Parts Coalition (See Autobody News July 2011 Edition) on the federal level in their efforts to stop parts patenting by automakers.
On a state level, Pierini said the CAWA will continue to support the California Air Resources Board (CARB)’s efforts to reduce active ingredients in automotive products.
“CARB continues to intervene in the industry with ongoing efforts to reduce the active ingredients in many automotive products including paint, as well as glazing and solvents, etc. We (CAWA) will remain vigilant on CARB’s efforts and respond accordingly,” said Pierini.
Larry Houk, Manager of Drew Collision-Fix Auto & Glass in San Diego, CA, also the President of the California Autobody Association (CAA) San Diego chapter, gave his take on industry issues over 2011.
“I feel that the biggest issue for our market has been the misconception of what is being called ‘The Competitive Market.’ Shops are willing and doing repair labor well below what is the industry standard out of desperation due to a lack of volume and hoping to get more work from Insurers because of it,” said Houk. “Autobody collision repair is a business and has to be profitable to stay in business; trading dollars in order to have the opportunity to repair vehicles will soon close the doors.”
Houk feels that this degradation of repair quality in order to reduce prices for insurers will lead to another negative year for the collision industry.
“I feel because of the bad business practices we are seeing from some of our competitors, that next year we will see a lot of shops closing up. Profit is not forbidden or a dirty word, collision repair is a business and needs treated as such!” said Houk.
Aftermarket vs. OEM Parts Issues
In November, the Inland Empire chapter of the California Autobody Association (CAA) held a Parts Symposium meeting at LKQ in Ontario, CA. Several aftermarket associations and certifying groups spoke to 217 CAA members, insurance executives and aftermarket representatives about issues within the aftermarket industry.
Monte Etherton, owner of Fender Mender in Encinitas, CA, pointed out some inconsistency he had seen between CAPA certified parts. Jack Gillis said that there can be inconsistency between some CAPA certified parts and CAPA is working to cut down on that by continuing to inspect 70 to 80 percent of their parts after the initial certification.
Gillis also talked about the well-reported sawzall tests initiated by I-CAR Instructor and Autobody News Columnist Toby Chess where Chess used a reciprocating saw to easily slice through an aftermarket bumper bar. Chess’ point was to demonstrate that the materials to fabricate the reinforcements were not the same. In the demonstration the saw couldn’t cut through the original automaker bumper bar. Gillis said that the backlash in the aftermarket parts industry following Chess’ demonstrations pushed CAPA to create a specific set of rigorous steps for bumper parts certification.
Bob Frayer with NSF International touched on one issue body shops face with using certified aftermarket parts; if there is an issue with a certified part the only way a shop can file a complaint is to take the time to sit down and fill out a lengthy form.
Unfortunately, Frayer said, there is not currently another option for a shop when filing a grievance about a certified part—whether it be by CAPA or NSF.
However SCRS has recently initiated a parts report form that encourages repairers to report substandard an poorly fitting parts regardless of source.
In November representatives of Insurance Commissioner David Jones called a pre-notice public meeting for discussions on regulations regarding standards for reasonable repairs and the use of aftermarket parts.
The draft regulations largely pertain to the specification and use of aftermarket parts, but also include new requirements for adjusting estimates as well as consumer disclosures and remedies in the event that a defective part is used for a repair. (See Autobody News December 2011 Edition).
At one point during the meeting, parts certification was introduced, but it was pointed out that the issue at hand was not certification, but insurer accountability.
Gene Crozat, the owner of G&C Auto Body, attended the meeting and offered his perspective prior to the presentation. After reviewing the proposed changes, Crozat recognizes that the Commissioner is addressing a volatile subject and questions some of the language within the contemplated revisions.
“I fix 1,000 cars every month and at least 70% of them contain aftermarket parts, prescribed by the insurance companies,” Crozat said. “In many cases, the aftermarket parts are equal in quality when compared to factory parts and price is always a huge issue. By using aftermarket parts many cars that would have been totaled can be fixed. For example, a bumper on a 1998 Toyota Corolla from the factory costs $239, but I can get a comparable set for $74 from the aftermarket. We need the aftermarket to provide competition for the OEMs. Can you imagine what factory parts could cost if there was no aftermarket?”
Gigi Walker—owner of Walker’s Auto Body and Fleet Repair in Concord, was enthused about the meeting: “I hope these new regulations proposed by Commissioner Jones will better hold accountable the parts that don’t work to the insurers,” she said. “As you know, many shops don’t get reimbursed for parts that don’t fit properly. These proposed revisions just might help the collision repairer to recoup the costs associated with ill-fitting aftermarket parts. These might not cover a DRP contract position with an insurer/collision agreement, but by Commissioner Jones opening up the conversation it’s definitely good for both sides of the industry. I’ve never seen this before, so it’s very promising.
“The OEMs have procedures in place for the replacement/welding of certain components on vehicles and to make sure that these are mandatory in the written estimate and in the repair process are crucial in delivering a quality repair to the consumer. I hope some of the changes make the repair process for the collision repairer and consumers better, because that’s what it is all about. The first change adds more specific requirements for estimates written by insurers. Current law simply requires insurers to write an estimate that will allow the repairs to be made in ‘a workmanlike manner.’”
CA Continues to Lead the Way in Environmental Issues
One notable regulation that caused a stir in 2011 was the Air Quality Management District (AQMD)’s Rule 1147. The rule would have required many shop owners to install expensive equipment to control noxious emissions.
The rule could have required shops to install special gas meters and retrofit spray booths with low NOX burners at an approximate cost of $25,000 for a typical shop. Endres noted the fact that the rule failed to provide for any inspector to actually read the gas meters. In his testimony before the committee, he noted that a simple way to identify the volume of gas use would be to look at the shop’s gas company bill that specifies the number of therms used in a month. Less than 2400 therms would indicate less than a pound of pollutants per month, even for as many as three spray booths.
Thanks to work done by Anthony W. (Tony) Endres, president of Furnace Dynamics, Inc., Linda Holcomb, President of the CAA Glendale/Foothills chapter, and several members of the CAA this requirement has been postponed until 2017, and a probable elimination of all collision repair shops from the requirement before then is expected, saving shops an enormous unnecessary investment.