The skittishness among some in the industry about how formalized repair standards may be developed or implemented was evident during discussion at the most recent Collision Industry Conference (CIC).

At the meeting, the CIC-formed Repair Standards Advisory Committee offered an update on its work, including the hiring of a consultant to build a business case for the development and implementation of formalized standards.

Russ Thrall, publisher of CollisionWeek and a past CIC chairman and who co-chairs the advisory committee, said the goal of the consultant’s work is to present a report by November about what consensus exists within the industry about standards and a possible new organization to oversee the development and implementation of standards.

Thrall said that as of mid-July, the committee had raised $26,600 of the $60,000 it needs in sponsorships for the consultant’s work and the development of an industry forum on the topic in November. More than 50 percent of the 21 sponsors to date are collision repair businesses, 38 percent are suppliers and less than 5 percent are insurers.

Mike Condon, whose consulting firm has been hired by the committee, said he has conducted about 10 of the 40 interviews—about half with repairers and half with those in other segments of the industry—that he anticipates doing to prepare the report for the committee. That report, he said, will examine if there is support for the idea of a standard-setting body, and if so, how that body could be structured and funded. As part of the research, Condon also will examine standard-setting entities in other industries and in the collision repair industry in other countries.

He said he is also looking at what various segments of the industry view as “deal-breakers” in the concept.

“We want to flesh those out so we don’t go down a path that ultimately will not work,” Condon said.

Speaking for the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) and the Alliance of Automotive Service Providers (AASP), Aaron Schulenburg of SCRS said the two groups “believe standards are both necessary and a good thing,” but have concerns about the approach the CIC committee is taking.

“Our members believe there are standards that exist today,” Schulenburg said. “They view the (automaker) recommendations and procedures as the standard. That standard is not followed every day because while that’s the overwhelming view of repairers, not every industry segment recognizes that or agrees with that statement. And some of those other industry segments and participants who don’t necessarily support that as the standard are involved in this activity and committee, and that is cause for concern.”

Thrall said those opinions are part of what Condon’s research is designed to capture, and that the associations’ volunteer leadership are among those slated for interviews.

While some CIC participants at the July meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah, raised questions or concerns about the consultant’s research process or the questions being asked in interviews, Rollie Benjamin, CEO of ABRA Auto Body & Glass, called that “micromanaging the process.”

“I trust Russell, I trust Mike. I think they will do a good job,” Benjamin said. “I think they’ll come out with the information we need to make a good decision on whether we move forward or not. Let’s let these guys do their job.”

Scott Biggs of Assured Performance Network, who also is part of the leadership of the committee, said he understands that the standards issue may be “threatening to so many different organizations because it is such an enormous issue.” But he said those with concerns should understand that opposing viewpoints are held and being voiced even among those leading the effort.

“There isn’t even general consensus within the executive committee,” Biggs said. “I can tell you that’s what Mike’s charter is: to see what people’s opinions are.”

Dale Delmege, another former CIC chairman who has been asked by the committee to raise the additional $33,000 needed for the project, urged repairers to donate $100 per facility (insurers and vendor sponsors are also being sought) for the effort. Delmege said he sees the consultant’s work has having no bias toward shops, insurers or automakers. He also said his research of the repair standards program in the United Kingdom indicates it has been positive for the industry.

“They transformed their industry—about an hour and 15 minutes before regulators ‘helped them’ do so,” Delmege said. “Those people over there are pretty happy about where they got to.”

State Farm, others offer updates
In other news and discussion at CIC in Salt Lake City:

  • George Avery of State Farm said the insurer is continuing to work on an electronic parts ordering system it will require its Select Service shops to use. “The repairer will continue to have a choice on who they buy parts from, and they will have control over which parts they buy, regardless of the price,” Avery said. “We are not interested in purchasing parts. What we’re interested in is helping the industry smooth out the process. We believe in quality, efficiency and competitive price. As you know, we have a scorecard that we use to evaluate performance across the board in those three categories. So that’s why we think the repairer is the best person to make the choice on parts.”
  • Doug Craig, collision repair manager for Chrysler, said Chrysler, Ford and some other automakers are working to “commonize where we can” some of their “approaches to different repairs.” He said Chrysler also will be moving away from “recommendations” to instead offer much more specific “requirements on what process, procedure and/or components... should be used in a repair.”
  • The National Auto Body Council said because 20 percent of all collision and mechanical repair technicians are Hispanic, it will soon be release a Spanish glossary of collision industry terms. The glossary, which will be downloadable and searchable, was funded in part by a grant from AASP.
  • The CIC Insurer-Repairer Relations Committee released a draft of what the committee is compiling as elements of the “most beneficial and productive repairer-insurer relationships.” Those elements—11 of them in the current draft, some of which apply to non-direct repair program shops as well – include an explicit outline of the key performance indicators (KPIs) used to measure shop performance; consistency between corporate and field employees regarding the selection and retention of DRP shops; an unbiased dispute resolution process with a designated point of contact to resolve issues “free of the fear or reprisal’: communication to the consumer about the relationship between insurer and shop; and a streamlined electronic communication process between repairer and shop.
  • I-CAR’s Jeff Peevy said 11 percent of shops in the United State have achieved the “Gold Class Professionals” designation, and another 20 percent are involved in some level of consistent technician training. But 69 percent of shops, he said, have no consistent training for technicians “yet they claim to do collision repairs.” He urged more insurers to require their DRP shops to maintain the Gold Class designation. “If you do not require training of those shops that are doing repairs for you, you need to consider the rapid changes (in vehicle design and materials),” Peevy said. “You cannot properly repair a new car accidentally anymore. You just can’t do it.”

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