Representatives of General Motors, speaking at the Women’s Industry Network (WIN) Educational Conference in May, talked about recent and upcoming changes to the automaker’s Collision Repair Network (CRN), which currently includes just over 700 auto body shops.

Megan Sullivan, collision program manager, said nearly all of the required tools and equipment to qualify for the program are now spec-based, rather than requiring specific brands or models. Shops seeking to qualify for the second level of the program---which is required in order for a shop to purchase restricted structural parts for the Corvette C8 and Cadillac CT6---can now participate in a “sharing program” for the specific fixtures and tools that level of the network requires.

“We realize they may only see a Cadillac CT6 a couple of times a year in their shop, and we were getting feedback that some of the tools were really expensive for the low amount of repairs,” Sullivan said.

CRN shops with technical questions about repair procedures---or the lack of a procedure---can email the automaker’s collision repair technical support team. CRN shops also can use a free dashboard through AutoHouse technologies that allows them to see how they compare to other shops in terms of cycle time and other metrics. Kelli Doherty, independent aftermarket collision manager at GM, said that dashboard will in the future be used as part of a ranking program of CRN shops.

In terms of more proactively driving work to CRN shops---beyond GM’s shop locator site and the marketing assets available for shop use---Sullivan said OnStar subscribers are emailed a link to the shop locator the day after a crash is detected, but only if the driver contacted OnStar after the accident and if no injuries were involved.

Given the automaker’s access to that telematics data, the GM representatives were asked if GM has future plans to partner with insurance companies.

“Yeah, we absolutely do,” Doherty said, noting OnStar Insurance has launched to help GM “understand that market better.” “OnStar has a great read on what happens to a vehicle the instant there’s an accident. So we have some great data. We have to figure out how that translates to what’s in the best interest of the consumer, and how we can get that vehicle repaired safely and properly.”

Sullivan and Doherty were asked about the continued challenge with back-ordered parts.

“It’s painful. I’m not going to lie,” Doherty said. “Is it getting better? It is. We’ve seen a back-order decrease of about 30% since the beginning of the year. So we’re getting some relief, but it is difficult.”

She said the current increase in new car sales “helps our case for the need for service parts.”

The owner of an independent shop at the conference told Doherty she’s experienced dealers not performing needed calibrations she has sublet to them, despite providing the service department with exactly what collision repair work had been done to the vehicles. Doherty said dealers are held to the same standards as independent shops in terms of GM’s shop certification, and “if we find out [needed calibration] is not happening, there’s clearly some communication that will happen.”

Doherty was also asked about when the automaker describes a procedure as “required” versus “recommended.”

“You need stronger language, is that what you’re asking? We’ve heard that feedback,” Doherty said, saying she is working with the GM engineering team about such language, and that GM “understands the position it puts you in.”

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