"Take it off, Honey!" I pleaded with my wife as we ended an early-morning walk. My request concerned the doubt she'd just voiced that she could afford to take off just six workdays from her extensive office duties at our shop. It's a phobia common enough among business owners - the fear of who knows what awaits their return from enjoying the fruits of their labors: The fear of loss of control!
The October, 2001 issue of Autobody News front-lined an article, "Dealer Parts Managers Complain that Body Shops Return Excessive Number of Parts," voicing the opinions of parts managers interviewed. Three factors are pinpointed as contributing to an excessive number of returned parts - outright fraud, cycle time pressures that encourage ordering parts "just in case we need them," and parts orders based on estimates written by inexperienced insurance adjusters. It seems that the parts managers are sweating - and speaking out - about these issues.
Someone has said that you know you're getting older when your hair migrates from the top of your head to take up residence in your ears and nose. Age does have a funny way of sneaking up on us.
Recently, my wife Bobbbi's newer model Volvo was rear-ended. Although damages amounted to only $400, a GEICO representative remained unwavering in her efforts to try to force Bobbi to drive the 50 mile round trip to their nearest drive-in claim center. Speaking to her immediate superior got the same reaction. Even reminding these representatives that we own a collision shop and know our insured motorist's rights didn't dissuade these robots from their rote statements.
It's time for the third installment to Barons In The Buff, a collage of candid quotes from the mind-trust of insurer and associates wit and wisdom. Barons In The Buff simply re-quotes some of their stand-alone statements, untouched except for occasional clarification or comment. Want to contribute?… Send your gems to my address listed at the end of this article - no fabricated or embellished quips, please: What men say is often stranger than fiction. So sit back and have a good laugh, remembering that "A merry heart does good like medicine."
I believe the following quotes, all drawn from notes sent to me regarding articles I've written, are indicative of deep-seated convictions held by a growing number of collision repairers. Many repairers, especially DRP shops, are fearful of retribution by their insurance customers and won't speak their minds publicly (but they'll write to me). Here then, are their thoughts from my correspondence and other sources as noted.
From my perspective, ASA's official response to the Allstate Insurance buyout of Sterling Consolidators is a weak effort at appeasement of concerned/infuriated collision repair members of that Association. This response, obviously aimed at alienating as few as possible of their collision and insurer constituents and associates, reads: "ASA ardently supports consumers' unequivocal right to choose their collision repair facilities. ASA has grave concerns with controlling ownership of collision repair facilities by insurance companies. We are uncertain that the economic interests or the safety requirements of the American driving public can best be served by this type of vertical relationship.
There's been a lot of insolent crowing and misguided arrows over the issue of insurer ownership of collision shops, the Allstate/Sterling Consolidation presently holding center stage. To give their questionable venture a hint of correctness, Allstate's V.P., Chuck Paul, recently announced, "Your (collision repair) industry is fragmented; less than 10% of your shops do a million in sales annually" (as if shop stability could be measured only in millions; also neglecting to mention that his insurance industry has systematically worked to keep the collision industry "fragmented," to their advantage). Continuing, he reasoned since "car insurance is mature" and "there is no organic growth in this (insurance) business," Allstate's only avenue to expand and increase its market share is through buying into collision repair shops through consolidations such as Sterling. I feel much better knowing they had no choice!
On a recent Saturday my brothers and I and our families did some serious catch-up on Dad's place. A widower of 88 years, until severe osteoporosis limited his activities he kept his place prim and proper. Lawnmowers, pruning shears, and the like over a four-hour period, though, pretty well brought it back to its former state. In the process we also cleaned out a rag-tag accumulation of junk overhead in his garage. Among the clutter, an empty dynamite box dated 1953 brought back memories of a time soon after WW2, in which tractors were scarce and dynamite was relatively cheap, when we'd watch Dad blast stumps from our 20 acres. He learned the art of using the right amount and correct placement of dynamite while mining in his late teens.
Ever seen a Fiat Panda or Punto, or a Nissan Sunny, or an Opel ECO? How about a Hyundai Atos, a Datsun Cherry... or Fiat, Citroen or Peugeot pickups? These and other fuel-efficient looks-challenged automotive anomalies at times jockey for street space with bicycles, mopeds and motorcycles in western Cretan cities in a crazy, somewhat synchronized slow street dance. Older, less fuel-efficient vehicles are scarce in this land where a liter of gas (from BP, Texaco, Shell, or EKO gas stations) presently hovers somewhere over .80 Euro (around $.73). The stubbiness in body design of this new genre of autos coursing European streets would cause one to believe their designers went to lunch when they got to the center of these vehicles, and never came back.
Mark Olson, owner of Future Forensics (www.futureforensics.com), a business specializing in automotive damage investigations, was a recent guest speaker at our industry association meeting. His intimate knowledge of both the collision repair and insurance industries is gleaned from 15 years of collision shop experience and two years insurance company employment before establishing his collision damage investigations company, Future Forensics.
In two recent articles, I spoke with Mark Olson, owner of Future Forensics www.futureforensics.com, and part owner of Verifacts Automotive, businesses specializing in automotive damage investigations. Olson exposed a number of common mistakes that could easily land shops in legal hot water, even bankruptcy. Olson keeps up on the latest changes from manufacturer service bulletins, and knows first-hand, having supplied "expert witness" testimony at many auto-related court cases, how juries, unfamiliar with the intricacies of collision repair, render judgment. So, when Olson (an I-CAR instructor, former insurer representative, and former shop owner) offered to take a critical look my shop's repairs in progress, to point out what we're doing right and wrong, I accepted.
In last month's column, you read a candid review of our shop operation on Banbridge Island, near Seattle, Washington. The review was conducted by Mark Olson, owner of Future Forensics (www.futureforensics.com), and co-owner of Verifacts Automotive. Olson specializes in auto damage investigations and supplying "expert witness" testimony in auto-related court cases.