ABN: Have you had any shops drop out and if so, why?
Audi: We are big on training because we want the cars fixed properly and our customers to drive a safe automobile. I want to be able to stand up in front of a group of people at an industry meeting or show, talk about training and know all of our shops are properly trained. So if a shop can’t or won’t meet our requirements and complete the proper training, we have to part ways. Of course, we give the shop plenty of opportunity to take the training. We call and let them know when the training will take place and ask if we can sign them up at that time.
ABN: If the shop is removed from the program due to a training lapse, and they later take the training, are they allowed back into the program?
Audi: We address that on a case by case basis. It is a lot less work to allow that shop back into the program than to go out and find another shop and start from scratch.
ABN: Do you have a field force?
Audi: We have Area After-Sale Managers who work with both dealers and shops, but they are not collision-dedicated.
ABN: What has been the biggest challenge in establishing the network?
Audi: Today in 2018, most people in the industry know about high-strength steel, aluminum and such, and know that vehicles with these substrates require different tools, equipment and procedures. When we started back in 2003, this was a foreign concept to most people---even those in the industry. First, I had to convince our own corporate team at Audi that changes were necessary. Then we had to convince our dealers. They wanted to continue fixing cars the same way they learned 25 years ago. It was a challenge in 2003, but we eventually started changing minds.
ABN: What is you biggest challenge in maintaining the network?
Audi: Our biggest challenge is maintaining communication with our shops. It seems the technician base in our shops is pretty solid---few people come and go. The “churn” is with management people in the shops. It’s a real challenge to get them to keep their profile current so we know who we are talking to when we call. It’s also a challenge to keep everyone’s training current.
ABN: What do you see for the future of OE certification programs?
Audi: I think it is inevitable that all OEs will have some sort of certification program. Those that don’t have a program now will start one. Those that have an existing program will put more teeth into it.
In the future, I think OEs will make their customers more aware of their programs and find ways to drive more vehicles to their shops.
Also in the future, I think insurance companies will pay more attention to certified shops and give them more credence due to liability concerns.
ABN: Any final thoughts?
Audi: We have a lot of other ideas to enhance the program. Some are under development, some are still just ideas. But we will continue to move forward with the industry.