This month, we’re looking at the Assured Performance Certification Network, representing Ford, Nissan, FCA, Infiniti, Hyundai and Kia (Ford was handled in a previous profile.)
For this interview we caught up with Scott Biggs, industry icon and CEO of Assured Performance.
Does your program have a specific name? When was it started?
The Assured Performance Certification Network was formed starting in 2003, and has since grown to include joint-effort collaboration with several OEMs. Now, Assured Performance Certified Repair Providers have the option of multiple OEM Certifications and Recognitions through one centralized and managed program, saving redundancy and extraneous costs. The joint effort program includes the following OEMs:
1. “FCA Certification Collision Care” Program launched in 2012.
2. “Ford National Body Shop Network” Program launched in 2014.
3. “Nissan-Recognized Collision Care” Program launched 2012. In 2014, Assured Performance took over administration of the program.
4. “Infiniti-Recognized Collision Care” Program launched in 2012. In 2014, Assured Performance took over administration of the program.
5. “GT-R Certified Collision Repair Network” Program. Assured Performance took over administration of the program in 2017.
6. “Hyundai-Recognized Collision Care” Program launched in 2015
7. “Kia-Recognized Collision Care” Program (most recent partnership) launched in October 2017.
What is the main purpose of the program?
To identify and officially certify and/or officially recognize collision repair providers that possess the proper tools, equipment, training and facilities required to properly repair automobiles to manufacturers’ specifications---ensuring the fit, finish, durability, value and safety of the vehicle and to assist consumers and insurers with locating and connecting with those Certified Repair Providers.
What are the program requirements?
There are 36 major requirements that shops must meet, and an additional eight if they wish to be aluminum-certified for the Ford program. Edited for brevity, here are some of the main requirements:
General Business Requirements:
• Be in business for at least five years
• Provide proof of Garage Keepers liability insurance
• Provide a limited lifetime warranty on all work performed
Customer Service Requirements:
• Measure customer satisfaction through a third-party provider
• Have a professional and well-maintained customer reception, waiting and restroom area
• Utilize a preferred rental car provider
General Technical Repair Capability:
• Meet I-CAR Gold Class or equivalent with proof of ongoing training
• Subscribe to current OEM repair procedures and have the ability to provide documented proof of compliance
• Utilize a frame rack or dedicated/universal fixture bench with appropriate vehicle anchoring and pulling capabilities
• Utilize an electronic, three-dimensional vehicle measuring system
Advanced Materials Repair Capabilities:
• Must have a 220 volt, 3-phase Inverter STRW welder
• Must have a 220 volt MIG/MAG welder
• Must have a dent removal/pulling system for steel panels
Aluminum requirements include but are not limited to:
• Isolated aluminum work area
• Tools designated for aluminum work only include all special tools, as specified by Ford Motor Company
• 220 Pulse MIG welder specifically for use with aluminum
• Utilize a special SPR rivet gun, as specified by Ford.
What are the program benefits?
The Assured Performance Network of dealer-owned and independent Certified Repair Providers benefits includes the following:
• Official certification and recognition by more than 63 percent of the OEMs under one program, including Ford, Nissan, Fiat, Dodge, Jeep, Chrysler, Lincoln, Infiniti, Hyundai, GT-R and Kia.
• Leverage the OEM brands: Use of the official OEM-certified signage, OEM logos and badges to promote and market the shop through use in marketing, advertising, social media, online and recruitment.
• Listing on online shop locators and smart apps with appointment setting. Certified shops are listed on multiple online shop locators with the exclusive ability to set appointments directly with a certified shop. These sites include the following:
o Consumer-Facing Certified Shop Locator
o Insurer-Facing Advanced Repair Capable Certified Shop Locator
o OEM Branded Certified Shop Locators
• Marketing and collateral materials provided by all of the OEMs to promote their official status with the OEMs.
• Multi-media in-shop system (eLOBBY) for consumer awareness and shop promotion, including lobby area electronic signage and full-length videos as well as revolving OEM messaging.
• ShopOps operational process management system that includes a full library of processes, procedures, checklists and job descriptions, a turnkey HR management system, KPI reporting, business development and planning tools, data management and safeguarding, customer relations management, training management and tracking.
• Electronic Quality Assurance Program (OE-QC) that enables the shop to efficiently document using OEM repair procedures and the adherence to a quality control checklist electronically, including the use of smart devices at the technician level.
• On-demand, data-driven marketing for various OEMs, based upon the shops own historical customer base.
• Collision Care Marketing Tools: Access to a suite of Collision Care marketing materials to differentiate Certified Collision Repair Businesses from local competition; includes press releases, eLOBBY, eLISTINGS and On Demand Marketing.
• OE Owner Referrals: OEM Direct Consumer Marketing, as OEMs send millions of consumers direct emails and letters throughout the years to their vehicle owners promoting the Certified-Recognized Collision Repair Programs
• Manufacturer Collision Consumer Education: consumer education marketing and multi-media videos and commercials that highlight the importance of using OEM parts and a Ford-Certified Collision Repair location.
• Business Improvement: Turnkey system to assess and chart improvements and performance throughout the business. The system is supported by independent consultants to assist as desired, optionally.
• OEM Repair Procedures: Various OEMs subsidize the cost of the subscription to their OEM repair procedures for the Certified Collision Repair Centers.
What shops are eligible?
Any dealer-owned, independently owned body shop or MSO that meets the certification’s combined requirements as published. Some OEMs have additional requirements, e.g. Ford Certification requires additional aluminum-specific [requirements].
Must an independent shop be sponsored by a dealer? If so, has that caused any problems?
There are requirements to have a dealer sponsor the shop for some of the OEMs, but dealers are NOT limited to how many and which of their body shop customers they can sponsor, eliminating the opportunity for unethical practices in pay-to-play and extorting for access.
Which OEs do you represent?
Assured Performance is the partner and administrator for Nissan, FCA, Hyundai, Infiniti, Ford and Kia.
What is the fee for the program? Does the program run on an annual basis?
$2,950 per year is the base certification fee for independent shops, plus various optional marketing and signage fees specifically for each OE certification-recognition the collision repairer elects to enroll in. All programs combined are approximately $6,300 annually total, but there is no cost for the ShopOps or Quality Assurance systems. This total cost represents less than 40 percent of the full overall costs of all of the programs. The shop’s annual fees are subsidized by the participating OEM by as much as 60 percent.
Yes, the program runs on an annual basis.
Do you inspect every shop and if so, who does the inspections?
Yes, every collision repairer is inspected and audited onsite on an annual basis. The results are documented, electronically published and posted online for additional internal auditors to review and approve. Assured Performance maintains a national network of onsite inspectors/auditors that use smart apps with GPS location tracking to ensure integrity.
Is there an optimum number of shops you want to have and if so, how close are you to reaching that number?
Yes, our overall objective is to maintain 100 percent demographic and geographic coverage of all urban, rural and suburban market areas and have adequate coverage to meet the repair needs for all units in operations for all of the brands represented. This requires approximately 3,000--3,600 certified repair providers across North America.
Have you had any shops drop out and if so, why?
So far, only about 2/3 of all of the shops that apply are able to eventually become certified and remain in the program. The annual renewal rate is nearly 90 percent because most of the collision repairers have continued in the program, unless they sell out to a consolidator or go out of business.
What has been the biggest challenge in establishing the network?
Our initial challenge was getting the industry to understand its value and importance. However, once we established a national footprint of well over 1,000 shops, the momentum changed. Getting to 3,000 is now a matter of shops re-investing to improve their business.
While approximately 10--15 percent of the industry is well on its way to becoming OEM- certified (3,500 to 5,000 shops), the rest remain fixed on the past. Many collision repairers claim they have a great reputation in their market and generate plenty of work without the cost of compliance and certification credentials. There are also many shops that elect to operate outside of the mainstream and don’t feel they’re part of the equation. A massive percentage of the market focuses on cosmetic repairs and/or low-cost, consumer-paid repairs and wrongly assume they don’t have to have the OEM-required tools, equipment and training to still be able to repair the next generation of vehicles.
What is you biggest challenge in maintaining the network?
The biggest challenge in maintaining the network is keeping all of the moving parts focused on the big picture and overall vision of a “proper and safe repair while consumers receive an exceptional treatment.” There are always people popping up with a new idea and me-too program that look shiny and exciting that can distract the market.
With any program, there is always the challenge of keeping the shop engaged and using certification correctly to differentiate them and have them stand out from the non-certified shops in their market. We have continuously added more OEMs and more value to the program to ensure that the shops see and gain value.
Our overall objective is to ensure our network is filled with best-in-class businesses performing at their peak potential. To achieve that, we have to invest several million into the IT and innovation with new tools for quality assurance, business improvement, consumer awareness, marketing, human resource management, customer service and data integrity.
Certified Collision Care Providers are extraordinary and not the same as body shops. They need to look and operate differently by using the tools that are available to them to improve their business model.
Based on the recent John Eagle decision, will you make any changes to your program?
We have already made the changes by introducing an OE-QC Quality Assurance program to enable shops to properly and adequately electronically document their use of OEM repair procedures and help manage their technicians’ compliance to quality for 100 percent of their repairs. This is far superior to the spot check approach. NOTE: We are the only organization or certification program from any OEM with this tool, and it is offered at no charge to our Certified Repair Providers as an integral part of their certification.
What do you see for the future of OE certification programs?
The future of the OEM certification programs will be stronger, and more than ever, the backbone to ensuring vehicles are properly repaired to protect the consumers. With vehicles becoming more advanced in material and technology, coupled with the introduction of telematics, the OEM is going to be playing a bigger role in the collision business. Eventually, consumers will demand that their new generation vehicle only be repaired by a shop that is certified to repair their specific vehicle.