Wednesday, 21 December 2011 14:09

Sure, OEMs Set the Standard, But Who Fills the Gaps Left by OEMs?

Written by Insurance Insider

The debate continues to rage: What is the standard for collision repairs? Who develops the standard? Is it possible to deviate from the standard? If you can deviate, what entity can provide an alternate to the standard?

As such, people, committees, associations, not-for-profit organizations and corporations are lining up quicker than adults outside of Toys R Us on Black Friday to offer their two cents on the subject. Sadly, most of their opinions aren’t worth a single copper Lincoln penny.

Why not? Because most of those offering an opinion are basing their decision upon something other than being experts on the topic.

I’m not professing to be an expert or proficient enough in repair methodology to offer an opinion worthy of your consideration. While that may be the most humble thing you will ever read in one of my articles, I am going to give you my opinion anyway. The way I see it, if you are reading and listening to alleged industry experts weigh in, why not an insurance executive who has never actually repaired a vehicle? Maybe I’m the best person to offer an opinion because I don’t stand to gain anything.

Although I’ve never repaired a vehicle, don’t discredit the wisdom I’m about to impart upon you. Sometimes the best ideas come from the most unlikely of places. Do you think Moses knew what was going to happen at the top of the mountain? If you happen to be a good church-going boy or girl, you know that is where Moses received the Ten Commandments. Who could have guessed sectioning procedures were even an issue back then?

So let me answer a few of the questions I posed at the outset of the article. In order the answers are: OEM, OEM, yes, to be determined. Even though I may be just an insurer who doesn’t know much, I know that the car manufacturer sets the standard. They spend millions of dollars engineering these vehicles. I think they should have some say as to how they are or are not repaired.

But note I said: They should have “some say…” That’s right. They aren’t the end-all, be-all. The car manufacturers don’t have all the answers. It’s not God’s word. If it were, the Gospel according to the car manufacturers would be shrouded in monopolistic tendencies. If the car manufacturers were God for the day, aftermarket and salvage parts would be banished to hell. That’s not just or realistic.

The fact is that the industry needs to be very careful what it is asking for. I would challenge any of my diehard readers to search for sectioning or replacement procedures on an assortment of foreign and domestic vehicles. You will find that there aren’t procedures to repair every part on the vehicle. There are more gaps than there are in our current health care plan. Neither provides the desired end result.

So if we use the car manufacturer as the standard, does it automatically mean that alternative repair procedures can’t be developed? If you say ‘yes,’ there’s no need for you to read any further. You should also stop repairing vehicles at your shop because you are repairing them incorrectly. If you don’t believe me, try printing out the car manufacturers’ repair procedures on every vehicle in your shop. I think you will quickly realize that you can’t repair the car because there isn’t a standard for everything. Thus there is a need for alternatives from respected entities in the industry.

I’m ill-equipped to suggest the best organization or company to develop an alternative, but I can assure you that safe and cost effective repair procedures can be developed. NHTSA (the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), Thatcham  (in the UK) and I-CAR are names that are often cited as the best candidates.

Regardless as to who or how they are developed, alternative repair procedures should be as important to the industry as defining the car manufacturer as the standard. I would argue that it’s probably more important. If finding potential safe alternate repairs isn’t an option, the industry is beholden only to the car manufacturers and their desire to be a profitable entity responsible to their shareholders.

The debate shouldn’t be whether or not the car manufacturer is the standard. It should be about which organizations are best equipped to develop viable safe alternative repair options. Alternatives that ultimately provide you more opportunities to repair a vehicle as opposed to having it towed from your lot, auctioned and shipped overseas.