I was in a meeting recently with about 30 other industry professionals where one person shared that of 10 steering columns he’d inspected for one particular domestic automaker, three were damaged.
Another said his shop had just removed a headliner and found a supplemental restraint system senor had been dislodged.
Wow. Think about what may have happened if those issues were not found. The result in a future accident could have had disastrous consequences.
But I also have a message for the industry as a whole and for the automakers in particular: We need to develop more clarity on this subject, if only to remove the friction I’m seeing.
I salute the automakers looking for creative solutions that reduce the need for the invasiveness of some of these inspections.
One OEM, for example, has put a sight glass in the steering column underneath the airbag cover. If you look through that sight glass and see a particular marking, that tells you the steering column has collapsed and needs to be replaced. If you don’t see the mark, you’re good to go. That’s an easier, less labor intensive solution.
Some automakers also try to clarify differences in what steps are necessary based on whether airbags have deployed or not deployed.
But others use such phrases such as “minor to moderate collision.” I think we need to get a better definition of what qualifies as a “minor to moderate collision.”
Just like most of you, I’m not an engineer, so I don’t feel qualified to determine that.
If what’s required in terms of safety inspections varies based on the severity of the collision, we need the automaker engineers to help us define that. Perhaps I-CAR can work with the automakers to do that.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
has developed one definition of a “minor crash”
in relation to when child safety seats must be replaced.
I don’t know if that’s how automakers would define it in terms of post-collision safety inspections, but it’s one possible starting place for the discussion.
I’m by no means saying the safety inspections may not always be necessary. The automakers are the experts. If they say the inspections are necessary every time, then they are. Shops need to continue to research the procedures and follow them every time.
But the automakers can play an important role here in clarifying or communicating exactly when and why the safety inspections are needed to help remove some of the friction that is leading both shops and insurers---those trying to do the right thing---to reach out to me on this topic every single day.