Wednesday, 16 December 2015 19:51

ALLDATA President Discusses Importance of Trade Shows, Future Plans

Autobody News interviewed ALLDATA President Mitch Major at the 2015 SEMA Show to get the latest on the historically mechanical company’s recent involvement in the collision repair sector.

Q: Since we last spoke at NACE, are there any updates in ALLDATA’s collision repair sector?

A: I wouldn’t say updates as much, in terms of the product itself. We continually add information and updates from the OEMs to the database on a makes/models perspective, so the product itself is stable at this point.

I would say the biggest change, which I alluded to a little when we were in Detroit, is that we are having more the conversations with the marketplace about keeping shops up-to-date on OEM repair information. We communicated with insurance carriers and collision parts providers at SEMA about how we could pull it all together. We want to take the OEM information and tie it to the parts to create a higher likelihood that the repair is being done based on the OEM specs. The complexity of the vehicles is advancing so quickly that if shops are not using the OEM information, they risk making an incorrect repair, which could result in injury or death.

I think the carriers have always been open to the notion of OEM information being available to the shops, and now it’s becoming something shops expect verses just a good idea for the future.

We had meetings all over Las Vegas during SEMA with carriers and parts providers, and with each passing the day, the conversations continue to evolve.

Q: What are the most frequent questions and/or concerns you encounter?

A: Everyone, from parts providers to collision repair technicians, is talking about the aluminum bodied Ford F-150 and how much more complex it is.

I was recently discussing the difference between dealing with a damaged quarter panel on a steel Ford versus an aluminum Ford, and I think the main question is, how do we merge this technology, the information, and the vehicles all at the same time? It’s something we need to figure out soon, especially now that aluminum vehicles are becoming more predominant in the market place.

A lot of shops are seeing more aluminum vehicles come in, and when they start to take off the quarter panels, what they see underneath is not something they’re familiar with. So, in some cases, they’re even making phone calls to the carriers, saying, what do we do now?

Again, if the players in collision don’t pull all of this together quickly, we will continue to create an environment where technicians are encouraged to do the repair the wrong way, which introduces risk to all parties.

Q. What is the status of ALLDATA’s Community database?

A: We are working with a lot of parties in the automotive space to try and populate it with more repair information. There are many national players that have 20 year databases of repair orders, so we are working to partner with them.
Ultimately, we see Community becoming just as viable as the OEM information. It’s a way to help technicians fix the car that’s on the lift or the collision repair that’s in process even faster.

Q: Plans for 2016?
A: We want to continue developing strategic partnerships around collision, especially integrating with partners on the software side. We have the largest OEM database of collision repair information, which is an asset for folks who don’t want to build one on their own.

We’re spending as much time as we can with the top 10 carriers to talk about, strategically, how can we work together to market, using the OEM repair data, to shops and educate them on the importance of using this information.

There are still a lot of shops out there that have been doing it the same way for the past 20 years. The problem with that is, if you start to cut through some of the sections in this day and age, you just can’t put it back together the way you could when it was just a steel frame.

Q: What methods do you use when you communicate with the more “traditional” shops?

A: We partner with carriers who already have a preexisting relationship with these shops. That way, when we can call to discuss the importance of the OEM repair information, the complexity of metals and adhesives, etc., we are going through someone who they feel is a trusted advisor, instead of cold calling. We are then viewed as more than just a person trying to sell something.

Q: What is the most beneficial aspect of coming to these trade shows?

A: We love coming to the trade shows because we get to spend days talking to the customers and asking what they think about us; the good and the bad. We are all about putting customers first and being responsive to suggestions. The trade shows are where we build our product road map; we just come and try to take down as much information as we can.
Once we’re back at the office, it takes 30 or so days to really go through everything and have strategic discussions about what we need to change and how this new information will affect our path.
We are also working on bringing mobile and car connectivity to the collision repair space, so shops can be more efficient with tackling issues that arise.

Q: What is your opinion on driverless cars?
A: Those ideas, even when they stick, generally take 10-20 years to fully work through the market place, so we are monitoring it, but we’re not too worried about it yet. Our main concern is the security risk; we’ve all seen the articles in the last year about someone taking a car over from two states away.

The notion that cars can’t collide is awesome, but at the end of the day, cars just talking to each other will not ultimately solve that problem. That doesn’t account for things like snow and other volatile weather conditions. So even though we don’t think that driverless cars will make collisions go away, we certainly think they will impact the industry. We always want to be prepared to serve the market place as it changes, but I think that’s more long term than short term.

For more information on ALLDATA, visit their website at www.alldata.com