Tuesday, 17 May 2016 12:39

GM Manager Addresses State of Collision Repair Business; Considering Certification Program

John Eck 2

John Eck, manager of wholesale dealer channel for General Motors Customer Care & Aftersales

During a recent Verifacts Guild 21 webinar, General Motors manager John Eck talked about the complexity of the collision repair industry, the importance of quality repairs and how the company is considering the possibility of establishing an OEM collision repair certification program.

Eck said the ultimate goal is a quality, safe repair for the customer. “That’s who I work for,” said Eck, the manager of wholesale dealer channel for General Motors Customer Care & Aftersales. “We want the outcome to be a satisfied customer driving away in a vehicle that has been repaired to pre-crash conditions using the right procedures, parts, processes and quality checks. There is no alternative.”

With more than 25 years of automotive aftermarket experience with General Motors, Eck has held numerous field, marketing and management positions in several business segments in the United States, Canada and South Africa.

“Vehicles are complex, the dynamics of our stakeholder relationships are complex, and the repair process is as well,” said Eck. “Sometimes it’s interesting and even necessary to take a step back and all of the changes we have seen and the rate of change that will clearly indicate that this is clearly not going to slow down on us.”

He said there are several areas of concern currently working against collision repair shops.

One of these is that the equity balance of influence of a repair is in flux, whether that involves managing relationships, metrics or costs. “The collision repair facility feels the pressure in how a safe, quality repair is completed,” said Eck.
Economics plays a key role in this; however, he said the concern is the point of balance when economics overrule certain repair decisions.

Eck said that OEMs can assist in the following areas: ease of repairs, actual quality of repairs, and technician readiness for new technologies.

When it comes to the ease of repairs, he said that OEMs can help improve repair procedure content to make it easier to access. In addition, OEMs can take the repair learnings from body shops and share them with the teams that work with vehicle development engineers.

Eck is finding that the actual quality of repairs is an area that collision repairers are looking to OEMs for support and said OEM certification is a step in that direction.

During the webinar, he shared data with attendees on repairs that were done on GM mid-size SUVs over a three-year span. Looking at the percentage of vehicles that were being repaired versus replaced, it was found that over 50 percent of the time they were being repaired. “We are very concerned about the repair quality of the vehicle coming out,” said Eck.

Technology readiness is another big concern for the industry, especially for OEMs, according to Eck. In addition to industry age numbers, another worry is whether or not the training that is taking place is actually being replicated in the shops. “We have to leverage existing technologies and use some technologies that are in other industries to help audit and verify repairs,” he said.

He mentioned there are additional factors causing change in the industry, such as MSO growth with the rise of consolidations. In response, GM is working with MSOs to understand their concerns in order to help better meet their needs.

“The industry has already changed,” said Eck. “We see an industry that needs to expand and grow and be ready for the challenges that I see coming down the pike from the OEMs perspective.”

To respond to some of these changes in the industry, GM recently redesigned its website (genuinegmparts.com) to better support collision repairers. There is now content for both consumers and professionals.

GM is also currently looking at the impact on the industry in the following areas:

  • OEM certification programs;
  • Cost to shop for tools and training;
  • Proliferation of collision crash avoidance and telematics;
  • OEM repair procedure requirements and influence;
  • Change from just selling OEM parts to focus on the customer and quality and safe repair.

“The solutions we may come to find out may not necessarily be what some want to hear,” said Eck. “At least if we acknowledge these points, we can then collaborate together, on ways to minimize the negative impact that they might have on the collision repair business.”

With the overwhelming speed of change, Eck said that stakeholders need to work together and collaborate to better understand the issues at hand. This includes repairers, insurers and OEMS. “We can’t do this alone,” said Eck. “We see huge benefits of collaboration and integration.”

Eck said GM is planning to put more emphasis on tech repair and support. By understanding the repair procedures up front, it will help drive the correct parts decisions to ensure vehicles are being repaired to OEM standards.

In regards to General Motors’ plans for a possible certification program, Eck said the company agrees with certification but wants to ensure there is a focus on the output. He said it will take some time and stressed the importance of having discussions with stakeholders about how to best move forward.

“We can’t look at it from just GMs perspective,” said Eck. “We need to look at the rest of the stakeholders involved.”

Eck said the requirements to become a certified/authorized repair facility include tools, training, facilities, processes, tracking and OEM specific requirements. Areas that GM will be focusing on include a combination of industry outreach, repair procedures, training and verification.

The desired outcome is a quality, safe repair that restores the vehicle back to pre-crash condition. “You and your repair facility want your output to be a product you would put your family in without question or concern,” said Eck. “You want your customers to be satisfied.”