Wednesday, 25 November 2009 09:43

SCRS, MABA and AASP Address Paint Material Pricing Concern With Mitchell

Body and refinish materials represent a significant and continually growing component in the overall cost of an auto body repair; therefore, it is critically important that the cost-accounting of these materials be as accurate as practically possible. The "refinish calculators" presently available from several vendors, with new offerings presently under development, offer the potential for more detailed and accurate calculations of these costs compared with the "dollars times refinish hours" approach that has been prevalent in the United States for several decades now. Two of the primary reasons that these refinish calculators claim increased accuracy is because they a) factor in cost variations that may be present relative the specific color (paint code) in use, and b) their pricing is regularly updated to reflect the most current paint manufacturer pricing.
The Mitchell Refinish Materials Calculator (RMC) is one such product. Beginning in the year 2006, and in parallel with significantly rising petroleum costs, the auto body industry experienced significant increases in the cost of paint and paint-related materials. During this same time period, some individual RMC end-users began to experience what they perceived as an apparent disconnect between published paint manufacturer price increases and the accompanying RMC calculation increases. In simple terms, it appears to the product users that suggested refinisher paint costs have increased in price at a pace that significantly exceeds the frequency and amount of the increases reflected in the  the periodic RMC data updates. These RMC end-users, through their affiliations with national and regional trade associations, took it upon themselves to investigate the matter further. The trade associations involved in addressing the concerns are the Massachusetts Auto Body Associations (MABA), the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS), and the Alliance of Automotive Service Providers (AASP).
Beginning in 2008, the above three associations began to jointly and formally interact with Mitchell on this issue. Our objectives were clear and focused:
1. We sought a better understanding of the intended relationship between RMC calculations and "suggested cost to refinisher" pricing.
2. We sought an explanation of what we saw as a disparity between RMC calculations and the rising material costs.
3. If the investigation revealed errors in RMC calculations and/or process, we sought reasonable disclosure to RMC end-users and a prompt and reasonable process toward correction, if warranted.
From October 2008 to the present, there have been several interactions with Mitchell in an effort on our part to accomplish the above three objectives. These interactions have included written communications, numerous conference calls, as well as a face-to-face meeting at Mitchell's San Diego headquarters. Early on within this process, we concluded that an audit of RMC data, in direct parallel with a compilation of paint manufacturer pricing data, was the most clear and direct approach to either identifying any existing issues or to clarifying any data misinterpretations that may have existed on our part. Mitchell agreed to this audit and furthermore agreed to have the results of this exercise be shared transparently both with our trade associations and with the industry at large.
Unfortunately, we are disappointed that through all the efforts over the last year and a half, we do not feel as if much progress has been made toward achieving our three main objectives. At the association level, we find ourselves frustrated, but more importantly obligated at this point in time to share with our membership the issues we have identified and our efforts at resolving them. While Mitchell has stated that they remain committed to interacting with our trade association representatives, we must frankly convey our frustration at the overall process and lack of conclusion. Mitchell seemingly does not share our concern or sense of urgency in this matter based on the fact that after all this time they have not addressed our concerns in a manner that we feel satisfies our obligation to our members and our industry.
We are committed to both work with Mitchell towards the above stated goals, and to continue to report back to the industry with the results of this effort. While one might conclude that a refinish calculator is of lesser significance than an estimating platform, we contend that the concept and need for the greatest practical level of data accuracy applies equally to both product types.
About SCRS: Through its direct members and 37 affiliate associations, SCRS is comprised of 6,000 collision repair businesses and 58,500 specialized professionals who work with consumers and insurance companies to repair collision-damaged vehicles. Additional information about SCRS including other news releases is available at the SCRS Web site: www.scrs.com. You can e-mail SCRS at the following address: info@scrs.com.
About MABA: The Massachusetts Auto Body Association has been representing consumers, collision repair businesses and their industry for over 50 years. It's goal is to ensure fair and equitable treatment of all parties involved in the settlement of, and repair to, a consumers automobile. MABA can be reached at 1-800-ITS-MABA or mail@itsmaba.com, or visit our website at www.itsmaba.com.
About AASP: The Alliance of Automotive Service Providers is a coalition of associations which serve over 8,500 members of the automotive service industry. In a spirit of mutual cooperation and support, Alliance participants are committed to sharing information, knowledge and other resources for the benefit of the members they serve.