Subaru recently released its position statement on pre- and post-repair scanning for 2004-model-year-and-newer vehicles involved in a collision. The “OEM Diagnostic Scanning Positions Quick Reference Chart,” first introduced to the collision repair industry by Autobody News in March 2017, has been updated to include Subaru.
Subaru’s position statement explains the reasoning behind and benefits of pre- and post-repair scanning, much in line with what we have heard from other automakers and industry pundits before. From the July 2017 release:
“In the event of a collision, these components could incur damage, which may trigger diagnostic trouble codes (DTC), but may not be evident via a warning light on the instrument cluster. It is imperative that these components be evaluated after a collision to ensure the vehicle is completely repaired. If these components are not evaluated, it could have a direct effect on vehicle operation and safety.
For Subaru vehicles from model year 2004 and forward involved in a collision, Subaru collision repair procedure recommends that pre-repair scanning be performed. Pre-scanning will reveal DTCs for items that are not functioning properly in the vehicle. It allows a shop to identify any issues early in the estimate process, allowing a more complete estimate and encompassing repair process.
Additionally, Subaru collision repair procedure also recommends that post-repair scanning be performed on these vehicles. Post scanning is critical in ensuring the malfunctioning items have been repaired and there are no remaining DTCs. It may also assist in assuring the appropriate calibrations and reinitializations have been performed.”
Visit www.oempositions.com for the full Subaru July 2017 release and updated OEM scan chart.
In both cases of pre- and post-repair scanning, Subaru has chosen the seemingly softer language of “recommends” in the statement. This is sure to create some controversy between repairers and insurers. Some insurers are presently honoring the position statements with the stronger language of “required” or “necessary” while shrugging off procedures that are “recommended,” especially with the pre-repair scan.
When dealing with minced words and the hair splitting often inherent in the negotiation process with insurers, there is an art and a science to presenting the OEM documentation, educating the appraiser and making a cohesive argument that leads to the proper allowances. This is a topic worthy of its own article. For now, if an insurer will not honor scanning on a Subaru (or any vehicle) because it is only recommended, shops still have the ability to hold sway.
Repairers and insurers should read the Subaru position in its entirety to understand that the automakers are deeming post-collision scans necessary from their point of view. Words such as “imperative” and “critical” are included in the document. For instance:
“It is imperative that these components be evaluated after a collision to ensure the vehicle is completely repaired. If these components are not evaluated, it could have a direct effect on vehicle operation and safety.”
The above excerpt is referring to the sensors, cameras, control units and other components that make up the safety and assist technologies present in Subaru vehicles. The word “imperative” is synonymous with “necessary” and “required,” according to Merriam-Webster and other thesaurus providers. Scan tool diagnostics is crucial to evaluating the components that the automaker has deemed imperative or required by definition.
When Toyota Motor Sales USA came out with its position statement a year ago, I had the pleasure of a healthy debate with Eric Mendoza of Toyota’s Collision Repair and Refinish (CR&R) Training regarding Toyota’s choice of the word “recommends” in its July 2016 CRIB #191. In contrast to Subaru, Toyota does include the word “requires” with regard to a “Health Check” diagnostic scan when a vehicle is involved in a “collision that may affect electrical systems.” Toyota “strongly recommends” scanning before and after all repairs.
The result of my exchange with Eric was the conclusion that regardless of the language used, the repairer has been instructed by the automaker on the proper course of action. Toyota is a proponent of pre- and post-repair scanning on all its vehicles that are involved in a collision. A repairer or insurer that chooses to omit the procedures will do so against the recommendation of the manufacturer. Any negative outcome could place the customer in harm’s way much the same as ignoring a so-called “required” procedure would. A responsible repairer or insurer would not willingly choose this position.
As noted, a full read of the Subaru position statement is essential rather than focusing on one word. When an insurer states they won’t pay because it is only a recommendation, a shop could come back with, “Yes, Subaru recommends scanning because it is necessary!”
The Subaru post-repair scan recommendation states that “post-scanning is critical to ensuring the malfunctioning items have been repaired and there are no remaining DTCs.” The word “critical” in its adjective form is akin to necessary or required, perhaps with an even higher degree of importance. I’ve seen definitions of critical stated as “urgently needed” or “absolutely necessary.” By substituting the word “critical” with interchangeable terms, the statement becomes, “Post scanning is absolutely necessary…” and any remaining insurer objection is instantly eviscerated.
The simple truth of the matter is that all OEM Scan position statements, even those with the stronger language of “required” or “necessary,” are essentially recommendations. The automakers have no real authority to mandate, monitor and enforce these things outside of their certified shop network. Unless you count the radio scanners used for communication by law enforcement, there are no Scan Police. We are still several decades away from Chief John Anderton’s, Tom Cruise’s character in the film “Minority Report,” Pre-Crime officers’ rappel crashing through the front window when a collision repairer contemplates skipping a scan or calibration procedure. Although, it might not hurt to keep this image in mind the next time a shop even thinks about letting a vehicle go without a post-repair scan.
While stopping short of a written law or statute, OEM position statements provide a liability-shifting mechanism for the automaker, to be ignored at the repair shop’s peril. As a type of liability disclaimer, the OEM position statement may be better known as Exhibit (A) to the defense attorneys of the ignorant.
In all fairness, scan-resistant insurance companies are becoming the minority. I have seen and heard examples of insurance companies paying the cost of pre- and post-repair scanning at times without a dashboard light or automaker position statement. The scan-friendly insurers provide a good example to those that remain resistant. Collision repairers should provide examples of the good insurers to those bad actors out there still stuck on decades-old methodologies, which have no place in the exponentially advancing techno-world of today.
So, if an insurer attempts to deny post-collision scanning based upon the word “recommends,” the repair shop should kindly “recommend” that the insurance company thoroughly reads the document again. Recommend that the insurer explains their stance to the vehicle owner who will be directly impacted by the decision. Want a game-changer? Involve the customer in the process and request any insurer denials in writing. See how quickly the negotiation environment improves.
Subaru’s July 2017 position statement goes beyond scanning with its strong recommendation supporting the use of genuine Subaru replacement parts while cautioning against the use of aftermarket or substitute parts. Subaru further tells repairers to always refer to the appropriate Subaru Service Manual, Technical Service Bulletin (TSB), or Body Repair Manual for the most up-to-date information on repair procedures.
On a particularly interesting note within the Subaru position statement, there are some recommendations regarding choice of scan tools. Like most automakers, Subaru recommends its own factory scan tool. A generic scan tool may be used, but the automaker cannot the content or guarantee the accuracy of generic or aftermarket scan tools. Nothing new here. What is noteworthy, however, is that Subaru recommends the asTech™ remote diagnostic solution as an acceptable substitute for the Subaru SSM4 diagnostic tool, making it the second major automaker to endorse asTech™ behind FCA (aka Chrysler) a little more than one year ago.
“If a Subaru SSM4 diagnostic tool is not available, Subaru recommends the use of an asTech™ device. The asTech™ device performs a diagnostic scan remotely using a genuine Subaru scan tool.”
Subaru’s position statement adds to the growing stockpile of ammunition outlined in “The Pre- and Post-Scan Revolution” featured in the May 2017 edition of Autobody News. The war chest of resources keeps building toward the day when the industry will no longer need my OEM Scan Chart or stacks of position statements to justify diagnostic scanning and calibrations---it will be line item number one, recognized as standard operating procedure in the automobile collision repair process.
As safety and assist technologies continue to become more pervasive with every new model year, the day of the 100 percent vehicle scan standard may be here sooner than we think. Forward-thinking, safety-conscious shops are already pressing toward the 100 percent mark by insisting on scanning almost every vehicle and getting paid in many situations without a dashboard light or an OEM position statement. These shops live by the words expressed in the second to last paragraph of Subaru’s July 2017 position statement: “The safety of our customers is our number one priority.”
Gene Bilobram has been an automobile physical damage appraiser for over 25 years. His company, Lacey Appraisal Service, Inc. is a physical damage appraisal, training, consultancy and manufacturers’ rep firm serving the collision repair and insurance industries. He may be reached at (609) 384-8093 or at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss the latest shop tools and solutions in the pre- and post- scan revolution. His company is Manufacturer’s Representative for the leaders in post-collision remote vehicle diagnostics and systems calibrations.
The opinions expressed are that of the author and not necessarily the opinion of any of the companies, individuals or organizations mentioned herein or of this publication.