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Tuesday, 17 May 2022 15:17

WIN Panel Discusses Collision Repair Post-COVID Changes and Challenges

Written by Abby Andrews
Panelists at the WIN Education Conference discuss the ongoing challenges to the collision repair industry brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Panelists at the WIN Education Conference discuss the ongoing challenges to the collision repair industry brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The Women’s Industry Network (WIN) hosted “Industry Changes, Challenges & Opportunities in a Post-COVID World,” part of its first ever hybrid Educational Conference, held May 2-4 online and in Greenville, SC.

Hosted by Jamie Shakelford, director of sales strategy and enablement for Caliber Collision, the discussion looked at how the industry can move forward, from many different points of view, including insurance companies, rental car companies, parts and materials suppliers, OEMs and auto body shops.

 

The panel discussed supply chain and staffing issues and trends that have increased cycle times, leading to frustration at every point of the repair process, down to the customers.

 

Brenda Hewitt, Guaranteed Repair Network manager for the Western U.S. for Liberty Mutual, said the pandemic put a lot of pressure on an industry that was already feeling a lot of pressures.

 

“Everybody was worried for several months [at the onset of the pandemic],” Hewitt said. “Fast forward to last summer, and not only do we still have jobs, but we have more than we can do. Now we’re looking at inflation.

 

“It’s about how to work together and not point fingers at everyone in the industry,” she said.

 

“Customers that maybe before [the pandemic] came in scared and frustrated but friendly, more and more are coming in angry and looking to blame somebody,” Hewitt said. “We all have to empathize and understand that everybody’s in a different spot.”

 

Mary Mahoney, vice president of the global replacement and leisure team for Enterprise Holdings, said employees at rental car branches are seeing the same frustration in customers.

 

In the first quarter of 2022, the average length of rental for collision repair customers---including drivable, non-drivable and total loss claims---rose to 18.2 days, a nearly five-day increase over the first quarter a year ago.

 

Mahoney said that is partly driven by the number of large SUVs and trucks people are buying and crashing; while the size of the vehicles increases the severity of the damage, their high actual cash values make it more economical to repair what would be a total loss on a less expensive vehicle.

Angie Babin, vice president of supply chain for Caliber Collision, said there was already a shortage of technicians before COVID, but now everyone is recognizing it.

 

“The labor shortage also increases...


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