Tuesday, 31 January 2006 17:00

Environmental concerns among top priorities at CIC

Concerns about proposed new state and federal controls on the sale and use of automotive refinish paint products have kept environmental issues among the key topics being addressed by the Collision Industry Conference (CIC) in 2006. 

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Using a website to collect industry opinions about what topics the CIC committees should focus on for the coming year, CIC leaders found that environmental issues ranked in the top five.

This followed last November's CIC meeting at which Kim Teal of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said that point-of-sale restrictions on automotive refinish paint products will likely be a part of new national rules the agency will propose next year.

But CIC leaders meeting in Palm Springs, California, in January, faced the daunting task of prioritizing this and nearly 300 comments and issues received through the web site - not to mention the views of the approximately 185 people attending the 2-day annual planning session.

"It's not that any of these is not an important issue," Rick Tuuri said at the start of his second year as chairman of CIC. "But we can't focus on or fix everything. Here as a group we're deciding on our priorities."

Issues rising to the top included:

• Total losses. Much of one CIC meeting last year was dedicated to various committee presentations related to the rising percentage of damaged vehicles being declared total losses. Though some at the CIC planning meeting didn't see there was much more CIC could do to address the issue, others saw it as far too pressing a problem to ignore. In the end, the CIC Legislative Committee was charged with looking into the various regulations and thresholds used in different states to make total loss determinations.

• "Insurer control." Issues related to this topic were by far the most common among those submitted to CIC, although there was little consensus at the meeting about whether or how CIC should approach these issues. Several shop owners and insurers at the meeting felt many of these issues are never going to be resolved and that CIC should focus on issues for which there is a greater chance of making progress. But former CIC Chairman Lou DiLisio suggested that a small task force approach some insurers with clear and specific goals for open discussions, and insurers at the meeting seemed open to that approach.

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Steve Nantau of Ford Motor Company suggested that the task force focus on the economic downsides for shops and insurers in the way the two sides interact today.

"The goal is to change how people do things," Nantau said. "If there are negative results of (insurer's) action, it may be to our advantage to point those out, and provide some compelling arguments to the people who make those decisions."

• Paint and materials reimbursement. Hawaii shop owner March Taylor said his materials costs have gone up 42 percent in the past five years, and Stephen Regan of the Massachusetts Auto Body Association said this is the No. 1 issue in his state. Unlike past CIC efforts that focused on alternative methods of calculating paint and materials reimbursement, the CIC Estimating Committee will look into perceived abuses of the calculation formula.

• Technician shortage and training. Tony Molla of ASE agreed to head up an effort to catalogue available collision repair training options and providers.

• Estimating database issues. A CIC task force created last year that includes representatives of each of the three national collision repair trade associations is continuing to meet with the three estimating system providers to discuss perceived bias and other concerns with the databases. Most recently, for example, the task force spent two days at Mitchell International headquarters, where the company agreed to open three positions on its advisory board to participants from the task force.

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• Parts quality and procurement issues. John Bosin, chairman of the CIC Parts Committee, said the committee has discussed using photographs or samples of parts at CIC meetings this year to demonstrate parts quality issues.

"One of the other things we want to do is develop a parts supplier CSI," Bosin said. "We think that we need to figure a way to measure minimum standards of quality for parts suppliers."

• Fraud and cost-shifting. A year after it was disbanded, CIC's "Anti-Fraud Committee" was reformed in response to the issue making it into the top five most commonly cited problems CIC should address.

• Standardized DRP administration requirements. In past years, a CIC committee spent months looking into the various administrative requirements for shops involved in insurer direct repair programs, determining it was unlikely that insurers would be willing to use a common set of requirements. A new CIC task force, however, has been charged with demonstrating how even just some degree of consistency within and between programs could benefit both sides of the industry.


• Licensing and certification. ASA's Bob Redding, who will chair CIC Legislative Committee for 2006, said 12 states - twice as many as last year - are already considering licensing bills this year. He said that topic - as well as the issue of consumer disclosure and consent related to collision repair - were on the committee's docket for the coming year.

Other industry news

In other news at the meeting, the National Auto Body Council (NABC) reported that it has raised $170,000 from about 90 donors to aid members of the industry affected by last fall's hurricanes. Ten organizations have donated $4,000 or more each, including $50,000 from the Akzo Nobel-funded Collision Industry Advancement Initiative, $25,000 from CCC Information Services, and $17,200 from shops participating in the Coyote Vision Group.

Chuck Sulkala, executive director of the NABC, said about $53,000 of those donations has been spent to help about 50 families. He said the biggest challenge for this first-of-its-kind effort in the industry was locating the technicians and shop owners whose lives and businesses have been disrupted by the storms and flooding to let them know about the help.

"In the first three months, we were working with about 20 or 25 families to try to get them some help and assistance," Sulkala said. "Over the past three weeks, we've had more new people seeking help than we had in the three months prior to that."

Sulkala said about $40,000 in donations has gone for basic sets of hand tools for those whose tools were destroyed or inaccessible. Another $13,000 has been spent for housing, furnishings, clothing or other necessary household items for displaced families.

"We're there to try to help the people in our industry get back to work and not only stay in our industry but also keep their family together as they rebuild their lives," Sulkala said.

Arizona shop owner Mike Quinn, who recently spent six days in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region, said the NABC effort in the area will need to be long-term as the region rebuilds. But he was heartened to see the difference that the industry's generosity is making for those in the industry impacted by the storms.

"We're one of the only industries that seems to responding to its own people," Quinn said. "I'm really proud to be a part of that."

John Yoswick is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon, who has been writing about the automotive industry since 1988.


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