Monday, 24 February 2014 23:40

OEM Collision Repair Roundtable Launches Consumer-Oriented Site: Crashrepairinfo.com

Representatives from 10 of the world’s largest carmakers got together to create, design, and launch a website to get a message out there and provide useful information on an ongoing basis to consumers nationwide. The main message at crashrepairinfo.com, a site launched by the OEM Collision Repair Roundtable at the January 2014 Collision Industry Conference (CIC) planning meeting in Palm Springs, CA, is simple: Consumer awareness is paramount and knowledge is crucial to the collision repair process.

OEM Collision Repair Roundtable chairman, Gary Ledoux, who is also the assistant national manager of wholesale parts marketing at Honda, said that crashrepairinfo.com is meant to help vehicle owners make educated decisions when their cars are being repaired following an accident. Featuring OE position statements, collision repair basics, what to do in case of an accident, and links to other OE sites, crashrepairinfo.com has been created to inform, educate, and empower the driving public.

Members of the OEM Collision Repair Roundtable, a 16-year-old, non-profit collision repair industry association, are made up of representatives from OEM vehicle manufacturers, including American Honda, Audi, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Hyundai, Mazda, Nissan, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Volvo. The stated mission of the group is to continuously improve the quality of collision repairs available to vehicle owners.

So, the powers that be sat down at the OEM Collision Repair Roundtable (it’s U-shaped, to be precise) and determined that a web site was the most effective way to disseminate information to consumers. Now that they’ve created a robust site full of information and featuring easy navigation, the question on the minds of every OEM Collision Repair Roundtable member is ‘If we build it, will they come?’

“That’s the big question,” Ledoux said. “How do we drive traffic to the site? There are millions of car accidents every year, but the average person only gets into one every seven to nine years, depending on who you’re talking to. So, it’s a big demographic, but we know that most people will be looking at it pretty much after they’ve already been in an accident. Finding those people and getting them to visit the site is key, obviously.

“Information is king and we have designed this site with a ton of useful information,” Ledoux said. “We wanted everything on our site to be easy-to-read and with clear language because we realize that most people won’t be visiting this site until they get into an accident.”

The OEM Collision Repair Roundtable designed the site for not just consumers, but for body shops as well. Ledoux is hoping that crashrepairinfo.com will promote open communication between body shops, consumers, and their insurance companies.

“Most consumers prefer OE parts in their repairs, but many don’t even know the difference between an aftermarket part and a factory part,” Ledoux explained. “When people found out that their insurance contracts require the inclusion of aftermarket and/or recycled parts in the repair of their vehicles, they weren’t happy about it. They told us, ‘I never knew.’ They just assumed that all of the parts in their repair were OEM, but once they looked at their entire contract from their insurance company, they were unpleasantly surprised.”

In a section of the site titled Your Insurance Coverage, consumers are instructed to carefully study their policies to determine what types of parts will be incorporated into their repairs.

Here’s a sample of policy language that allows an insurance company to use non-factory parts: “CAPA-certified sheet metal parts; quality salvage, rebuilt, reconditioned and/or remanufactured OEM parts as they apply and the adjuster determines they are of like kind and quality; non-certified aftermarket crash parts where the manufacturer’s warranty meets or exceeds the OEM warranty, to include headlamps, tail lamps, front/rear bumper covers, and bumper parts (excluding energy absorbers and HSLA reinforcements).”

Crashrepairinfo.com goes on to explain how the consumer can stay in the loop on the use of OE parts in their repairs. According to Ledoux, not many people are aware of the fact that laws exist to protect consumers in this regard: “A repair facility shall not use aftermarket crash parts in the repair of a customer’s motor vehicle without disclosing the proposed use of such parts in the estimate of repairs given to the customer prior to the repair of the motor vehicle. The estimate shall be in writing and shall clearly identify each part proposed to be used that is an aftermarket crash part. No insurance company may require the use of aftermarket crash parts when negotiating repairs of the motor vehicle with any repairer unless the motor vehicle owner consents in writing at the time of the repair to the use of aftermarket crash parts.”

Other sections on crashrepairinfo.com answer basic questions, such as What are crash parts?; Why insist on OE crash parts?; What are your rights as a consumer?; How can I find the right body shop?; and What is the time required to properly repair the vehicle? Other consumer-related articles deal with hot topics in the news, such as the existence and proliferation of counterfeit and salvage airbags; maintaining vehicle safety systems; and the safety concerns associated with the use of reconditioned wheels.

Ledoux is hoping that the new website will empower consumers to make educated decisions. “We want crashrepairinfo.com to widen the discussion,” he said. “By becoming an advocate for consumers and educating them, I believe we’re providing a service that they really can’t find anywhere else.”

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