Friday, 22 August 2014 00:00

I-CAR Wants to Get OEM Info to Techs and to Educate Consumers about Tech Training

A glimpse at future vehicle technology and what it may mean for collision repairers and insurers filled much of the agenda at I-CAR’s annual conference in Detroit in late July, but the organization saved perhaps its most significant news for a presentation at NACE the following day.

There, Jason Bartanen unveiled the new “Repairability Technical Support Portal,” I-CAR’s effort to put repair procedures and vehicle information as close to technician’s as the nearest computer, tablet or smartphone screen.

“We really want to put this information into technician’s hands,” said Bartanen, director of industry technical relations for I-CAR. “They may not walk up to the front of the shop to ask a technical question. But if they have the answer in their pocket, maybe they are more likely to take a look to see what they can find on the website.”

After more than a year in development, the website is available through the “Technical Knowledge” section of I-CAR’s website – www.i-car.com – or directly at http://rts.i-car.com. It feature six primary features:

1. The “OEM Information” section includes a page for each automaker, listing what types of collision repair procedures and information each makes available and how to access it. But Bartanen said the section offers not just links to the automaker’s repair information websites (though there are short videos explaining the navigation of each automaker site) but often some of the actual procedures, bulletins and information technicians or estimators may need. In the Acura section of the portal, for example, Bartanen opened a bulletin showing that sectioning cannot be done on the B-pillar reinforcement on the 2014 Acura MDX.


2. Another section, searchable by year-make-model, offers a guide to automaker information on which parts require inspection or replacement following an airbag deployment.

3. The “partial part replacement” section, also searchable by year-make-model, lists what sectioning procedures are available from the automakers. The procedures themselves still generally need to be downloaded from the OEM website, Bartanen said, but this guide at least allows users to know whether what they are looking for exists at those sites.

4. A “collision news” section of the portal is replacing I-CAR’s long-standing “Advantage” newsletter, and will include three or four new articles a week; this is where, for example, I-CAR announced in July that in part due to I-CAR’s encouragement, Kia Motors recently released comprehensive collision repair manuals in the United States for the first time. Bartanen said shops and technicians can receive “push notifications” about news posted to the portal by following the “@tech_briefs” Twitter feed (no push notifications are available via email at this time).

5. I-CAR has posted it “Uniform Procedures for Collision Repair” (UPCR) at the new portal. First developed in the late 1990s but more recently updated, the UPCR outlines industry-accepted repair procedures for such things as adhesive bonding, corrosion protection and wheel alignment.

6. The “Ask I-CAR” section is just that, a way for a portal user to email or call I-CAR with a technical question for which they haven’t been able to find an answer. In a live demonstration of this feature, Bartanen called I-CAR’s toll-free number and said he was looking for sectioning procedures for the B-pillar on a Dodge Dart; within minutes, the I-CAR representative checked the Dodge OEM information website and found that given the type of steel used for that B-pillar, Dodge offers no sectioning procedures. She also emailed Bartanen that information, and posted it to the portal in a searchable (by year-make-model) database of other such questions I-CAR has researched.
Bartanen said more information will continue to be added to the portal; many automakers, he said, are anxious to use the portal to put technical information and procedures into collision repairers’ hands, often at no charge.

Current I-CAR Statistics

I-CAR also used its annual conference to update the nearly 400 people in attendance on the organization’s other current and future activities.
I-CAR CEO John Van Alstyne reported that 56,000 student from more than 8,600 businesses received I-CAR training last year. That training now includes 77 live classroom courses, almost an equal number of online course, and 14 virtual classes that are taken online but with an I-CAR instructor teaching the course live.
He said about 3,000 businesses have achieved I-CAR Gold Class status, and about 2,300 more have been categorized as “Road to Gold,” businesses that are working toward achieving Gold Class status.

I-CAR reaching out to consumers

Those businesses, and others with I-CAR-trained technicians, may be glad to hear that I-CAR is launching a consumer awareness campaign to help drivers understand the value of having their vehicles repaired by trained shops and technicians.

“During my first three years with this industry, I have been told many times that the consumer just doesn’t care about collision repair until the moment their car is hit,” Van Alstyne said, acknowledging that he too had previously not thought much about the topic before joining I-CAR in late 2010. “But no one ever told me I should think much about repairs, so I was ignorant.”

With that in mind, he said, I-CAR first benchmarked the level of awareness among consumers about collision repair, finding it very low. As part of this benchmarking, he said, “We gave them some information about things they should be aware of, and their interest perked significantly. They cared and wanted more information.”

“We need to educate and empower consumers to help them make informed collision repair decisions,” Van Alstyne said.

Speaking at a press conference following the day-long conference, Ann Gonzalez, senior director of marketing for I-CAR, said the organization is now working with a Detroit-based agency on a “larger-scale national and regional creative campaign,” to reach consumers. That will include public service announcements and social media advertising, she said. Those campaigns, which focus on “safe repairs” and “trained technicians” are currently being tested in some markets.

Elise Quadrozzi, I-CAR’s director of development for the insurance segment, said as more insurers include Gold Class or other training requirements as part of their direct repair program (DRP) agreements, they are interested in reaching consumers with a similar message about the value of that training.

“So I think you will see some initiatives coming to fruition pretty quickly where they will start to include that in their messaging. not just as part of the DRP structure, but actually as part of the messaging out to their consumers,” Quadrozzi said.

By getting this information directly to vehicle-owners, Van Alstyne said, “the consumer is going to help our industry do more of the right things.”

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