With no automaker, U.S. insurer or collision repair association advocating use of salvaged undeployed airbag modules, the issue hasn't been discussed much at CIC since the fall of 2000 when a company announced its plans to develop a certification process. However, participants in the panel discussion in Phoenix raised a number of points that indicate it could be a issue of much debate in the coming months:
Panelists discussed both the pros and cons of using non-deployed salvage airbags -- opinions that were about equal on both sides and often contradictory. The practice could lower repair costs, thus preventing some vehicles from being totaled, but could also increase salvage values, resulting in more vehicles being totaled. A certification program for salvaged modules would add to the cost of those units, but their availability might also provide competition that would force automakers to lower the prices of new modules.
Herb Lieberman of Lakenor LKQ Auto Salvage in Santa Fe Springs, California, said one New York auto recycler that is part of the LKQ Corp. sold $1.2 million worth of non-deployed salvaged airbags in 2002. A New York state law, however, now prohibits sale of non-deployed airbag modules in that state. But Keith Manich of Entela, Inc., the Michigan-based company that tests non-OEM parts for CAPA, said his organization is currently working with the state of New York to develop a program to certify salvaged airbag modules. That program, he said, will include guidelines for the removal, identification, inspection, storage, sale and shipment of the modules.
Several panelists and CIC participants questioned whether such a program would ever ensure that auto recyclers would consistently deliver the exact module needed. They pointed to the problems the CIC committee found with used parts ordered as part of demonstrations at CIC meeting during the past several years. Last December, for example, identical parts were ordered from three salvage parts providers and brought to CIC in Dallas, Texas; none of the three exactly matched the year, make, model, condition or completeness as ordered or specified on the invoice.
Getting OEM info
Accessibility to OEM repair information also continues to be a topic of discussion within the industry and at CIC. In a presentation for the CIC OEM Committee on how Ford Motor Company takes collision repairs into account when designing vehicles, Steve Nantau, collision repairs supervisor for the automaker, said his company now has collision repair manuals available for many of its models - and expects to have manuals for all models by the end of this year.
"It's important that if you want this information, and you've told us that you do, that you retrieve this information," he said. "We've had only 300 requests for the manuals that we currently have available. I can tell you that unless we see a more heightened demand for this product, we no longer will make it available. That's the reason several years ago we stopped producing the information."
But CIC attendee March Taylor of Autobody Hawaii said he's not surprised few shops have ordered whole manuals, saying that shops need easy access to just the specific information required.
"We're willing to pay for it, but we don't want to buy the whole book," Taylor said. "We just want to buy the page."
Bill Haas, vice president for divisions, education and training for the Automotive Service Association, pointed out that 22 automakers currently have service and repair information available to shops via website; subscriptions for access average about $20 a day, and offer shops immediate access to the specific information they need. He cited an example of a shop that had replaced a door on a 2002 Nissan Altima but couldn't get the power window to open or close completely.
"There's a relearn procedure that's necessary for that power window," Hass said. "That procedure is available on the Nissan website. So the technician was able to access that service information immediately, go back to the vehicle, perform the relearn procedure and make that car deliverable."
He said links to the OEM websites are available through the ASA website (www.ASAshop.org), and a summary of how to acquire information for each of the OEMs is available through the National Automotive Service Task Force website (www.nastf.org).
Vo-tech funding threatened
The CIC Education Committee in Phoenix alerted the industry that a federal funding program used for vocational and technical training - including automotive and autobody training - may be in jeopardy.
Teresa Bolton, co-chairman of the committee, said President Bush's budget for 2004 proposes shifting what is known as "Carl Perkins Act funds" away from career and technical education to fund other academic achievement aspects of the President's "No Child Left Behind" educational initiative.
Both ASA and the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence are urging the industry to contact the members of Congress from their state to ask for support for vocational education.
"Without question, the elimination of funding for the Perkins Act should be at the top of the list of concerns for the future of the repair industry," ASA's Haas said. "There is strong support in the Congress for vocational education, but we are at risk of losing federal funding for our traditional vocational programs. . .This is an opportunity for our entire industry to band together with a common mission. We need more technicians and continued improvements in the quality of our labor pool. These federal dollars are well-spent. Whether you monitor this issue directly or contact ASA or ASE, please make sure your policymakers know the value of the Carl Perkins Act as far as full funding and re-authorization. The message is simple: One, we need full funding of traditional vocational education programs, and two, the Carl Perkins Act should be re-authorized."
Other news at CIC
In other news and discussion at CIC in Phoenix:
• For only the second time in its 20-year history, CIC is being chaired by a representative of an insurance company. Roger Wright, who began his tenure as chairman in January when he was working for the CARSTAR organization, left that company in March for a job managing the material damage organization for AIG. Joe Landolfi, who chaired CIC in 1995 and 1996 when he was with Kemper Insurance, is the only other insurance company representative to have lead CIC.
• Chuck Sulkala, executive director of the National Auto Body Council said ground has been broken on the "Collision Industry Medical Center" at Camp Mak-a-Dream. He said the facility may be open by the time campers arrive in June. The NABC raised $500,000 to help fund the facility at the Montana camp, which serves children and young adults actively battling cancer.
• At the next CIC, scheduled for July 23 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, the Industry Discussions Committee is planning a presentation on the issue of consumer notification and consent regarding the types of parts (OEM, non-OEM, used) to be used in a repair. Several other committees will be tackling some of the issues raised by the increasing use of third-party claims auditing, sometimes referred to as "desk audits" or "remote audits." For more information on the meeting, check the CIC website (www.ciclink.com) or call CIC's administration office, (509) 547-3810.
John Yoswick is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon, who has been writing about the automotive industry since 1988.