Thursday, 29 January 2009 11:41

Yoswick --- No Overlap: Repairers and CCC

At least a handful of the nearly 200 people who showed up in Scottsdale, Ariz., in mid-January for the Collision Industry Conference (CIC) came with one primary focus: Conveying to CCC Information Services their outrage over a change the company recently made to its Pathways estimating system.
    “For repair shops, this is not acceptable,” Pat Gisler, executive director of the Automotive Service Councils of Kentucky, told representatives of CCC at the meeting. She said her group and other state associations would be urging their members to register their displeasure with CCC’s decision.
The subject of Gisler’s ire was the reinstatement of a refinish prompt in version 4.5 of CCC’s Pathways estimating system. The prompt asks the user if a plastic bumper is being refinished in a “continuous process” with other parts of the vehicle. If the estimator indicates that it is, Pathways automatically deducts overlap from the clearcoat refinish time for the bumper.
Thursday, 29 January 2009 11:39

Yoswick --- State Farm Select Service at CIC

In the same week in January the Collision Industry Conference (CIC) was held in Scottsdale, Ariz., State Farm distributed a new Select Service agreement to participating shops nationwide, and the company’s George Avery spent several minutes at CIC to discuss the new agreement.
    He described the changes as primarily “minor” or “editorial,” and that unlike the transition from State Farm’s “Service First” to “Select Service” program, the change in the agreement was not coinciding with a reduction in the number of shops participating in the program.
    “Local management may have some market areas that they want to adjust (the number of shops) but that’s not associated with this update,” Avery said.

With the election and economy first and foremost on many people’s minds this fall and winter, it’s almost hard to remember how many other topics and news items the industry talked about this past year: Changes in some insurer’s repair policies. Changes in some shops’ relationships with insurers. Changes in the leadership of some associations. Changes in gas prices and consumer driving patterns. Changes brought about by laws and lawsuits.
    Here is an annual review of the past year’s news as viewed through a collection of some of the most memorable, important, interesting or enlightening quotes heard around the industry during 2008.
“We have heard how complex we have made it to do business with I-CAR. We have to go after that with a vengeance.”
    – I-CAR CEO John Edelen, speaking at the organization’s annual meeting in July, about the training organization’s internal restructuring following several significant financial losses.

“I believe this isn’t going to be popular, but my opinion is that it is our business and I don’t think we should be dictated to as to how we should operate.”
    – Michael Lloyd of California Casualty, when asked if an insurer’s decisions about which shops are selected or removed from its DRP in any market should be made by a “board of independent individuals that cannot have a close enough relationship with a shop to gain any …gratuity.”

“They’re not opening their arms and saying welcome to the fold. It still takes some effort.”
    – Bruce Halcro, a shop owner in Helena, Montana, and president of the Montana Collision Repair Specialists, saying insurers are, if only reluctantly, abiding by a 3-year-old law that the association backed which requires any shop meeting the requirements of a direct repair program to be allowed to participate.

“We’re going to see the current model for quite a while. Entrepreneurs owning one, two, three, six or eight shops will continue to dominate this business. Multi-state, 100-shop networks? Hard to do.”
    – Brian Sullivan, editor of the weekly “Auto Insurance Report,” saying he no longer believes as he did a decade ago that the collision repair industry

“We still get just as many wrong parts and double orders. It didn’t fix anything.”

    – Crystal Abele, assistant manager of Collision Repair Specialists in El Cajon, California, speaking about State Farm’s required use of an electronic parts ordering program for its Select Service shops in some markets.

“I see this an inevitable part of progress. And I do believe at some point it will work. (And) when it comes to the extra time it takes to deal with aftermarket parts, and the reduced quality of repairs with aftermarket parts, a little bit of extra time dealing with an (OEM) parts system so that State Farm can get their discount is something I’m willing to put up with.”
    – Brian Orr, second-generation owner of Jack Orr’s Autobody in La Mesa, California, also speaking about the State Farm parts ordering program.


“We believe now is the time to address this issue for the long run. We are encouraging other states to pursue this type of legislation.”
    – Bob Redding, national lobbyist for the Automotive Service Association (ASA), following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in February not to hear Allstate’s appeal of a Texas law banning insurers from owning collision repair shops.

“We believe this bill represents a substantial threat to the way in which we currently do business.”
    – from an unsigned letter that California-based Mercury Insurance sent last March to shops in that state, urging them to contact state lawmakers to oppose an anti-steering bill that was eventually amended to only require the formation of a task force to look into issues arising from possible changes to existing California anti-steering laws.

“The consumer may be under the impression that he or she has no real choice. We want to make clear: Your car, your choice.”
    – Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, voicing support for a proposed anti-steering regulation in that state.

“It’s outrageous that legislation is necessary to protect consumers from their own insurance companies, but that is exactly the problem that this bill addresses.”
    – California Sen. Carole Migden of San Francisco on proposed legislation in that state that, had it not lost by one vote, would have prohibited insurers from requiring the use of non-OEM parts on vehicles three years old or newer.

“(Although) we strongly believe that reducing refinish times on a more widespread basis is an acceptable practice and reflects operations that allow the shop to restore the vehicle to its pre-loss condition, the decision to limit the use of partial refinish was made in large part to improve our working relationships with shops, and thereby improve the customer’s experience.”
    – Chris Andreoli, corporate physical damage process manager for Progressive, announcing last May the insurer’s revised stance on partial paint / full clear.

“We are committed to strengthening Allstate’s relationship with the collision repair industry. Bringing strong leaders such as Dan into our organization will allow us to accomplish that goal much faster.”
    – Bill Daly, Allstate auto claim assistant vice president, in announcing that former SCRS executive director Dan Risley had accepted a position with the insurer.

“In other words, you choose to pay, so end of game. The judge felt she had absolutely no decision but to dismiss the case.”
    – New York shop owner Greg Coccaro explaining that the dismissal of Progressive fraud lawsuit against his shop was based in part on Progressive’s failure to indicate on its payment to the shop that it was “paying in protest, with all rights reserved,” on the $34,000 repair job that led to the lawsuit.


“As a result of this review, we have determined that this repair method is less feasible on newer model vehicles which incorporate special or alternative metals.”
    – Mike Poulard, State Farm estimatics section manager, in a June letter to Illinois shop owner Pam Pierson saying the insurer will no longer include a full rear-body sectioning procedures (or “clips”) on State Farm-prepared estimates.

“Furthermore, only when a collision repair facility is confident that a full-body section is the appropriate repair, has the proper training and equipment to facilitate a quality repair, and has the approval of the customer or claimant for such repair, will the adjuster authorize it.”
    – from an Allstate announcement in September saying that, like State Farm, it will no longer specify full-body sectioning (or “clips”) on its estimates.

“They will promise you the world in order to persuade you to go to one of their direct repair or network shops. Don’t be steered wrong.”
    – wording in an newspaper ad jointly sponsored by a handful of shops in Temple, Texas, many of whom dropped out of State Farm’s “Select Service” program this past summer.

“Progressive and Nationwide definitely got the most hands. He said, ‘Maybe I need to be looking at those companies a little harder.’”
    – Georgia shop owner Steve Peek, speaking about an association meeting with Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine at which Oxendine asked those in attendance to raise their hands to indicate with which of the insurers that he named one-by-one they are having problems.

“If everyone in our industry would utilize these charts…Wow, what a difference we could see.”
    – Mike Anderson of Wagonwork Collision Centers in Alexandria, Virginia, and a member of the ASA Collision Division Operations Committee, speaking of the association’s two “not-included operations” charts designed to assist collision repair shops in writing complete estimates.

“This transaction will be a transforming event for the insurance claims and collision repair industries. Our customers are under increasing pressure to achieve new levels of efficiency and customer satisfaction, which requires their service providers to offer new and enhanced products, services and solutions. CCC-Mitchell will be positioned to meet these needs as we bring together our two talented teams to create greater value for our customers and business partners through increased innovation and network connectivity.”
    – Githesh Ramamurthy, chairman and CEO of CCC Information Services, in announcing last April its intent to merger with Mitchell International.

“There is no doubt that this merger would reduce competition that benefits auto insurers and autobody shops and ultimately would lead to higher prices and less innovation for consumers.”
    – David Wales, acting bureau of competition director for the Federal Trade Commission, announcing in late November that it had filed suit to block the CCC-Mitchell merger.

“While we are disappointed and disagree with the FTC’s position, we intend to vigorously challenge the FTC in court.”
    – CCC’s Ramamurthy, responding to the FTC suit.

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“If you’re not happy with the outcome you’re getting, if you’re fighting with these insurance companies about labor rates and you don’t do anything to change it, then don’t complain about it. You’ve got to be willing to go through the steps of filing Department of Insurance complaints to try to send the message to the DOI that we’re tired of being stepped on. That’s our only avenue in my opinion. I can’t guarantee that you’re not going to get backlash from it. It’s hurt us. We’re not doing the volume. But my percentage per job is better. And I can guarantee you that the only way we’re going to change things is by changing it. Going after it. Draw a line in the sand about as far as you’ll go. That’s what we’ve done.”
    – Larry Rogers, owner of Mr. Rogers Auto Body in Cathedral City, California.

More insurance companies appear to be gravitating toward the idea of reducing supplements by enabling more complete disassembly of a vehicle prior to completing an initial estimate, according to a Collision Industry Conference (CIC) committee.

Sunday, 26 October 2008 17:00

Yoswick --- What I'd Say At a NACE Podium

As the collision industry gathers in Las Vegas in November for the annual International Autobody Congress and Exposition (NACE), here is what some shop owners around the country said they would like to hear from industry leaders speaking at the event. It’s the message they say they’d convey if they had an opportunity to address the industry.
Efforts to curb steering of consumers by insurers has probably been the single most common focus of industry-related state legislation introduced this year, and there has been some movement in lawsuits related to steering as well.
    Here’s a wrap-up of some of the latest in the long-simmering battle over whether and how insurers are allowed to influence motorists’ choice of shops.
Tuesday, 30 September 2008 17:00

Yoswick--Take Another Look at Fleet Work

Jim Salazar said fleet work may account for only 10 percent of his business—but it’s an important 10 percent.
    “There are times when the industry as a whole gets slow, so you really shouldn’t overlook the added revenue that fleet work offers,” said Salazar, who with his brother are the second-generation owners of Royal Coaches Autobody & Towing, a 23-employee company in Baldwin Park, California. “It’s a dependable source of work.”
Advertising and marketing budgets are sometimes among the first items to get the ax during economic downturns, but that’s not a good approach according to some dealership parts and service operations.
    “We’re basically holding steady with our marketing and advertising,” said Bob Himelstieb, parts manager at Stevinson Toyota East in Aurora, Colorado, saying he’s seen past downturns as an opportunity to pick up new business as competitors cut back their marketing.

Shop owners may want to view technical training as an investment in employee retention. A well-trained employee, after all, is generally a more productive employee. For technicians paid on commission or flat rate, this added productivity should have an immediate impact on their income.

When Doug Kelly stepped to the podium at a Friday afternoon session at NACE this past November, his goal was to help an audience consisting primarily of paint, body and equipment (PBE) jobbers understand how to grow their businesses.