Tuesday, 05 January 2010 07:18

Consumers are Duped Into Accepting Unsafe Collision Repairs

Written by Lee Amaradio, Jr.

Last month Toby Chess wrote an article in Autobody News (see Dec. 09 issue) that was about two repairs on completed by two different shops on Mercedes Benz vehicles that were not only repaired in a substandard way but safe to say in an un-safe manner. I want to add to what Toby had to say because this is not the exception but the norm.

With our economic downturn, shops and consumers are struggling. One (shops) to make a buck, and the other (consumers) to save a buck. There has been a giant step backwards in accountability from both shops and insurers that guarantees that a safe vehicle is put back on the road. The consumer is becoming the victim because they are deceived into thinking that a guarantee is the same as a safe repair.

I believe that we reap what we sow, so to think we will get away from accountability just because we haven’t been caught is wrong. To hide something from the customer will only come back to bite you in the end. Selling the job back to the customer should never be anything more than explaining to them what you have done and reassuring them that they can count on you because you care about them. It should never get to the point of talking them into accepting a repair that you know is substandard.

Many will use the justification that this is all they deserve because they’re getting what they paid for. Or it’s not my fault it’s their insurance company’s fault because they refused to allow me to repair the vehicle the way I wanted. NO! It is your fault, Yes, yours! I will say it again and again. We are the ones responsible for the repair process and in any court of law we will be held liable for what we did, or in many cases, didn’t do.

We have allowed ourselves to become vulnerable because we are between a rock and a hard place. If we stand up for the consumer we upset the insurer only to find that the consumer is unwilling to stand up for themselves anyway. Everyone wants to take the course of least resistance because we all get tired of the fight. I understand this very well and I can justify delivering a substandard repair back to the customer if I try just a little. I can say I wasn’t paid enough, or the insurer wouldn’t pay for what the vehicle needed and the customer wouldn’t either, what was I supposed to do? There are a million ways to justify wrong doing but I have found that in most cases whenever I am trying to justify anything I am usually the one wrong.

Now, getting back to Toby’s article, do you think that either of those Mercedes that were intended to be repaired incorrectly? No. Both repairers, I’m sure, thought they were doing a quality repair and I suspect that they didn’t know the difference.

This is the major problem within our industry because the majority of the shops don’t know the difference. I’m sorry if I offend you but there will be a day of reckoning coming for each of us unless we all get the training and equipment needed to repair today’s vehicles. We are the repair experts and saying that the “insurer made me do it” will not save you when you are called to be accountable for why you repaired a vehicle in a particular manner.

There is a lot of talk about Cycle Time, Severity, and CSI, but we have forgotten about Safety and have forgone our better judgment and failed to protect the most important factor of our businesses, which is the customer. The customer’s safety is and always should be our first obligation.

I understand and agree that insurers have needs but I have never had any insurer require me to put a Mercedes on a jig. I always need to prove to them that it is necessary because they have a different job. Their job is to mitigate the loss and mine is to repair the vehicle correctly.

Have you ever heard any insurer tell an unhappy customer that anything related to the repair was their fault? That’s because nothing related to the repair is the insurer’s fault.

So we need to quit blaming the insurance companies and start getting the training and equipment required to fix today’s vehicles. For the record, you cannot clamp any Mercedes by the pinch welds or by using adapters in the jack pad holes, they must be jigged and there are only two approved benches for Mercedes: one is Cellete and the other is CarBench. If you pull or replace any Mercedes’ structure item without using jigs you just became liable for a substandard unsafe repair.

Toyota has a memo against using any welded on used parts including quarter panels and frame rails. So, if you don’t have the training and equipment, then don’t repair the car. I cannot tell you how many Mercedes we repaired by tying them down with the pin adapters, unaware until we attended training, and found that we were repairing them incorrectly—thinking we were doing a high quality repair.

What if you are not repairing Mercedes? You are not off the hook because benches and jigs are required by more than Mercedes, and now there are requirements from most of the OEMs as to repair procedures required to fix their vehicles. Companies like ALLDATA and VeriFacts have information available, that you as a shop owner need to invest in if you intend to move into the future and stay in the collision repair industry. (Farzam Afshar, at VeriFacts, and Dale Delmege, of Chelsea Group, have been warning those who will listen about these issues for some time—Ed.)

You don’t need to be a big shop but you need to become a qualified shop in terms of equipment and the training if you intend to return a safe repair to you customers. You will be held accountable sooner or later. Toby’s article was very kind to the shops that ruined the two cars but they still lost both customers for life. Our industry will see more post-repair inspections taking place. Keep in mind that everything changes when there is an injury or a fatality involved. We could face criminal charges (or at least a lawsuit) for completing a repair where the integrity of the repair with regards to safety was an issue.

It is our duty to our customers to put safety first. We are the experts. We need to control the repair process because we assume all of the liability. I suggest you read Toby’s article, if you haven’t already. And if you have, read it again.

Toby’s article can also be read with color photos at www.autobodynews.com. See Hey Toby 19—Two Mercedes ‘Repairs’ Show Concern About the Industry. Go to http://www.autobodynews.com/hey-toby/index.php to read this and other articles by Toby Chess.