Thursday, 24 March 2011 09:08

Underqualified Repairers Hurt the Whole Industry

Written by Lee Amaradio Jr.

As the financial pressure mounts with the U.S. recession going on three years now, the collision industry is rapidly falling behind the technology curve. Many shops are unable to afford the training and new equipment required to repair today’s modern vehicles.

Insurers are accutely aware of the fact that there are fewer and fewer shops able and ready to repair many of today’s high tech vehicles. The old methods of repair will no longer work but the responsibility to educate the insurers lies with the collision repairers themselves. But how can a shop that is well-educated and well-trained compete in a marketplace where the status quo is so far behind the times? We’re implicitly teaching insurers that it’s still OK to ‘repair’ vehicles the way we always have because to do so costs less.

When we are forced to prove this point over and over, it makes the shop that is doing a proper repair look like a bunch of pompous overcharging prima donnas. The fact is that it costs more to repair a collision properly than to do a proforma job and in today’s marketplace it is also less profitable to do it right. Although the overall ticket average may be higher the bottom line profit remains lower.

The entire collision industry is struggling because we have allowed ourselves to become “yes men” and throughout this recession things have only gotten worse. How can anyone agree to repair a vehicle the new technical details of which they know little or nothing about? Yet many shops are doing this every day.

The inexperienced adjuster says you do it this way and shops say ‘yes,’ some to eliminate any repercussions and others because they think it’s OK. It is never OK to put a used welded frame rail on vehicle but I am forced to argue this point weekly. Because the wrecking yard has clips available does not mean we should be using them. So why do we find it necessary to have the same argument over and over almost weekly?

The reason is because of undertrained, underequipped body shops. Adjusters are not our problem; insurance companies are not the problem—underqualified shops are the problem.

Eliminate the underqualified, undertrained shops and you will eliminate the problem. Why? Because training raises the standards bar for everyone. When the inexperienced adjuster comes in to a well-trained shop and then goes on to the next one, he or she is hearing the same thing everywhere (s)he goes and he or she begins to learn something, the supervisors begin to learn something, and the argument of repairing the vehicle correctly goes away.

I believe there are many roads that lead to the same destination but with collision repair we first need to define our destination before we begin our journey. If our destination is to control costs (at all cost) we arrive someplace different than where a safe structural repair should lead. If our destination is a safe repair that restores the integrity of the vehicle’s standards then cost alone cannot be the guidance system to get us there.

I believe that the only consistent credible way to restore the vehicle’s safety after a collision is to rely on what the OEM’s have tested and proven to be deemed reliable methods. Anything differing from the restoration of the vehicle’s structural integrity is the wrong road to follow. Everybody needs to use the same map to arrive at the correct destination with a collision repair.

So where does this leave the shops that may be willing to do the repair correctly but lack the knowledge or equipment to do so? It leaves you on the sidelines of the collision industry until you gain the credentials required to repair today’s modern vehicles. Would you head out on a cross-country trip without knowing where you were going or with out knowing your destination? Certainly Not.

So it’s time to step up and check your destination or you will find yourselves lost in the wilderness without a map or compass with no way of ever getting back. This may sound harsh but 50% of the shops will not make the cut.

Insurers are becoming more and more conscious of the liability involved if the vehicle is not repaired properly and they are naturally gravitating to the shops that are trained and equipped properly.

There are plenty of resources available for shops interested in making the cut. VeriFacts, I-CAR, ASE, OEM programs, and ALLDATA for OEM specs come to mind. Join these groups in raising the bar, and pass the education you get from them along to your customers, insurance adjusters, and your fellow shop owners.

Support the industry, protect your customers, and don’t get left behind.