Friday, 08 December 2017 17:42

Education Was Major Industry Concern in 2017

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Starting with the inauguration of the 45th President, moving on to the solar eclipse and three devastating hurricanes, 2017 has been a year to remember with many major changes impacting the United States. 

The collision repair industry has continued to change as well, with evolving technology and raging legal battles, including the renowned John Eagle lawsuit in Texas. Associations around the country offered a variety of educational opportunities through meetings and conferences, and as the New Year crept up on us, Autobody News spoke with several association leaders about the best and most memorable things they did in 2017.

From getting associations off the ground to establishing a broader member base, several associations focused on growth this year. 

Stephen Regan, Executive Director of ASA-MA/RI, shared, “The most memorable thing ASA-MA/RI has done in 2017 is open its doors.  We have brought back to the region an entity dedicated solely to the advancement of collision and mechanical repair shops and those who serve them.  Unlike many state trade associations in the industry, ASA-MA/RI has a fully staffed, dedicated office location. Our sole purpose is the professional operation of the association on behalf of its members and supporters.”

Brian Davies, President of the North Carolina Association of Collision and Autobody Repair, stated, “2017 was our first full year of existence. It is a broad statement, but we made ourselves relevant to the collision industry in North Carolina and made a significant impact by bringing the collision industry closer together, learning how to work together, and helping each other improve while improving the industry in North Carolina. Another big one was being accepted as an affiliate member to the SCRS.  With their support, we all feel more confident knowing we have others all over the U.S. that have our back. In addition, having the support of the largest paint manufacturer, PPG, has been invaluable, and without them, we would not be where we are now.”

The Women’s Industry Network (WIN®) has surpassed its goals, but continues to focus on growth. 

“After a very successful and exciting 2017, it is challenging to focus on just one thing… besides encouraging, developing and cultivating opportunities to attract women to collision repair, the WIN Board of Directors considered how we might move our organization to the next level of impacting women,” noted Petra Schroeder, WIN’s Chair. “We reflected on our industry-at-large and surveyed our board leaders, our members and our sponsors to assess their satisfaction with their WIN affiliation. This was followed by a board retreat to reflect on our current position and to dream about WIN’s contributions to our industry in the future. Finally, we charted the course to get there through our 2018--2020 strategy plan. It sets out a bold and ambitious vision for the members of WIN and all women in the collision repair industry. It will also provide direction for the ongoing growth and sustainability of our organization in a rapidly changing industry.

 “In our first strategic plan (2008--2011), we envisioned a 500-member-strong national network, recognized as a key contributor to our industry’s success. We surpassed the 500-member mark in 2016. In addition to ensuring that we continue to provide value for our growing network of members, the new plan looks beyond our membership to identify ways that WIN can have a greater impact on industry diversity and sustainability.”

Education, for both repairers and consumers, was also a major area of concern for many associations. 

According to Auto Body Association of Connecticut (ABAC) President Tony Ferraiolo, “I think the best thing our association did in 2017 was bring educational meetings to our members. We also took a stand on photo estimates, informing consumers and shops that, in our state, the customer has the right to have their vehicles physically inspected in person by a licensed appraiser if they choose to [do so].”

Ray Fisher, President of ASA-MI, shared, “There were many things that were quite memorable in 2017, but the one that I think stands out for the collision repair industry here in Michigan is the session that we created from scratch, titled ‘The Relationship between Structural Repair and Vehicle Calibration.’ The reason that it stands out was because it came about from a conversation at the PF3 Paint Supply Open House and [came to] fruition within a few months. The training was intense, and it combined collision and mechanical technology and teachings, creating awareness for not only what is ahead, but also what is on the road currently. I am proud that ASA represents the professionals within the automotive independent collision repair industry, and I think it is important to keep that attribute at the forefront as we move into the future.


"Today, not only is our reputation of craftsmanship at risk, but the lives of our customers and their families are in our hands every time we make a decision to repair a vehicle. I believe that 2017 served as a ‘wake-up call’ to the repair industry reflecting on this very point via a major settlement. Just as the cardiologist does what their previous or their required annual training taught them to do during open heart surgery, the technician also has to apply their knowledge to repair the vehicle properly within the guidelines of the vehicle manufacturer to ensure safe and proper repairs. I understand keeping the cost of repairs down---that is the art of negotiation between two businesses---but it should never be used to pressure anyone to compromise proper and safe repairs being performed by the expert.” 

Burl Richards, President of the Auto Body Association of Texas (ABAT), said, “The most memorable things ABAT did in 2017 were related to Todd Tracy, who allowed us to visit his law firm in Dallas. It was unlike anything we had ever seen, with hundreds of wrecked vehicles in warehouses at his facility. It was eye-opening to see the amount of time and expertise that was being used to inspect these wrecked vehicles. Then, we invited him to speak at our tradeshow. His presence was met with a little resistance from the industry, but once everyone heard the message, ‘Repairing vehicles has consequences, so you better follow OEM guidelines,’ it was a message well-received, and I believe it made us all better for it.”

For the Automotive Service Association (ASA), the most important experience in 2017 was related to legislation. 

ASA Executive Director Dan Risley shared, “We have invested several thousand man hours representing our members and the industry in Washington D.C. We have been working tirelessly with legislators, other industry partners and the OE’s on new vehicle technology relative to telematics, (ADAS) advanced driver assistance systems, autonomous vehicles and the connected car. ASA has been extremely vocal and visible representing the best interests of the collision and service repair industries. Our goal is to ensure that our members continue to have access to the information necessary to repair their customers’ vehicles without having to enact legislation. As cybersecurity and data ownership continue to take center stage, we are ensuring that the independent repairer is part of the solution and equation.”

A lot of momentum was begun and carried through into 2017, and 2018 is gearing up to be an even bigger year for the collision repair industry as these associations and others continue to educate members, expand their offerings and fight for the rights of shop owners and consumers. 

Autobody News looks forward to continuing to bring you all of the latest association news in 2018. Happy holidays!

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