Thursday, 12 December 2013 22:54

LIABRA's Membership Approaches 500 Shops, Repairing 250,000 Vehicles Annually

Since the mid-1970s, the Long Island Auto Body Repairmen’s Association (LIABRA) has been devoted to serving one of the busiest motoring regions in the country. Servicing Nassau, Suffolk and a portion of Queens counties, LIABRA maintains a finger on the pulse of the industry, monitoring technological advances, educational requirements and legislative initiatives in order to disseminate this important information to their member base.

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The association was formed when several collision shops recognized the need to acquire additional knowledge and establish awareness of the industry’s concerns in their state capitol. To achieve this, they gathered a group to speak with one voice and started holding general meetings to gauge interest until they were able to formally charter the association in 1975.

What began as a small collection of shops quickly grew to approximately 100 members by the early 1980s when current Executive Director Ed Kizenberger took over. In subsequent decades, LIABRA’s membership has grown to around 500 shops that repair, on average, a quarter million vehicles annually.

Comprised of collision repair professionals devoted to the advancement of the industry, LIABRA’s mission is “to create an environment of professionalism, respect, accountability, excellence, enthusiasm and the ability to collect fair and reasonable compensation for collision repairers who properly restore vehicles to their pre-loss condition. We will achieve this through consumer advocacy, education, legislation and communication.”

In order to propagate this mission, the association has developed the following four aims: to develop organizational framework in order to give all members, including the smallest shop of the association, fair representation in the successful pursuit of its business interests; to develop an exchange of information and ideas beneficial to shop owners; to unify body shops and develop a code of ethics; and to take appropriate action in an effort to discontinue any unethical practices to which we, as an industry, are subjected.

As such, LIABRA’s current goals focus on continuing to represent their members and to provide fair representation in all aspects of their businesses. They also strive to distribute necessary information and to serve as a resource for members with questions about various aspects of the industry.

Kizenberger believes that LIABRA’s role as a resource for members is one of the most important services they provide. “It is invaluable for us to be able to discuss problems with our peers and share our experience so that we can stay connected and work together on resolving problems. As individual shops, it is easy to identify problems, but it’s difficult to find solutions unless you work together – LIABRA provides a forum for working together.”

In addition to collaborating with other businesses within the industry, LIABRA feels it is imperative to combat outside interference that seeks to gain control of the collision repair industry. According to Kizenberger, “we need to prevent outside entities from dictating our practices. Our goal is to safely repair the car, so they need to allow us to do our job of utilizing training, equipment and knowledge to safely repair our customers’ vehicles.”

In fact, Kizenberger believes this interaction with insurers is one of the largest challenges facing the industry, along with keeping current with changing technology, understanding how the marketplace is evolving and deciphering how both of these will impact the frequency of accidents. He believes these problems can be overcome by promoting greater understanding throughout the industry. Ways to acquire this understanding include attending training seminars, such as the BMW seminar presented at LIABRA’s meeting on November 19, 2013, and becoming more involved with trade associations which can present these concerns to legislators.

LIABRA’s view of insurer influence has led to their distaste for PartsTrader. Kizenberger explains, “we are adamantly opposed to any outside entity specifying the vendors, processes and so forth that collision repair professionals use. We feel that it is direct tortious interference which absolutely erodes the freedom of business and the open market concept that America was built on. Any influence based on pricing could result in an inferior repair, plus programs like PartsTrader interfere with the business relationships that shops have developed with vendors over many years. It definitely affects the market in a negative way.”

Regarding Right to Repair, Kizenberger believes that repair documentation “should not be proprietary information. Consumers should have access to information about how to repair their vehicles, and the industry as a whole needs access in order to safely repair those vehicles. Manufacturers should release documentation in a timely manner; it benefits no one but them to retain a monopoly.”

LIABRA constantly interacts with government regulators to encourage an exchange of information and ideas which will be beneficial to shop owners. They were instrumental in establishing an industry code of ethics, and they continue to develop consumer protection legislation to ensure the highest quality and safety standards in the collision repair industry. The association is currently working on their legislative agenda for 2014 which will include their Annual Lobby Day visit to the state capitol on April 29, 2014.

The 2014 legislative agenda includes three proposed legislative acts thus far. The first is a Free Market Protection/Fair Claims Bill which addresses anti-steering issues and price caps, plus it defines what constitutes unfair claims practices. The proposed bill also includes support for the Right to Choose and is written to benefit the consumer, as well as the collision repair industry. Because of their strong beliefs about insurer-mandated parts procurement programs, LIABRA has also proposed the Parts Procurement Bill, legislation prohibiting insurers from requiring shops to use specific vendors, and they have acquired strong sponsorship for their proposed bill. Their other proposed legislation pertains to the proper installation of glass as they urge their state legislators to align New York’s standards to be consistent with federal safety standards.

LIABRA also continues to work with various agencies regarding labor rate issues. The association has nearly completed their yearly Labor Rate Survey, and they intend to publish the results in the next issue of their monthly newsletter. This newsletter is only one of the perks shops receive from membership in LIABRA; benefits also include monthly meetings and educational seminars which provide the knowledge necessary for repairers to understand the changes occurring in the industry. Also, members can receive discounts on credit card processing, advice on their insurance and so much more.

Kizenberger believes that there are many real challenges involved in maintaining operations of LIABRA, but these are the common problems that all non-profit organizations face, such as obtaining volunteers and providing useful information for their members; “the maintenance of the group correlates somewhat to claims frequency reductions, affecting the numbers of shops that will be performing repairs in the future, and we are constantly challenged to provide real value to our members because, even if the number of shops are reduced, those still standing will continue to need representation for their interests.”

PO Box 482
Centereach, NY 11720

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