Industry “Disrupter” Launches Collision Industry Book & Patent-Pending Test-Drive Technology

Frank Terlep
Frank Terlep, executive, entrepreneur, author and self-proclaimed “disrupter of the automotive industry.

Many in the collision repair industry are familiar with Frank Terlep, an experienced executive, entrepreneur, author and self-proclaimed “disrupter” of the automotive industry.

In December 2019, Terlep launched his new book, “Auto Industry Disruption, Who and What is Being Disrupted and What to Do About It!”

“I started disrupting the auto aftermarket in the mid-1980s when I raised $100,000 from an angel investor to develop a software application for the automotive aftermarket,” said Terlep. “It was one of the first software applications of its kind that helped automotive aftermarket companies manage their businesses using computer software.”

Since then, Terlep has designed, developed, sold and implemented leading-edge technology for the automotive, collision repair and claims industries. Autobody News recently sat down with Terlep to find out what prompted him to write his book and learn more about the patent-pending test-drive technology he and his team are launching.

Q: How did you get involved in the collision repair industry?

A: Before attending university in the late 1970s, I was in the United States Army. A friend of mine was attending Southern Illinois University (SIU) and often sent me pictures from the school. I always liked cars and SIU was one of the only universities at that time offering a four-year degree in automotive technology, so I enrolled. Although I originally planned to be a civil engineer, I earned my degree in automotive management and technology in 1980.

After finishing school, I worked as a service advisor at a Chevy dealership. Throughout my 40-year career, I’ve spent time as an auto mechanic, service manager, shop owner, salesperson, software designer, chief technology officer, senior executive, entrepreneur, author, educator, industry volunteer and disrupter.

When the Apple IIe came out in 1983, I got hooked on computers and began selling automotive diagnostic equipment to repair vehicles.

I launched a company and built my first software after raising money from an angel investor. I eventually sold that business, but the experience started my long history as an entrepreneur.

From 1999 – 2001, I helped raise tens of millions of dollars from venture capitalists on Sand Hill Road in Silicon Valley, CA, to design and develop one of the automotive industry’s first online parts procurement platforms for the collision industry.

For the next 16 years, I built my second and third companies, Summit Software Solutions and Summit eMarketing Sherpas, developing software to help the automotive businesses market, manage, and operate their businesses. At the end of 2016, I sold my software companies and joined asTech as their chief technology officer to help build their online and mobile app platform. I recently left asTech after finishing that project to write my book and start a new company—Auto Techcelerators, LLC.

Q: What prompted you to write “Auto Industry Disruption … Who and What is Being Disrupted and What to Do About It!”?

A: I wrote my first book for the collision industry in 2007. It was called “The Digi-Lean Collision Repair System, Combining Lean Thinking, Processes, and Digital Tools to ‘Find’ $10,000 or More per Month in Your Collision Repair Business.” The concept was how to use digital technology to implement lean processes in your business.

I’ve always been intrigued by software and computers and how to dramatically improve business performance with the right processes. During the two-and-a-half years I worked at asTech, I was dealing with a lot of vehicle technology. I started to do a ton of research on what was coming down the pike and realized that the whole industry is going to change … every aspect of it. I looked into what companies and car manufacturers are doing in response. That’s what prompted me to write the book because I was so interested in the changes expected to happen.

Technology is going to be rampant across all industries and everyone is going to be affected, not just the collision repair industry. The book is written for anybody in the automotive industry, including CEOs, dealer owners, shop owners, shop businesses, and those in manufacturing.

Q: Without giving away too much, what is the book’s main takeaway?

A: The message I want readers to walk away with is if you are in the business, whether you are an employee, manager or owner, you are going to experience disruption of some type. My book is the CliffsNotes version of some of the things that businesses should consider addressing to handle the disruption that is coming their way.

Q: Can you tell us about the new company you started—Autotechcelerators?

A: I’ve worked with a lot of shops over my career, especially during the last few years. One of the things I kept hearing over and over again is that cars are not only becoming harder to repair, but they require calibrations. I also kept hearing that taking a car out for a test-drive is not the same as it used to be. Technicians and shop owners would tell me, “Frank, you can’t just take the car out and drive it around the block and make sure the car goes straight and there is no noise anymore.”

After I left asTech, I filed a patent on vehicle repair test-drive processes and technologies. During the upcoming Collision Industry Conference (CIC) in Palm Springs, CA, my team and I will be launching a solution for performing, managing and documenting test-drives. The patent-pending product and service will change the way test-drives, road tests and dynamic calibrations are performed, managed and documented forever. The Test Drive CoPilot event will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 15, at 5 p.m. at the Palm Springs Hilton in California. To R.S.V.P for the event, visit https://www.testdrivecopilot.com/launch-party-rsvp.

Q: What can attendees expect to see at the event?

A: We’re going to introduce new technologies and processes to those in attendance that will allow businesses to fully document every test-drive, road test or dynamic calibration as well as generate detailed reimbursement documentation. They will also provide employees with the detailed test-drive recommendations, track and manage costs, implement quality controls, and create documentation to reduce an organization’s liability.

If you think about it, the only place left today that isn’t being measured, managed or documented is the test-drive. It’s the only time a vehicle typically leaves a shop during or after a repair. The idea was to create something simple and inexpensive for a shop to quality control test-drives, ensure they are being done according to OEM recommendations and get reimbursed for their work processes.

Q: What are some of the changes you predict will occur in the automotive industry?

A: One of the major things I see coming is that I don’t think a typical independent collision repairer is going to be able to be a generalist anymore. The growing complexity of the vehicles is going to force them to become part of something bigger and become specialized. The vehicles are too complicated to repair.

I also think the rise of remote technician services is going to be huge. I say that because there is a shortage of people joining the industry, as most of us already know. With that being the case, cars are becoming more complicated. I believe that you’re going to see technicians from other countries helping us diagnosis and repair cars remotely over the Internet. That’s going to be a big opportunity and the industry itself is going to shrink. We’ve been saying this for years.

You can look at any service business industry, for example, in terms of a pyramid organizational structure. At the top of the pyramid, you have the best and the biggest companies, which is a small percentage. At the bottom, you have a larger number, but they are usually not the best and revenue is small. A typical service business is in the middle. What happens is a business either moves up or down and eventually, there is no middle and the pyramid becomes an hourglass shape. I think that’s happening in our industry as well.

I cover these ideas in more depth in the book. I am scheduled to talk about five major disruptions the collision industry will face in 2020 and beyond during a Dave Luehr’s Elite Body Shop Academy webinar on Thursday, Jan. 23 at 1 p.m. CST.

To register for the free webinar, visit https://events.genndi.com/channel/Jan2020EWS.

“Auto Industry Disruption, Who and What is Being Disrupted and What to Do About It” is published by BookBaby and is available from the BookBaby store as well as Amazon.com in paperback and ebook versions.

Stacey Phillips Ronak

Columnist
Stacey Phillips Ronak is an award-winning writer for the automotive industry and a regular columnist for Autobody News based in Southern California.

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