Looking back at 2004: year in quotes

Looking back at 2004: year in quotes

While no particular issue or news event seemed to dominate the industry's attention this past year - other than perhaps the slow-down in work shops felt in many parts of the country - it hasn't been a quiet one for collision repairers. Here is the annual year-in-review wrap-up, a collection of some of the most memorable, important, interesting or enlightening quotes heard around the industry during 2004. 

Why are we still rekeying estimates?

"Insurance companies seem to be able to [electronically] receive estimates written by body shops pretty well, so why can't body shops [electronically] get estimates written by insurance companies. Somebody is delaying this process, and I know it's not the repairers."

- Chuck Sulkala, owner of Acme Body and Paint in Jamaica Plains, Mass., about the problem of shops having to rekey insurer estimates.

Comment from SCRS

"SCRS is extremely disappointed in these results, and we'd like to see some significant change in that percentage over the next year. SCRS believes that requiring a repair facility to have a specific estimating system is no longer a technology challenge; it is more of a mind-set change."

- Dan Risley, executive director of the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS), after an association survey found that nearly half of 15 larger insurers it contacted required its direct repair shops to use a particular estimating or imaging system.

Insurer-owned repair shops

"The thing I was most amazed by was how quickly I was contacted by [the other driver's] insurance company, which almost immediately called me and said they already had the check in the mail to pay for my automobile. I asked 'How did you even know how much damage was done?' They said, 'Well, from the report.' So I was offered a settlement before anybody even viewed the damage to the vehicle."

- Joe Maxwell, the lieutenant governor of Missouri, in an interview about his recent personal experience with an auto claim.

"The idea of having an insurance company that would control where I repaired my car is kind of like having a fox watch the chicken house. You may wind up with fewer chickens. Not that [insurers are] bad, but they have an interest in protecting their shareholders. They should do that. They need to make a profit. And one way to do that is pay out fewer claims. So their interest is not the consumer or the person who's been harmed. Their interest is in protecting the person who did the harm, or their shareholder. But I would never want a situation where insurance companies own their own repair shops or can direct [to] one autobody shop. That's way too much control of the process."

- Maxwell, in the same interview.

"The folks in that facility actually work for the insurance company. I think the consumer is not served by that."

- Ron Pyle, the president of the Automotive Service Association (ASA), during a CBS News segment on insurer- owned shops that included the finding that work done on a vehicle by Caliber Collision Centers, a chain of shops in California and Texas owned in part by two insurance companies that have invested in the company, was "grossly negligent."

"The Automotive Service Councils (ASC) of Michigan opposes insurance companies having an ownership interest in automotive repair facilities and views such ownership as being a direct conflict of interest. It eliminates the checks-and-balances system that assures consumer protection... ASC has historically supported the consumer's absolute, unequivocal right to choose a repair facility for a collision or mechanical repair. When the body shop is owned by the insurance company, the consumer is the one who loses. If they have a problem with the repair, whom do they turn to?"

- Ron Meyer, president of ASC-MI, testifying in favor of proposed legislation in his state, one of at least eight to consider but not pass legislation in 2004 that would have limited insurers ability to invest in or own collision repair shops.

"Given these assumptions, that basically says there are 2.52 million estimates that are rekeyed each year by body shops, costing a minimum of $17.64 million. That costs everybody money."

- Cindy Schnier, co-chairman of the CIC Information Technology Committee, reporting its preliminary research into the issue of shops having to rekey insurer estimates.

I-CAR: Who's your daddy?

"You're using I-CAR resources to favor dealer networks as opposed to independent repairers. There's a 'barrier to entry' to get that training."

-- Sheila Loftus, executive director of the Washington (D.C.) Metropolitan Auto Body Association, to I-CAR executives when they announced last summer that Audi had hired I-CAR to develop collision repair training for its all-aluminum A8 model, training that would be offered only at the I-CAR Tech Centre and only for dealership technicians or those independents authorized by a dealer.

"An I-CAR training program is, was and always will be available to the industry. This is not an I-CAR program that's only available to the manufacturer. This is I-CAR developing training or repair procedures specific to a make and model for a manufacturer."

- I-CAR's Rick Tuuri in response to Loftus.

"Whatever we call it, I see I-CAR as the central repository and authority on collision repair. I think the industry wants it to happen. I think I-CAR is poised to take on that responsibility right now."

- New I-CAR board chairman Nick Notte, hinting at I-CAR's annual meeting last summer that the Uniform Procedures for Collision Repair (UPCR) that I-CAR developed (but subsequently shelved several years ago) as documented repair standards for the industry may be resurrected.

New frontiers in steering

"There is a flag process that if one of, I think, six structural items for the [Mercedes] CL is ordered, it sets off a chain of events and our field team is notified. At which time they would speak to the customer and recommend that the car be repaired at a trained and authorized facility."

- Bob Sherry, supervisor of collision and wholesale parts for Mercedes-Benz, explaining the automaker's push to have certain models of its vehicles fixed only at its certified collision repair shops.

Purchasing compliant software

"Shop owners today really have no way of knowing if a piece of software they are thinking about buying meets the standards. So somebody could say, 'Oh, we meet CIECA standards, sign here.' Then only after the shop owner did that would they find out the truth. We soon will be certifying the software that meets the standards. We will be publishing that information - whether certain software passed or failed - on our website. So a shop will be able to go to the website and check a certain software package and its version number and see if it meets the CIECA standard."

- Fred Iantorno, executive director of the Collision Industry Electronic Commerce Association (CIECA), which develops standards to streamline electronic communications between shops, insurers and vendors, urging shops only to buy software that is compliant.

"I think you're going to get shops that are afraid to order those parts because they don't want the car taken out of their facility or steered away from them, so maybe they end up repairing the car improperly just because of the way you are setting up your system. So you're actually shooting yourselves in the foot and doing the industry and your customer a disservice because you're steering work away from the shops that are trying to do the right thing. So I'd ask you to please reevaluate..."

- Kelly Swenson, owner of Carty's Collision Center in Ontario, California, to Sherry, as well as a representative of Jaguar, who each announced similar efforts to limit certain parts sales or repairs to certified shops.

State Farm: repairers set your own performance targets

"We are not interested in giving you a number to hit. We don't feel that's our place. We feel you are the best ones to determine, for example, what the recycled parts use should be based on your market area and availability. I think we're going to lean more toward giving you more global information and letting you see how you compare to the market or to the state... so you can see where you fit and you can make decisions on how to move that number around."

- George Avery, auto estimating consultant for State Farm Insurance, saying in August that his company has no plans to set performance benchmarks for shops participating in its direct repair program.

Labor rate surveys

"To date, only two insurance companies have complied with the law."

- The California Autobody Association calling for that state's Department of Insurance to crack down on insurers the association says are regularly ignoring legislation that requires insurers conducting labor rate surveys to report the findings to the Department of Insurance, which in turn is to make the information available to anyone upon request.

Just ask

"The grant is federal money being distributed by the states through the counties. It's money they will use to get more training for existing workers."

- Marc Essig, a collision repair instructor and consultant in Oregon who represented a consortium of 10 Portland area collision repair businesses that applied for and received a $30,000 workforce training grant that would reimburse the shops for half of what they spent on technician training in the coming year.

Regarding certifying aftermarket parts

"There are several non-OEM parts entities in our industry that are telling us that they provide a superior part for 'x' reasons. Now would the real superior part please stand up."

- Rod Enlow, co-chairman of the CIC Parts Committee, on the committee's plan for an independent audit of the effectiveness of programs that purport to certify the quality of non-OEM parts.

"There's no reason that CAPA, MQVP, Keystone or whoever wants to participate can't do exactly what you're saying [without CIC's involvement]. My concern is CIC is going to be in the position at the end of the audit of having MQVP, CAPA and Keystone or whoever participates saying, 'The CIC audit process proved we deliver quality parts...' CIC is not in a position to have that happen."

- Rick Sherwood, owner of the Detroit-based consulting firm OEM Collision Repair Resources, in opposing the CIC planned audit.

"It's going to put to us right back to square one, where you read the rhetoric, you go to the websites, you make your decision on who makes good parts and you use them. The hurtful part is, we've worked on this thing almost a year. And nobody had said anything about it until today. So you've wasted a committee's efforts for the better part of a year."

- Enlow, after CIC participants voted 40-6 (with at least an equal number not voting) last January to scrap the planned audit of non-OEM part certification programs just days before it was set to launch.

"Do I always have a CAPA part when I get asked [for one]? Of course not! I get backorders and sometimes told, 'There's no CAPA available, but yes, I have these from an anonymous manufacturer.' Well, we all know we can't stay in [the parts] business without parts to sell, so sometimes we acquiesce and buy non-certified."

- Steve Bollander, president of the Auto Body Parts Association, a group of non-OEM parts suppliers, saying his company notifies shops if a CAPA part is not available, and decrying those suppliers who don't.

Collision repair specialists are people too!

"We can't do enough to recognize the men and women who service and maintain the highly-complex vehicles upon which we depend for our day-to-day transportation."

- Ron Weiner, president of the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), in establishing June 12 as "National Automotive Service Professional's Day."

Customer feedback

"It is safe to say that insurance companies do indeed influence where customers get their vehicles repaired. Therefore, it is probably a good idea for repair facilities to have a strategic plan in place to work in a positive way with those in a position of influence."

- John Webb, vice president of marketing for CSi Complete, on his company's survey of 25,000 consumers who'd recently had their car repaired that found that about one in three said an insurance company recommendation was the determining factor in their choice of a collision repair shop.

"Getting up every morning and giving back to my family and community makes me feel like I'm still a functioning part of this world. I think if I'd have stayed home I'd have rotted away when I was 70."

- Mern Shepherd, a 95-year-old collision repair technician who still works six days a week and was named "California Worker of the Year" by work clothing manufacturer Dickies.

"We're doing great. We've experienced the sickness part of 'in sickness and in health.' I'm looking forward to experiencing the health."

- 21-year-old Amanda Owens after her fiancee, Shane Mills, a painter at a shop in Redmond, Oregon, donated one of his kidneys to his bride-to-be last summer (the couple got married four months later).

Right to Repair legislation

"Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) stated he believed that the automaker-ASA agreement is still working. He's very comfortable with that. He personally sees no need for the legislation as long as the agreement is in place and continues to work."

- Bill Haas of the ASA, saying the association has been successful in convincing lawmakers that its agreement with automakers to make service and repair information available to independent shops is sufficient and that proposed legislation ASA previously supported is no longer necessary.

"The agreement with the automakers is working. Many shops across the country are still not using the huge amount of [online] information that continues to grow on a daily basis. Often it is due to a fear that it will take too long or that they will not find the information they need. My experience has been that, yes, there will be a learning curve because each manufacturer delivers their service information in somewhat different ways. The fact that is too often discounted is that technicians are highly skilled and adaptive individuals. If they give it a chance they will be using these tools with confidence in no time."

- Donny Seyfer, owner of Seyfer Automotive in the Denver, Colorado, area, testifying before Congress against the need for HR 2735, the "Motor Vehicle Owners Right to Repair Act," which would mandate automakers to make service and repair information available.

"The [car] manufacturers were saying, 'Trust us.' Just from history alone we know that we can't trust them. I've been in Washington for 25 years and what ASA did was extreme. You don't sit in on strategy sessions and then do an about-face and cut a deal. It really crossed the line on integrity."

- Sandy Bass-Cors, the executive director for the Coalition for Auto Repair Equality (CARE), one of the groups (along with AAA, the NFIB, ASC of California and AASP of New Jersey) still supporting the "Right to Repair" legislation and disappointed in ASA's decision to not only stop supporting the legislation but actively spend resources opposing it.

"In sum, the ambiguities of the bill would create significant controversies about what information must be disclosed as 'necessary to diagnose, service, or repair a vehicle,' whether information may be exempt from disclosure as a trade secret, the effect of copyright or patent protection, and whether and how much manufacturers may charge for information that must be disclosed."

- from a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) letter to Congress about its concerns with the 'Right to Repair" legislation, which, if passed, the FTC would be charged with interpreting and enforcing.

"We have confidence that the FTC has the ability to tackle the rule-making process. Consumers nationwide can rest assured that with our growing bi-partisan support in Congress, we will continue the campaign to pass HR 2735 in the next Congress."

- David Parde, president of the CARE, in response to the FTC letter.

John Yoswick

John Yoswick is a freelance writer and Autobody News columnist who has been covering the collision industry since 1988, and the editor of the CRASH Network... Read More

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