Retro News: August 1996, 2001, 2006, 2011

Retro News: August 1996, 2001, 2006, 2011

ABRA's Expansion Plans, Tech Wages, Flat Fees for Repair, BMS vs. EMS

20 years ago in the collision repair industry (August 1996)

ABRA Auto Body and Glass’s present owners Rollie Benjamin and Tim Adelmann have purchases the interest of former shareholder Randy McPherson. Under the new ownership, ABRA plans to sharpen its focus on expanding across the country, with a goal of 300-plus shops by the end of the year 2000.

– As reported in Auto Body Repair News. ABRA was not the first and certainly not the last consolidator to make what turned out to be wildly-over-optimistic growth projections. ABRA didn’t pass the 300-shop mark until last year, 15 years later than it anticipated. Adelmann is the company’s executive vice president for business development; Benjamin, the company’s founder, most recently served as a director on its board. McPherson went on to launch CARA Collision & Glass, another Minnesota-based MSO that in mid-2000 locked the doors on its remaining 13 shops and filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

15 years ago in the collision repair industry (August 2001)

Technician wages are keeping up with the cost of living –-- and shop employee benefits are also improving –-- according to the latest in an ongoing series of surveys by the I-CAR Education Foundation.
Although there is a wide spread in technician annual incomes, the industry average for technicians over 20 years old is $41,268, Ron Ray, executive director of the Foundation, reported at I-CAR’s Annual Meeting in Baltimore.
“From 1995 to 1998, we saw about a 11 percent increase in that average, and from 1998 to 2001 about another 9 percent,” Ray said. “So it’s keeping up with the cost of living or inflation.”
The latest findings were based on survey responses from about 400 shops with an average of just under eight employees. Ray said the top 10 percent of the nearly 1,900 technicians represented in the survey had annual incomes of about $72,000.

– As reported in Autobody News, August 2001. Ray left the Foundation in 2007 and is now an instructor at Nashville Auto-Diesel College in Tennessee. The industry average compensation for technicians had risen 28 percent to $52,997 by the time the Collision Repair Education Foundation had conducted its most recent survey in 2013. But had wages held steady with inflation over that time, the 2013 average would have been just over $56,000. Department of Labor estimates for 2015 wages for painters ranged from a low of $32,000 in Nebraska to a high of $61,000 in Virginia. For body technicians, Arkansas has the lowest state average for 2015 at just shy of $32,000, while Maryland had the highest average of nearly $64,000.

10 years ago in the collision repair industry (August 2006)

Give some thoughtful people who are knowledgeable about the collision repair industry a chance to shine up a crystal ball and look into the future, and you’re likely to hear some interesting things.
“I think we might see someone pilot a program where participating collision repair facilities will be given a standard flat fee to repair vehicles regardless of the amount of damage,” said Risley, executive director of the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS), when asked to look at where the industry might be in five to 10 years.
“The thought behind that is that it would simplify the repair process, reduce cycle time and reduce overall claims costs,” Risley said. “For example, the repair facility wouldn't have to spend the time and resources writing and submitting supplements and waiting for approvals.”

– As reported in Autobody News, August 2006. Risley went on to spend five years working for Allstate before becoming executive director of the Automotive Service Association (ASA) in 2013. The capitation model he describes has been only on a limited basis in the United States. But insurers have more recently been experimenting with “predictive analytics,” combining data about the crash from the vehicle with historical claims data to potentially reduce the need for traditional estimating.

5 years ago in the collision repair industry (August 2011)

Fred Iantorno of the Collision Industry Electronic Commerce Association (CIECA) says the information providers’ failure to switch to the “BMS” standard for estimate data transfer rather than the older “EMS” standard means the industry is stuck still using the equivalent of 1990s cell phone technology.

The EMS file includes every scrap of data included in an estimate; so if a shop, for example, orders parts electronically, the parts vendor receiving the parts list via the EMS file also gets information about the customer and his or her insurance.
Because the newer BMS standard provides shops with more control over what data gets shared – thus making it easier to protect data privacy for customers, insurers and the shop itself – collision repair organizations have for years asked the information providers to enable shops to use BMS rather than EMS.

At last month’s Collision Industry Conference (CIC), Jack Rozint of CCC Information Services said his company has implemented BMS in some limited instances.

“There are some large collision groups that are using it to consolidate data, and there’s a couple paint company value-added programs that are using our implementation of BMS to get repairer data to support their 20 groups,” Rozint said. “To be frank, the majority of our customers are using applications on the other end – receiving the data from the shop – that are still using EMS, so all our systems still support EMS.”

But Iantorno said it’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation; those receiving data from shops, he said, won’t switch from EMS to BMS until the information providers enable shops to use BMS.

Tony Passwater, chairman of CIC’s Data Privacy Committee said CCC, Mitchell International and Audatex should do what companies in other industries have done to push for a shift to new, better technologies.

“They just need to say that as of a certain date, the EMS standard will be sunsetted, and that starting on that date, only the BMS standard will be supported,” Passwater said.

– As reported in CRASH Network (, August 22, 2011. Five years later, there has still only been limited implementation of the BMS standard while the 1990s EMS standard continues in wide use.

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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