Retro News: November 1993, 1998, 2003, 2008

Retro News: November 1993, 1998, 2003, 2008

20 years ago in the collision repair industry (November 1993)

“My time away from the industry this year made me more aware than ever that many of the people who keep telling us how we can improve the claims process, improve parts ordering, improve productivity, improve turn-around time and cut car rental costs don’t know the first thing about how our shops operate or half the steps required to properly repair a damaged vehicle. Computers and software programs are great, but computers don’t take the nuts and bolts out of a fender, and they can’t comprehend the fact that a left door can’t be replaced with a right door, even if the part number on the invoice is the correct part number.

“It seems that many insurance companies—and some shops—have bought into the promise that one or another computer system will solve many or all of their problems. There is always one direct repair program or another telling shop owners that something will greatly expedite the claims handling process…All these promises sound great on paper or in panel discussions, but they don’t do the repair work.”

- from a column by Bobby Johnson, at that time the owner of B&J Collision in Jefferson, Texas

15 years ago in the collision repair industry (November 1998)

PPG has done a comprehensive study of over 2,000 collision repair facilities. Here is a snapshot of some of the statistics:

The average labor rate: $34 an hour.

Average gross profit per hour per technician: $45.63 (top 25 percent), $32.57 (middle 50 percent), $19.69 (bottom 25 percent).

Labor efficiency (hours sold versus available hours): 154 percent (top 25 percent), 118 (middle 50 percent), 82 percent (bottom 25 percent)
PPG’s Rich Altieri said it is likely that repair opportunities will continue to decrease. His prediction: By 2006, 40 percent of today’s shops will cease to exist. If the collision industry is a $24 billion business, 24,000 shops doing $1 million a year in sales would take care of the market.

- As reported in Hammer & Dolly. Indeed in 2006, there were about 36,000 shops, 40 percent fewer than the 60,000 Altieri said there were in 1998. (Last year there were about 34,500.) The average labor rate nationally last year was $45.43, up 33 percent since 1998, but below 41 percent cumulative rate of inflation during that period; to keep up with inflation, the national average last year would have had to have been $47.89

10 years ago in the collision repair industry (November 2003)

Collision repairers who are part of State Farm’s “Select Service” or “Service First” direct repair programs have been lauding the insurer for the way it administers its claims management process for vehicle repair. It’s a process that technicians and shop owners are saying puts trust in collision repair professionals.

Repairers have often been frustrated with how insurers handle the claims management process. For years they have argued that many insurers are overly involved in the process and don’t let repairers do their job without telling them how it should be done. But State Farm is taking a different approach.
“To put it simply, State Farm is letting the experts—collision repair professionals—do what they do best,” says Don Keenan, owner of Keenan Auto Body in Clifton Heights, Penn. Keenan said State farm respects its Select Service collision repair shops’ experience and expertise and “as a result, we’re freed up to do the best possible job.”

The Society of Collision Repair Specialists earlier this year issued a press release praising State Farm for what the organization is calling a “professional approach to claims management.”

“I have received countless calls from members commenting on the positive relationship with State Farm, SCRS Executive Director Dan Risley said.

- As reported in Auto Body Repair News (ABRN). The most recent national survey allowing shops to rate insurers with regard to reimbursement policies and claims handling efficiency still found State Farm at the top, but with a score of 64.8 (out of 100), down from 93.4 in 2003. In 2003 it had a nearly 30-point edge over its closest competitor. Now two other insurers are within 4.2 points of knocking State Farm out of the top spot. SCRS this past year has been among the most vocal critics of State Farm’s implementation PartsTrader, and Risley, now with the Automotive Service Association, wrote to State Farm in September saying the insurer’s mandated use of a vendor “that solely financially benefits State Farm is more dictatorship than partnership.”

5 years ago in the collision repair industry (November 2008)

Minnesota shop owner and NACE chairman Darrell Amberson said (at the event’s opening sessions) that the collision industry should also be paying close attention to increased efforts by automakers to gain design patents on crash parts, which could limit competition from non-OEM parts manufacturers. He said that while design protection is a “fundamental right” for any industry, it could also drive up parts costs, also leading to more total loss vehicles.

He called on the estimating system providers to bring more automation, sophistication and automaker information to the systems to help them evolve from being “just a guide to a tool that could be used to blueprint jobs.” The systems, he said, currently are too incomplete and subject to interpretation.
“Can you imagine a world where we didn’t have to spend so much effort negotiating, debating (and) looking for non-included operations? I think whether an insurer or repairer, we could probably increase our life expectancy if we didn’t have to deal with this,” Amberson said, drawing laughter and applause from the crowd.

Overall, Amberson, despite the struggling economy and the specific challenges the collision repair industry faces, is optimistic about the opportunities for those shop owners who embrace new technology and processes, diversify their business, and think of themselves as business people, not repairers.
- from Autobody News coverage of the 2008 International Autobody Congress and Exposition (NACE)

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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