The Best Body Shops’ Tips: Volkswagen-Audi Collision Program Manager Advises Industry on Reliable Repair

The Best Body Shops’ Tips: Volkswagen-Audi Collision Program Manager Advises Industry on Reliable Repair

Collision repairers often ask Scott Wideman, collision program manager at Volkswagen-Audi Group, how to ensure a safe and reliable repair.

His response remains the same every time: always research and follow OEM repair procedures. Wideman recently shared his expertise during a Guild 21 podcast hosted by VeriFacts Automotive.

Although based in Canada, Wideman said structurally, Volkswagen and Audi vehicles in both countries are fairly identical.

During the Guild 21 podcast, he shared information on both brand’s body construction, repair procedures and the impact of new technology. He challenged attendees to think about how these might affect their businesses and day-to-day operations.

With more than 25 years of experience in the automotive industry, Wideman is responsible for the collision program development and rollout for Volkswagen and Audi vehicles. In his role, Wideman is focused on working with all stakeholders to improve the collision repair process. He said consumer safety is the top priority.

“Our main concern is to achieve a safe, reliable and repeatable repair in the industry,” he said.

Body Construction

Wideman discussed Volkswagen’s current Golf A7 platform, which was introduced in 2012 using a manufacturing process called MQB. This allows the car manufacturer to produce automobiles with different platforms on the same assembly line. When examining vehicle structure, Wideman said many car manufacturers are now using mixed materials during the building process. As a result, there are certain repair guidelines that need to be followed, to ensure the car is repaired correctly. One of his concerns as a manufacturer is if a vehicle will be able to withstand a second collision, if it has been previously hit and repaired.

“This is where we see too many compromises,” he said.

Using an example of new Jetta, Wideman said there are very specific considerations in regard to the repair, such as heat in any welding operation conducted.

“Therefore, it’s a requirement to follow the repair literature to make sure you have the right equipment, the right welding technology and that you are following the proper procedure,” he said.

He also talked about the new Audi Q7 that includes seven different substrates in its platform.

“There are going to be definite requirements from the manufacturer on how this car is repaired,” he said.

Audi ensures these requirements are being followed and technicians are trained, tooled and have the proper equipment through the car manufacturer’s certified network.

Ninety-five percent of attendees who were part of the Guild 21 podcast responded to a survey where they concluded that vehicles are unique and require individual repair plans.

Repair Procedures

When asked about Volkswagen’s position statement in regard to scanning vehicles, Wideman said the car manufacturer includes this information in the repair literature.

“Our major concern as a manufacturer is that not enough repair facilities are researching and accessing the repair literature on a consistent basis,” he said. “A pre-scan is obviously good for repair planning. It makes sense and will lead to a better estimate being written more accurately, and therefore cut out the possibilities of surprises at the end of a repair, which can lead to increased cycle time and vehicle rental time.”

While pre-scanning is a logical approach to good repair planning, post-repair scanning is essentially a requirement, according to Wideman, and is found in the repair literature.

As he travels to facilities throughout Canada, he often encounters repairers putting on exterior panels that have been plug welded, which does not follow the Volkswagen procedures. With the increasing level of high-strength steel being used on vehicles today, Wideman has serious concerns that the welds could compromise the integrity of the vehicle due to heat. As a result, he said a fundamental step that technicians need to consider is managing that heat.

Wideman pointed to the current generation of Audi A8 to demonstrate the specific methodologies on how a car needs to be addressed. Launched a few months ago, the vehicle uses seven different substrates and includes a carbon fiber rear assembly section that covers the rear seats.

He then offered an example where looks can be deceiving. What initially looked like a rear bumper and taillight casement repair with an Audi R8, ultimately needed a complete rear cradle assembly, because the car took a significant hit.

“These vehicles are engineered and designed to withstand incredible forces,” said Wideman. “If this had gone to a facility that wasn’t trained and certified, perhaps that would have been overlooked.”

In this case, if the car happened to be in a second collision, Wideman said the results could be catastrophic and this is something that all stakeholders want to avoid.

“There are concerns we have as manufacturers that the cars aren’t ending up at the proper facility,” said Wideman. “That is where we need to work together with all stakeholders to make sure that those vehicles are addressed properly.”

New Technology

Wideman also discussed the impact of new technology on repairers and the industry in general, especially related to Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS). 

When looking at repair literature today, Wideman said it gives ample warnings about the importance of being aware of the technology included in the car. For example, if a vehicle with the lane assist feature was in a collision and the rear bumper had been removed and then reinstalled, calibration is required.

“This is becoming more of a critical step in the repair process for our vehicles, as well as for multiple manufacturers,” said Wideman. “The way you have been repairing a car a month ago could have changed.”

As a result, he stressed the importance of reviewing the repair literature for every repair each and every time.

In another example, Wideman said he is often asked why Volkswagen requires a four-wheel alignment as part of the calibration process. The front camera comes as an optional device in these vehicles and Wideman said the thrust angle of the car is absolutely critical to start the calibration process.

“If that is not correct, we would have a system that wouldn’t be functioning properly,” he said. “Just one degree of misalignment of that front camera means that at a distance of 130 m, it will be reading the car in front a complete lane to the left.”

He encouraged attendees to think about the implications in these types of situations when a consumer is relying on the technology that is supposed to be operational, yet it has not been looked at post-repair.

Using an example of an Audi Q5, Wideman said the OEM repair literature states that if the vehicle has lane assist, calibration is required, even in a minor repair.

When calibration hasn’t been performed properly, Wideman pointed out that consumer safety may be affected.

“There are significant liabilities as far as not following the proper repair procedures,” he said.

Future technology that is predicted to affect repairs includes electric vehicles.

“We’re on an electrification push within both brands [Volkswagen and Audi] so it’s important to follow the repair literature to find out what’s required,” he explained.

Overall, he said OEM procedures are the standard method of repair. “If we can all come to that baseline that the OEM procedure is the fundamental starting point, then we have a really good platform to move forward,” he said.

Stacey Phillips Ronak

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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