‘Who Pays for What?’ Survey Looks at Collision Repair Billing Practices Related to EVs, Accessing OEM Info

‘Who Pays for What?’ Survey Looks at Collision Repair Billing Practices Related to EVs, Accessing OEM Info

As new automaker electric vehicle models---or pledges of new EVs on the horizon---get announced almost weekly, a recent industry survey found three out of four auto body shops nationally have never included a fee on their estimates or invoices for recharging an electric vehicle.

Among those that have billed for vehicle recharging, 31% say they are reimbursed “always” or “most of the time” by the eight largest insurers, though about half say the large insurers “never” pay for recharging.

The question related to billing and payment practices for EV charging was asked for the first time as part of the “Who Pays for What?” survey in the fall of 2021.

“I expect to see the percentage billing and being paid for this to grow in the future as electric vehicles become increasingly common,” said Mike Anderson of Collision Advice, who co-produces the surveys with CRASH Network.

None of the three major estimating systems provide a standard calculation for electric vehicle recharge, so the only way to be reimbursed for it is to include a line-item charge.

Audatex says, “We do not include any operation, labor allowance or costs regarding charging hybrid or electric vehicles.” The company that produces the CCC database acknowledges, “Charging of the HV/EV vehicles is not included in MOTOR estimated work times.” Mitchell similarly says, “Charging the high voltage system has not been accounted for in any labor operation.”

Anderson also pointed out, “Another labor operation that may be needed is driving a vehicle sufficiently to reduce the battery charge prior to painting given that some OEMs say the battery cannot be above a 20% charge during refinishing.”

Another factor shops will need to consider is how to determine a fee for the electricity consumed by the recharge.

“There are several companies that sell charging stations that have the ability to produce a receipt similar to a gas pump,” Anderson noted.

The survey was one of four “Who Pays for What?” surveys conducted each year.

The latest one, focused on not-included body labor operations, is being conducted throughout April. 

Last fall’s survey also found the cost to access OEM repair information is one for which more shops are billing and getting reimbursed.

The surveys since 2019 have asked specifically about the OEM subscription fees themselves, aside from the labor time shops spent actually researching the OEM procedures. In 2019, the majority of shops (57%) said they had never sought to be reimbursed for any charges they incur to access OEM repair information. But as of last fall, the majority of shops reported they have at least sometimes passed those fees along on their estimates or invoices.

Only 42% of shops said they have never sought to be reimbursed for these fees, and nearly one in four (23%) said they always, or almost always, include a subscription fee charge.

“Most shops are incurring fees for OEM repair information, so it makes sense for them to pass along those charges,” Anderson said. “This is not overhead. A shop would not be paying to access OEM procedures for Nissan, for example, if the shop did not have a Nissan vehicle in the shop that needed to be repaired.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, the survey found shops are most likely to report having subscribed to the OEM information from high-volume automakers like Nissan, Toyota, Honda, GM and Ford; for each of those OEM information services, more than 60% of shops said they have subscribed.

Interestingly, the survey found some differences among types of shops as to how regularly they say they research OEM repair procedures. Repair facilities that are part of a multi-shop operation (MSO) appear to be more likely to research OEM procedures at the time they write an estimate compared to single-location facilities, franchise locations or even dealer-owned shops.

The survey found 79% of MSO facilities responding to the survey said they research OEM procedures on “most” or “all” jobs. That compares to 60% of independents, 54% of franchise locations and just 40% of dealer-owned facilities.

Only 7% of MSO facilities admitted OEM procedures are only occasionally researched, and none said they "never" did the research. However, 4% of dealer and franchise locations admitted to never researching procedures at the time they write the estimate, and 2% of independents said the same.

“The only way to write a complete and accurate estimate is to know what procedures will be required to repair that vehicle,” Anderson said. “I do like to see that, compared to five or six years ago, many more shops are making use of the OEM websites directly. I know they all have their own system for locating the right information, but many automakers offer online or in-person training classes on how to efficiently navigate their websites.”

Last fall’s survey showed a continued increase in the percentage of shops regularly performing vehicle scans. In 2019, according to the “Who Pays for What?” surveys, about 88% of shops said they performed a post-repair scan on all or most vehicles they repaired. In 2021, that figure rose to 93%. The percentage of shops that said they performed pre-repair scans was also higher, improving to 85% in 2021 from 78% in 2019.

“It appears we’re trending in the right direction, but still not fast enough,” Anderson said, noting he believes 100% of repairs should be completed with both a pre- and post-repair scan.

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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