Q&A: An Association’s Plight to Reshape Kan. Body Shops
Jeff Oldenettel can't mask his passion for it: Despite the automotive industry having third parties involved in the repair process, shop owners should be focused on putting the customer back into a safe car—above all else.
The newly established Kansas Auto Body Association, for which Oldenettel is the president, opened its doors in May, making a push for more in-state educational events and OEM repair procedures.
Shops throughout Kansas appreciate their national advocates, such as the Society for Collision Repair Specialists, but there are problems unique to the state, says Oldenettel. And he and his fellow Kansas leaders thought it was time to act on those issues.
The purpose of the new association will be to grow the professionalism of the independently-owned shops by educating shop owners and staff through in-state training and addressing the shop-insurer relationship. FenderBender sat down with Jeff Oldenettel to find out how the association plans to execute those goals.
Why was there a need for the association? Why wasn’t one formed before?
I don’t believe there has ever not been a need. I believe more facilities are primed for the idea, and partly because of the technology we have today is not the same technology we had in the past.
As a car becomes more advanced and well-designed, shops need to become more educated in the repair of them.
What is the importance of having a state organization versus other types of associations?
I think there are many advantages. For one, you have the possibility for more membership. A lot of the topics being addressed in shops are based on state laws and not city laws. For example, what works for me in Wichita, Kan., also works for people in other parts of the state.
One of our goals is to try to reach every part of the state. A lot of the shops in our state have less than ten employees. The eastern part of Kansas and Wichita, Kan., are mostly comprised of smaller towns. And this is part of the problem we’re trying to address. These smaller shops have a harder time sending their team for a week of training outside of the state.
What is the Kansas Auto Body Association most concerned about?
We want to grow our professionalism and educate ourselves. Our focus is to bring in live-education type seminars, whether that involves a particular speaker or not.
For smaller shops, it is not conducive to business to travel to out-of-state events in Las Vegas or Phoenix.
It’s mostly just a combination of things that we’re concerned about, including better informing customers of their rights and correcting a misconceived perception of auto body shops.
Do you think there should be a big push for following OEM repair procedures?
We absolutely should follow OEM repair procedures because it is a standard for the industry. We should engineer time for the proper repair using the plan for how the car was built. That goes into everything you do like pre-and post-repair scanning.
Everyone over the last 20 years has done some form of OEM repair procedures but we need to do a better job of documenting the repairs we are doing.
In what ways are you trying to implement this?
We’re trying to do a better job of not just fixing the cars. The consumer might get back a pretty car from the shop and it is pretty but the repair is really not done right. We’re advocating for proper repairs and setting up more local access.
The local guys have a harder time getting to training and other events because it shuts their business down to lose guys in production versus a much larger shop.
How many events are you hoping to create?
The association is hoping to hold four, larger regional events in the year and some smaller roundtable discussions.
On July 28, David Luehr, industry consultant for Elite Body Shop Solutions will present to shops.
We’re pushing to do events in October, December and April. Sometime in April, Mike Anderson will visit the state to talk. The session in October will probably be based off estimatics and how to properly write an estimate. It will teach the shops how to use their estimating software and how to find X, Y or Z in that software.
Back in May, attorney Todd Tracy spoke at the first event. Does the association take a strong stance on insurance issues or other topics going through the news like labor rates?
Not necessarily. In the past, we’ve seen alternative bills and more materials being used, which means there is more knowledge we need to have.
I’ve just been hearing some of the same discussion at the lower regional levels that the rates are too low and shops cannot hire technicians if the shop can’t afford to pay the employee. But this plays into the education part. If we learned to write a better estimate or just educate ourselves to do a better job, we’d be able to repair the vehicle professionally, efficiently and profitably.