Starting the Choice Autobody Repair Association
Describe your background and how you took on a larger role in the collision industry.
I started in the collision repair industry by attending the Jefferson County Joint Vocational School in Bloomingdale, Ohio. After graduation, I worked for several years as a body man/painter and eventually a body shop manager before opening my own business (Finney Automotive Inc., Cadiz, Ohio) in 1991.
Several years ago I joined an autobody association because I realized that there were way too many issues that needed to be addressed in our industry for me to try to address them without the support from other body shop owners.
I am a board member of the Ohio Board of Motor Vehicle Collision Repair Registration. I was appointed to the advisory committee for the Ohio Department of Insurance. I am also an advisory committee member for the Belmont/Harrison County Career Center, as well as president of the Choice Autobody Repair Association.
Have there been any immediate rewards since you opened CARA to nationwide membership?
When Comcast found out why CARA was founded, they asked if I would represent CARA on an interview on their Comcast Newsmakers feature. We received a lot of feedback from consumers thanking us for informing them about their rights after being involved in an accident.
What would it take to know that CARA is making a difference?
We have received a tremendous amount of interest from body shops across the country, but I will consider it a success when most shops in the nation remember who their customer really is and put the consumer’s best interest ahead of everything else. There is nothing wrong with the insurance industry making profits; however it is our responsibility to make sure it is not done at the consumer’s expense.
What challenges does CARA face in bettering the industry?
We need to assure body shops (and insurance companies!) that we are not “anti” anything. We are simply pro-consumer. Our only additional interest is to promote collision education and encourage camaraderie between body shops and businesses in this industry.
How do technicians, shop owners and others benefit from membership in a national association?
I believe communication is the key to our industry. We got so far off track decades ago with the worry about antitrust issues. We are not just a single body shop but rather an industry that should come together to both further ourselves individually and the industry as a whole. Until we sit at the same table with our competitors, the industry will continue to be divided as it has been for far too long. A national association is a great way to move forward instead of being stuck in the past by exchanging knowledge between its members.
Recently, I was talking to a couple of shop owners in Alabama and Texas. We were going over some different issues that shop owners are facing on a daily basis, such as having our loyal customers told that they could not have their vehicles repaired at our shop and the insurance company would not pay for necessary operations because “we’re the only ones” requesting to be paid for these operations. Long story short, if I did not ask where the shops were calling from, I would have thought that they were calling from one of the surrounding counties in my area. In my opinion, every shop needs to be part of an association, whether it is local, state or national. We need to work together. We need to take responsibility back for our businesses and for our industry.
What message do you wish to impart to our readers?
I would pose two questions: Why would any body shop not want to join an association that is concerned mostly with consumer education? Why would any insurance company be against any body shop becoming a member of CARA, since we are both in existence to take care of consumers properly?