Winning Over Insurers with New Technology
On March 16, David Niestroy held the grand opening for the latest addition to his Philadelphia-based MSO 3D Auto Body & Collision Centers. The opening event, which was held at the shop’s location in Conshohocken, Pa., was called the “3D Blue Carpet Gala” and hosted over 500 people. The event marked the official opening of the 30,000-square-foot, 26-bay facility that would be home to robotic drying capabilities. This technology has gained popularity in Europe but is relatively unknown stateside. That didn’t scare Niestroy; in fact, the pioneer wanted to jump at the chance to be at the forefront of this revolutionary technology.
When FenderBender last spoke to Niestroy, he felt that adding this technology would be a simple way to drive more work to his new location, making the almost $5.5 million investment in his new location worth it. The way he saw it, with this technology, which can dry and cure a vehicle within minutes, he would be able to easily market this new location to insurance companies.
Unlike his opening event, however, the implementation hasn’t been as glamorous so far. Beyond the initial headaches of finding the right location and getting everything set up, Niestroy has found that the technology is not catching on as he had hoped it would. There are also upkeep and training costs that he had not anticipated and, one year later, there is yet to be an ROI. However, Niestroy is still optimistic and realizes that most groundbreaking and innovative technology take a while to catch on. He’s investing his energy into showing the industry—especially his doubtful insurance partners—just how beneficial this technology will be.
Niestroy describes gas catalytic drying equipment as “basically a microwave oven for a car.” The technology rapidly heats up liquid that is applied to a vehicle and dries within minutes of the technology hitting it. Instead of waiting an hour and a half for the vehicle to dry, the robotic drying equipment cuts that down to minutes—and that includes curing time.
The microwave comparison is especially effective when Niestroy discusses how long it took for microwaves to become appealing to the masses.
“It seemed too good to be true,” Niestroy says. “People just didn’t believe in it.”
In Niestroy’s experience, insurance companies are having the same reaction to this technology.
Compared to his other locations, Niestroy says he’s able to complete jobs in a third of the time. Right now, he’s averaging 6–7 one-day repair jobs. On 3D’s Conshohocken’s website, it claims a 50 percent increase in touch time and a 25–30 percent reduction in labor costs. With numbers like that, it’s easy to see why insurers think it’s too good to be true. When they see the technology in action, Niestroy believes it will catch on.
That’s why he plans on showing it.
Any insurer that doesn’t buy in has an open invitation to come see the technology in action. Niestroy is offering tours of the facility to see the technology and many have taken him up on his offer. Many are still reluctant, and that’s why he’s decided to market the benefits to the customer.
A few days prior to the interview with FenderBender, Niestroy wrapped up production on a video that shows a customer that came in for an estimate at 11 a.m. and had their fully repaired vehicle ready to drive home at 2:30 p.m. The plan is to market the video to insurance companies and agencies and possibly turn it into a commercial down the road.
With the new technology and increased speed of repairs, Niestroy is also working on ways to get customers to feel comfortable and stay for the duration of their repair, rather than leaving, which is another way to market the technology. Niestroy has a comfortable waiting area with WiFi and a printer so that people can do work while they wait for their vehicle. It hasn’t completely caught on, but Niestroy is hoping to have 4–5 waiting customers per day.