Repair Certification on the Rise; I-CAR Approves

Dec. 30, 2010
Repair certification programs are increasingly popular among auto manufacturers. I-CAR gives the thumbs up.

In a bid to impart awareness of new trends in car-building, Porsche and Volkswagen recently joined the ranks of manufacturers that have implemented certified repair programs for repairers, following the lead of Audi, Jaguar and Volvo.

Dan Ducharme, parts specialist at Volkswagen, says certified programs started at the high end of the market. “But it’s proven to be successful,” he says, “so it’s spreading to most other makes in the U.S. market.”

Auto manufacturers point to new vehicle technology as the catalyst for the trend, and improved customer service as the goal. Joining a repair program isn’t a requirement for body shops, but the programs are raising awareness that these new cars require a higher level of training.

The trend toward certification programs has everything to do with emerging technologies found on today’s vehicles—high strength steels, aluminum, plastic composites and magnesium, says Jason Bartanen, technical director for I-CAR. Vehicles have changed significantly over the past few years, and manufacturers are looking for ways to ensure their customers are put into vehicles repaired by properly trained technicians.

With the rollout of those new technologies, OEMs see the need to convey that information to the industry. Ducharme notes that most Volkswagen vehicles are constructed with high strength steel, which has very specific repair procedures.

“Most shops don’t know that we have specific Volkswagen training or spot welders; most shops don’t know they can’t section our B-pillars,” Ducharme says.

There is a real lack of information, training and knowledge in the industry, says Mike Kukavica, collision repair technology instructor for Porsche. Porsche wants to make sure there is a reliable source for customers to get their cars fixed. The goal is simply to raise the level of repairs that are happening to our cars, he says.

“The collision industry has historically been a bit of an afterthought for many manufacturers,” Bartanen says. Auto manufacturers are finally realizing that they need to identify the different materials found in vehicles today, and need to have repair procedures available.

Improved Training

It’s up to you to decide whether or not to join an auto manufacturer’s certified network. There is a cost associated with it, through annual dues and equipment upgrades. And the program may or may not benefit you, depending on your shop location and clientele. But the bottom line is that your shop will likely be faced with repairing one of these vehicles someday, and you need to know how to do the job. That’s where I-CAR comes in.

I-CAR’s role in facilitating training for the programs is equipping them with more information to include in course material available to the public.

“Working with vehicle manufacturers is a good way for I-CAR to communicate collision repair information to the industry,” Bartanen says. Even if you’re not part of the certified networks, information can still reach your technicians through the courses I-CAR offers on the proper repair of these vehicles.

Volkswagen’s Ducharme agrees: I-CAR is the industry standard for collision repair, it’s widely accepted, and shops are familiar with the organization, he says. “We want to make sure our procedures are included in the national trade.”

Having the right tools, parts, equipment and training are all essential components to achieve complete and safe repairs. If you’re missing any one of those pieces, your shop may have a disadvantage from a performance and marketing standpoint, Bartanen says. If I-CAR can convey that information to the industry, it will help them realize their vision of an industry capable of complete and safe repairs.

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