Editor's Note: This story will be updated as the meeting progresses. Last update: 3:47 p.m. CST.
ATLANTA, April 8, 2015—Much of Wednesday’s Collision Industry Conference (CIC) meeting at the Crowne Plaza Ravinia in Atlanta focused on improving the conference itself.
Manufacturer certification, repair standardization, and vehicle technology were also highlighted on the first day of the organization's two-day meeting, but the tone for Wednesday's session was set early. CIC chairman Randy Stabler said in his opening remarks that the organization needs to do a better job of engaging the industry and increasing attendance—and simply better engaging those already in attendance.
Then, the first of the slated presentations came from the CIC marketing committee, which reviewed the process, methodology and results of an email survey the organization sent out earlier in the year.
The intention of the survey, the committee said, was to identify areas in which CIC could improve its message and operations to attract and engage attendees.
“How do we get more participation from the industry as a whole?”
Of the 159 respondents to the survey, 60 percent were repairers or suppliers, and 70 percent said they “regularly” attend CIC meetings.
The first clear takeaway: The main goals of those who attend are networking, building industry knowledge, and promoting industry change.
One of the largest complaints among survey respondents was the “intimidating” and “unwelcoming.” Others noted a “negative” tone to meetings.
The committee, meanwhile, outlined action items to promote better engagement. No. 1 on that list was to improve marketing and outreach to industry professionals.
“[Survey respondents] said they weren’t invited [to CIC],” committee member Jordan Hendler of the Washington Metropolitan Auto Body Association said, noting that all meetings are open to any industry member.
Hendler also stated a need for CIC to tailor presentations to better meet industry interests, and to craft the event schedule to be more reflective of the industry’s priorities (i.e., the goals of attendees mentioned previously).
“The important thing is that we connect with the audience in a different way,” Stabler summed up following the presentation. “Some of the comments were pretty direct, and we appreciate that. I think we’ll get some really good results out of it.”
Segmenting the Class A Shop Document
The CIC definitions committee led a panel discussion Wednesday focusing on whether or not CIC should update its Class A shop document, specifically asking whether or not the document should be segmented by shop type.
Rick Tuuri of AudaExplore served as the panel’s moderator, and led a discussion that featured Darrell Amerson of LaMettry’s Collision, Aaron Clark of Assured Performance, Barry Dorn of Dorn’s Body & Paint, Gary Ledoux of American Honda, and Sandee Lindorfer of Allstate Insurance.
Dorn likened the reworking of the document to “opening Pandora’s Box,” saying “there are a lot of moving parts.”
Clark wondered aloud about what the true outcome would be. Vehicle complexity, Clark said, and a document addressing whether a shop is capable or not of meeting the repair demands of today’s vehicles would need to be equally complex and detailed.
The panel polled the audience as to its thoughts on whether the committee should proceed. An overwhelming majority (78 percent of the 47 who answered) said yes. In later questions, the audience also said it would like to see equipment and tool recommendations, as well as training, included in the document.
I-CAR’s Van Alstyne Gives Industry Education Update
I-CAR had more than 12,000 students go through its Ford-focused, structural aluminum repair course in 2014, according to I-CAR CEO and president John Van Alstyne, who gave a brief presentation late in Wednesday’s CIC meeting.
After a brief networking break in the afternoon, Van Alstyne reported on the state of industry education and what I-CAR is doing to promote change in collision repair training.
His overall message: Shop training is increasing—but still lags behind.
Each year, there are roughly 75 vehicle changes introduced to the market, Van Alstyne said, initiating what he often refers to as the “technical tsunami” hitting the collision repair industry.
As Van Alstyne has discussed with FenderBender in the past, he encouraged shops at the meeting to adopt a “learning culture” within their businesses.
According to numbers presented, not enough shops do. Of roughly 35,000 shops in the country, Van Alstyne said about 12,000 have training requirements (roughly 34 percent), and just 8,822 trained with I-CAR in 2014. Just 17 percent of shops (6,049 total) are either I-CAR Gold Class certified or on their way to achieving that recognition.
Van Alstyne was quick to point out that, by those numbers, that means 66 percent of shops are not training.
“That’s not a good place for us to be, and not an acceptable place for us to be,” he said.
Yet, participation for I-CAR’s welding training was up 84 percent in 2014 compared to 2013, and Van Alstyne expects a 30 percent bump in 2015, putting the total number of participating shops over the 10,000 mark.
In addition to demonstrating the success of the organization’s aluminum training, which launched last year, Van Alstyne also gave an update on the I-CAR Repairability Technical Support portal, which had more than 75,000 website hits in the final six months of 2014.
The final session on Wednesday included a technical presentation by collision industry instructor Toby Chess and shop owner Kye Yeung about repairing quarter panels on BMWs.
The meeting continues Thursday morning with presentations running from 8 a.m. until noon. Thursday's session is slated to end with a special presentation honoring former CIC chair and longtime industry advocate Dale Delmege, who passed away earlier this year.