Three collision repair industry opportunities that can boost business in 2018

Feb. 1, 2018
2018 stands to be a great year for the collision industry. New opportunities and success are available for those that make the commitment this year to do something different for the benefit of all.

As the new year begins and holiday resolutions start to fade, it is time to reflect on lessons learned in the previous year and the opportunities they present now during this new year. A great year for the collision industry, in 2017 technology became a focal point, OEMs began asserting their presence and intentions on the industry, and the country learned, through tragic occurrence, the importance of following OEM repair procedures. Some lessons in life are easily learned by picking up a book, viewing a website, or attending class, while others are learned through trial and error or repercussions. I want to share with you three opportunities for the new year and encourage everyone to do something different this year, to make a difference, to make a change for the better, making 2018 the best year yet to be in the collision repair industry. 

2017 was a remarkable year for the word “recommend.” The meaning of this seemingly simple word was redefined almost overnight by the John Eagle case in Texas. A word that previously meant to advise or suggest an action suddenly became a firm directive. The case set the precedence for shops to follow the OEM’s use of the word recommend as a directive, not a suggestion. Further clarification was given during a SEMA presentation when the question was posed as to why an OEM would publish a position statement that uses a soft word like recommend instead of more firm words like must or always. The response to the question was straightforward. The answer was that not all OEMs are based in North America and for this reason other cultures may find it inappropriate or rude to use firm words such as must when giving orders. Instead, the word recommend is used as a professional politeness, but with the same meaning as the more firm directives must or always. It is with this knowledge that we can now understand when OEMs publish documents with the word recommend instead of a more blatant directive that it may be a mere case of cultural differences, not a direct translation meaning optional. Moving forward into this New Year provides the opportunity to embrace the directive of recommend and utilize it to perform safer and proper repairs. 

The same issue that reinvented the meaning of the word recommend is also creating other opportunities for collision repairers in 2018. The importance of OEM position statements and repair procedures was highlighted during 2017. Their importance is paramount to all stake holders. Going forward, the industry will need to do a much better and much more thorough job of accessing, researching and utilizing OEM repair information. This creates an opportunity not present before in this industry. The act of accessing and researching OEM repair information is a technical and time-consuming task, even for seemingly simple repairs. It is not unrealistic to spend three hours or more researching all of the procedures, position statements and prerequisite information required to perform a quarter panel replacement on a high production, steel vehicle. Collision repairers are often required to write estimates for free as a service; however, 2018 stands to be different in regards to repair research.

Shops will spend increasingly more time and resources accessing, researching and documenting OEM repair information in order to provide a safe and proper repair. Research costs are not part of the estimating process. When free estimates began in this industry, repair research was basically nonexistent. The complexity of vehicle design and changing repair procedures will create the need for a new job position in the industry, collision repair researcher. Compensation for access fees and time invested in repair research is critical to moving the industry forward. While it may seem counterintuitive, thorough research may lead to lower overall repair costs due to decreased breakage, shorter cycle times and less warranty expense. 

The final opportunity for the new year is the idea of proving that a vehicle system has no damage. It is no longer acceptable to assume that a part or system is undamaged; it must be proven undamaged and crashworthy. For example, if a vehicle is brought in to a shop due to a moderate frontal impact some of the systems that must be proven undamaged before returning the vehicle to the customer are the vehicle structure, restraints, seats and ADAS systems. Each of these systems requires different inspections, measurements, and tools to verify the condition of the system. Most OEMs have procedures for checking these systems. The act of measuring, testing, scanning or inspecting a system or component is not an included operation and is deserving of a line item on a repair order. The human eye and sense of touch may no longer have the finite resolution required to detect damage to a vehicle system. The sense of sight and touch must be married with technical knowledge and advanced methods of measuring, inspection and verification to prove that the vehicle is ready for delivery to the customer. 

2018 stands to be a great year for the collision industry. New opportunities and success are available for those that make the commitment this year to do something different for the benefit of all. Happy New Year.

About the Author

Will Latuff

Will Latuff is a manager at Latuff Brothers Auto Body, a 4th generation family run business. He graduated from UW-Stout with a business administration and a minor in quality management. Will is an I-CAR Pro Level 3 platinum individual, who is both aluminum and steel structural welding certified.  Will is an active member of AASP-MN participating on the board of directors as well as serving as AASP-MN Collision division director.

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