We all know that as business owners, we have a choice of what parts we purchase. We have, however, less choice and influence over what parts an insurer will pay for, despite what we or the customer prefer to use.
Over the years I've wrestled with this dilemma and its side effects: unhappy techs and customers, undue stress, added costs, longer cycle times and strained relationships between us, insurers, parts vendors and customers.
I see two main sources contributing to the conflict over parts. First, there's the policy coverage purchased by the customer – which often does not insure for a loss to be repaired the way a customer thinks it will. Second, there are the auto manufacturers advertising directly to consumers to get them to demand that the body shop use factory parts.
Customers time and again tell us about print materials that came with their car urging them to use "genuine" parts. They have seen manufacturer ads and videos instructing them to dictate what parts to have the body shop use. They know about their neighbor's nightmare with "imitation” parts, or have heard from their co-worker that if "factory parts" aren't used, the car will never be the same and the car warranty will be voided. Vehicle manufacturers have done well getting the message to consumers that OEM parts will maintain vehicle integrity and are superior to aftermarket parts.
The BMW website, for example, makes it seem to a vehicle owner that use of OEM parts is a done deal. "Accidents happen," the site states. “However, at a BMW Certified Collision Repair Center, they can work with you and your insurance company to assure your Ultimate Driving Machine receives the highest quality repairs using only original BMW parts."
Right next to this is a link to one major insurer's BMW policy page indicating that, yes, with this policy you can have your car repaired with original parts. But not all BMW owners have purchased that policy. And when I went to this insurer's website, I found no reference whatsoever to the type of parts that its standard policy covers.
But what if automakers and insurers were more accountable for helping customers make informed decisions to get the parts they want? Imagine, for example, if the insurer or agent at the point of sale of the policy made it clear that the "full coverage" policy being purchased does not guarantee that OEM parts will be used unless an "OEM parts endorsement" is also purchased. Perhaps customers should be required to check a box indicating they understood this, and that if they declined the OEM endorsement, they are a-okay with non-OEM parts?
And what if auto manufacturers, instead of advertising that their customers should demand the body shop use only OEM parts, put those efforts into campaigns that address the real issue: the need for drivers to purchase the proper coverage to have OEM parts used. This would stop putting the body shops between the customer and the insurer.
Imagine the friction that would be alleviated, and the efficiencies gained:
• Agents and insurers would increase revenue by selling higher-priced policies with OEM parts endorsements.
• Automakers would sell more OEM parts.
• Consumers would get the parts they prefer, and wouldn't get embroiled in a fight about parts during a claim that can leave them unhappy with the shop and the insurer.
• Aftermarket part vendors would see fewer part returns (and all the costs associated with those) if shops aren’t forced to buy parts that end up not being acceptable.
• Shops and insurers would be far more efficient because the friction and delays caused by the OEM vs. non-OEM parts debate would be reduced.
• Appraisers and shop staff would have less stress because customers understood the policy they purchased.
• Cars would be repaired more quickly, with reduced rental costs.
Insurers and automakers should do a better job giving their customer a more realistic message. We need automaker and insurer campaigns that say, "Want OEM parts on your car after the collision? Demand an OEM parts endorsement when you buy insurance."
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