Is there an ‘Infomobility’ counter in your future?

Jan. 1, 2020
We talk frequently about challenges faced by collision repair shops, but often fail to examine opportunities.

We talk frequently about challenges faced by collision repair shops, but often fail to examine opportunities. We all know the headaches – cycle time, insurer pressures, parts procurement, repair challenges associated with new materials. Do we all recognize opportunities when they pop up?

In May, I attended the 2013 Autopromotec show in Bologna, Italy, and several of my interviews on that trip included discussions about telematics. My radar for telematics may be a little more dialed in these days, but the technology is taking off like a wildfire. General Motors Corp. first popularized automotive telematics with its OnStar system, but this year the technology is blossoming. There was a June telematics conference in Detroit. I’ve seen frequent press releases about new initiatives almost daily from OEMs as well as players in the aftermarket. For example, Delphi and parts distributor Auto-Wares just announced a program in which Delphi’s Connected Car Care telematics solution will allow Auto-Wares to “talk” with car owners. A two-way communication device, coupled with vehicle data delivered from the unit, will allow Auto-Wares to assist customers with a variety of services including remote vehicle diagnostics, roadside assistance, service and maintenance, and vehicle health monitoring.

And then there are insurers. We all have seen insurers marketing new telematics tools that plug into OBD ports under the dash. Collecting vehicle data helps insurance companies assess risk of their customers based on driving habits, which in turn helps them fine-tune premiums. For consumers who drive responsibly, premiums may drop, while unsafe drivers could see rate increases. It’s also possible to assist with vehicle recovery in cases of theft, which reduces payouts for stolen vehicles. We’ll examine telematics more in November’s edition of ABRN MSO, specifically looking at how insurers are using this technology.

So how is telematics an opportunity for MSOs? Simply put, think customer service. One challenge faced by shops is staying in contact with consumers before they have their next accident. Statistically we know drivers crash on average once every seven years. That’s one reason collision repair shops are doing more mechanical work. What if you had a way to monitor the health of your customer’s vehicle? You could tell when certain sensors were about to go belly-up, or when certain parts were about to fail. And you could warn your customers ahead of time that they were about to encounter a no-start situation or potentially dangerous system failure.

As an MSO you may have shops in several states or cities. What if you could remotely see that a vehicle was about to encounter a failure and the driver just happened to be driving on a vacation out of town? A quick text or e-mail could save your customer, guide them to your nearby facility and turn your business into a hero. How valuable would that be to your customers and DRP relationships? For that matter, could your DRP agreements include access to telematics information for drivers in your region? Seems like a win-win for everyone.

Speaking to Paola Carrea, head of telematics business development for Magneti Marelli, I learned that her company has trained around 500 “Infomobility” specialists in Italy. These are repair shops in their Checkstar program with the ability to use telematics to assess and repair vehicles. Carrea considers the car to be “a smart phone with tires.”

That analogy is a good one. Soon consumers will enter shops the same way they do their local cell phone location, looking for quick evaluation and troubleshooting of their mobile device. You could become a go-to destination when consumers have “wi-fi” problems in their vehicle (yes, I said “wi-fi”) by helping them diagnose connectivity problems on the fly.

Many of you have rental car counters in your shops. Why not a counter for “Infomobility Services?” It’s an opportunity that seems to be there for the taking.

About the Author

Michael Willins

Mike has been involved in the automotive industry since 1997. He was formerly Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Automotive Body Repair News. In 2005, under Mike's direction ABRN won the Advanstar Communications "Magazine of the Year Award." Prior to that he was senior editor of Aftermarket Business. With Mike's help Aftermarket Business earned the 2004 Gold Key Award as Publication of the Year given out by the Association of Automotive Publication Editors.

Sponsored Recommendations

Best Body Shop and the 360-Degree-Concept

Spanesi ‘360-Degree-Concept’ Enables Kansas Body Shop to Complete High-Quality Repairs

How Fender Bender Operator of the Year, Morrow Collision Center, Achieves Their Spot-On Measurements

Learn how Fender Bender Operator of the Year, Morrison Collision Center, equipped their new collision facility with “sleek and modern” equipment and tools from Spanesi Americas...

ADAS Applications: What They Are & What They Do

Learn how ADAS utilizes sensors such as radar, sonar, lidar and cameras to perceive the world around the vehicle, and either provide critical information to the driver or take...

Banking on Bigger Profits with a Heavy-Duty Truck Paint Booth

The addition of a heavy-duty paint booth for oversized trucks & vehicles can open the door to new or expanded service opportunities.