Why OEM certification matters

Sept. 30, 2021
How to choose the right one for your collision repair facility.

I’m often asked by collision repairers if they should pursue OEM certifications for their businesses. While some in the industry are very focused on working toward this direction, others say they have been repairing cars the same way for years without them and don’t see the value of becoming certified.

As automotive technology continues to advance, I believe certifications are going to become critical for body shops to be successful. When I worked on the insurance side of the business in the 1990s and then for an OEM for a number of years, there was limited technology in vehicles. Ninety-five percent of the time, you could repair a car the same way with the same equipment. That has changed significantly. Today, there is an abundance of technology and software in vehicles, as well as different materials, such as carbon fiber and the use of plastics. This shift will require shops to continually update their training and purchase specialized equipment to stay current. You need to treat a BMW like a BMW, a Honda like a Honda and a Ford like a Ford.

The best way for a shop to do that is by being aligned with an OEM. Auto manufacturers share information with their network so repairers can stay up-to-date with the latest technology, get trained, and have access to the proper tools so they are prepared to repair vehicles properly. 

Most consumers are familiar with certifications. They might not necessarily know the details of what is involved but they understand there is a relationship between the company that built the car and the one repairing it. By choosing a certified shop, they can be assured that the technicians working on their vehicles are probably the most qualified to do so because they have received a stamp of approval. 

Another benefit of being involved with an OEM certification program is that it opens the door for a direct line of communication with auto manufacturers. OEMs typically have advisory boards or councils you can get involved with. This provides shop owners and managers with access to field people who can assist them escalate issues or talk about things going on in the business. They usually receive news and training first and it provides an opportunity to help shape the future of the industry.    

How to choose the right certification for your collision repair facility

Brands in your area: If you are looking at investing in the tools, equipment, and training to repair a certain brand, you’ll want to ensure that you are in an area where those vehicles will be brought in. Many times, I see that being a challenge for shops, especially in regard to the premium segment. Ask yourself: “What customers do I serve today?” That should be the primary driver when it comes to making a decision on which certifications are the best fit for your location. It’s also worth looking at brands that use similar tools and processes. This will save your business from expensive purchases.

Resources: Shops should also take a close look at their team’s current skill set. You are not going to take a technician who has worked on a domestic brand for 15 years and turn him or her into a premium German brand technician overnight. By recognizing where they are most proficient, it will help you determine if that certification is the best approach. When the team is focused on tasks they have an affinity for, they are far more productive, happier and efficient.   

Space for equipment: It’s important to determine if you have enough space for the equipment required by the program. This is critical when considering in-house services like calibrations that require level floors and enough space to set up targets. If you are currently using the same frame bench for three different brands but you are going to have to purchase a new frame bench and alignment machine if you add a certain certification, determine if you have the space so there is still good workflow in the shop or if it is going to cause a traffic jam while you are moving cars in and out of the facility. 

Dealer & brand support: Some shops sublet work such as glass repair, alignments and mechanical. If this is the case in your facility, you’ll want to ensure the dealer is prioritizing you as a customer or the car might sit for two or three days before coming back to the shop. Alternatively, you might want to consider finding a way to do that work in-house so it helps with a more efficient workflow. Most brands have some sort of regional field team that can provide direct support or a channel to the brand for information and technical support. Positive working relationships with the local dealers can be a good source of referrals as a means to service your joint customers aligned with the brand standards. 

Parts restrictions: Some programs have parts restrictions on limited or specialty vehicles. While restrictions on low-volume vehicles may not be a big driver, they do help shops stand out as having the capabilities for more difficult and involved repairs, which becomes an attention point as new technology makes its way downstream to more mass-market automobiles. In this case, the nuances around these cars would be more familiar to the team, allowing everyone to perform more proficiently on the volume models as they grow.

Cost: It’s critical for owners and managers to look at the value certifications will bring to their shops. I encourage everyone to go online to find out the core requirements of the program. That’s the first step in doing your homework. That will help determine what your business will gain and if it’s worth the investment. Doing your homework beforehand will prevent you from paying the certification fee only to find that you aren’t able to pass the audit without purchasing a large amount of tooling and equipment. 

ROI: Whenever you are deciding whether to participate in a program that is going to require any sort of substantial investment like training, equipment and tools, it has to come down to the return on investment (ROI). ROI doesn’t necessarily mean having an additional car or two in the shop. There is other value that the programs provide, such as marketing, digital materials, assets and signage. It’s unrealistic to expect that if you sign up for a certification, the vehicles are going to just come to you. Once you have joined, you are now a business partner representing the auto manufacturer’s brand and there is some work that goes into it. 

There is a certain level of pride that goes along with an OEM certification. It demonstrates to customers that a shop is committed to continuing education and providing the highest quality repairs. It can also help take your business to the next level if you take the time to find the right program for your shop and utilize all the various support and opportunities to the fullest.

Article based on an interview by Stacey Phillips

About the Author

Gabriel Morley | Senior Vice President, VeriFacts Automotive

Gabriel Morley has a unique background, having worked at Enterprise Holdings within their rental and fleet divisions before moving to Massachusetts and becoming a licensed adjuster for GEICO. This led Morley to join BMW of North America in 2013 as Body & Paint Business Development and Collision Insurance Manager. He worked with insurance and shop partners to improve the collision experience and develop a high-performing network through education and open conversation. Over the years, Morley assumed various positions, developing the parts and service business as well as online digital sales for BMW before joining VeriFacts in late 2020. In his current role, he leads the daily operations as well as the strategic vision to bring repair quality and new technologies together for consumer safety and experience. 

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