Feb. 17, 2021—Ron Reichen, who for more than 45 years has operated Oregon's Precision Body and Paint, has a message for collision repairers.
"Our industry is no longer a trade," he says, "it's a skilled profession."
With the biggest carmakers committing to electric vehicles for the future and the preponderance of advanced driver-assistance systems in so many vehicles today, Reichen says the straightforward repairs of the past are just that.
"The simplicity of the vehicle will never be like it was," he says.
Before landing in collision repair, Reichen was in aeronautical engineering, which he describes as "deep in the bowels of aircraft construction." Always with an eye on the advanced, he says mind-blowing vehicle features aren't that far off.
Tesla already has the ability to shut-off vehicles that are total losses, he notes. He foresees cameras that can track drivers' retinas and engage a starter lock of the driver is intoxicated. When it comes to autonomous vehicles, he says they're not "pie in the sky."
Vehicles have accumulated so many features so fast that Reichen says it's important to interview shop customers, both for the sake of a proper repair and to clue them into that which their vehicle is capable.
Reichen has three locations in the Portland area and around, and says his front office employees ask customers a number of questions that can have bearing on what his shops need to check for during the repair-planning process.
"Part of the interview process that our sales staff has with the client includes asking, are you smelling anything different? Hearing any rattles? Are there any malfunctions in the lane-change system?" he says. "In doing that, you're educating the client about functions they're very used to using."
Who needs a neck? Reichen says drivers of cars with features such as back up cameras and lane change sensors are no longer turning their heads to check for cars in other lanes or to make sure nothing is behind them when they go to reverse. Reliance on systems that are out of whack because of a collision could have consequences.
"If that screen is out of calibration, that kid on the tricycle isn't picked up," he says.
With drivers wholly relying on their cameras, creating real risks, Reichen says asking about such systems and alerting customers to their complexities adds value to a shop.
"That qualifies us in that interview process in that first point of contact," he says, "and that gives us cred ... and that's how we end up getting the keys."