From alignment acorns, mighty ADAS oaks grow

Sept. 18, 2023
A Q&A with Hunter Engineering’s Ryan Gerber on how collision shops are missing out
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Q: What’s the relationship between alignments and ADAS calibrations?

RG: Pretty much every ADAS calibration starts, or should start, with an alignment. If the wheels aren’t going straight, then neither is the ADAS, which can defeat the whole purpose. So if you’re already doing alignments every day – and I know not all collision shops are, but they should be – it’s a logical next step to ADAS. Do one; do the other. They’re connected.

Q: Why aren’t more collision shops doing ADAS work now? What’s holding them back?

RG: It’s still early in the game. Most shops have yet to sit down and do a careful analysis of how they could get in on ADAS work. That’s understandable, although shops that have taken that step are definitely ahead of the game. The longer a shop waits, the further behind it’ll be.

I think there’s also some “what somebody told me about ADAS” slowing the process down: You need rocket-science techs, you need an acre of space, the work is complicated and a big investment, and so on.

But really, while there are always things to consider when making any business decision, none of that is true. None of that is true.

Q: So you’re saying ADAS work isn’t complicated and expensive to do?

RG: Some shops have the notion that ADAS work is something exotic. The more you learn, the less mysterious it gets.

The technology is highly sophisticated, but calibrations are not. At all. Any patient, conscientious tech can do them. And the investment into tools and equipment is proportional to your revenue, like anything else.

This is a key point, because some believe ADAS work requires that you have the end-all, state-of-the-art system before you can do your first calibration. Not so. To get into ADAS work, you start small with brands you’re familiar with, gain experience and confidence, and go from there. When your ROI justifies a bigger investment – and it will – that’s the time to move up.

Q: Fair enough, but most collision shops have enough to do without taking on ADAS work. Why isn’t it just easier to continue doing as many are doing, and sub it all out?

RG: That’s where the missing out comes in. The path of least resistance does offer the least resistance, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best path.

Collision shops are tailor-made for calibrations. By definition, nearly every single vehicle coming on the lot will need ADAS work.

Subbing it out is the worst of all worlds. It’s almost as if the process is designed that way. You give up control over the quality of the work but retain responsibility for it. You give away most of the profit but retain all the liability. You increase customer inconvenience with longer cycle times for no offsetting gain.

It’s your shop, your alignment system, your customers, your revenue. Make ADAS your work.

In time, I think most collision shops will see that. Why would they not?

Q: But what about space, then? Not every shop can simply clear out a bay or two all day, every day.

RG: That may be true now, but in time they may well want to!

ADAS work requiring wide open spaces is a frequent misconception. To perform the lion’s share of ADAS work, the typical shop likely has sufficient space as it is. Most forward-facing calibrations can be done in 10 feet or less, and very rarely will you encounter a calibration requiring room around all four sides of a vehicle at the same time.

A little workaround creativity may be required from time to time, such as moving the vehicle this way or that to perform this or that calibration, or backing it a bit out the door, or clearing space by moving shop equipment around (most is on wheels, after all!). Just as you don’t need 100 yards to play touch football, you don’t need a textbook amount of space to perform ADAS work.

Q: What’s the most important advice you can give to collision shops that do wish to branch out into ADAS?

RG: I think what may hit home the hardest is that given the growing – and growing – amount of ADAS work now and in the near future, you may not choose to do it, but someone else surely will. Subbing it out will make less and less sense, as you simply give away control and tons of profitable work but keep all the headaches. And the best way to get started is to pair up with an experienced and reputable partner who can guide you every step of the way.

In other words, you don’t have to do it alone. Get help, get equipment, get experience, and get going on building a profitable ADAS business. Rather than being a collision shop that gives ADAS work away, become the shop others bring work to.

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