Collision Industry Conference: March, 2014
Much of the agenda at the Collision Industry Conference (CIC) held in Palm Springs, Calif., in January was devoted to CIC’s biennial planning session, where participants discuss what topics CIC committees will take on in the coming year or two. But the quarterly meeting also included a number of informational sessions for attendees.
I-CAR CEO John VanAlstyne, for example, offered an update on not only his organization’s training activities, but also its efforts to improve the availability and accessibility of OEM technical information for collision repairers. He said that I-CAR had budgeted over $1 million on that ongoing project over two years, and that the website portal I-CAR is developing to improve access to OEM technical information is being beta-tested and will launch soon.
He said I-CAR also has worked to make its training more affordable. For the fourth year in a row, he said, there would be no price increase for training for Gold Class businesses, and pricing has been reduced for I-CAR newly-renamed “Welding Testing and Certification.” The welding program discounts increase based on the number of students a company is registering, part of I-CAR’s effort to get training to more technicians, VanAlstyne said.
About half of the I-CAR training that students choose to take is now online, up from just 3 percent three years ago, VanAlstyne said. That and the expanded focus on being a source of technical information beyond training is part of I-CAR’s shift in scope.
“We’re working to make information on-demand and accessible, so people get the training and information they need when they need it,” he said.
He said I-CAR soon will be rolling out aluminum welding and other training courses specific to Ford’s 2015 F-150 pick-up, which hits showrooms in the fourth quarter of this year.
A Ford spokesman at the meeting said the automaker won’t place any restrictions on replacement parts or on what shops repair the new F-150, which includes aluminum alloys throughout the body.
“We designed the vehicle so that it would be easily repaired and so that a customer could go where they want to get it repaired,” Paul Massie, collision product marketing manager for Ford, said at CIC.
Massie said Ford is asking shops to become “aluminum-capable,” but that doesn’t mean a separate “clean room” as required by some other manufacturers.
“We are requiring that you have the separation of the work area, but that can be (achieved) using curtains and proper filtration; it’s not going to require brick and mortar,” Massie said. “The equipment is estimated at about $50,000 (U.S.), but that is if you have absolutely no aluminum equipment today. If you are already in the aluminum business and you already have duplicate equipment to keep the separation of the steel and aluminum, you’re probably already a long way to having the equipment you’re going to need. There may be some rivet guns that are particular to our repair, but you may be already using them for other (vehicles).”
Massie said in addition to the vehicle-specific training for the F-150 offered by I-CAR, installation instructions also will be included with replacement parts.
Massie said Ford will have more information for repairers at the Northeast Automotive Services Show, taking place March 21-23 in Secaucus, N.J., at the CIC meeting in Portland, Ore., on April 9 and 10, at NACE in Detroit this July, and at SEMA in Las Vegas this fall.
Also at CIC this month, the OEM Roundtable announced its new consumer website, www.CrashRepairInfo.com. The site includes: information for vehicle-owners on how to choose a body shop; definitions of common terms used in collision repair and auto insurance claims; automaker position statements on reconditioned wheels, vehicle safety systems, counterfeit or salvage airbags, etc.; and videos such as Honda’s demonstration of a mistimed airbag’s impact on a watermelon.
A subcommittee of the Parts and Materials Committee also shared the findings of its survey of about a dozen providers of electronic parts procurement systems. The committee asked each of the system providers, for example, how parts providers are qualified to participate in system; how the system confirms parts pricing availability; whether the system is integrated with shop management systems; whether and how parts providers are rated; and who pays for use of the system (shops, insurers or parts providers).
“We’re not up here to do a commercial for any one entity, any one element that has an electronic procurement tool,” committee co-chairman Chris Northup said. “This is about factual data and survey information.”
“Our goal was to produce an easy-to-use resource that would allow repairers to compare relevant features of electronic parts procurement systems,” said Karen Fierst, who led the subcommittee’s work on the project.
Fierst said 12 companies were surveyed about their parts procurement systems, and 10 responded. She said a matrix of the responses is being finalized and will be posted next month to the CIC website.
“This is a snapshot in time,” Fierst said of the survey findings. “As the document becomes dated, it’s up to the CIC body whether or not you’d like to do another survey.”
Also during the meeting, CIC committees offered a preview of some of what they hope to address at upcoming meetings. Steve Regan, chairman of the Governmental Committee, said his committee will have a presentation on the topic of “most-favored nation” clauses at the next CIC in Portland. The clauses are often found in insurer direct repair program agreements, requiring participating shops to give the insurer the best pricing offered to any other. Several states have now banned the clauses in health insurance contracts, and the Automotive Service Association has urged the U.S. Department of Justice to review most-favored nation clauses in DRP contracts.
Regan said his committee is also planning a presentation for later this year on legal and liability issues related to autonomous (or “self-driving”) cars.
Randy Hanson of Allstate this year becomes chairman of the CIC Insurer-Repairer Relations Committee. Outgoing chairman Rick Tuuri said the committee will continue to “identify areas for insurers and repairers to work together for efficiencies.” CIC attendee Rick Sherwood suggested that the committee go back to some of the recommendations the committee developed – such as best practices related to digital images, which was finalized in 2010 – to find out if insurers are aware of them and whether or not they’ve adopted them.
“So rather than just bring a recommendation, which I understand is CIC’s mission, get some feedback that might assist in refining these things as we go forward so they are more actionable at the end of the day,” Sherwood suggested.