SPRING IS HERE – Collision Repair Magazine

Put some pep in your step this season – there’s plenty of room to grow

By DARYL SIMMONS

There is something special about this time of year. As the snow finally melts and we step out without coats or boots, it’s natural to think about things growing. Despite the upside-down circus around the world, it’s a good time to re-found yourself as we say in yoga.

Not so long ago, the primary concerns of repairers were parts, materials and insurance relationships. Sure, there was an OEM presence, but they seemed happy enough to sell cars. What about electronic vehicles? They were so rare that we stopped in the street and stared.

Well, those good days are over and once again the auto body repair industry is adapting like a champ.

The shortage of fleas, one of the latest headaches, is having a severe domino effect. Here’s how it goes: New cars can’t be built that quickly because OEMs are competing with anything that needs a computer chip.

This includes refrigerators, computers, drones and god knows what else. This means OEMs are using chips on their higher priced luxury brands. This means more people are keeping their cars and so we have a parking lot that is getting old fast. It doesn’t stop there. Now repairmen cannot fix cars that need parts with chips. Oh joy. Just another piece of sand in the shell… hopefully it turns into a pearl sooner or later.

Now, it’s nothing new that OEMs decided that the key to maintaining profits in this political economy was to control the repair process and parts. Insurance companies have their own take on this and as a result we see a whole slew of legislation and lawsuits facing our neighbors to the south. Make no mistake, what happens there will happen here sooner or later.

It only takes a quick glance at the United States to see the direction being taken when it comes to OEM parts and insurers as the behemoths lay the groundwork in the battle for control of the global collision repair market. .

The biggest debate in courtrooms, at least as far as I know, is about getting legal definitions of what is essential and integral; and also, what is meant by “meet or exceed OEM parts”. There will no doubt be a lot of publicity about it, as consumers will be brought in and their sympathies played out. I can just see the ads now: “Do you want anything other than a genuine Volvo part used to repair your car?”

You don’t have to look much further than Kelvin Campbell in Halifax and Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, to get a sense of the direction OEMs and insurers would like to see in the industry. Not only does Chapman Auto Body boast a slew of prestige badge OEM certifications at its three locations, there’s a genuine Tesla dealership inside the facility. Kelvin says he focuses on specialization through training and traceable repair, which improves customer satisfaction. And yes, he says OEMs are considered a “customer”.

So where am I going since I really don’t have a dog in this fight. Just to let you know that your views should play a role and stand up for what you know is right. You are the one who fixes the cars daily. You know what works and what doesn’t.

All you need to do is ask yourself, “Would you put your daughter, son, wife, or mother in a car that’s been fixed in a certain way?” If you’re not 100% confident in putting your life on the line, then don’t. And be sure to inform insurers, OEMs and the customer. A repairman doesn’t have a lot of voice, but when a group keeps saying the same thing, those in control and those in power start to listen.

It’s spring. A wonderful time to see things grow. A good time to grow as an industry.