EV Safety, Supplements and Repair Planning Take the Stage at CIC

by Chasidy Rae Sisk

“We’ve got a problem in this industry, and that problem is that we collectively suck!” Chairman Frank Terlep opened the most recent Collision Industry Conference (CIC), held in Richmond in conjunction with other industry meetings.

“We’re only scanning 50 percent of the vehicles we repair? With 40 to 60 percent of vehicles being ADAS-equipped? We’re only putting calibration lines on 10-12 percent of repair orders? We’re putting people in cars that aren’t being fixed right. We have to fix this sh#t right because it’s our responsibility to take care of the consumer and the consumer’s car!”

Issuing a challenge to the industry to come up with a standardized process to validate that ADAS works before returning the consumer’s car, Terlep proposed a seven-step process:

1. Identify and document all ADAS safety systems on every vehicle.
2. Inform and educate every consumer about their vehicle’s ADAS systems.
3. Perform and document a pre- and post-repair scan on every vehicle.
4. Prepare and document OE procedure research on every vehicle.
5. Complete a detailed repair plan on every vehicle.
6. Document all actions and tasks related to required calibrations.
7. Complete and document an ADAS safety system verification test on every vehicle.

Terlep’s concerns about how often ADAS calibrations are performed resulted from a survey conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

As Sean O’Malley of the IIHS delivered a special presentation to provide an “IIHS Update on the Testing of EVs and ADAS Calibrations,” he explained how the program’s crash tests have evolved over the decades, beginning with front crash tests into flat walls and evolving into side crash tests that are more reflective of real-world conditions.

Although crash avoidance features are increasing in popularity, O’Malley noted growing confusion around the repair process for these ADAS features and reported that many vehicle owners indicated issues with their systems following a repair, with many features requiring more than one repair. As the repair process becomes more complicated, he suggested solutions to simplify it, such as establishing affordable and accessible centralized databases with repair and calibration specifications and instructions for all relevant makes and models as well as implementing self-diagnostic mechanisms to alert when a technology is malfunctioning.

Since 2011, IIHS has crash tested 56 EVs with 87 percent receiving a rating of good, while six vehicles received an acceptable rating. Only one vehicle was rated poor, but that rating actually had nothing to do with it being an EV. O’Malley explained the precautions that are taken when crash testing EVs, such as monitoring temperature, voltage and isolation. “We prepare the vehicle for the crash by tapping into the high voltage battery cables to monitor the voltage and determine if it shuts off after an airbag deployment. We measure polarity and ensure no isolation, and then we look for any temperature increase.”

IIHS always conducts the test at a 12.5 percent (give or take a couple percentage points) state of charge, never at full charge, and no one is permitted to touch the vehicle until a technician wearing full PPE checks the battery isolation and provides approval. IIHS keeps the fire department on hand for every test conducted on a vehicle with a lithium ion battery, and following a test, the vehicle is stored in a shed for a minimum of two weeks, far away from anything else in case it catches on fire.

One large concern with EVs that still needs to be explored is simply the mass of these vehicles. For example, a 2023 Honda Civic weighs 2,877 pounds, while a 2023 Rivian R1S weighs 7,068 pounds! “Moving mass is a big deal; kinetic energy is what will hurt people,” O’Malley clarified. “That gives the Rivian 60 percent more energy than a Civic moving at the same speed, so it’s going to just tear through everything else! EVs will start killing people; there’s no doubt about it!”

The potential dangers of EVs were explored further during the Emerging Technologies Committee’s panel on the “EV and Hybrid Vehicle Intake Process,” which began with an image of a car which caught fire at 5:30am because the 12 volt and high voltage systems were live; neither a risk assessment nor an EV intake process was conducted when it was towed to the collision repair facility. “What went wrong, and how could this be avoided?” asked moderator Dirk Fuchs (I-CAR).

“There’s a gap between best practices and standards,” explained Dalan Zartman of the Energy Security Agency (ESA). “We fill that gap by creating a bridgeway for standards to be applied to all the different industries [in the chain of EV custody], but if you don’t make rules that can be interpreted and applied to end users, you have a huge problem. Risk reduction starts with everyone in the chain of custody; everyone holds a piece of responsibility within this puzzle.”

ESA works to educate first responders, firefighters and police departments about how to make EVs and hybrids safe before the tow company ever touches the vehicle, and the agency has developed a system with green, yellow and red placards providing specific guidance about the vehicle’s current situation. “If it’s handled properly through these steps, it gives the collision center critical data points: It’s already been identified as an EV hazard, and that hazard has been qualified which lets you determine how you’re going to store it and how long it needs to be quarantined,” Zartman explained.

“Small measures of intervention that follow the manufacturer’s best practices negate the vast majority of the events that we see in storage yards, in handling procedures and interaction procedures with these vehicles,” he stressed. “Taking the time to apply the right steps at the right moments negates a huge quantity of the risk and liability and eventual hazards we see take place.”

“We have to define a process, and then we have to educate everybody to know how to deal with this,” Fuchs agreed.

Disconnecting both the low voltage and high voltage systems is imperative to the intake process, but even after those disconnections, it’s important to recognize potential hazards and follow isolation recommendations.

Zartman discussed proper use of thermal imaging cameras, noting, “It’s not about the temperature point. It’s about the temperature trending and temperature hotspots.”

The industry needs to learn more about EVs, according to Fuchs. “We can’t suck when it comes to EVs. It’s too dangerous. We have to perform the right thing and make an intensively deep-dive diagnostic. That’s the only thing that prevents us from a disaster.”

“The Supplement Challenge” presents the opportunity for disastrous interactions between insurers and repairers, according to the Industry Relations Committee. “Most every claim has at least one supplement,” pointed out committee co-chair Jim Keller (1Collision). “The question isn’t ‘will there be a supplement’ but ‘how many supplements will there be’?”

Multiple supplements cast both shops and insurers in a negative light with consumers, and it’s only gotten worse over the past several decades, creating morale issues for shop employees and throwing processes out of sequence. “Negotiation may have made sense prior to vehicles being disassembled and researched, but it makes no sense today,” said panelist Michael Giarrizzo Jr. (DCR Systems), insisting, “There has to be a better way.”

From the rental car company’s viewpoint, supplements have an immediate impact to the customer’s rental approval, according to Margaret Owen (Enterprise Rent-a-Car). “The rental authorization needs to be updated, and the customer might face additional fees that need to be paid out of pocket. Customers aren’t familiar with this process, and it can be traumatic, especially since there’s cost and stress associated with it.”

Offering a perspective from an independent appraiser, Phil Langley (SCA Claims Service) pointed out that his company also takes a loss when supplements are required since they get paid per appraisal, and he urged everyone to “embrace a collaborative approach to get to the finish line, which is a quality repair in line with procedures and safety. We’re all just trying to do the same thing: put the vehicle back in its safe, pre-loss condition.”

“There’s only one way to fix the car, and that’s the right way,” Terlep agreed, issuing a challenge to the committee to figure out a standard process to share with the industry nationally.

Barry Dorn (Dorn’s Body & Paint; Mechanicsville, VA) suggested that part of that process should “identify who the repair professional is. We spend hours developing a repair plan and are required to document everything we do, but that should be a two-way street when there’s a denial. It would be beneficial for all of us if other industry stakeholders documented their refusal to pay for certain operations.”

The value of proper repair planning carried over into “Jack of All Claims, Master of None,” as Danny Gredinberg from the Database Enhancement Gateway (DEG) questioned the difference between a shop’s repair plan and an insurer’s estimate.

“The damage dictates the repair, and if a shop adjusts the repair plan procedures based on the carrier at play, that opens them up to a mountain of liability,” according to Andrew Batenhorst (Pacific BMW Collision Center).

“From a legal perspective, there’s a right and wrong way to fix a car,” agreed Erica Eversman (Automotive Education & Policy Institute). “When it comes to companies that you don’t have the best relationships with, the customer needs to see that you’re always demanding the same things across all carriers, plus you don’t want a good carrier seeing that you didn’t charge other carriers for the same thing. There should be an appropriate standard of care that is used, so you can always say, ‘This is the policy and our business practice that is applied across all customers, irrespective of whether they’re insured or self-pay.’”

From this perspective, panelists touted the value of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) as helpful in providing evidence of processes that shops follow on every repair.

“They offer a level of consistency that you can always fall back on,” suggested Steve Krieps (Collision Safety Consultants of WV). “They give you more credibility when you insist, ‘This is how we always do it and how our people are trained’ when you can go back to demonstrate that in file after file.”

While it’s imperative that shops educate their customers about the process and about what’s needed on their vehicle, it’s equally important to recognize that the goal is to help the consumer without becoming overly emotional or involved. “We want to educate them, but it’s the consumer’s problem to deal with,” Krieps noted.

“If you don’t stay in your lane, you’ll end up in an area where you’re not the expert,” Eversman warned. “Falling into someone else’s area of expertise never bodes well.”

CIC’s next meeting is scheduled for July 19-20, 2023 in Indianapolis, IN. Registration information, as well as presentations from previous meetings, can be found at ciclink.com.

Want more? Check out the June issue of Hammer & Dolly!