CIC Handles Air to Land, Matte to AI Chat & What’s to ComeConference

by Alana Quartuccio

The spring Collision Industry Conference (CIC) left no stone unturned in tackling just about every element of the changes and challenges this industry is facing – and will face for years to come. Technologies like AI are gaining a stronger voice, while data sharing concerns increase, and paint processes and other repair procedures need better solutions toward efficiency. 

“I suggest we ask ourselves, what is the ‘greater good?’” Interim Chairman Darrell Amberson queried. “What is the higher goal? What is the normal cause? For many of us, the reason we are here is not only to educate ourselves and for self improvement, but also for the good of the industry. How can we improve our proficiency? How can we gain harmony within our industry? How can we stay ahead of new technologies? How can we adequately staff our businesses? How can we improve safety and provide for the good of the motoring public? 

“Think of this empty chair,” he continued, pointing to CIC’s visual representation of the consumer. “It’s the hope and desire of all of us who will spend time on this stage today, that we cause you to think, to challenge some of your perceptions, to broaden your horizons, to frustrate you, to inspire you, to motivate you. We hope to stimulate your emotions and to energize you. We hope to compel you to share your ideas, perspectives and reactions. And we want it to be fun.”

Before the back-to-back presentations got underway, Amberson was joined by CIC Administrator Jordan Hendler and past chairs to introduce “the enthusiastic, driven and energetic” Dan Risley (CCC Intelligent Solutions) as the new Chair for 2024-2025. Risley’s term will begin with the July meeting in Denver, CO. 

The conference took flight with the Estimating and Repair Planning Commitee’s compelling discussion about the aligned world of the airline industry. “I think you’ll see that there’s going to be some parallels as far as the repairs, the training requirements and things of that nature,” predicted Danny Gredinberg (Database Enhancement Gateway) as he introduced Kirsten Bossenbroek Spalding (Boeing) whose presentation, “Boeing: From Wheels to Wings,” set out to answer the question, “Is there a difference in repair outcome?” 

Much like CIC works for the greater good of collision repair, Spalding shared similar goals the Commercial Aircraft Composite Repair Committee (CACRC) has for the airline industry. “You could swap out the word ‘automotive’ for ‘airplane’ and be having very similar conversations,” she said, outlining the comparisons she quickly discovered as she began to learn about the collision repair industry. 

Whereas, at one time, it appeared all of the airline industry was “along the same learning curve,” an influx of new composites began to change that quickly, according to Spalding. As a result, some parts of the industry were not keeping up or were taking more time to gain familiarity with “metal aircraft structure or pyramidal aircraft structure. And now we’ve got these heavy hyper-efficient composite structures, and we need to make sure that everyone understands the criticality of these processes, especially repairing them and inspecting them. It’s different from what we’ve been used to with metallic structures. We’ve also got a lot of regulatory agency backing in the CACRC, as well, so we published a number of standards through CACRC,” she explained. 

Spalding explained CACRC’s “decision tree” in support of the industry’s goals to promote repair and standardization, increasing safety while also reducing cost. Bringing groups together to have conversations also mirrors what the collision industry does. 

“Typically, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and NASA are in attendance at all our meetings, and we’ve also got regulators from other countries participating. We’ve got big OEMs, maintenance organizations, repair and overhaul suppliers, parts suppliers and material suppliers. So, we’ve also got some overlap in that space as well. And then we also have support from academia.”

Like with collision repair, it all comes down to focusing on the consumer, Spalding and Gredinberg stressed. 

Piggybacking on previous discussions concerning artificial intelligence (AI), Gabriel Morley (DEKRA) reported that the Future Disruptions Committee has been researching AI trends, and instead of continuing the conversation about what AI could do in the future, they decided to focus on what AI can do for the industry now. 

“At the last CIC, we talked a lot about what AI could do [some day]. But what is it doing today? Because there’s a lot of use cases. AI is being implemented today. And if you’re not getting into it today, that’s going to have some impact down the road for these future use cases that we talked about. We’ve had quite the interesting conversations around AI, what it’s doing, how each of us are using it. We’re discovering new cases of AI and how it’s being used in different businesses.” 

“I know there are a lot of folks who think that AI is going to take jobs away, but the best thing I can tell you is that isn’t going to be true, at least for a while,” shared James Spears (Tractable). “If a company knows how to leverage AI, it’ll be that company that knows how to leverage the tools and do better,” he commented, indicating that AI could make work life easier by taking tasks away from employees but not actually eliminating their jobs. 

 Spears referred to AI tools which can help on the business side. “I’ve used a platform called Synthesis that creates training videos,” he added. “It has an avatar; it’s in like 40 different languages. You type in your training script, and you can have a web-based training session within a few minutes.

“I have a lot of technical guys on my team who may not do a lot of business writing,” he continued. “So there’s a tool called Grammarly, which we load up for them, so now when they have to write an email to a client or back to a partner, they have tools to help them tighten up their business writing. It will help you write out your email, to make it more concise, persuasive or direct. This helps a lot of people who have not traditionally had to do this writing in their past to present themselves more professionally.” 

AI can also help a shop improve the customer experience. 

Ryan Taylor (Bodyshop Booster) called it “exciting times. AI is going to be the tool that becomes just like a part of us for the future. We can hardly imagine doing a math test without a calculator nowadays. It’s going to be like that where we can hardly imagine doing our jobs without some form of AI assisting us.” 

Taylor presented the scenario of a customer who needs attention after hours. 

“Think about the beginning of that customer journey when they have an accident. How can we instantly be there for that customer? AI can really fill that void for us. A lot of us are off enjoying the weekend. But that customer is in distress dealing with a stressful situation, and they need help. So, from the first point of contact, AI can be a really good co-pilot. Perhaps they visit your website and use an AI-enabled chat bot. Maybe they call your shop, and the AI answers the phone. There are texting AI platforms that can answer questions that your customer service representative or an estimator could answer. It can be trained off of those people who work for you.” 

“AI is not going to replace and fix things for you,” Morley pointed out. “You won’t just plug in an AI tool and step away. There’s still going to be human involvement in the process.” 

The Parts and Materials Committee sparked a conversation about matte finishes, a growing trend increasing in popularity as more manufacturers have begun to make this luxury option more affordable. “This starts to open it up even more as now people realize it’s more attainable and will select the option,” suggested Aaron Schulenburg (Society of Collision Repair Specialists). “However, that doesn’t necessarily make the process of restoring the finish any easier for the collision repair shops who are responsible for returning that finish upon repair. Shops are more likely to see this in their shops.”

Panelists Thorsten Alstede (AkzoNobel), Bradley Letourneau (BASF) and Kye Yeung (European Motor Works) joined Schulenburg in a discussion designed to help shops understand how to contain defects and create a better environment in order to effectively produce this finish to meet customers expectations.

 Letourneau suggested that “because there are no standards, and we should expect to see variation, what do we need to do as your finishers to put these back to factory conditions? We need to spend extra time and effort in properly preparing to match the sheen and match the color and above all to do the repair back to OEM specifications.” Ultimately, knowledge is power, and one should have no fear as long as they follow the steps and OEM procedures. 

Alstede agreed with Letourneau, adding, “Matte finishes are really not that different from others we’ve worked with.” Focusing on the importance of understanding features and limitations a spray booth operator should have regarding its booth, Alstede reviewed a number of considerations for proper use of matte finish. “Maintaining a balanced pressure in the cabin during the spray paint cycle is actually very important,” he stressed.

Yeung shared his perspective of having to redo improperly done matte finish vehicles in his shop, recommending steps he uses to minimize the need to redo these jobs. One tool he uses is known as a gloss meter. “It measures things in gloss units from zero to 100. The glossiest is zero, and the 100 is matte. They have three cameras in them at 20, 60 and 85 degrees. When you take a sample of a finish, you’ll see that it can differentiate the amount of loss that the human eye can’t detect.”

I-CAR representatives announced they have created a mobile application for their Repairability Technical Support (RTS) portal. “We noticed that techs were trying to use RTS on their phones,” said Nick Dominato. “We realized we needed a better way to get RTS into the hands of the technicians if they have questions about proper repair procedures while working on a vehicle. This gets that information to them in an accessible manner.” 

The Data Access Privacy and Security Committee set out to answer the industry’s most pressing questions concerning the collection and removal of data appearing on vehicle history reports with a panel discussion featuring an Experian Automotive executive and other industry experts. 

The panelists covered the subject at great length starting at the collection of data with Ed Pontis of Experian sharing, “Our biggest source comes from the states. We also get data from local police departments, auctions and some from body shops.” 

Conversation also explored how parts suppliers are involved when it comes to licensed information. 

Pete Tagliapietra (Data Touch) offered food for thought as they have discovered, “Parts numbers end up providing valuable information on determining the severity of damage. Well, when you look at a report from – let’s pick on Carfax for a minute – I’m getting all of the parts information from dealer management systems. And I have the towing companies, and I’m licensing all of the images that the towing companies take at the accident scene, including the VIN. So, I start tying these databases together, and just from the parts information, I now can generate a vehicle damage report. We thought it was all based just on estimates originally, but that’s not the case at all. If I’m a shop owner, I would want you to know that anytime you generate a parts list without an estimate, there’s a good probability it’s still going to end up on a vehicle history report. And it’s going to have a damage assessment associated with it. Once the vehicle history reporting company has the parts list and other pieces of information, they have an algorithm, an AI algorithm by the way, that generates the severity automatically for them that they produce on the report.”

Trent Tinsley (Enterprise Rent-a-Car) asked shop owner Scott Benavidez (Mr. B’s Paint and Body Shop; Albuquerque, NM) about his experience managing customers who have directly blamed his shop for accidents being listed on their vehicle history report. “We’re better equipped now [on how] to tell them,” Benavidez said, referencing situations where customers have blamed his shop due the Carfax date being the same as the date of his shop’s written estimate. 

“When they put those two things together, it’s difficult to explain. We’ve been going through this for a long time figuring out that when we hit one button, it turns into 10 people [having access to data], and then those 10 people can send it to another 10 people, and those 10 send it to another 10 people, so we have no idea where information ends up. That’s tough to explain to a customer.” 

The CIC audience also learned about legislative efforts coming out of associations around the country from local and national leaders. Individual states are pursuing their own bills in relation to specific state-related concerns, such as Texas which has been fighting for legislation to make the Right to Appraisal mandatory in all insurance policies. Meanwhile, Emil Nussbaum of the Automotive Recyclers Association shared that roughly a dozen states around the country are working to create legislation to govern framework on how electric vehicles should be handled, fixed and processed for recycled parts and what that life cycle will look like.

The next CIC meeting will be held July 10 in Denver, CO. Visit for more information.

Want more? Check out the June 2024 issue of Hammer & Dolly!