by Alana Quartuccio
It’s a precarious time for the collision repair industry. It’s critical for the industry to come together as a whole in order to produce safe and proper repairs. No vehicle owner should have to settle for less.
That message was heard loud and clear throughout the day as the Collision Industry Conference (CIC) got underway in Indianapolis on July 18.
Chairman Frank Terlep (Opus IVS) reminded the packed room of the mission that brought them all together. “The vision is for this entire industry to work together to enable a complete, safe and quality repair for the person in that chair,” he stated, referring to the empty chair that sits on the CIC stage to symbolize the vehicle owner this industry works to protect. “It’s critically important that what we do here in this room, four times a year, is a big deal for the industry. Our mission in this forum is for collision industry stakeholders to come together and discuss ideas and issues, enhance understanding, find common ground and communicate possible solutions that we think can improve our industry.
“I want to thank (former Chairman) Jeff Peevy for the idea of the empty chair. Everything we do in this industry – whether you’re an insurer, a repairer or a supplier – whatever we’re doing, just remember, we’re putting that consumer – your mom, your dad, your child, your grandparents – in a repaired vehicle. And we need to put them in a vehicle that’s properly repaired, properly calibrated and properly validated before we give that car back to them.”
Terlep challenged everyone in the room to think about the amount of man hours the industry is wasting per year. “According to information from CCC, the industry does about 14 million claims per year. Sixty percent of those 14 million claims have a supplement. In my opinion, that is not acceptable. This equates to 8.4 million supplements per year. There are things you can’t get back. It’s called time. We are wasting [the equivalent of] years on supplements?! We’ve got to find a way to come together and figure this out.”
He called it a “broken process” that roughly equates to a wasteful $39 billion per year. “Let’s find a way to get together and fix this problem because it’s only getting worse, not better.”
Blend Study ─ the Sequel
One of the most compelling revelations to recently come out in the industry has been the results of the blend study led by Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) in collaboration with major North American refinish companies. SCRS Executive Director Aaron Schulenburg took the stage to share the highly anticipated sequel to the game-changing finds. The study concluded the 50 percent blending formula utilized by all three major information providers (IPs) ─ Audatex, Mitchell and CCC ─ was grossly underestimated. The study evaluated blending in comparison to full refinish values when considering solid, metallic and tri-stage refinish options across all the paint manufacturers and concluded that blend times are 31.59 percent greater than full refinished value on average. (See grecopublishing.com/hammer-and-dolly-december-2022 for a recap on the study results revealed at CIC last November.)
Since the study was revealed and shared with the industry and the IPs, the big question has been: what’s next?
“It’s important to share that we had invited each of the information providers to be present during the research,” noted Schulenburg. “They were not. But we immediately went into the process of engaging in dialogue following the presentation of the results to pose the questions, ‘Where do we go from here?’ How do we reconcile this idea that for 30-plus years has been the number? And now we have other data that we’ve captured that reflects what I think we’ve communicated for a long time. How do we figure out what that looks like?”
Schulenburg commended CCC and MOTOR for committing to review the study pretty much immediately, sticking to their timeframe for doing so and releasing a statement that said, “Given the variations among scenarios today, MOTOR believes that the estimated work time development methodology should defer to the judgment of an estimator or appraiser following an on-the-spot evaluation of the specific vehicle and refinish requirements in question.” The change is said to go into effect in October.
“This is pretty significant,” Schulenburg said of CCC/MOTOR’s action. “This is saying that different variables exist, and a static formula doesn’t necessarily reflect them all. That’s a positive change, as a result of companies coming together (referencing the collaboration between the association and refinish companies) and saying, ‘Let’s do more to prove our case for the industry.’”
Removing what he referred to as an “inaccurate number” from the system as the “guiding light” is a good thing for this industry, he added.
During the presentation, Schulenburg unveiled Audatex’s proposed changes to their system, as a result of the study, to the CIC audience:
Audatex’s refinish labor is based on the use of new and undamaged panels. Audatex estimating does not provide a standard labor allowance for blended panels, as this requires an estimate preparer’s judgment, expertise and consideration of the unique requirements for each repair. Determination and assessment of labor and materials necessary in the blending process is best provided by the estimate preparer during the estimate preparation process. To assist the user, profile settings allow for customization to enter a specific blend percentage, as necessary.
Schulenburg shared additional notes revealing that “Audatex will now allow you to specify the blend refinish percentage to be used when calculating refinished labor at the profile level, allowing an insurer and shop to agree on a default blend refinished time. You may enter a value between 50 and 150. This value is used to determine the blend refinished labor by multiplying it against the full panel refinish time. So, you’re unable to reduce it below 50. You’re unable to increase it above 150. When generating an estimate, the blend refinish will be calculated using the vehicle specified in the profile level. If no value is specified, a default value of 50 percent blend finish will be used as before, and the estimator can manually override the blend refinished percentage specified on the profile level, and it will be denoted with an asterisk on the estimate. Additionally, a new note is now added to the bottom of all estimates showing the blend refinished percentage used.”
Reiterating the important outcomes from both CCC and Audatex, responsively adjusting their products after concluding their own research and validation, Schulenburg disclosed that, unfortunately, communication from Mitchell has not mirrored those of its competitors. He was candid about Mitchell’s response which has been reluctant since the get-go. Initially, they claimed that paint companies and SCRS would not know how to perform time studies.
“We got into this to start the conversation, not to set out for a particular goal or objective,” Schulenburg stressed. “Our conclusions are just that ─ they are conclusions. There are other information providers who, I believe, have justified that the conclusions were accurate based on their own internal determination. I don’t think that a call cautioning embarrassment sets the tone for equally receptive parties to look at how we support the industry.
“They made routine attempts to prove that if they remove data that we observed and collected, then added back in data that we didn’t observe but ‘should’ have…that if you change the equation enough, you could get back to a 50 percent result,” he continued, sharing Mitchell’s argument. “It didn’t make sense to us. And it didn’t make sense to the other participants we had invited in who were observers to our study. But that was the argument. We were continually assured that they ‘give’ the industry enough. That was the basis of most of the conversation: ‘We give you enough.’”
As an example, Schulenburg revealed Mitchell’s challenge of the operation of applying sealer to the edge of a blend panel to match what the refinish manufacturer expects. “This is important because this is part of the variable that didn’t exist 30 years ago,” he noted. “Applying sealer to the edge of a blend panel is a common expectation today for many of the paint companies. This is an example of training documentation that specifically says if applying sealer to the repair replace panel, and if applying sealer directly adjacent to the blend panel, extend/blend the sealer onto the edge of the blend panel. These are instructions. This is data. It’s not on every color; it’s on colors that may need to reduce the halo because of the transparency of the color. This is how refinish technicians are being trained.
“Mitchell said blending is defined as applying color without necessity to cover undercoats to less than the full surface area of an adjacent undamaged panel. So, this was actually an important part of our conversations with Mitchell. There are technologies that are necessary today that aren’t recognized as part of their blend process but are a part of modern blending. Fundamentally, we had disagreements around whether or not that was blending. We had disagreements about whether datasets we collected could even be used because they didn’t view it as a blending operation.”
Summing it up, the extent of the response received from Mitchell is that they will continue to study the issue, but as Schulenburg pointed out, “It’s difficult to take claims from a company that they continue to study an issue in earnest, when the dialogue we’ve received today shows that they’re comfortable remaining inactive.”
ADAS, OEMs and Beyond
Diving into the one of the more critical areas that is shaping the future of repair, Chuck Olsen (AirPro Diagnostics) and Bob Augustine (Opus IVS) of the digital side of the Emerging Technologies Committee led an ADAS-focused panel discussion set out to provide a refresher on these safety systems, examine developing technology and peer into what the market size looks like.
According to Nick Dominato (director of product management at I-CAR and formerly of Repairify and adasThink), big growth is coming and ─ with that ─ big opportunity.
“In 2026, we’re going to see a 50-percent increase of vehicles with a forward-facing camera or at least one ADAS system,” explained Dominato. “So we’re going to go from a quarter of the vehicles on the road to four in 10. In 2030, we’re going to see another 50 percent increase of vehicles with ADAS on the road. So, we’re going from 25 to 40 to 60 percent of vehicles on the road with at least one ADAS system.”
With a 15 percent compound annual growth rate, Dominato predicted, “Growth is going to look even steeper, and so the opportunities are huge in collision…absolutely huge. We will see an explosion in the market when it comes to calibrations.”
One of the larger technology trends coming down the pike is night vision. Greg Peeters of Car ADAS Solutions explained how the use of infrared cameras play a role in technology that can create a pixel image based on differences in temperature. “If it’s an animal or a human, it can create an image of that just in the difference of the body temperature versus the air temperature or the temperature around it. And it’s incredibly long range. It can see through weather and any sort of light condition. So, it’s really incredible technology, certainly very expensive right now.”
Peeters pointed to what Lexus is doing with Teammate advanced driver assistance technology which is designed to work in partnership with the driver. “There’s continuous communication with the driver that this is not a self-driving vehicle; this is an aid to let the driver know when to be engaged and when the car is in an ‘I-got-this’ type of situation.”
He also pointed to Mercedes’ Drive Pilot, which basically allows the driver to take his hands and eyes off the steering wheel, while the road and the vehicle assumes responsibility for accident correction at that point. The vehicle will alert the driver when it is time to resume control. These types of advances toward autonomous driving are considered level three where the driver has to be present and able to engage at any point. Level four is expected to bring on autonomous driving and more excitement. Currently, the US is on board with the journey to determine what level of autonomy vehicles can have and what is legal, Peeters added.
Another interesting fact Dominato brought to light is how the industry is actually moving past calibrations.
“Two or three years ago, it was all about doing calibrations. In the last year or two, we really started to see all of these extra things that you have to do after calibration. So, you might have to clear specific data. Now, we’re seeing you might have to do programming, and we’re seeing radar power tests being required for these more advanced vehicles. What is a radar power test? Well, it’s not a calibration. But it’s a static function test to see if painting a bumper has reduced the power of a radar sensor too much. So, this is something that’s starting to be required in general, after a bumper is painted with these new 77 gigahertz blind spot radars that we’re putting on to ours. So, even if you don’t touch the radar sensor, or you don’t touch the bumper cover, but if you repaint that bumper, you are going to have to do this radar power test.”
Discussion continued as paint manufacturer representatives took the stage to address what changes are required in refinish operations due to the growing presence of radar sensors in new vehicles coming on the market. Paint materials can have a serious effect on sensor function which means painters will have a whole lot more to consider before they pick up a spray gun in the future.
“Typically, painters have not had to look at repair procedures,” reported Jeff Wildman of BASF. “A painter would view a simple bumper repair as just getting the bumper, painting it and getting it back on the car, but that mentality now has to change. The painter needs to understand what’s behind that bumper.”
Like with OEM repair procedures, there are color codes that are approved by a paint manufacturer. “Just like with our BASF lines, you may find that a waterborne paint is approved, but the solvents are not for a particular color. That has to do with the pigments in that color. That has to do with the testing that’s being done. It’s not as simple as just doing what is needed for a Toyota or a GM. You have to really research it, and painters don’t know how to do that today. That’s really going to have to be driven by the front office and made part of the repair plan.”
Representatives from Nissan, Mazda and General Motors took the stage to talk certifications, what is needed and what tools and resources shops can use to promote their business as a member of an OEM’s certified network.
Telematics, Talent Pool and Estimating
Telematic innovations could open the door to such possibilities as vehicle self-diagnosis as was explored by the Future Disruptions committee panel.
Rivian’s Kelly Logan explained how the brand is “100 percent an electric vehicle, with a SIM card, so it’s essentially a cell phone on wheels, with its own service network.” The connectivity opens the door for work orders to be created before the vehicle comes in for repairs. Further advancements could possibly lead to the possibility of sending a needed parts list to a service center after a vehicle has been in an accident.
Logan stressed that it would take some time to get to that point as years of data would need to be collected in order for the information to be accurate, but it’s an ultimate goal the way things are headed.
“Vehicles are getting more and more able to diagnose problems, but as is always the case with collision, you have to look at all the variables that come into play. It’s going to take a long time to get it accurate.”
Recruiting new technicians into the world of collision repair is absolutely critical to the future of the industry. CollisionCareers.com has been launched to raise awareness and promote the industry to future technicians.
“We need to be able to brand this industry as a great one to join, grow and as a great place to thrive and as a place where we make an impact on the lives of others,” shared Dara Goroff of I-CAR, which spearheaded the initiative.
“There are increasingly more jobs available that we have bodies to fill up,” she continued. “We want to use our position as a neutral and collaborative partner to unite the industry and really work together to solve this talent crisis, to make sure that as we bring technicians in, they are able to do the work that we need them to do as quickly as possible. How are we going to get there? Well, on behalf of the industry, we’ve got a pretty broad mission. We want to create informational and educational content, not just for somebody who’s considering a career, but we want to make sure the guidance counselors and school advisors have books and brochures, that they can hand out, just like they would a college pamphlet, to a young learner when that learner expresses an interest in something that leads to collision repair.”
Despite how the terms have been used in the past, it has become quite clear that estimating and repair planning are most certainly not the same thing. Danny Gredinberg (Database Enhancement Gateway), Erin Solis (Certified Collision Group) and Ryan Mandell (Mitchell International) set out to more accurately define what each term means.
Mandell shared how the term estimate was once considered “gospel” in repair, but it’s since evolved. Digital tools have now created a visualization used to triage a vehicle to get a scope of the damage and to get it to the right facility for repair, “but it does not take the place of a repair plan.” Gredinberg relayed every single thing that needs to be done in order to research a repair from looking up OEM procedures to disassembling the vehicle 100 percent in order to make sure every damaged item is uncovered so that nothing comes along to haunt one later.
Solis stressed the need for using the proper definition, suggesting shops consider moving away from the term estimate in order to create impactful change.
Looking ahead to the next CIC event, Jordan Hendler unveiled some exciting announcements for CIC’s 40th anniversary, which will be celebrated in conjunction with SEMA 2023.
Historically, the Red Carpet Awards have been normally held during a breakfast event but to commemorate this milestone celebration, it will instead be celebrated as part of the CIC anniversary celebration following the CIC reception at the Westgate on Tuesday, October 31.
Want more? Check out the September 2023 issue of Hammer & Dolly!