Changing with the Times: Thoughts and Processes Transform as Technology Advances

by Alana Quartuccio

Change takes place constantly. That statement is particularly true in the collision repair industry. Whether it’s technology like ADAS, new manufacturers, products, business solutions or processes, the changes that take place today will undoubtedly affect tomorrow. The future lies in the hands of what we do today. If we don’t evolve with it, we won’t grow. 

That message was laid out clearly during this year’s Society of Collision Repair Specialists’ (SCRS) OEM Technology Summit as OEM manufacturers, insurance representatives, technology specialists and collision repair professionals brought insight to what various aspects of the industry will look like in the future. 

“Today is about how changes in vehicles and infrastructure will impact our business, what looks different and what we as collision repairers can do to prepare,” expressed SCRS Executive Director Aaron Schulenburg as he set the stage for a full day of thought-provoking discussions.

OEM insurance executives hit the ground running to pinpoint what the evolution of OEM insurance looks like. All these automakers shared the common goal that they are looking to align insurance with their brand in order to keep customers happier and loyal to their brand.

Andrew Rose, president of General Motors’ OnStar Insurance, shared a deeply personal story of his own experiences in the wake of an accident – as both a young driver and as a father – and spoke of the connectivity GM has had in their vehicles for years and how the various driver assistance systems that set out to prevent accidents and save lives go in part with how OnStar, as an insurer, can help streamline the claims process. Rose stressed that OnStar is working to the ultimate goal to create an experience for consumers that will lead to insurance love. “The world is changing; people are changing. We have to change with them.”

Rivian sets out to change the insurance experience for their consumers by including all parties related to the process. 

“My team works with the collision repair team and ADAS design to make sure that these vehicles are designed to be repaired,” shared Mike Slattery, head of insurance at Rivian. “We look at all the repair data and see what the most frequent accidents are, and we will work on how to prevent that and/or lower severity.” 

Slattery showed the audience a video that portrays the vehicle jerking as per the front view camera and then witnesses the impact full on via the rearview camera.

“You can see the timeline of what happened. When the collision warning went off, when auto braking started, before the driver hit the manual brake to make sure the Rivian stopped before it hit the car in front of it. The data shows us exactly what happened.” 

With their insurance program, Toyota seeks “better, faster repairs and happier customers,” according to Rob Spencer, president of Toyota Insurance.

He shared a tale of a woman who experienced an accident with the new vehicle she received as a college graduation gift. The repair was done with non-OEM recommended parts as per the insurance company’s recommendation and never functioned in the manner it should have. When it came time for a new vehicle, the woman chose another brand. 

“We spent time investing our relationship with this driver, but she went with another brand. What is Toyota going to do about that? We are going to make it easier and faster to repair those vehicles. We don’t want to become an insurance company. We don’t want to spend time arguing with insurance companies, and we don’t want to lose our customer. 

“It’s about education and advocacy,” he continued. “We want to guarantee that only OE parts will be used in making repairs to your vehicle.” 

The three OE insurance representatives claimed all collision repair shops will be able to repair their vehicles. When asked what their biggest goal is, Rose summed it up by saying: 

“We aren’t in the insurance business to be in the insurance business. We are in the insurance business to keep drivers in GM vehicles. Collision shops repairing our vehicles back to original quality is critical for us.” 

During “Evolving Automotive Materials,” the audience heard from Ducker Carlisle’s Abey Abraham and Bertrand Rakoto, who went into extensive detail about what materials are being used in modern vehicles as both ICE and BEV vehicles evolve. 

As vehicles evolve, automakers are using more mixed materials. That paired with the added weight of batteries, which can weigh close to 3,000 pounds, requires lightweighting, which will “bring the most bang for your buck,” according to Abraham.

“We will continue to see more vehicles be made of mixed materials, especially as we move more into electrification,” he continued. “Every OEM has their own DNA for how they use materials.”

Following Abraham and Rakoto’s explanation of the use of steel, aluminum, magnesium and other materials in new innovations, Dan Black (Rivian) and Matthew Pitta (Lucid Motors) took the stage to give a thorough overview of the materials that are used in their respective automobiles. 

With ADAS calibrations being among the most prominent technological innovations in vehicles on the market today, the final session featured Doug Kelly (Burke Porter Group), Jordan Kreps (Snap-on Tools) and Josh McFarlin (AirPro Diagnostics) who dove into the development, operation and function of their respective scanning tools. 

Following their presentations, Andy Tylka (Midwest ADAS/Tag Auto Group), Mike Anderson (Collision Advice) and Dave Martin (DCR Systems) joined them to talk about common challenges and questions repairers are likely to face. 

Repair shops in possession of the right tools but lacking the knowledge to use them correctly was a shared concern among the panelists. 

Anderson pointed out that tool manufacturers want to push their product, but there has to be concerns about whose hands they fall into and if they have the proper training. Martin pointed out many out there may never even intend to properly learn how to use those tools.

For the repairer who wants to begin doing calibrations, McFarlin suggested starting with diagnostic calibrations. “If you want to have a toe in the water, find a way to step into it,” he stated. “Everyone is doing diagnostics. Start with that. Generally speaking, it doesn’t have any tool requirements.” If one isn’t ready, he suggests it’s not necessary to make a large investment just yet. 

A strong advocate for OEM parts, Anderson asked Kelly, Kreps and McFarlin how important having OEM approval is to their development. Each agreed it was a key component.

Want more? Check out the December 2023 issue of Hammer & Dolly!