Truly Fortunate; Lucky, You Might Say

by Evangelos “Lucky” Papageorg

As frustrating as the collision repair industry can be at times (ok, most of the time), I for one feel very fortunate to have been involved in it for nearly 35 years.

I know that many of you reading this have been involved in it for much longer and have seen the industry change and evolve with many twists and turns along the way. One thing for sure is that there has never been a dull moment. At times, some of the changes have set us back on our heels, but we are a very resilient bunch. As the saying goes, “What doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger.” We have become stronger, as an association, as an ALLIANCE and as an industry. This is due – in no small part – to the efforts of many individuals who do not take “NO” for an answer and who do not throw in the towel at the sight of adversity.

I have been truly blessed to have had great mentors and guidance in my journey, navigating the twists and turns as well as the highs and lows over the past 35 years. Rather than list names and run the risk of missing anyone, suffice it to say, it is a very long list. Some of those folks I can no longer thank because they are no longer with us. Fortunately, as we lose some of our great leaders, mentors and supporters, others rise to the top and take on the responsibility of guiding our ship. It is especially uplifting to see the “younger” individuals (who will ultimately have the most to gain as we make advances) get involved. The new crop of leadership is not just here in Massachusetts or even in the northeast, but from across the country.

I recently had the great opportunity to attend the Collision Industry Conference (CIC) and the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) meetings in mid-July. For those of you unfamiliar with CIC, it is a group of individuals representing ALL aspects of the collision repair industry. Concerned repairers, insurers, information providers and vendors meet on a quarterly basis in a forum where concerns and solutions are discussed openly and constructively, with no animosity, and with the common goal of improving the collision repair industry. Its mission statement reads: “A forum where collision industry stakeholders come together to discuss issues, enhance understanding, find common ground and communicate possible solutions to the industry.” It is a day-long event with reports and  presentations from committees. One of the most memorable was during the November 2022  meeting when SCRS presented its “Blend Time” study. The presentation confirmed what those of us who actually repair and refinish  vehicles already knew: It IS  more time consuming to blend a panel properly. Two of the three major information providers have acknowledged the study and are planning to revise their estimating platforms. If you are unfamiliar with the study, please go to this link to learn more and join the hundreds of shops who are now collecting “fair and reasonable” payment for their labor and materials.  (See page 18 for a recap of the latest on the study presented at the July CIC meeting.)

One of the major issues discussed at length was the issue of poorly underwritten original estimates, the delays in obtaining supplements and how poorly supplements are handled. At the center of the discussion was how vehicle owners are being adversely affected by the process, in particular if they elect not to have their vehicles repaired. A major focus of CIC is the consumer in the equation. A solemn reminder of the consumer is the “empty chair” that is on stage to remind us of why we are all in this industry and who it is that we serve.

The SCRS meeting was of equal importance as there was further discussion about the blend time study and what the next steps will be in addressing this issue and others alike. The SCRS meeting is strictly for collision repairers from across the country who are either individually represented or by an affiliate association, as is the case with AASP/MA. It is a forum where state representatives openly exchange ideas and programs they are pursuing. The group of affiliates also meets on a bi-monthly basis via ZOOM to share updates on efforts and to discuss specific topics of mutual interest. It is because of the exchange of these ideas and the efforts by leaders to delve into issues like the Right to Repair (R2R), that light is shed on underlying motivations and agendas which may otherwise not be considered. 

Yes, we are indeed fortunate to have industry leaders and groups such as AASP/MA, CIC and SCRS working together to advance the collision repair industry. Here in Massachusetts, we have shop owners and vendors who give, not only extra time, but financial support through membership, donations to the AASP/MA PAC account and support the Lobbying and Legal fund. They do this so that we all may ultimately prosper while providing a much-needed service to motorists as well as jobs to thousands of individuals who support their families. The ALLiance provides the tools you need to educate yourselves and in turn your customers. One only needs to look at the recent Joseph Wayne Collins v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company to realize the importance of a well-educated customer and shop who are willing to fight because they know what is right and just. The more vehicle owners and shops who stop taking “NO” for an answer, the better off we will all be. It may not sound like a lot of money in the scheme of things, but how many times do you think insurers can take a hit of a quarter of a million dollars along with the bad publicity? How many times do you think juries will have to listen to stories of abuse, such as what happened in the Texas case before those judgements reach a million dollars or more, inclusive of punitive penalties? As higher punitive amounts are added due to the knowing and intentional use of unfair claims handling practices, insurers will get the message that their actions will no longer be tolerated. For more on the story in Texas see the article on page 24.  

We are all indeed fortunate to be involved in the collision industry, especially now. There is change coming and we can make those changes happen at an accelerated pace if we ALL do what we know is right when repairing vehicles, by documenting and following OEM procedures, charging a fair and reasonable rate for our service and collecting for the vital work we perform. 

You are lucky that the ALLiance is here to fight for you and your customers…Join the ALLiance NOW!!! Help US, help YOU to make the change toward a better future. See the membership application on page 7. 

 Want more? Check out the September 2023 issue of New England Automotive Report!