CIC Brings Collision Industry Leaders Together to Tackle Critical Issues

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 17.

Chairman Frank Terlep (AutoTechcelerators) 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.”

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.

Since the study was revealed and shared with the industry and the IPs, the big question has been: what’s next?

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.

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,” relayed Schulenburg. “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.”

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, WMABA’s Jordan Hendler revealed some exciting announcements for CIC’s 40th anniversary, which will be celebrated in conjunction with SEMA 2023.

Historically, the Red Carpet Awards are 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 New England Automotive Report!