Best Body Shop’s customer-first mantra creates friction with some insurers
Wichita, Kan.—“Design-based repair” is a phrase that Clay Hoberecht, owner of Best Body Shop, said neatly describes the duty of today’s collision repair shop: to use OEM parts and procedures to restore as-built crashworthiness. He picked up the catchy phrase in talking with a representative at Chief Automotive Technologies’ SEMA Show booth. But it’s not a new philosophy to him, noting that it has caused friction with some insurers by steadfastly adhering to OEM procedures.
But the technology of today’s cars, often incorporating multiple substrates, including carbon fiber, aluminum, high-strength steel, and magnesium, demands it, he said, with structures engineered to behave in a certain way and airbags precisely timed to deploy in a crash.
“The John Eagle case – with the roof glued on – the judge and jury found that was a reason for an unsafe repair,” Hoberecht said. “You’re going to tell me an aftermarket hood, made with thinner metal, isn’t going to be the same verdict? Or a fender that is thicker or weighs differently?”
Writing an estimate now means digging through OEM repair procedures and documenting what is required for the repair. It’s one reason he said he switched from his former estimating information provider, which he felt was focused on facilitating communications between a DRP and an insurer, to Mitchell.
“Their main selling point is, ‘We are getting tied into the OEMs, so you know how to repair the car correctly and have all of the information you need to supply to your technician for those repairs. To me, it’s really simple. Which one do I care about? The money and the insurance, or the cars and the customers?”
Although his shop has not repaired a lot of Toyotas yet using the feature, Hoberecht said Mitchell’s Toyota Recommended Repair Procedures have helped streamline repairs for that make and gives additional documentation to provide to the insurance company, which helps with pushback from their adjuster.
“Anytime I pull up a Toyota, there is an extra tab to write up OE procedures through that estimate, and as you’re writing it, anything that is required by Toyota is highlighted in pink. And when you click on those pink letters, it gives you documentation. I write the estimate, print those sheets, and hand them to the adjuster.”
Some examples of what Toyota requires include items such as foam and cavity wax – what kind and where to place it - when replacing a quarter panel, and technicians can easily refer to those printouts, he said, adding that eventually, Mitchell will add additional manufacturers. He’s also looking at adding the Mitchell Diagnostics scan tool and service for pre- and post-repair scans, along with the ability to write estimates in the parking lot and upload them to “the cloud.”
Putting a vehicle back as closely as possible to pre-loss condition isn’t always an issue with safety, of course, with a company refusing to pay blend time on a fender for a hood replacement on a late-model Escape, a dark-gray metallic one, at that.
“The adjuster working with me, she’s never touched a paint gun in her life,” Hoberecht said, noting that she gave him a few different excuses why she didn’t want to pay for the blend, before concluding that he could first try panel-painting the hood and submitting a photo to her to prove it wouldn’t match.
DRPs have made it too easy for insurers, he said, in accepting payment for substandard repairs in order to attract more volume. “Customers have paid their insurance companies for ribeye steaks,” he said. “They shouldn’t have to settle for hamburgers from them just because that’s what they offer.
“For me, that’s not an option. I’m not going to get in bed with somebody who doesn’t have the same mindset for our customers.”
Going to bat for his customers, as he did recently in repairing a newer Fusion with aftermarket parts, painted and completely assembled to show the deficiencies in fit before the insurer agreed that it needed OEM parts, has won him praise from his customers, but it has also earned him a reputation among insurers that he’s hard to work with, and they’ve steered business away from his shop.
“I’ve had insurance companies tell people, ‘You can’t go to Clay; he’s a pain,’” he said. “‘You’re going to be out-of-pocket if you go to Clay — it’s going to cost you money.’ That’s called business interference. I haven’t started to pursue [legal action], because I don’t want to. At the end of the day, I just want what’s right. And when the car comes in, I am 100-percent liable for those repairs.”