Associations push for laws calling for use of OEM collision repair procedures
Atlanta—The Automotive Service Association (ASA) and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers plan to push for state legislation next year that will call for the use of OEM repair procedures for collision repair claims.
Dan Risley, who resigned from his leadership role at ASA in July but has continued in a consulting role with the association, said OEM collision repair procedures cannot be viewed as only a “recommendation.”
“These are things that need to be done for consumer safety and for a proper repair,” Risley said at a press conference during NACE Automechanika in Atlanta. “We believe our partnership with the Alliance is going to allow us to get out in front of this.”
The Alliance represents 12 major automakers – including General Motors, Toyota, Ford and Volkswagen – that, combined, produce 70 percent of the car and light truck sales in the U.S. Wayne Weikel, senior director of state government affairs for the Alliance, said collision shops are too often “caught in the middle,” understanding the need to follow OEM procedures but struggling to get paid for that work by insurers.
“There’s been this belief by some that somehow ‘accepted industry practices’ are good enough,” Weikel said. “The auto manufacturers are here to say it’s not. It’s not good enough.”
ASA board member Darrell Amberson said he recently heard about a family member’s collision repair experience that he sees as demonstrating the need for shops to be pressed to use OEM repair procedures and for insurers to pay for them. Amberson said his sister-in-law contacted him after her car had been towed to a “large MSO” shop following an accident. Amberson urged her to ask the shop if they would be scanning the vehicle.
“She replied that the response was laughable,” Amberson said. “That’s how she described it. She said they told her they had acquired some [scanning] equipment but that their IT person was not yet up to speed on it, so they were not yet prepared to do scans.”
Amberson said the more generic repair methods the industry used to learn and use are no longer adequate.
“Due to changing technologies, we’ve evolved into a very procedure-specific repair industry,” Amberson said. “The consequences of that are significant, as evidenced by the John Eagle case, where a vehicle was not repaired according to factory repair procedures, and there were catastrophic consequences. Unfortunately, there are some insurers that want to deviate from some of those factory repair procedures, sometimes using phrases like ‘industry accepted standards’ which nobody really has a clear definition of. Even I-CAR, our largest education entity, always defers to factory repair procedures as the methodology for how cars should be repaired.”
Amberson, who oversees operations for the nine LaMettry’s Collision shops in Minnesota, cited a situation within his company that demonstrated the need to follow OEM procedures related to scanning of vehicles. Before the company had begun scanning every vehicle, one LaMettry’s shop had repaired a minor door scratch on a 2010 Chevrolet Tahoe.
“The customer came back and said their heated steering wheel wasn’t working,” Amberson said. “Who would have guessed? But we put a scan tool to the vehicle and found the control module that controls the window operations had stopped talking to another module that controls the heated steering wheel. The customer was right. As a result of our work, that was no longer working. You needed a scan tool to find it. There was no way you could look at the car without a scan tool and determine that.”
He said that’s why shops and insurers “need to be really careful about coming up with our own guidelines about when we don’t scan.”
“The phrase ‘case-by-case basis’ drives me crazy,” he said, noting that insurers who use that phrase to describe how they decide whether to pay for scanning rarely have any criteria for that decision.
Weikel said legislation prohibiting insurers from calling for repairs that deviate from OEM procedures “should fix whether shops are paid for doing pre- and post-repair scans.”
ASA lobbyist Bob Redding said mostly unsuccessful grassroots efforts in several states this year to pass legislation related to OEM procedures was “a clear message” that “this needs to be done, and we’re going to do it.”
Legislation that included provisions related to OEM repair procedures failed to move forward in both Indiana and Illinois, Redding noted. A new law that was passed this year in Rhode Island states that “no insurance company may require any repairer to use repair procedures that are not in compliance with the recommendations of the original equipment manufacturer.” But, Redding noted, the legislation was amended during the process to say that OEM procedure mandate applies only in relation to OEM parts being used.
“That was not the original goal,” Redding said. “None of [the state bills] really went all the way to address this issue.”
Amberson said the legislation ASA and the Alliance hope to advance is particularly important to “those of us who are trying so hard to do the right thing, and want to do the right thing, and frankly deserve to be compensated for doing so.”
The association representatives addressed a number of other questions posed at the press conference in Atlanta. They were asked, for example, about whether automakers will work to reduce the expense of shops buying seemingly duplicate welders, rivet guns or other equipment to meet specific brand requirements of various OEM shop certification programs.
Amberson said LaMettry’s has about 20 automaker certifications so he is well aware of the expense of meeting the equipment requirements of multiple programs. He said he has been involved in discussions of the issue with the automakers, insurers and I-CAR.
“I-CAR did a study, and if you have a single location and implemented all of the OEM certification programs into your shop, the cost to you would be roughly $1 million,” Amberson said. “The bottom line is there’s not an adequate return on investment for OEM certification.”
That said, he also understands some of the limitations automakers may face in developing equipment requirements for their programs. OEM engineers may be under pressure to put necessary procedures and requirements together by a certain release date for a car. Going back to add additional brands or models of equipment to the “accepted list” is not always easy, Amberson said, because those engineers are shifted to meeting a deadline for the automaker’s next new project.
Weikel said that while automakers would like to give shops as many equipment options as possible, the use of different metals and engineering standards can make that challenging. Risley said he’s seen examples from several automakers of why one welder, for example, might appear to meet the specifications of another but doesn’t match the performance.