The increasing influence of OEMs on collision repair
Now built with lightweight, high-strength materials and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) electronics, today’s vehicles are too complex for what used to be simple repairs. That change means a need for additional training and adherence to OEM repair procedures, and it is behind the push for OEM repair networks, said Jeff Wildman, manager of OEM and industry relations for BASF.
In a recent webinar presented to Refinish Distributors Alliance (RDA) customers, “The Increasing Influence of OEMs on the Collision Industry,” Wildman urged repairers to follow OEM repair procedures, and he discussed why OEM networks are growing in popularity.
Proper repairs of complex vehicles not only ensure the as-built safety of the vehicle; they increase customer satisfaction, which means greater brand loyalty for the OEM, he said.
“OEMs want to own that customer for life. They know if you’re in an accident and you’re not happy with how the process went for repairing your car, you’re going to trade that car within 12 months 60 percent of the time. Of those 60 percent who trade, 63 percent will trade brands. That’s worth billions of dollars to the OEMs if they can keep their customers happy.”
Consumer demand and government regulations are the push behind greater adoption of ADAS, Wildman said, including adaptive cruise, adaptive headlights, backup cameras, lane-departure warnings, park assist, and voice controls.
Three of those system features: blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning crash avoidance, and lane-departure warnings could reduce accident rates by 25 percent, with 10,000 fewer fatalities, he said.
“Consumers are driving this, because 90 percent of fatalities are caused by human error. I don’t know any of us who would travel via train or passenger jet if we knew the same number of fatalities were happening on those modes of transportation as what happens in your vehicles today. So we start to look at how these [systems] save lives.”
Consult OEM repair procedures
Increasingly stringent CAFE standards mean more lightweight materials, including aluminum, high strength steel, carbon fiber, and magnesium. Because vehicles can change dramatically from one model year to the next, sometimes with no change in appearance, repairers must consult the repair procedures for each vehicle, Wildman said.
“You really need to understand what you’re working on. Even though you may have fixed one yesterday, you need to look at what you’re fixing today and what the differences are in those.”
Third-party information sources such as AllData, AudaExplore’s TechFocus, CCC’s Repair Methods, and Mitchell’s TechAdvisor can be consulted, although Wildman cautioned that they are a “snapshot” in time from the OEMs, taken biannually or quarterly, while OEM information, available by subscription through the portals OEM1stop or I-CAR’s Repairability Technical Support, may be updated daily as service engineers find a better and/or faster repair method as many as two or three times a year.
Implement a training strategy
Pointing to I-CAR figures that as many as 58 percent of shops do no training, Wildman said it is critical for shops to learn what is required to repair higher tech vehicles, noting that BASF VisionPlus business courses meet requirements for training for I-CAR and certain OEMs.
“Look at the vehicles you’re repairing, look at the companies you work with, make sure you have a training strategy, and understand what your plan is to maintain that and stay on top of it.”
The impact on ADAS of coating application
Even what used to be simple bumper repairs have grown complex, Wildman said, as repair and refinishing procedures for bumpers with ADAS sensors differ among OEMs because of different types of sensors.
“I know some OEMs say if there are sensors under the bumper, it cannot be painted; it must be replaced. I know others that say it can have two paint jobs: one from the factory and one repaired. I know another OEM that says if it’s base/clear, you can repaint it, and if it’s a three-stage, you can’t.”
Even too much metallic in a paint can affect the sensor’s accuracy, Wildman said. For BASF users, he recommended the use of ground coats and/or Glasurit Color Advance Boosters, which increase pigment concentration to reduce the number of coats, and thus film build, required.
DRP relationships will change, but they will endure
“Insurance companies’ DRPs are changing, but they’re not going away,” Wildman said. “Insurers are still paying the bill. They understand they need to manage their cost with all of this technology. They know the numbers of accidents will go down, but they also know severity is going to increase, because it is much more expensive to replace a bumper when you replace two or three sensors, with maybe a backup camera other technology included with that, and it takes more time in the shop to repair these vehicles.”
Longer repair times can reduce customer satisfaction — and insurers are also concerned with customer retention — but they also increase rental car costs, Wildman pointed out, which for State Farm costs $45 million per day.
As OEM networks grow, so does the sophistication of sensors that can communicate how severe the crash is. Telematics such as GM’s OnStar can help predict damage severity and locate a network repairer that can accommodate the wrecked vehicle, he said, which also lessens the insurer’s administrative costs with less insurer action required.
“The OEMs are looking for opportunities to manage that first notice of loss. They are trying to work with the insurance company, telling them, “We have some relationships here, things in place to support you.”