Darrell Amberson of LaMettry’s Collision says his company is often “looking in about a half-dozen sources” to find all the OEM repair information it needs.Allstate’s Richard Beckwith says that researching OEM repair procedures can be difficult and “very time-consuming.”

OEM repair info can be challenging to find; legislated procedures debated at latest CIC

Las Vegas—Representatives of both insurance companies and collision repair businesses on a panel at the recent Collision Industry Conference (CIC) found at least one point of agreement: researching OEM repair information is a challenge.

“The manufacturers get better and better about sharing information with us, but often it’s hard to find it,” Darrell Amberson, of LaMettry’s Collision, in Minnesota, said. “We’re constantly searching, continuing to find more and more avenues. Our mechanical management system recently came out with a program for helping us find calibration information. So we find ourselves looking in about a half-dozen sources to find the information.”

He said panel replacement information may be in one section of the OEM websites, while the necessary calibrations required following that panel replacement will be located elsewhere.

Richard Beckwith, who oversees the Allstate subsidiary Tech-Cor, which conducts collision repair work and research, agreed.

“The OEM websites just aren’t easy to navigate,” Beckwith said. “At Tech-Cor, we support our [Allstate] field folks with OEM repair information daily. I have folks who are really good at finding information quickly and efficiently. But if you were trying to do it at an individual repair facility, it would be very difficult for you to find the information. It’s very time-consuming.”

Amberson and Beckwith appeared to be less in agreement, however, when it came to the subject of OEM procedures being legislated as the only basis for repairs. Amberson pointed to legislation proposed in a couple of states last year that said shops’ work must only meet “industry repair standards.”

“That causes me some concern because as a repairer, I have an immense fear of defending ourselves in today’s world of litigation,” Amberson said, noting the 2017 judgment against a dealership body shop sued for not following OEM repair procedures. “If I find myself in court defending a repair procedure, I need the documentation. ‘Industry standards’ without more clarity isn’t going to do it for me.”

Beckwith said he could appreciate Amberson’s concern, but noted the industry has always developed its own standards for much of the work it does.

“There are a lot of procedures we do every day that aren’t manufacturer-written procedures,” Beckwith said. “The [OEM procedures] don’t address certain things because they’re considered commonplace in the industry. Sectioning mild-steel panels, for example. There are many things we do every day that don’t have a written guideline, so we have to address those kinds of things as customary industry procedures.”

The panel discussion, organized by CIC “Governmental Committee,” enabled representatives from a number of industry segments to weigh in on a variety of topics they foresee being included in potential legislation in 2019. Stacy Bartnik, industry relations manager for Intertek, the testing and certification organization that manages the Certified Automotive Parts Association (CAPA) program, said her organization agrees that collision repairs should be done following OEM repair procedures, but challenged the idea that doing so necessarily requires the use of only OEM parts.

“Follow that OEM procedure, and use a quality part. Whether that quality part is an OEM part or a CAPA-certified part, we want to make sure the repair is done properly and safely,” Bartnik said. “The concern is if legislation mandates OEM repair procedures, and that repair procedure says it has to be an OEM part, I think that’s affecting competition. It’s going to affect repairers. We all want to fix cars and not total them. It will also raise the cost of premiums. So we want to make sure there is an option out there that will still give you a safe repair following an OEM repair procedure.”

CAPA recently announced it was certifying non-OEM rearview cameras and may expand the program to “include side- and front-view cameras in the future.” The panel at CIC was asked if they believe insurers will push for the use of non-OEM cameras or ADAS sensors, or will instead consider them, like airbags, too linked with vehicle safety to call for anything but new OEM parts.

“From our side, I will say we’ve discussed it and haven’t really come to a conclusion,” Allstate’s Beckwith said. “There’s not a lot of availability at this point. The certification piece might play into the conversation, but I don’t think we’ve come to a conclusion on those parts yet.”

Amberson said he would be hesitant to use anything but new OEM sensors or cameras.

“I recently was able to tour a calibration center owned and set up by a scan tool company where they expressed concern over salvage sensors,” Amberson said. “There was some information about how the sensors may be very unique to that particular vehicle, even though they look similar to another. They expressed a lot of caution over that. From my own perspective, I’m going to be very skeptical. You’re going to have a hard time convincing me to not use a new OEM part any time we’re replacing sensors.”

The panel was asked if any vehicle parts should be defined as “mission critical,” so central to vehicle performance and safety that strict guidelines should be set relative to their replacement after a collision. Bartnik said if that were to happen, the OEM replacement versions of those parts also would need to evaluated.

“We would have to look at OEM service parts as well because they also are ‘aftermarket,’” she said. “Service parts are not always the same as the part you get when you buy that vehicle. You can get a part that may have been one type of steel, but it’s different when you buy the service part. So it may be something we have to look at as an industry as a whole.”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Collision industry could recruit mechanical repair students

Las Vegas—Richard Beckwith, who manages Tech-Cor, the Allstate-owned collision repair shop and research facility, said he was recently involved in one of the regional job fairs organized by the Collision Repair Education Foundation to bring together shops needing employees with students currently in automotive training programs. That event, Beckwith said, included not just collision repair students but those in mechanical repair training programs who are learning some of the scanning and systems calibration skills body shops increasingly need.

“But the mechanical guys who can help us had no clue there was opportunity for them on the collision side,” Beckwith said. “They didn’t know that going into a collision repair facility was even an option for them.”

That could offer a potential new sources of employees for collision repair businesses, he said.

“There is a pool of people who are good at this stuff, who understand this stuff and like it, but they may not be looking to our industry today as a source of employment,” Beckwith said.

Parts & People

Parts & People is published monthly by Automotive Counseling and Publishing Company, Inc., a Colorado corporation, P.O. Box 18731 Denver, CO 80203, 303-765-4664. President-Lance Buchner. Founded by Lance Buchner and Dave Lucia.