Speakers share impact that ADAS is having on collision repair costs, needed documentation
Palm Springs, Calif.—How accessible are your collision repair order files from 20 years ago? Would one of your files from 20, 10 or even just five years ago adequately document what you did to those vehicles?
Those were among the questions Roger Cada, of Accountable Estimating, posed to repairers at the recent Collision Industry Conference (CIC) held in Palm Springs, Calif. Cada said shops should maintain repair records for at least 19.2 years. His reasoning? State laws vary, he said, but in some states if a pregnant woman is a driver or passenger in a vehicle involved in a collision, that woman’s child, once born, could have at least until the age of 18 to claim injury related to that event, which could make vehicle repair documentation necessary for a shop seeking to defend its work.
Cada, who retired from State Farm in 2015 after more than three decades with the insurer, said he also cautions against shops thinking they don’t need to take images of vehicles just because the insurer involved already has done so.
“Take your own, and make sure they really show what happened in the event, so you can keep yourself guarded, because, I can tell you, you will not get those images from a bill-payer in the time you need them,” Cada said.
He also said that more extensive post-repair test drives required to reset or calibrate advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) on some vehicles require new upfront conversations with customers. He suggests creating established test drive routes that can be shared with customers to avoid calls from customers asking, “Why did I see my car 15 miles from your collision repair shop?”
Customers also should be notified about the impact such test drives will have on the vehicle’s mileage and fuel level.
“They will see a difference,” Cada said.
Cada’s presentation was part of a nearly three-hour segment of the CIC meeting in which speakers shared their views of the impact advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) are having on all segments of the collision industry.
Jack Rozint. of CIC’s “Emerging Technology Committee,” said although ADAS advancements will continue to lead to a decline in accident frequency, the parts and calibrations those systems require will lead to a continued rise in average repair cost.
As an example, he made some comparisons between the 2010 Chevrolet Malibu and the 2018 version. In 2010, the Malibu had no ADAS (blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, forward-collision warning, auto-emergency braking, or lane-keep assist) but had six airbags; the LT version of the 2018 Malibu has all of those ADAS systems plus 10 airbags. The repair procedures for the 2010 Malibu called for replacement of front airbag sensors only if the airbag had deployed; on the 2018 module, it must be replaced following a front-end collision even if the airbags didn’t deploy.
“It goes on to say even if the sensors appear undamaged, you have to replace those impact sensors,” said Rozint, who works for Mitchell International. “So now you’re looking at impact sensor replacement, and the calibrations potentially, and this is in a collision without an airbag deployment.”
For the 2010 Malibu, the parts alone for a center front-end hit (bumper cover, absorber, grilles, rebar) totaled about $1,651 for the 2018 model. The same repair, now also requiring replacement of multiple sensors, brings the parts total to about $3,627.
“You have to remember that a lot of the components on the 2018 model could actually prevent that collision from even happening, or lessen the severity of it because it may automatically apply the brakes before the vehicle is impacted,” Rozint said. “So you can’t take this as apples for apples.”
That said, Rozint compared the average repair cost in 2012 for a medium-severity front-end collision of the 2010 Malibu (about $2,539) to the average claim in such an accident in 2018 for a 2016 Malibu (about $4,098). He acknowledged that there would be some rise in labor rates or other cost-of-living increases between 2012 and 2016.
“But that’s not enough to make up for that $1,500 increase on a $2,500 base,” Rozint said. “Clearly the technology is resulting in more expensive repairs.”
He also cited an Equipment & Tool Institute (ETI) projection of how the type of work collision shops are doing will change. By 2020, ETI projects, the “bucket” of work that includes “fenders, headlamps and refinishing” will have declined to about 40 percent of the repair order (down from 77 percent in 2000) with “software and electronics” accounting for the other 60 percent (up from about 23 percent in 2000).
“That’s why we talk about this new type of technician that’s needed, one who is more of a software guy than a sheet metal person,” Rozint said. “The world that we’ll be facing soon is one where the majority of the repair cost and time and dollars is going to be on software and electronics, not on sheet metal, headlamps and paint.”
Rozint also shared a graph of Mitchell data on shop charges for vehicle scans, showing that pricing remains “all over the map.”
“We get told a lot, ‘You need to solve that problem. You need to give us book times for scanning,’” Rozint said.
He said that’s challenging for several reasons, including that shop methodologies for scanning vary; some shops conduct scanning in-house using either an OEM or aftermarket scan tool, some sublet to dealerships or mobile providers, and others use remote scanning services such as asTech or AirPro Diagnostics. The baseline version of a particular make and model of vehicle may have 20 controller modules while the high-end version with all the options may have more than twice that many.
“Because a scan has to go out and read every single controller, that vehicle with 50 controllers takes longer to scan,” Rozint said. “There’s also some debate on what’s included in the time to scan. Does it include time to research the diagnostic trouble codes, or is that a separate procedure? All that’s being worked on. We are working on it and I’m sure the other information providers are as well. But I just wanted you to know that we get that it’s an important issue, but also a pretty complicated one.”