As vehicle technology becomes more complicated, so do collision repairs
Las Vegas—The importance of vehicle scanning and systems calibration, as well as the need to check and follow OEM repair procedures, were common themes of committee presentations at the Collision Industry Conference (CIC) held during SEMA week in early November.
Polling of approximately 200 CIC attendees found some disparity when it came to shops being paid for such procedures. CIC’s “Emerging Technologies Committee” asked attendees what percentage of vehicles coming into shops requires a scan/diagnostic procedure, and more than half (51 percent) said more than four out of five vehicles do. (Another 20 percent said that applies to about three out of five vehicles.)
But when asked what percentage of repairs or claims include payment for the scanning or diagnosis, 40 percent of CIC attendees said they are paid on fewer than one in five jobs, and a combined 67 percent said they are paid on less than 40 percent of jobs.
“Anybody see a disconnect between the results of these two questions,” committee co-chairman Jack Rozint said. “That speaks for itself, so I won’t comment further.”
Rozint’s committee focused much of its presentation on what new vehicle technologies require between the pre- and post-repair scan, specifically increasingly complex system calibration processes. Rozint cited, as an example, a video posted by I-CAR this fall (https://tinyurl.com/laneDrift) that demonstrates the “dynamic calibration” required for the Ford F-150 systems that help keep drivers from drifting out of their lane.
“You actually had to have someone driving along with a technician with a scan tool plugged in while you drive,” Rozint said. “You have to maintain 40 miles an hour over a period of time on a road that is mostly straight, with a center line and a sideline, until the scan tool tells you the calibration is done. Think about doing that in New York or New Jersey or Los Angeles. I’ve heard stories about people getting up at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. in Los Angeles to do those types of calibrations.”
Telematics can trigger repair issues
But newer vehicle systems can make even such overnight calibration drives challenging, committee co-chairman Jake Rodenroth noted. Vehicle telematics systems, like Nissan Connect (https://www.nissanusa.com/connect), for example, can notify a vehicle owner who has established “curfew” or geographic limitations on their vehicle if it is being driven outside of those time or location parameters. Such owners may question why the shop was driving their vehicle across town outside of regular business hours, Rodenroth said.
CIC attendee and industry trainer Mike Anderson of Collision Advice said he’s heard of two recent incidents in which the OEM telematics systems also alerted vehicle owners when certain components had been removed from their vehicle during collision repairs.
“We’re going to have to use a scan tool to go in and disable these systems [during repairs],” Anderson said. “If we, as an industry, don’t get educated about this, all these consumers are going to start getting emails.”
Rodenroth said his own grandfather receives a monthly report from his General Motors’ OnStar system notifying him in general terms of trouble codes that could be triggered as part of the repair process. That’s the type of thing his grandfather, an electrical engineer, would love to look into and question a shop about, Rodenroth said. If the shop hasn’t scanned the vehicle and recalibrated all the systems, he said, “that becomes a very difficult car to deliver; it’s like not having the paint match or the fenders align.”
Committee member Sean Guthrie said the committee will build a list of the names of those types of OEM vehicle telematics systems to assist shops in learning more about them. Rodenroth said shops can look at videos and other marketing materials the automakers use to sell the systems to consumers to get some idea of how they work.
“That way, you can speak intelligently about them when they come into your shop,” he said.
Even for customers with vehicles that aren’t equipped with sophisticated OEM telematics, shops need to be aware of the “cyber-fingerprints” they may be leaving – or failing to leave – on vehicles, Rodenroth said. Many of the systems have date and vehicle mileage timestamps for diagnostic trouble codes, providing a clear indication of which ones were set prior to an accident, and which were triggered as part of the repair process. If not reset, anyone scanning the vehicle in the future can see what was not addressed following repairs.
“It’s a roadmap for a dealership or any place the customer takes that car to trade it in,” Guthrie pointed out. “They’re going to plug in and see that this car had the rear bumper taken off. Or the taillights came out for the quarter panel to be worked on. You don’t even need to get a paint mil gauge. You just plug into the car and can see everything that’s been disconnected, and you know that it has been worked on.”
That can impact trade-in values, lease returns or diminished value claims, Guthrie said.
Anderson and others said insurers are beginning to press their direct repair shops to make sure they obtain customer authorization to scan for and share vehicle data; he suggested the committee help build sample language for such an authorization. Rodenroth said his company (asTech, which provides remote scanning service) has posted to its website sample authorization language for shops (https://tinyurl.com/sampleAuthorization), though he cautioned that shops should have it reviewed by a local attorney to ensure it complies with state law.
Check OEM repair procedures regularly
During his regular “Technical Presentation” at CIC, industry trainer Toby Chess offered a number of examples highlighting the importance of checking OEM repair procedures regularly. He pointed to three 2017 GM vehicles – the Malibu, Traverse and Volt – each of which has different OEM procedures for installing a new roof, involving different combinations of welding, brazing and adhesives.
“The same year, the same automaker, but three different procedures,” Chess said.
Similarly, he noted changes made to the 2013 Honda Accord from its 2012 predecessor; the newer vehicle has ultra-high-strength steel in the A- and B-pillars that was not found in the 2012 version.
“If you don’t have this information, and last week you repaired a 2012, and now a 2013 comes in and you use those same procedures, what you have just done is destroy the ultra-high-strength steel,” Chess said. “Now the car will not behave in the same manner it was intended to.”
Although one CIC attendee pointed out that shops are generally not compensated for the time that is often required to research OEM procedures, Hawaii shop owner Dale Matsumoto said such compensation is a separate issue.
“I believe, as a repairer, we’re the ones who have to step forward and say cost is one thing but safety is another,” Matsumoto said. “For me, as a repairer, safety is always going to be No. 1.”
Referring to the recent $42 million judgment against a Texas dealership body shop for the shop’s failure to follow OEM procedures in repairing a vehicle, Chess agreed with Matsumoto.
“I don’t care how much money they got. They are permanently disabled,” Chess said of the couple whose auto accident injuries were exacerbated by the improper repairs, according to the jury in the lawsuit. “All the money in the world isn’t going to be enough if you’re in pain for the rest of your life. It’s our job to fix those cars. They trust us. We have to earn that trust by following the procedures.”