An open letter to the collision industry

Why, in 2020, is there still such a large disparity between performing the correct repair and the most profitable repair for the body shop, technicians and insurance companies? Why do so many within our ranks put the guest’s best interests behind their own bottom lines?

The answer, in my humble… but accurate opinion, is either ignorance or greed. In this article we will explore two case studies (of many) that are emblematic of the problem at large. We will show actual repairs that illustrate either a total lack of knowledge, or decisions based upon greed over the proper repair on behalf of the guest.

This article is not intended to condemn the industry that we all love. But it is intended to raise the bar and challenge those who contribute to the problem.

With the rapid evolution of automotive technology, what used to work – even just a few years back – isn’t likely to be appropriate for repairs today. Different materials, more sensors, advanced computers are just the beginning.

The need for ongoing training to keep up with the ever-changing landscape of our industry is at an all time high.  And that training doesn’t just apply to body shops. Insurance companies and dealerships also have a responsibility to keep up with the changes.

So why are so many shops, dealerships and insurance adjusters still performing improper, and often dangerous repairs?

2016 Grand Cherokee Ltd.- Side Hit – Door/quarter

Chrysler procedures state that any body panel or frame component damaged which is to be repaired or reused, must be repaired using the “cold straightening” method.  No heat may be used during the straightening process.  Clearly, heat was used in this case during the repair process. Why would a technician, an estimator or a shop owner not pay attention to such well-known elements of our industry?  Is it ignorance, or greed?

The composite inner door panel is obviously broken, and the screws holding the speaker weren’t tightened.

Many shop owners either turn a blind eye, or outright support their technicians cutting corners in the areas that the consumer may never see. What could possibly motivate such carelessness?

Why didn’t the technician replace the broken piece of the door? Was it broken in the accident, or did the technician break it? Why would anyone even consider repairing that door instead of replacing it?  Is it ignorance, or greed? Either way, the customer is the one who loses.

The broken inner door composite panel should have been replaced, but it wasn’t. Is it because the customer will never see it? There was not even any corrosion protection applied to the door that was ‘repaired’ instead of properly replaced.  At what point does the right repair take a back seat to the fastest, or most profitable for the body shop? And where is the integrity of craftsmanship represented?

On the same vehicle, the quarter panel was not attached properly, even when the manufacturer’s procedures clearly call for weld bonding with backer panels. Did anyone at the shop even pull and consult the OEM procedures? If not, maybe ignorance is to blame.  If so, and in spite of the procedures, they decided to improperly repair the vehicle, then greed is the only option left.

We asked Tony Adams, owner of Weaver’s Auto Center in Kansas City, KS for his thoughts on this topic.

“I think the problem in our industry is one of both ignorance and greed. Ignorance comes from the process of ‘doing what we’ve always done’. We have to look at how the vehicle was constructed, and what materials were used when the vehicle was manufactured, and whether or not we should repair a dent instead of replacing a component. Too often proper precautions are ignored before welding, putting the SRS system at risk. You simply don’t know unless you pull and follow the OEM repair procedures.

“As it relates to greed, I have supplied a couple of photos of a quarter panel that was repaired, and we ended up having to replace from a dealership DRP shop. Technicians are rewarded financially for producing as many hours as they can. Shops are rewarded for faster cycle times and cheaper repairs by the insurance companies, regardless of the actual safety of the repairs. If that’s not driven by greed, I don’t know what it is.”

Insurance companies regularly use the phrase, ‘industry standard’ to justify cutting corners on paying for the proper repairs.  Shops that are under contract with these insurers are too many times obligated to play along without rocking the boat, even when they know that improper repairs are flying out the door. Why in the world would members of the collision industry knowingly participate in improper repairs or faster cycle times at the sacrifice of the consumer’s best interest? Is it ignorance, or greed?

Isn’t our duty to the customer, first?  Shouldn’t the guest be our #1 priority? Doesn’t quality go beyond the surface appearance of only what is immediately visible? We believe that it’s time to face these issues and adjust accordingly. If the shoe fits, don’t just wear it… change it up and get on the side of the proper repairs on behalf of the customer. 

This post is an open letter to all members of the collision industry. Comments are welcomed and encouraged. We know that not everyone will agree with the premise of this letter, and we encourage opposing opinions backed up with legitimate examples.  Iron sharpens iron, and we, as an industry, must get sharper every day.

We celebrate those shop owners, estimators and technicians… and even some upstanding insurance companies across this great nation who are educating themselves and doing everything humanly possible to safely repair vehicles back to OEM specifications for their guests.

Resources:

NHTSA

Dept. of Insurance

US Attorney General

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