by Andrew Marsh
Over the past few months it has really struck me how difficult it is to get hold of vehicle collision repair information – not only to source it in the first place, or to master the oddities of the OEM web sites, but the type and depth of information on offer. We cover all types of vehicles, more or less covering the past two decades, and it is remarkable how the quality of the information peaked around 10 years ago but has become ever more “direct” since then.
Some ground rules. OEMs are not bound by any convention in the layout or quality of the data they make available to collision repairers – that is simply a fact. In addition the data is written for professionals rather than the general public, so some details will not be included because (for example) a panel person should know how to weld.
The problem is vehicle complexity in every single sub-system is on an exponential upward curve, to the point that many OEMs struggle to support their products with parts let alone repair data – and that trend is definitely going to stretch OEMs more before there is any net technology trends or consolidation. There is another issue at hand.
Typically collision repairers deal with a given make/model in volume around two to three years after they first hit the dealer lots, and can continue to form shop volume demand for years after the last copy leaves the assembly line. Yet the OEMs think about the next vehicle as the new model starts production, and regard the last copy leaving the assembly line as history. This adds to the information stretch.
One example of the stretch is aluminium alloy panels. Forget near 100 percent aluminum vehicles because the mass market future will be combinations of steel and aluminum alloys for vehicles north of $50,000, and mostly steel alloys for those below this sticker price. There is the complexity – today, and indeed for some years, hybrid body construction has been around and is set right now to rapidly increase in terms of the number of models adopting this approach as well as the numbers they will sell. Lest we forget, the “military grade aluminium” 2015 F-150 has rather large multi steel alloy chassis and a few steel alloys inserts in the cab structure too.
Those non-ferrous panels are typically secured using bonding agents and rivets. Except some OEMs have had a rivet fest with up to 12 or more different types used in a single vehicle body shell – and the OEM agent parts supply struggles to identify which rivet goes where. Then there’s the issue of segregating tools used for aluminium away from those used for steel alloy panel repair/fitment. More or less the latter is based around good housekeeping.
Overall the future is laden with challenges as the pace of technology drives forward to the point that not everyone can keep up – and the OEMs are already there. The collision repair business is the back stop, but in order to be effective it needs access to quality data which can be readily understood to complete safe and accurate repairs. In this I would propose collision repairers migrate from data “consumers” to data partners in order to help overcome the issues caused by technology stretch. Now that’s a real challenge.
About Auto Industry Consulting
Auto Industry Consulting is an independent provider of technical information and consultancy to the global collision repair industry which was formed by Ben Cardy and Andrew Marsh in 2011. Of the many services we offer two of our key products are:
Auto Industry Insider uses in-depth research to identify the relevant key industry challenges and their effect on the vehicle repair sector – see www.autoindustryinsider.com.
Ezi-Methods provides OEM based repair methods and information via our web service, now sold in the UK, USA, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. For further information, please visit www.ezimethods.com