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Scott Simmons of Collision Advice spoke on virtual steering at a recent Pfaff Autoworks event.

By Jeff Sanford

Vaughan, Ontario -- September 30, 2015 -- Scott Simmons of Collision Advice foresees a day when virtual steering is the norm. Anderson spoke at a recent event hosted by Pfaff Autoworks in Vaughan, Ontario.

During his presentation, Simmons outlined coming trends in the industry. One of the important trends he highlighted was a coming shift in the way the industry operates in terms of the way cars are directed from the scene of an accident into a shop. “Get ready for the era of 'virtual steering,'” said Simmons. 

The term virtual steering refers to a coming era in which cars can be directed to certified repair centres through services like GM's OnStar.

It seems likely that in the years ahead, services like OnStar, which provide communication links between a call centre and individual vehicles, will expand and evolve. As these communication links evolve, in-car communication services will ask drivers involved in an accident what collision repair centre they want their vehicle delivered to.

Simmons played a video during his presentation that dramatized how the immediate moments after a fender bender will play out in the coming era of connected cars. If a vehicle gets in an accident the driver will be contacted. The call centre will confirm the driver is okay. If they are, but the car is damaged, the driver will be asked which collision repair shop they want their vehicle directed to. The call centre will text a list of local certified repair shops. The driver chooses one. The call centre makes the initial contact with the insurance company for the driver. This new system will be driven by OEMs.

Today, of course, OEMs know that a vast number of drivers sell their car after an accident, and often choose another brand. There are also cases where pushy tow operators drive business to particular shops. Cars may not be not repaired according to OEM standards, and the owner may find their car is no longer under warranty.

In a bid to retain customers, Simmons predicts OEMs will set up these call centre services, which he described as “OnStar on steroids.” The call centre will provide a list of OEM-certified shops. Cars will be repaired in a way that retains warranty coverage, and the OEMs hope this means more customers will be retained.

“It’s not far away,” said Simmons. He suggests we'll see these services within three years. “Sixty three percent of people change brands after a collision. The OEMs want to get that number down. In two to three years this will change the dynamic of how we do business.”

His recommendation was that shops get certified by OEMs. He predicted that collision repair business will eventually evolve to one in which OEMs play a much larger role than they do now.

“This will be like direct repair programs offered by insurers. This is already occurring in Europe,” said Simmons. “This is coming. Shops have to look into the future.”

 

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