By Jeff Sanford
Toronto, Ontario -- November 10, 2017 -- The popular Guild 21 Teleconference call took place this past week. This month’s version of the event included an announcement by Audi that it is “cracking down” on shops that do not follow OEM procedures.
The topic of OEM repair guidelines is a hot one these days. The case of John Eagle Collision Centre in Texas, which was recently hit with a multi-million dollar settlement after veering from OEM procedures for a roof repair, has been widely discussed in the industry. It was no surprise then when Mark T. Allen, Collision Programs Specialist at Audi of America, emphasized the importance of referring to OEM manuals for every repair during his presentation at the teleconference.
His presentation was eye-opening for all. According to Allen, a recent audit by Audi of collision repair shops, found that some were not consulting OEM instructions before making repairs. “We are seeing some zeros,” said Allen, referring to the test scores assigned during the audit. “I'm ashamed of that. And I will hold those people accountable,” said Allen.
The importance of following OEM procedures was brought home to many by the John Eagle case, in which a roof repair on a Honda was not done according to OEM procedures, resulting in severe personal injury. The owners of the car were badly injured when they were trapped in their burning car because a roof repair was carried out in a fundamentally different manner than Honda recommended. “The case was over before it began,” said Todd Terry, the lawyer who took on the case, in his appearance at SEMA.
It seems the importance of following stated and published OEM guidelines is on the minds of everyone in the collision repair industry. GM is rumoured to be rolling out a certification program. This is occurring at a time when the complexity of car repairs are skyrocketing because of advanced digital safety features.
The total number of miles driven is up sharply in the last couple of years as millions of people have taken up “driving for Uber” as a second job. According to Allen certified shops have absolutely no excuse for failing to consult OEM repair procedures on any repair in this environment. Allen noted that Audi pays for certified shops to receive the instructions for free, and so the company assumes all procedure guidelines can be accessed for all jobs.
Allen emphasized the remarkable effort that goes into the compilation of the repair manuals. The research carried out to write these documents is “important” work on the part of the company researching and testing each repair procedure in a lab setting is an extremely costly undertaking according to Allen.
He explained how Audi comes up with the procedures in OEM manuals. The service engineers get involved during the design stage of a new Audi vehicle. They invariably declare that the new car can’t be repaired when they receive the first models - they then they get to work.
The company typically crashes about 150 cars to test each new model. Some of these wrecks are sent over to a group of collision repair engineers and technicians. They go on to determine repair procedures. They define what materials and tools will be needed and used. They determine welding and adhesive procedures. The manuals are written. All of the cars that have been repaired are crashed again to ensure that the repair procedures work just as well as a new car. "It is not a one-and-done sort of process," according to Allen.
Sometimes a failure does occur, the technicians work to figure out what happened and how the procedure being tested can be improved. There is a very reason it costs about $35 a day to reference Audi repair procedures.
Howeber, collision centre owners should rely on these procedures for peace of mind, says Allen. The procedures are repeatable and guaranteed, giving comfort to any owner. Especially at a time everyone in the industry has been reminded how expensive it can be to veer away from OEM rules.
During his presentation Allen touches on the recent John Eagle case, which saw a jury award $42 million to the car owners badly burnt when a roof repair failed, trapping them in an ignited car. John Eagle Collision Center was ordered to pay $31.5 million for its part in the disaster. "It’s not worth it", says Allen. "Taking chances is far too expensive. There are 42 million reasons to follow OEM repair procedures."
The presentation was also practical. Allen offered advice about what to say when insurers inevitably pressure collision repair centre owners to deviate from OEM guidelines, or use recycled parts. According to Allen, when that happens, the shop owner should notify the customer about the request from the insurance company. If recycled parts are used the owner should consider "rebranding the car” by referring to the vehicle as an "Audi, redesigned by XYZ Insurance Company representative.”
Allen also suggested shop owners call the insurer and demand they accept full liability for the repair if they demand something other than OEM parts and procedures. It was an interesting presentation to say the least.
Allen also advised the collision centre owners to check the procedures for every repair, not just once per vehicle (or model). The reason: OEM often change their manuals. According to Allen, “...there is no big notification that goes out" about changes. So it’s important to check the manuals for each repair. The online version of Audi repair procedures will always be current said Allen.