By Jeff Sanford
Vaughan, Ontario — September 27, 2015 — A crowd gathered at Pfaff Autoworks in Vaughan for the company’s annual insurance industry open house. For some on the insurance side of the business the event seemed to be an eye-opener in terms of some rapidly advancing changes about to hit the collision repair industry.
Pfaff has carved out a niche in the industry fixing high-end European brands like Audi and BMW. More imports than ever being sold in Canada, and some of those vehicles end up being repaired in the huge, clean and sophisticated shop in Vaughan. According to one of the many employees there are currently more than 120 cars lined up to get into one of two aluminum rooms or six paint bays. One of the vehicles on the floor was a McLaren Spider. In other words, this might be the perfect place to go to understand some of the trends evolving in the industry today.
General Manager of Pfaff Autoworks, Geoff Pabst, explained to Collision Repair magazine what they hope the event achieves.
“This is a way to bring those in the insurance industry up to date on the issues and challenges that we in the collision repair industry face,” said Pabst. “We want to bring in our insurance partners and make sure they understand what the new and emerging issues are in the industry. The industry is starting to mature a bit. We have to keep up on trends and understand where we’re going to in the next five to ten years.”
Some of those emerging issues included the rapid adoption of new materials like aluminum, carbon fibre and increasing use of high strength steel. These advanced materials change the repair process.
“There is going to be no more pulling. That’s not allowed. Audi is going that way as well. The new R8 will be bonding and riveting. This is going to be a big change,” said Pabst. “The number of technological advances being worked into vehicles is greater than ever. I’ve been in the industry 18 years. I’ve never seen as much change as there has been in the last five.”
The number of digital and electronic devices being added to vehicles is astonishing. Old techniques for repairing cars are being replaced by new ones. An example: The number of sensors in a bumper sometimes limits refinish to one coat of paint. Automakers are using up to seven different types of material in the body. Once confined to high-end imports, these materials are showing up in mass-selling cars today, so bonding and riveting is becoming much more common. All in, the cost and complexity of fixing cars is advancing, rapidly. Cars are, generally, much more complex. This means repair procedures are becoming more complex (and costly) as well. The Pfaff event was a good way share information about the advances that are coming fast and quick.
Also during the event, collision repair industry consultant Mike Anderson gave a presentation on coming trends, among them “virtual steering.” This practice uses advanced OnStar-like services to recommend a certified shop for a vehicle in an accident before the tow truck even shows up.