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Put some pep in your step this season—there’s plenty of room to grow

By DARRYL SIMMONS

There’s something special about this time of year. As the snow finally melts and we get to head outside without coats and boots, it’s only natural to think about things growing. Despite the topsy-turvy circus across the globe, it’s a good time to re-ground yourself as they say in yoga.

It wasn’t so long ago the main concerns for repairers centred on parts, material and insurance relations. Sure, there was OEM presence, but they seemed pretty content selling cars. And electronic vehicles? They were so rare that we stopped in the street and stared.

Well, those halcyon days are gone and once again the collision repair industry is adapting like a champ.

The chip shortage, just one of the latest pains in the neck, is having a severe domino effect. Here’s how that one plays out: new cars can’t be built as quickly since the OEMs are competing with everything else that needs a computer chip.

That includes fridges, computers, drones and God knows what else. That means the OEM use chips on their luxury brands which are priced higher. This means more people keep their cars and hence we have a car park that is aging rapidly. It doesn’t end there. Now repairers can’t fix cars that need parts with chips. Oh joy. Just another piece of sand in the shell…let’s hope sooner or later it turns to a pearl.

Now it’s nothing new that the OEMs decided that the key to maintain profits in this political economy is to control the repair process and parts. The insurance companies have their own view on this and, as a result we see a whole slew of legislations and lawsuits facing our neighbours to the south. Don’t be fooled, what happens there is going to happen here sooner or later.

It only takes a quick glance stateside to see the direction being taken with regards to OEM parts and insurers as the behemoths lay the groundwork for the battle for control of the global collision repair marketplace.

The biggest debate in the courtrooms, at least as far as I can make out, is getting legal definitions of what is a critical and integral component; and also, what is meant by “meet or exceed OEM parts.” There will undoubtedly be a fair bit of publicity on this as consumers will be brought in and their sympathies played. I can just see the commercials now: “Do you want anything other than a real Volvo part used on your car repair?”

One doesn’t have to look much further than Kelvin Campbell in Halifax and Dartmouth, Nova Scotia to get an idea where the OEMs and insurers would like to see the industry moving. Not only does Chapman Auto Body tout a slew of prestige badge OEM certifications across its three locations, but there is an actual Tesla dealership inside the facility. Kelvin says his focus is on specialization via training and trackable repair leading to enhanced customer satisfaction. And yes, he says the OEMs are considered a “customer.”

So, where I am going with this since I really don’t have a dog in this fight. Just to let you know your views should play a part and to stand for what you know is right. You are the one fixing cars daily. You know what works and what doesn’t.

All you must do is ask yourself, “Would you put your daughter or son or wife or mother in a car that was fixed in a certain way?” If you aren’t 100 percent convinced to put your life on the line, then don’t do it. And make sure you tell the insurers, the OEMs and the customer. One repair doesn’t have much of a voice, but when a group keeps saying the same thing, those in control and those in power will start to listen.

It’s springtime. A wonderful time to watch things grow. A good time to grow as an industry.

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4 Responses

  1. Great article Darryl! Maybe it is time that we started a Collision Industry Action Group (CIAG) Wouldn’t it be cool if we could get key shops from coast to coast to unite their voices and take control of the collision industry? Ultimately it is our responsibility to make sure the vehicles we repair are back to pre accident condition and safe to operate and it should be done at a fair price. CCIF has become an expensive networking event that caters to the insurance companies, we need a group that caters to the consumer and ultimately the body shops. I’m sure there are other shop owners that feel like I do.

  2. Time for a national auto body action group? I believe there is a will to see change and I know that there are many shop owners that have had enough of low labor rates and aftermarket parts.

  3. Tom, I hear you loud and clear.

    Collision Repair magazine is the platform. All we need is more people to speak up. Anyone can contact me in confidence at any time and I will make sure the whisper turns to a voice and then maybe, a yell.

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