Wednesday Wisdom: SAAR executive director Tom Bissonnette

By Lindsey Cooke

Toronto, Ontario – April 9, 2019 – A month ago, at the Saskatchewan Association of Automotive Repairers (SAAR) Spring Show, Saskatchewan Government Insurance made the announcement of its new accreditation system for repair shops in the province. Sorted into two tiers, shops have one year to pull together the money to invest in specified equipment, tools, and training in order to be accredited by SGI as a Tier one shop – all of which has been claimed to cost close to $100,000.

To gear up for these changes, SAAR is hosting several town hall meetings with representatives of Saskatchewan Government Insurance. This will give shop owners the opportunity to speak about their concerns and receive some clarification to their questions. The first town hall meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, April 9, at 6 p.m. in Regina. Collision Repair caught up with SAAR executive director Tom Bissonnette to hear his thoughts on SGI’s requirements and what he would tell shop owners who are feeling overwhelmed.

CR: What are your thoughts on SGI’s new accreditation program?

TB: For the most part, something needs to change. Obviously, vehicles have changed, and we need to take a serious look at how we are repairing these vehicles. Bottom line is we do have a concern with what the door rates are going to the shops that are actually doing this work.

CR: What do you hope will come out of the upcoming meetings SAAR is hosting with SGI this week?

TB: I think that people just need to understand what they’re going to need in order to repair vehicles but also how it’s going to impact their business. We have a lot of small rural areas that have one- and two-man shops, and some of them are doing a fantastic job, we would love to see them stick around. On the other hand, we want to make sure that vehicles are being fixed properly and that people have the knowledge to do that. So, it all hinges on the attitude of the shop. If they’re moving forward and they want to make those changes I don’t think it’s going to be a big issue for a lot of them. If they don’t want to do anything it’s going to be difficult.

CR: What advice would you give to the owners of small-town shops that are stressing about these changes?

TB: In the last year I’ve been doing a weekly newsletter where I’ve been sending out this information. So, it’s not a surprise. I’ve been telling these owners it’s not as bad as they might think it is and it’s not as good as you think it is. I think when the shop owners meet with SGI and they kind of clarify what their requirements are, the repairers are going to find that it’s within their reach to do it. There are some shops that have all the equipment already and might be thinking they’re going to have a windfall; I don’t think so. I think that shops that are serious about their business are going to maintain their market share. The equipment that is out there right now, I think is going to help the shops become better at what they do.

From our point of view, SAAR is helping people by doing a training session today on estimating. What I’m trying to do is illustrate to the shops that if they pay a little bit more attention to the job they do with estimating, they’ll make more than enough money to pay for the equipment they’re going to need this year.

CR: Is there anything else SAAR is going to do to help shops in the province gear up for these changes?

TB: We have a big conference coming up in September in Saskatoon. We do a semi-annual conference and we’re bringing in SGI to speak, but we are also bringing in all of the suppliers to do a showcase. It’s very similar to what you would see at CCIF. Suppliers have really jumped on board and they’ve really partnered up with us. They obviously want to sell equipment, but they also want to help. They want to help shops make that adjustment whether it’s leasing a program or financing programs. The other thing we are doing is instituting a buy and sell on our website. Lots of shops are gearing up to buy new equipment, so there is lots of other equipment that is available for these shops to buy. We’re going to help them connect the dots with each shop and get the equipment at the best possible price.

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