The CCIF Repairer Panel. From left, Bill Davidge of CARSTAR, Andy Neufeld of Fix Auto, Mark Roesch of CSN Collision Centres and moderator Joe Carvalho.

By Mike Davey

Toronto, Ontario -- February 3, 2016 -- The panel discussions at the Canadian Collision Industry Forum (CCIF) are frequently among the most fascinating parts of the meetings. There were two at the most recent meeting in Vaughan. The first discussion focused on repairers, while the second allowed insurers to discuss and air their views.

Sitting on the repairer panel this year were Bill Davidge of CARSTAR Canada, Mark Roesch of CSN Collision Centres and Andy Neufeld of Fix Auto. The panel was moderated by CCIF Chairman Joe Carvalho. The discussion got underway as the panelists were asked to consider what they thought the landscape for repairers would look like in three years time, based on the expected increase in advanced materials.

“They (repairers) have to look at it now, and they have to make some very difficult choices,” said Bill Davidge of CARSTAR. “The expense of the equipment, and the amount you need for different brands is going to be a major concern. It’s going to be very difficult if you’re not prepped for it.”

Andy Neufeld of Fix Auto noted that while some facilities are on top of things, the industry in general is already behind the times. “Some facilities simply do not make enough of a profit to reinvest in the business to the level that will be required if they want to stay competitive,” said Neufeld.

Mark Roesch of CSN Collision Centres says he believes that we will need higher levels of collaboration between repairers and the OEMs. “Repairers and the OEMs will have to work collaboratively. We need to understand that these vehicles with advanced materials are already on the road,” he said. “I believe the landscape will look considerably different in three years, simply because this is something we have to do.”

Next, panelists discussed whether they believed there is adequate understanding at the insurance claims staff level of the increased requirements to repair vehicles correctly. Andy Neufeld of Fix Auto may have summed it up best: “If the shops have to have it, and the shops definitely do, then the insurers need to have it as well,” he said. “They also need to be prepared to pay to have the car repaired to OE standards.”

In general, the panelists seemed to agree that this is something insurers have to know. Davidge pointed out that, going forward, the information should be embedded in the estimating system. This would help to eliminate misunderstandings of what repair processes can and cannot be safely used on a modern vehicle.

The panelists also looked at how a collision facility can stay competitive, maintain and improve insurance company key performance indicators (KPIs) and perform all suggested OEM operations.

“I do believe there is increased pressure to meet those KPIs,” said Neufeld. “I think the majority of shops are doing the OEM procedures anyway, they’re just not getting paid for them. This is obviously a problem.”

Davidge noted that KPI numbers alone don’t really tell you the whole story.

“It’s good to be competitive, but we can’t be compared to the guy down the street who is doing Chevy Cobalts all day, if we’re in a high-end environment that’s working on BMWs,” he said.

Finally, the panelists were asked if they were concerned with maintaining highly qualified staff when retaining them is crucial to operations. Roesch was the first to point out that today’s technicians are very different from the traditional type. “It’s really a new breed of technician that we’re dealing with moving forward,” he said. “This technician doesn’t just need to be good with their hands, they need to be good in the classroom.”

Neufeld expanded on this theme, noting that today’s technicians not only need higher levels of technical skills, but skills that fall outside of the traditional model of bodywork. “We’re not just hiring panelbeaters,” he said. “They’re computer savvy, they’re technically minded and they’re good with their hands. Unfortunately, the ones that do find they’re interested and have the right combination of skills sometimes realize they can make more money in a different trade. Wages are a key part of this. We need to raise that up, and make it comparable to other trades.”

For more information on the event, please see “Technical advances, KPIs and the need to scan hot topics at CCIF Cars & Technology Showcase.

 

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