Some of the Audatex team members behind the new 'start-up' S3. From left, Slevin Zhang, Full-Stack Developer; Andrew Harrison, VP Growth and Innovation and Hafiz Kanji, Product Manager.

By Jeff Sanford

Toronto, Ontario -- March 8, 2017 -- In this new era of web-connected cars, Silicon Valley and Detroit have come together like no other time in history. The start-up culture of the west coast is melding with Motor City muscle, and the recent launch of a new digital app for the collision repair industry is a perfect example of the new start-up culture in the auto sector.

Audatex Canada is well known in the industry as a provider of property and casualty claims solutions. The company recently launched a small technology start-up, S3, tasked with developing cutting edge digital products.

A month ago the lab launched its first product, RepairMatch, a digital matching application that links collision and mechanical repair jobs with shops that have capacity to take on the work.  The scope of this opportunity is vast. There are over $100 billion worth of unperformed repairs on vehicles in North America ($14 billion in Canada). Several studies say trust, convenience and price are the top three issues preventing consumers from staying on top of vehicle care. This solution is designed to overcome these challenges.

S3 is inspired by the digital start-up culture of Silicon Valley where small companies race to produce the latest, greatest disruptive technologies. The six coders and user experience experts working out of the Toronto, Ontario office hope their first app, RepairMatch, will do exactly that.

Designed to run on any device, it is simple enough to master in just a few minutes. RepairMatch leverages the power of the Internet to reduce the hassle customers encounter when finding, scheduling and pricing everyday auto repairs and services.

The idea is simple: shops and consumers sign-up at repairmatch.ca. Consumers looking for collision repair or mechanical work post their job to the site, and RepairMatch recommends a market average price to complete the service. Shops within the selected radius of the consumer’s location have access to the job requests. If a shop has room to take on the job, a match is made and the shop uses the built-in scheduler to recommend some times. The consumer selects from the available times, pays a deposit, and is provided full information on the work provider. After the transaction, both parties review each other as RepairMatch requires 4+ star ratings for consumers and suppliers to remain on the network.

Andrew Harrison is VP of Growth & Innovation with Audatex in Canada, India and Australia. He shepherded the project from the initial idea through to its recent launch. In an interview with Collision Repair magazine, he took time out to explain how RepairMatch can help improve work flow on the shop floor.

“Customers post jobs in just a few taps. We inventory the requests so local shops can say 'Sure, bring your car in at such and such a time.' If it's slow at 3:00 pm on a Tuesday you can go on the app and find a job that can be scheduled in at that time,” says Harrison. The repair shop fills an empty bay that would otherwise be empty.

According to Harrison the app is primarily for mechanical repair, but there are a number of collision jobs like paintless dent repair, glass work and small dings as well.

“A lot of shops have added mechanical bays in recent years to lessen the need to subcontract. This may be a good way for collision repair centres to realize more money from their mechanical operations,” says Harrison. It doesn't take a lot of specialized knowledge to do a lube, oil and filter change. If you've got techs and bays sitting idle, why not?”

The app has been live for just over a month now. Match notifications are delivered by email and text. Nothing is 'set in stone' unless both parties agree to a time and price. “We’ll give you a match when you have capacity,” says Harrison.

Tapping the potential of tech is exactly what Audatex hoped to do through the creation of S3. Harrison is excited. “I've been in this industry for a long time as an entrepreneur. The digital transformation of the insurance and auto repair industries is accelerating after similar transformations in banking and travel. I want this industry to have more digital solutions. Just as you can go to handy.com and get a painter or electrician, you should also be able to access services in this industry. We need to be digital and transparent.”

The app might also help tap a key 18 to 34-year-old demographic. This is the generation made up of people who are heavy smartphone users. “So far we see nearly 70 percent of people using the app are accessing it from their mobile device,” says Harrison. He hopes the app will mitigate some of the age and gender stereotypes that exist around cars and repairs. “We're really trying to attack the trend of repairophobia,” he says. “According to a Harris Interactive study, 76 percent of consumers who own or lease a care aged 18 to 34 think they have been ripped off by an auto repair shop (versus 66 percent for the general public). 77 percent of car owners and leasers think repair shops perform unnecessary repairs more for women than men, while 66 percent believe repair shops charge women more for the same jobs. Hopefully the app can bring some transparency to the market and highlight the thousands of shops across Canada and the world that do excellent, honest work,” says Harrison.

RepairMatch is a 100 percent Canadian project. Toronto is gaining a reputation as a good place to do tech. Last summer the company interviewed app developers and designers in the Toronto office. The goal is to eventually roll the product out around the world.

“We're going to scale up, grow it and expand it to other cities. From Canada to Australia to India and then the US. But our core team will remain in Toronto,” says Harrison.

The company is also looking forward to releasing its next innovation for shops in a few months. Watch for more on that as information becomes available.

Welcome to the digital revolution in collision repair. For many of our readers, it’s right around the corner. For more on RepairMatch, please visit repairmatch.co.

 

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