Your Future is Here - What Now, Fred?Posted 10/15/2004
By Vernon Crump, NACE Chairman
They say neither time nor tide waits for any man. The same holds true for automotive technology. Like the ongoing computer revolution of the '90s, new vehicle technology is running away from us, and it is catch-up time for the collision repair industry.
We now have an array of vehicles with outer aluminum panels, aluminum space frames, new lightweight steel, titanium, new plastics and carbon fiber components. We have a brand-new ball game and many are wondering, "Where do we go from here?"
The person in the repair sector of the collision world (let's call him "Fred") has, for the most part, been self-taught for many years. Even though I-CAR and others have endeavored to set a semblance of standards or - if you will - "method of acceptable repair," the vast majority of techs are taught by a family member, friend or a lead technician where they work. Once these new techs gain a little knowledge, they get out on their own and soon begin doing repair on your second biggest investment, "the family car." This was OK for a time, but things have changed - as you know - in a big way.
Car manufacturers have now come along and decided that "Old Fred" is not trained or equipped well enough to repair these new marvels of technology. It is high time that the people who design these vehicles take ownership by telling poor Fred how they want their vehicles repaired. After all, Fred has been in a trial-and-error mode for many years. Yes, he could use some help, and our industry needs some standardization.
Enter the insurance companies who now have what is termed, "managed claims." Why is that? For a variety of reasons, but liability and stockholders have a lot to do with this. After all, the bottom line is the bottom line. Poor Fred over here is starving for information, and unlike the mechanical side of automotive repair procedure, there are not enough printed texts or informational resources to guide him. Don't take me wrong, I-CAR and others do a good job with volunteers, but that is what it is, and without some semblance of standardization, Fred may not be inclined to participate.
Now the manufacturers are having their dealer repair center training on their specific cars and buying equipment for that car. Much of this is not useful in other car lines and quite expensive. In addition, with more and more of these new vehicles pouring out of the factories, these few select shops will fall quite short of keeping up with the demand. With cycle time demands and consumer expectations, there is a need for everyone in the repair sector to have access to this new information and training.
Isn't it time that car manufacturers, insurance companies and repairers sat down and mapped out some semblance of standards for everyone to live with and help us catch up with this runaway train called technology? Let's not leave poor Fred standing there scratching his head. Fred, there is a future; however, the only problem for you is that it's here!
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