Without a doubt, the increase in collision repair facility specialization and OEM certification programs has inspired a wave of parties interested in advancing their businesses by partnering with an OEM. But what factors should a shop consider before investing their time, finances and resources into becoming an OEM-recognized facility? The Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) gave a balanced and fresh perspective of exactly what goes into the body shop specialization process from the inside out with “Marketplace Development: How Specialization is Shifting Collision Repair Business Practices,” held during the 2014 OEM Collision Repair Technology Summit.
Attendees were offered real-world experiences from facility owners and operators around the country who have made the investment into becoming certified in the panel discussion, comprised of Kye Yeung (European Motor Car Works, CA); Paul Sgro (Lee’s Garage, NJ); Eric McKenzie (Park Place Dealerships, TX); Ron Reichen (Precision Body and Paint, OR); Luis Pineda (Spectrum Collision Center, CA) and Rodney Anterpenko (Westmont Body Werks, IL) and moderated by SCRS Board member Dusty Womble (Roger Beasley Collision Center, TX). A vibrant discussion ensued detailing each owner’s experience in becoming a manufacturer-certified facility, from their challenges and strengths along the way to their takeaways on the certification issue as a whole.
One of the biggest factors to take into consideration when deciding to join an OEM certification program is that of return on investment. As the panelists shared, quantifying ROI is not as cut and dry as one may think. “I can remember thinking after we had first joined, built a clean room and invested in equipment only to experience a downturning economy, ‘Did we make the right decision?'” noted Reichen. “It is difficult to evaluate, especially in the very beginning. However, multiple factors contributed to our ultimate success. Our anticipated rate of return was 10 years, and we did succeed in making that happen.”
In discussing internal and external challenges to a business owner as part of a manufacturer-certified program, all speakers noted the difficulty in driving the cultural shift needed from both in-house and third party focuses. “It’s been a process,” expressed Sgro. “Some employees were more hesitant than others at first to do exactly what was dictated by the requirements of the program. However, the techs who are on board are more engaged and inspired as a result. There is an intensity and excitement throughout the shop as part of something bigger.”
“It is a huge commitment on the part of the technicians,” added Reichen. “And not all will buy in. Perhaps they don’t want to be away from their families for required training commitments; maybe they’re not good test takers. My advice is to look very closely at who you want to invest in to be your certified technicians, and then sit down and have that conversation to gauge their commitment.”
Outside the shop walls, certified repair facility owners are also faced with static from third parties that are sometimes unwilling to work with the business in this new role. “We have had insurers balk,” stated McKenzie. “You cannot charge the same repair rates as an OEM-certified shop as you did as a non-certified business. You’ve got to charge more. And unfortunately, the insurance companies don’t always agree.”
Above all, the message parlayed by the panelists conveyed the message that a culture of learning and continuous improvement is paramount in becoming or remaining a manufacturer-certified facility, as well as maintaining open communication with all members of the industry – even the competition. “Our biggest issue is that we don’t communicate,” emphasized Yeung. “We think our competitors are our enemies. I feel that we are stronger if we help each other out. If we can’t run down the same path, we’ll remain right where we’re at without anybody making progress.”
About SEMA and the SEMA Show: The SEMA Show is a trade show produced by the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA), a nonprofit trade association founded in 1963. Since the first SEMA Show debuted in 1967, the annual event has served as the leading venue bringing together manufacturers and buyers within the automotive specialty equipment industry. Products featured at the SEMA Show include those that enhance the styling, functionality, comfort, convenience and safety of cars and trucks. Additional details available at www.semashow.com or www.sema.org or contact Customer Service at (909) 396-0289.
About SCRS’ RDE Series: REPAIRER DRIVEN EDUCATION (RDE) series will feature 4 days of seminar offerings, many of which are uniquely designed and being offered only at the 2014 SEMA Show. Each of the courses has been individually selected or crafted by SCRS because the content specifically focuses on information that is relevant to the diverse array of marketplace perspectives within the collision repair industry. Register at www.semashow.com/scrs or contact Customer Service at (866) 229-3687.
About SCRS: Through its direct members and 44 affiliate associations, SCRS is comprised of 6,000 collision repair businesses and 58,500 specialized professionals who work with consumers and insurance companies to repair collision-damaged vehicles. Additional information about SCRS including other news releases is available at the SCRS website: www.scrs.com. You can e-mail SCRS at the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org.