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OEM, insurance & shop reps: Repair documentation even more necessary with complex vehicle tech

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Business Practices | Repair Operations
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A CIECA webinar held last week brought OEM, repair shop, and insurer perspectives together on ensuring correct and documented vehicle repairs as new ADAS and other technologies come to market. All of which the speakers said everyone in the industry needs to adapt to.

The speakers were John Eck, General Motors global strategy and innovation head of product, accident assistance; Michael Giarrizzo Jr., DCR Systems president and CEO, and David Willett, SPARK Underwriters chief underwriting officer and co-founder.

Transparency, to collision repairers, means open architecture to not only the OEM-guided repairs but to the post-collision repairs, Giarrizzo said.

“Before, if the body line wasn’t straight or the panel was wavy or the color match was off, nobody could get hurt from that,” he said. “Today, it’s a completely different ball game.”

As for insurance, Giarrizzo said repairers need to be held to a standard of documentation and transparency, for everyone’s benefit.

“We’re really getting a true cost of what it takes to repair these cars properly,” he said. “We talk about there’s a lot of ways to repair cars today but there’s really only one correct way and that’s the way that’s guided by the manufacturer… We’re all responsible for delivering back a vehicle that’s safe with a proper repair.”

However, CIECA moderator, Paul Barry, asked Willett what the operational and regulatory challenges are that insurers face with evolving vehicle technologies and OEM repair procedures.

“The insurance industry has been very slow to adapt, admittedly, to technology,” Willett said. “It’s created a gap between us and our insureds, us and our other providers and systems,” he said. “Part of the issue is adjustments are changes that are very time-consuming and costly and hard to execute… It’s much easier to go to the Department of Insurance and get your rates updated by just talking about what overall you’re impacting and doing an adjustment for the next model year rather than getting into all the detailed aspects of everything that’s new on that new model year versus the previous one. Largely, that’s what gets done.”

When asked about how automakers offering their own insurance impacts repair procedure implementation transparency, Willett called it a “win-win.”

Eck said GM’s OnStar insurance creates a comprehensive and holistic view of the customer experience so that OEMs can play a role in vehicle repair, brand retention, and customer loyalty with safety as the overriding priority.

To achieve transparency in how and what repairs take place, Giarrizzo said the industry needs to move away from using estimates as documentation.

“It really doesn’t apply anymore,” he said. “That estimate does nothing but mislead everyone inside the process. It really has no place anymore with complete disclosure and documentation of what needs to be done and what was actually done.”

Instead, repair plans should hold all documentation and be kept with each vehicle for the life of it so that every owner and repair shop knows what’s been done to it in the past, he said. However, that shift won’t be easy for most of the industry.

“It’s really a cultural change that has to happen; a responsible belief that this stuff is important,” Giarrizzo said. “Flying by the seat of your pants, by your experience with these vehicles, doesn’t cut it anymore. I don’t care if you worked on the same vehicle last week or a month ago, the technology is moving so fast that repair procedures could have changed overnight. Just something simple could make a difference as you’re even just disassembling that vehicle… The only way that we’re going to get this in mass is forced transparency, quite frankly.”

He added that costs and payment don’t play into that. That’s between the billpayer and the shop.

Eck said the focus, for everyone in the repair industry, needs to be on the customer.

“We need to be transparent with that customer — what we’re doing, how the vehicle is performing,” he said. “We, the OEMs, make great leaps and bounds in understanding what do they [repairers] need from the OEMs to make this information more readily available or accessible or integrated into their workflow? To the insurance company, we need to be able to explain, ‘Hey, this is the procedure and this is why.’ …I think the OEMs can always do better at that.”

He added that includes keeping track of the work sublet vendors do, which Willett noted doesn’t include liability. Shops are still liable for all work, including what sublets complete.

Pre-scans and inspections are paramount before collision repairs, Giarrizzo said, because any prior damage or substandard repairs that are causing issues need to be addressed first. It also prevents customers from thinking your shop caused the damage or completed the improper repairs, he said.

So how can repairers document every step of each repair to prove OEM repair procedures and position statements are followed for safe and proper repairs?

Giarrizzo said software makes it easier, such as an application his shops use that was created by DCR Systems. It simplifies workflow by assigning documents, including photos, to certain buckets in a sequence rather than having to search for photos to attach to documents.

CCC Intelligent Solutions and Mitchell International also offer automated tools that make documentation workflow simpler and more efficient, Eck added.

“We’re not the ones touching the vehicles. It’s the repair professionals — they’re the ones that hold the liability; we understand that,” Eck said. “But we’re also trying to help them understand the need to document and how do we help show them what is actually being utilized up and know what percentage is actually being utilized and recorded so that they can audit…We don’t know where the gaps are until we start measuring those.”

Giarrizzo and Eck agreed that OEM1Stop and RepairLogic are go-to ways to find OEM-guided repair documents from multiple automakers in one place.

Willet noted that there’s been, and continues to be, an emphasis by insurers on claims efficiency through the use of technology but the focus should really be on technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), that analyze and understand data and documentation that repairers provide.

As for the future of tech in the collision repair industry, Eck said with GM’s Super Cruise coming to market as well as autonomous-level driving capabilities and the variety of systems on BEVs and hybrids from all OEMs, repairs are “going to be complex for quite some time,” fueling the need for repairers to stay abreast of what’s different about new vehicles.

“It’s going to take everybody’s input to help us find some of these solutions,” Eck said. “We need the third-party tech companies out there that are popping up and growing and investing in this to continue to stay close to the industry, listening to repair professionals… We need the carrier business to evolve with us as well.”

Willett added that one way or another, change has to happen because if the industry doesn’t evolve, government regulations will likely step in.

Giarrizzo challenged the industry to create a set of repair documentation standards to ensure safe and correct repairs.


Featured image credit: welcomia/iStock

Secondary image: CIECA webinar screenshot

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