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Improper repairs review finds 90% of vehicles totaled, 50% with frame damage

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Announcements | Collision Repair
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Significant frame damage, totaled vehicles, and a lack of OEM-recommended procedures such as alignments and calibrations were found by the Collision Industry Conference Industry Relations Committee when it reviewed 26 cases of improper repairs. 

The committee, which presented its review during a Jan. 17 meeting, found that 90% of the vehicles were totaled after having an independent post-repair inspection. About 50% of the vehicles had significant frame damage. 

“We looked at 26 of these vehicles,” said Ron Reichen, Precision Body and Paint owner. “That is just a fraction of those vehicles that are still out there on the streets. It should be terrifying because those vehicles are coming at us and they’re coming at our families.” 

The committee set out to find the truth behind anecdotal stories that often haunt the collision repair industry, Liz Stein, OEC national account manager, said. 

The 26 cases were pulled from the files of collision repair shops that performed post-repair inspections on the vehicles. 

“All of these examples were actually repaired at a facility and then the customer found something that they didn’t like about it and went to another facility to try to get it re-repaired or looked at and addressed,” Stein said. 

Most customers often sought an inspection after noticing a poor paint job, the committee reported. Customers sometimes noticed other concerning issues, such as a headlamp working incorrectly. 

“They don’t see underneath the onion, so to speak,” said Daniel Rosenberg, BASF OEM strategic account manager, said. “And that’s what starts the process.” 

Rosenberg showed a slide of a 2018 Honda CR-V whose initial estimate was $4,000. The estimate grew to $14,000 after a post-repair inspection. 

The vehicle had no inspection of safety systems, calibration, and alignment performed, the slide said. The vehicle also had multiple parts repaired that Honda says in its OEM repair procedures should be replaced. 

“In most cases that we studied, the people had lost confidence in that first repair,” Reichen said. 

Reichen said major frame damage found on a 2015 Acura TLX had significant compromise to the vehicle’s handling. 

“You’re going to have excessive tire wear and everything else,” Reichen said. “So not only is it unsafe now, it’s going to become less safe.” 

Erin Solis, Certified Collision Group vice president of OEM & Industry Relations, reviewed a 2016 Subaru WRX that originally was repaired for $7,000 but was found to be a total loss with $18,500 of damage after a post-repair inspection. 

The customer came to a shop concerned about paint issues, Solis said. 

A post-inspection found no indication of framework completed that the customer was billed for. This included the lack of clamping marks or any other sign the vehicle had been on a frame rack. 

Issues with fitments and the steering column were also found, she said. 

“One of the customers had gone back to the original shop nine times,” Solis said. “Nine times. How does it get out of there in the first place? But it also got out of there like that the second time and the third time.” 

Stein commented that it’s important to remember a person is involved in each case. 

“That means nine times that customer had to pause whatever was going on in their life to go address something that continuously wasn’t fixed,” Stein said. “It creates frustration. It creates anger and resentment and it creates a negative impression that the manufacturer couldn’t even influence.” 

Reichen said each bad experience is a significant loss to brand loyalty. He said this impacts the OEM and the repair facility. 

He added, “What happens if that substandard repair isn’t caught and then that vehicle ends up in another loss and the bill payer now is paying for previous and substandard repairs because of the second loss?”

The result of improper repairs ripples through the industry with the economic cost of wasted materials, resources, and labor generated, Stein said. It also creates a financial burden on car owners, insurance companies, and the collision repair industry. 

“We have to build quality into the process so that we can get to a predictable outcome,” Stein said. 

Stein said a solution requires enhanced training standards, advanced diagnostics and repair tools, and the adoption of quality control measures in the repair industry. 

“We, as an entire industry, have to recognize that we are no longer a trade, but we are a skilled profession,” Reichen said. “We need to start acting like that in everything we do.” 

Discussions about substandard repairs ramped up following a Texas lawsuit against John Eagle Collision Center for an improper repair in 2017. A jury found the shop liable for injuries Marcia and Matthew Seebachan sustained from being trapped in a burning vehicle following a crash.

Experts for the plaintiffs said in court documents that the severity of the crash and the couple’s injuries were the result of the body shop adhesive-bonding the Fit’s roof during a $8,500 hail repair in 2012 for the prior owner, a State Farm policyholder. The experts said the repair didn’t follow OEM procedures. 

An “empty chair” has been placed on the stage of CIC meetings for more than five years to remember the consumer, and the human element of repairs. The Seebachan’s case is often referred to when mentioning the chair. 

Yet, despite the attention on substandard repairs, data remains difficult to find, said Aaron Schulenberg, Society of Collision Repair Specialists executive director, following the panel review. 

He said, “How many vehicles on the roadway today have been involved in one or more collisions or had body work one or more times?” 

Stein agreed that finding data on improper repairs is difficult. She said the committee decided it would need to start with its own review of post-repair inspection files. 

“We needed some sort of concrete facts so we could start a conversation,” Stein said. 

The hope is that conversation leads to shops seeking solutions, she said. 

“This is a universal problem,” Stein said. “It’s easy for us to throw stones, but this is a problem that we are having all across the board. A good shop can make a mistake. If you don’t have a consistent quality process and QC [Quality Control] lined out, then you’re playing Russian roulette every time.”


Liz Stein, OEC, speaks at a Collision Industry Conference meeting Jan. 17. (Teresa Moss/RDN) 

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