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Okay I’ll admit it I’m confused. 

I’m hoping that you can help me better understand what’s going on in our industry.

Recently, I attended a 6 am meeting, before CIC in Palm Springs, to discuss OEM repair standards. Honestly, I thought this discussion was over.........

So against all things in the name of sleep, I programed a 5 am alarm. 

Now if you’ve followed along in the press over the last several years you know this isn’t a new topic. We even formed a CIC committee and spent a lot of money to survey, research and address the issue. Also, if you know anything about me, a 6 AM meeting means I’m probably not a very good mood. 

Let’s recap the issue: 

The center of the debate, brace yourself, it seems there are gaps between OEM printed or available procedures and the actual repairs needed to be performed by the technician. I know right, you’re completely and totally shocked! You had no idea that there were gaps between what was being made at the factory to what was being done in the bodyshop. 

The Solutions: 

Over the course of the debates three solutions were championed. 1.) We’re really doing okay. The OEMs are getting better by producing more procedures and they’re being more proactive in getting information out. The OEM’s indicate that they’ve had information available for years, however our industry’s adoption and use of the material has been low. Most of which has been blamed on insurers for not following or supporting OEM standards. 2.) The OEMs are not being more proactive and the repairer is failing to meet basic training, equipment and quality measures. A third party entity with regulation and or fine authority is needed to control the repairers across the country and ensure standards are being met. This option is sometimes referred to as the “European Way”, following the model of Thatcham Research ( Then late into the debate came I-CAR with a 3rd alternative. 3.) I-CAR will now re-align personal and financial resources to create a division that will serve as the liaison between the OEM’s and the industry. Initially, I-CAR declined to be a part of the debate, but after many request from parties and/or associations they proposed their solution. 

Like I’ve said before, I’m not an OEM or a repairer so take my opinion with a grain of salt. At the end of day people like myself (consultants, insurers, retired experts and vendors) really shouldn’t have a say in this debate or sway the decisions one way or the other. It’s an agreement that should only be between the people that make the car and the people that fix the car. 

That said, I can’t stay quiet on this one. 

I was a little surprised to see the industry (CIC) somewhat “embrace” I-CAR’s plan as the solution. 

Here’s my confusion. Wasn’t I-CAR created to bridge the gap between OEM’s and the industry over that crazy technology called the uni-body? I was under the impression that this has been their mission over the last 30 years: work with OEM’s, identify gaps and opportunities, develop training and train. We’ve seen countless OEM specific classes (Jaguar, GM, Chrysler) over the years from I-CAR. Heck, I’ve even taken some of them during my insurance days and they were GREAT classes! 

Was I wrong? Are we now saying the last 30 years didn’t work? We haven’t gotten better as technicians and we still cant’ communicate with OEM’s? 

How is this new division of I-CAR with employee resources and $500,000 in funding different from it’s original mission?

Seriously, I’m confused? 

Another, confession. I started working in the insurance industry in 1995 and stayed there until I launched Collision Hub in 2009. So I have a soft spot for insurance company thinking, DRP’s and parts procurement. Shhhhhhhhhh, I even like PartsTrader. 

In other words, I’m one of THEM. However, I’m not real comfortable with a board of directors consisting of six insurers, seven depending on how you feel about Tech-Cor, possibly influencing standards. Why make more OEM “Standards” if insurers can’t or won’t follow the ones we have now?? Why does this feel like an internal conflict of interest to me? 

However, I’m first to say the people and resources I-CAR has contributed to this plan is substantial. I don’t think there is anyone in the industry that would question the knowledge and skill of the team in Appleton, WI. We must also keep in mind that they didn’t just jump into this debate we (the industry) dragged them into it kicking and screaming. They’re trying to give us the solution they feel we’ve asked for. For that, we should thank them for being responsive to the industry. 

I know that many threw support behind I-CAR taking the lead on this because we were so against a third party system like Thatcham. I’m just wondering if we we’re looking for a best solution or a solution against another solution? 

Let’s be really honest, any third party involvement, including I-CAR is not going to be “Free”. Each shop will have to shoulder the cost of the program most likely through new insurance or OEM program mandates. Can repairers afford another expense on top of OEM program cost, software, equipment, mandated training or existing procedure subscriptions like ALLDATA?  

I just can’t shake the feeling that this should be simple, can’t repairers and OEM’s communicate without all of us “experts” feeling like we have to be involved? I’ve never met a shop that really needed my help once they found the source of information. If anyone is going to tell a technician how to fix a Toyota, then it should probably be Toyota. I’m not sure there is any value in any other mandated information funnel or education by another party. 

I guess if we’ve had “mandated” education and inter-industry cooperation on proper repairs for 30 years and we still feel we have gaps, then isn’t it time to change our process. It’s the classic definition of insanity. We keep forcing additional training in ways shops have loudly told us they do not want then we act surprised and “Disappointed” in the results. We tell the OEM’s we want them to “cooperate” but we fail to recognize their training as a standard or use the resources they’ve spend money and time in building. Seriously, if a technician can attend and pass Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Porsche etc welding and repair classes why do they need Gold Class? At one point in my career I was “Platinum”, but I promise you that you didn’t want me fixing a single car in your shop or for your insured. 

Maybe Toyota already has the answer with Predictive Estimating. Should we be investing money as an industry into new ways to muddy the water, or should we find ways to copy what Toyota has done for all manufactures. What about an estimating system that flat out will not let you deviate from OEM standards? What would a Board of Directors consisting of insurers say to that? 

If we think we need more “communication” with an OEM then let’s look to use the OEM Roundtable as a resource or serve as our information “funnel”. Did you even know we have an OEM Roundtable? They’ve recently launched a consumer education website ( to share OEM position statements, basic repair information and links to the OEM websites. A group of competing OEM’s working together to better educate the consumer on collision repair, at no charge. WOW, that’s pretty responsive from a group that we say is unresponsive, right? 

This blog is not a accusation or criticism of any organization, it’s simply an invitation to an honest and open dialogue about this issue that expands outside the walls of a CIC meeting. 

In the end, what I think, feel or worry about is not important. 

I’ve asked I-CAR to help me understand more about the plan and they’ve graciously offered a visit to Appleton and interviews with the team around this project. I promise to share and promote those interviews as soon as we have them.

But in the meantime, if your a repairer or OEM, what do you think? What questions or concerns do you have that I can ask in the interviews? 

If you’re one of the parties to these solutions, add an explanation in the comments of the reasons behind the proposed. I could very likely be way off base on my feelings, but I promise, I’m not the only one with these feelings or concerns. 

WOW…. I just said “I’m not the only one”. How ironic…………….. 

However, If your comfortable with it, then I’m comfortable with it. I’ll shut-up and throw 100% support behind it. 

I’m just going to ask that everyone else do the same. 

Thanks for reading! Can’t wait to read your thoughts. 

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Comment by Billy Walkowiak on March 27, 2014 at 9:46pm
Well said !!!

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