In a recent industry forum, leaders for both the insurance and collision repairer segments cited rapid advances in vehicle technology as one of their top concerns for the future. To the shop, this means investment in new technology and equipment, along with the training to use it effectively.
For those who read this column regularly, you know I view the collision estimating process as much more than just converting the concepts surrounding vehicle damage to words on a printed page. The business model we all function in today has evolved gradually to an ever-increasing level of complexity. With that in mind, I want to pose a question for the next five years and beyond: how are you investing in your business and in your staff to compete in tomorrow’s collision repair industry?
The fact is, equipment and training should always be top of mind when it comes to the need for shops to restore safety to clients’ damaged vehicles. In higher education several years ago, a video was produced showing that colleges are now educating students to perform work with technologies and in fields that may not even exist today. Technology is moving so fast — what was considered next generation a few years ago is obsolete today. As an example, look to recent OEM announcements regarding new construction materials and manufacturing techniques. Driven by higher safety and fuel economy standards, auto manufacturers are moving toward designs that essentially put the everyday passenger into a vehicle on par with an airframe in a fighter jet. Honda recently launched the 2013 Accord with a new ultra high-strength steel body structure, constructed with new welding technology. And mainstream vehicles using state-of-the-art construction methodologies, such as Honda’s Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE), are quite possibly in your shop right now.
I think most of the industry understands the tidal wave of new technology from the OEMs, but what resources can you tap into to stay on top of the wave? New coatings, materials and collision avoidance technologies all present different challenges to diagnostics as well as repair processes. In every instance, information is the answer. Knowing the substrate material at the time of the estimate makes for a better repair plan, and accessing the information specific to the collision avoidance technology on board the customer car in your shop could impact even a simple bumper repair or windshield replacement.