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Taking a hard look at the true cost of scanning

Monday, September 30, 2019 - 07:00
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Over the years, our industry has experienced a number of significant changes — actually events — which have triggered major differences in how we repair collision-damaged vehicles. Some that come to mind include GM embracing uni-body construction, new substrates, DRPs, basecoat/clearcoat paint and automated parts procurement.

Typically, there is a topic introduction, public anxiety, training and new equipment, followed by a normalization of process and pricing. The exercise has usually taken a couple of years or so before there is less anxiety and a common normalization, including a typical methodology of pricing as well as a typical common pricing range used by repairers and insurers.

As we are experiencing one such industry change — the pre- and post-repair scanning of electronic systems — I am struck by how long we have been in flux without normalization. It has been about four years since the topic rose to the forefront of discussion within industry events and publications. Yet there are still immense differences in pricing, definition and process policy. The vehicle manufacturers have been relatively consistent in calling for scans in their repair procedures and over the last few years they’ve added clarity by issuing many position statements on the topic. Many are getting away from using terms such as “recommend” and instead using terms such as “require,” creating the impression that it is not simply a good suggestion, but instead part of the vehicle manufacturers’ repair procedure. Repairers have been slowly embracing scans and establishing procedures while making tool and vendor choices. Information providers studied the scanning process, including the use of various tools on various vehicles. They concluded that they are at this time unwilling to establish database times for scanning since the time required varies so much. They have come out with position statements stating this conclusion. While our industry segments all share in some dysfunction and hesitance, some of the major insurers stand out as the most inconsistent and unclear.

The insurers are under immense pressure from competition and quickly rising severity, so it is obvious why they seek situations where they don’t have to pay for scans. It’s understandable, but not necessarily a good excuse. Making the consumer whole after a loss is their legal and (at least should be) ethical obligation. Whatever the vehicle manufacturer instructs or recommends should be the standard. Becoming an amateur electronics engineer and developing one’s own standards should be considered a suspect policy. I would not want to defend such a policy in court.

As evidence, I call to your attention the position statement issued by State Farm last spring. It casts doubt on the validity of vehicle manufacturer position statements calling them “general in nature” and “not specific to a particular year, make, model, type of damage or even repair scenario.” Funny, don’t they come from the same people and sources who establish the repair procedures? Because they acknowledge common repair methodology among groups of their produced vehicles does their content become diminished and not necessarily to be trusted?

It states that “a post scan may not be necessary, or may be included in a calibration process. Calibration and related steps are considered separate from scan activities.” What? If a scan is included then how is it separate?

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