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The real cost of poor-quality repairs

Ignoring OEM procedures or simply overlooking aspects of a repair job can not only cost more in the long run but damage credibility with customers.

John Yoswick visist a US collision event to look at the real cost of the problem and some of the solutions.

In an effort to highlight the cost – to shops, insurers, consumers and automakers – of poor quality collision repairs, a committee of the Collision Industry Conference (CIC) in the US earlier this year shared the findings of its study of 26 “relatively late model” vehicles for which significant repair problems were found during post-repair inspections around the country.

Image: John Yoswick

In all of the cases, the customer found something they didn’t like about the repair, and therefore had a reinspection of it done. More than 90 per cent of the 26 were deemed total losses after the post-repair inspection, Daniel Rosenberger of BASF, a committee member, says.

“About 50 per cent of them had moderate to severe frame issues that were unaddressed,” he says.

For the subset of the vehicles for which repair cost data was collected, he says, the cost for re-repairs averaged 3.5 times what the initial repair cost was.

Committee member Erin Solis shared photos and details related to one of the vehicles, a 2016 Subaru WRX for which original repairs cost about USD $7,000 , and the cost for re-repairs was pegged at about USD $18,500.

“The customer originally went to the [second] shop [after repairs] for some masking lines, some paint matching issues and stuff like that,” Solis says. “The shops doing these post-repair inspections get a copy of the final bill of what was done originally. So they noticed [the original repairer] had billed for framework, yet there was no evidence of any kind of clamping marks or anything to indicate that the vehicle had been up on a rack, or even measured, or pulled properly. The steering column was also not addressed as instructed in the OEM procedures for post-collision. And I believe that this [repair invoice] did not indicate any kind of post-collision inspection requirements, so it was more than just the steering column. And then there was a lot of fitment issues with some of the parts that were used in the repair.”

The committee says there were similar problems found with many of the vehicles.

“Obviously starting with paint flaws, the lack of pre- and post-repair [safety] inspections was prevalent, lack of a pre-alignment or a secondary alignment after the repairs were done, calibrations just simply overlooked,” committee member Ron Reichen says.

“Failure to recognise OEM repair procedures and following a defined process throughout. There were numerous components that were marked on the repair plan as replaced that were either not replaced, or repaired or just simply overlooked. So that’s a lot of what we saw.”

Image: John Yoswick

The committee’s presentation focussed on the costs of bad repairs to everyone involved. The notes associated with one of the repairs, for example, indicated the customer had brought the vehicle back to the shop that repaired it nine times to try to have the problems addressed.

“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,” committee member Liz Stein says. “It creates frustration, it creates anger, and it creates suspicion and resentment.”

The automakers, she says, developed certified shop programmes in part to help avoid such issues.

“When there’s a collision repair event, that tests the manufacturer’s brand,” she says. “So when there’s a poor repair experience, that could mean that the customer has a negative brand impression.”

“The repair facility is either spending money to redo the vehicle, or to buy the vehicle back,” Reichen says.

“And at the [insurer] level, what happens if that substandard repair isn’t caught and then that vehicle ends up in another loss? The bill-payer now is paying for previously substandard repairs because of this second loss.”

The committee was asked if there were any commonalities among shops where the poor quality work was done.

“They were all repaired at what we consider legitimate or licensed repair facilities,” Reichen says.

Solis says the committee did not determine whether or not the repairs were made under a insurance company direct repair program (DRP), but she noted; “I can tell you that all of the ones that I personally went through were not fixed in an OEM-certified repair centre.”

A wider problem

But committee member Liz Stein says no one should think poor quality repairs are a problem limited to just DRP shops, just uncertified shops or just multi-shop operations.

“One job that I was alerted to was a certified shop that left [broken] glass in the back seat and in a [child] car seat, and thought that that was okay, that that was acceptable,” Stein says.  “This is a certified shop. So I’m just saying this is a universal problem. It’s easy for us to throw stones, but this is a problem that we are having all over the board. And a good shop can make a mistake. And if you don’t have consistent quality processes and a quality control system lined out, then you’re playing Russian roulette every time.”

She says part of the solution to the issue of poor quality repairs is first making sure you have the right tools, equipment, training and facility to be able to properly repair the car, and a robust quality control system in place at shops.

“Making sure that, no matter what, your people are empowered at any point in the process to stop and say, ‘Hey, wait a minute, this isn’t right,’” Stein says. “That if your painter gets something that looks like a train wreck, he’s supposed to send it back to the technician, and that he’s not penalised for stopping the process. Also, that there’s checklists to make sure all procedures were followed.”

Quality control

Solis agreed that sound quality control processes are a must.

“I’ve seen a lot of shops that have a quality control process that is being signed off on, but when we really dig into it, there are steps that are still being missed,” Solis says. “So I think it goes beyond just having a process or a sheet that somebody pencil-whips. You have to be involved whether it’s from a manager standpoint or a production manager standpoint, or from one department to the next. There has to be accountability in there. There has to be other checks along the way to make sure that the process you put in place is being followed.”

Make sure that whatever technician touches that vehicle has the proper training, Stein says.

“If the person that’s supposed to be your aluminum technician is on vacation, then nobody else touches the aluminum,” she says.

“Next, make sure that technicians access OEM repair information and use quality parts.”

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