During a technical webinar hosted by the CCIF, body shop owners shared interesting stories about the repair process.
Moderated by Patrice Marcil of the CCIF, this two-phase discussion allowed representatives of a manufacturer-certified shop to share their views before turning the floor over to an independent body shop.
Jeff Pabst and Ryan Hurdman of Pfaff Auto explained that their shop is certified by high-end manufacturers including Tesla, Porsche, BMW and Audi.
As they explained, this certification requires constant updating of tools and technical knowledge.
“With access to manufacturer-specific websites and platforms, we can accurately identify not only the model but also all the options on each vehicle that comes into our shop,” says Ryan Hurdman.
“We know what to expect during the repair process. Then we can access the specific repair processes. We routinely do this research even on models we’ve worked on before because manufacturers are constantly changing their repair processes.”
Hurdman gives as an example the bumper cover, a part that is often at the forefront of the impact. Sometimes it can be repaired, sometimes it must be replaced systematically as soon as it is damaged.
And these guidelines are constantly changing, as a part that needed to be replaced can now be replaced if the break is far enough away from the break.
“Analyzing the process upfront with all of these constraints allows us to quickly know if this car will be repairable or will need to be declared a total loss.”
The detailed processes are also shared on the shop management system which allows us to see right away what parts are needed and even what shades of paint will be needed.
For the Pfaaf shop in Concord, Ontario, access to the manufacturer’s processes is becoming more important with new structural materials and electric vehicles.
“You can’t go in haphazardly or think you’re doing things the way you did in the past,” Pabst cautions.
“The bad repair may not be apparent to the customer, but with the precision of the systems, the slightest mistake can have dramatic consequences. And with the electric car, you’re working with high voltage that can put technicians at risk. Rigorously seeking information from the manufacturer and carefully deploying the right processes are a must.”
Peter Sziklai opened his body shop in 1995. This independent agrees with his colleagues regarding access to the manufacturer’s repair process, although in his case the process is more complex, as he is not certified.
“Not doing the research is risking failure. Twenty years ago, when we looked at the car, we knew what we had to do. It takes a new kind of expertise.”
An IT specialist
In fact, in this workshop, a computer programmer was hired specifically to go and get the repair processes from the manufacturers’ sites.
His schedule is completed by the analysis of vehicle data and the calibration of advanced driver assistance systems following repairs.
“What we want is consistency in the quality of work,” Sziklai says.
“If every technician is fixing what they think is the right way, we’re at risk. Someone who will get the processes right for us is now a linchpin. But that resource isn’t readily available in our industry of automotive enthusiasts. We need to create a new specialized position.”
Five decisive years
There is no doubt that the next five years will be decisive for the future of the body shop, both for the certified workshop and for the independent. For the Pfaaf Auto team, creating and maintaining close ties with manufacturers is the only valid approach to ensure its future.
“Look at the carbon structures on some of the advanced vehicles. To repair them, we have to establish direct communication with the manufacturer who will ask us for photos and other information before guiding us to the right repair.”
According to its two representatives, the next five years will be difficult for independent workshops.
Peter Sziklai agrees.
But his workshop is located nearly 300 kilometres from the nearest urban centre where a concentration of volumes would justify the certification process with one or a group of manufacturers.
For him, the important thing is to put in place a rigorous repair process.
“We live in different realities. But we all agree that we need to be rigorous and take the time to research the processes and respect them before we do anything.”