Interconnected trends are shaping the future of global body shop industry.
During Automechanika Frankfurt 2022, Jason Moseley, CEO of the International Body Shop Industry Symposium (IBIS), hosted a special presentation entitled IBIS: The Global Collision Repair Sector and the Rapid Rise of Technology Post-Pandemic.
In this session, Moseley focused on six key factors that are influencing and shaping the future of the collision repair space.
The first concerned vehicle electrification. OEMs are investing billions of dollars in bringing more and more EVs—particularly battery electric vehicles—to market and this has significant implications for collision centres.
Firstly, shops need to consider a different strategy when it comes to how the repair process is conducted. “High voltage vehicles require different space, different access,” Moseley explained.
Because EVs rely on high voltage direct current (DC), maintaining a safe distance when working on the vehicle is essential to avoid technicians being electrocuted. This extra space will impact the layout and plan of the workshop, which also impacts the way in which vehicles are processed and repaired.
Moseley also highlighted the issue of the potential fire hazard regarding EVs equipped with Lithium-Ion batteries. When they do catch fire, the vehicle tends to continue burning and the flames can be very difficult to put out. “This will cause a big problem in your body shop and you need to be properly prepared for that,” Moseley said.
Another key trend impacting the industry is Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). Moseley stressed the importance for collision centres to ensure that these systems are properly re-set and re-calibrated during the repair process. This not only helps ensure maximizing consumer safety as well as reducing the risk of future collisions but also the serious risk of liability that can stem from improper repairs.
Layout, operation and process
Performing ADAS calibrations correctly also impacts shop layout, operation and process. Some examples include having level floor space to perform these calibrations, adhering to specific OEM guidelines for them and ensuring the shop makes the necessary investments so ADAS calibrations can be performed correctly and consistently.
“So, you’ve got ADAS and electrification coming together,” stated Moseley, “and we’ve heard it described as a ‘tsunami of technology.’ There is a huge wave coming and in many cases; it’s already here.”
The third trend impacting the global collision repair industry is the rise of the manufacturer repair network, which is inextricably linked to electrification and ADAS. As vehicles become more complex, and OEMs look to enhance the brand experience for their customers across all aspects of vehicle ownership—including collision repair—the idea of manufacturer-endorsed networks has been gaining traction.
Moseley noted that in the U.S., Ford Motor Company, for example, has launched a 2000-strong manufacturer network that’s certified to repair BEVs as well as perform structural aluminum repairs on vehicles such as the Ford F-Series trucks.
Moseley also explained that during the First Notice of Loss, Ford is able to immediately channel the repair of the customer’s vehicle toward a certified network and facility. “They [the OEMs] are really starting to control where the vehicles are going, the customer journey and ultimately that customer experience.”
And it’s a similar trend that’s being witnessed among other OEMs, such as General Motors, Audi, BMW and others. Essentially what’s happening is that through support, parts, repair procedures, training and technology, OEMs are creating a complete ‘ecosystem’ that supports the integrity of the vehicle—a trend that’s expected to continue growing.
The fourth trend Moseley mentioned, has been the growth in touchless insurance claims and the digitization of the process. The concept has been at the forefront of industry discussions for a number of years—using technology to streamline the claims process. The aim is to improve cycle-time efficiency and reduce how long it takes for the vehicle to be returned to the customer.
Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic came along and accelerated the adoption of touchless claims technology, and today, what’s happening, is that data is now being leveraged to enhance the customer experience and, as Moseley pointed out, this trend is also inextricably linked to the three others previously mentioned.
For example, if a customer is driving a battery electric car or SUV and is involved in a collision, they want to know how that vehicle will be brought through the repair process since not all shops are currently equipped to handle these kinds of vehicles.
“We’re talking about triaging the repair,” Moseley explained, in other words, how the entire repair process is conducted, including the way the claim is handled; how the repair is channelled to the right location with the right tools, training and procedures to perform it and how ultimately, that repair impacts the customer experience.
“The last thing you want, if you are a body shop, is being sent a vehicle that is already categorized as a total loss,” stated Moseley. “You want the right cars to go to the right place at the right time to the right people with the right skills and repair processes.”
Dealing with labour shortages
Trend five, Moseley explained, is also tied into the other four and that is the current labour shortage the collision repair industry is experiencing. It’s all well and good looking at ways to train and retain people in our sector, but if they aren’t there, to begin with, it presents a major challenge.
One solution; is to really compete with other industries and showcase the opportunities available in collision repair and what a truly dynamic and rewarding sector it can be. “With a lot of opportunity, a lot of great technology, a lot of great products, this often, isn’t the industry that people think it is,” Moseley said. To that end, IBIS is working on initiatives globally to help relay the message about what an exciting, dynamic and rewarding industry collision repair is today.
He highlighted a partnership in the U.S. in which IBIS has teamed up with Enterprise Holdings and Ranken Technical College in St. Louis, Mo. Known as the Collision Engineering Program, the idea is to create a professional college program that provides a structured development path for collision repair training. “Enterprise has a huge fleet of vehicles in the U.S. and they need people to repair them,” Moseley explained. “So, they’ve taken this initiative into their own hands and collaborated to produce this engineering program.”
This example illustrates how organizations can take an innovative approach to join forces and solve a significant industry challenge and if it works in a market such as the U.S., similar initiatives would likely be effective in other markets including nations in Europe and other parts of the globe.
Trend six, Moseley observed, is the consolidation of the collision repair industry. He cited the growth of large networks in regions like North America as changing the face of collision repair. The industry today is far more complex than it was in the past, making it increasingly difficult for smaller, independent operators to navigate without support from a larger network that’s able to provide far greater economies of scale and resources to drive profitability and efficiency at the individual shop level.
Add the fact that inflation and rising energy costs are putting additional pressure on shops and the industry, which combined with still low customer retention (around 60% of consumers trade their vehicle in following collision repairs) means that is definitely a challenging time for all stakeholders. And while supply chain issues are improving, there’s still a long way to go before things are back to normal.
Ultimately, Moseley said, that in order to be successful and profitable in the collision repair industry going forward, “you have to have a plan, you have to have a strategy. And you’ve got to know where you’re leading your business.”