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Q&A: CARFAX Answers Questions About New Collision Repair Data Reporting
Jason Stahl
1/26/2011

Ever since CARFAX unveiled its new Repair Advantage Program (RAP) that will enable it to include collision repair data provided by data partners in its well-known vehicle history reports, repairers have been eager for more specifics.

BodyShop Business recently conducted an interview with Nancy Fiorino, director of RAP, and Gerry Bayer, vice president of data, to address the as-of-yet unanswered questions the collision repair community has about the program.

BSB: Where do you get this information? One repairer said he purchased a vehicle that his shop did over $20,000 of repairs to and the report didn't reflect that.

Fiorino: We're primarily getting it from our data partners, such as OEM-certified programs or certified shop preferred networks or any specific industry partner that touches a network of collision repair facilities. That data is being gathered specifically with not only our partners' consent but the shops' consent as well. Because the program is still in its initial roll-out, clearly there's going to be tons of repair data that will not be reflected on the CARFAX reports. The reason for that is because we don't want to go out and get that data from third-party sources that may or may not own that data. Also, if we did that, we couldn't verify that data.

Any industry partner that we know is a verifiable industry entity is where we're getting the data. That's key because there's always concern about the validity of the data we receive, and one of the ways we structured our program, at least in this early stage, is to work with known entities so we can be assured that the data we're getting is valid. I can tell you that those verifiable industry entities so far don't include any of the database information providers such as Mitchell or CCC.

Bayer: It's important to note that we do not work with aggregators or collectors of data. That's a "no-no" for CARFAX because we've found that they don't really own the data and wouldn't distribute it with the consent of the individual shop or insurer. We're more interested in direct relationships with consolidators, OEMs and insurers so that we can treat the data as they would want to see it treated. We want to emphasize the strength of the relationship between CARFAX and that provider of data because there has to be a win-win: What is that value proposition where the provider of that data can feel good about offering this data and be able to make the case as to why this is good for everybody?

BSB: What is the process for submitting this information?

Fiorino: When we embark on a relationship with a data partner, we work with them to reach out directly to those shops that happen to be involved in that program. So the consent is given from both parties. If there are any issues or concerns with shops, we address those individually with them. They have complete control of their destiny. The only exception is in situations where we do get explicit consent but some of the programs mandate that they report the data, and then it's the shop's decision as to whether or not it wants to continue to participate in that program.

BSB: Could a lone shop that is not part of any program report data right now?

Fiorino: As the program evolves and expands, we're going to look at the opportunity to provide mechanisms directly to the shop to actually give us its enrollment form. We're working on that process, and there are some details that need to be dealt with, but ultimately our goal is to allow quality shops to be able to participate even if they aren't involved with a specific data partner. Right now, I can't collect data from every repair facility on the planet because I can't validate that data.

Bayer: We receive damage data from so many sources, and the damage casts a negative on the vehicle, and that's why we sincerely want to get quality repairers to be able to redeem it because well-repaired vehicles are well-repaired, and we believe that wholeheartedly. But I think that often it's confusing when somebody says, "Oh, they have a record on there about a vehicle I worked on," but that record may have come from another source, such as a police officer, salvage pool or recycler. If the shop has information that would help us further clarify things, fine. The information we have doesn't clearly indicate what you believe happened in the repair of that vehicle, so why don't you give us that information to help us describe it properly?

BSB: What specific information will be reported?

Fiorino: It's driven by the data partner. For example, with a couple of our OEM partners, one of their key benefits is to be able to confirm that X percentage of OEM parts were used. That doesn't mean that on every repair record, you're going to see the same information. You may see, "It was repaired by XYZ quality facility and it's under warranty." There could be a whole litany of ways the record is displayed, but it really has to do with what program that repair was associated with.

BSB: How many shops have you gotten on board so far?

Fiorino: We have several thousand shops we're on-boarding in the initial stages of the program. We're seeing the same shops over and over because they're the top tier providers in the industry, the very professional shops. So even though we have a smaller shop population, we're still capturing a very large share of the collision market based on what those shops' volume is.

BSB: When is this data going to be available on reports?

Fiorino: Once that data is loaded, it's available immediately. But whether the consumer sees it or not is another issue because industry statistics show that typically when there's an accident event, either the car goes back to the retail pool or there's an average 18-month window when that vehicle may be sold. So the data will appear to the consumer when somebody inquires about that particular vehicle or VIN.

BSB: How do you control the accuracy of the info?

Fiorino: Based on our data sources, we're confident it's accurate. If there is an issue, we have an entire department devoted to researching that incident to make sure it's accurate. For example, there was a CARFAX report where one of our insurance partners said, "We don't think this is really what happened," so we investigated that and got more information from that party. We're not in the business of auditing estimates or repair orders. We're relying on that these are professional shops in professional programs and most likely these reports are accurate.

Bayer: Here's an example on the service side. Service Link is where we get data from over 10,000 dealers and 8,000 to 9,000 shops. For a service like an oil change, we probably have 70,000 iterations of how they would describe an oil change both from how it's abbreviated to what other services are being provided along with the oil change. So we've had to map 70,000 iterations in order to clearly describe that a vehicle's oil was changed.

We've done similar work with the body shop in order to clearly describe what has taken place with a vehicle, and we'll continue to look at this as we move forward, both from a tech standpoint and a parts standpoint. We're going to get more and more sophisticated in terms of parts identification. We can't afford to be wrong because we don't want people to say that's not really what happened. That's costly to us.

BSB: Do shops have any incentive, as you see it, to report this info?

Fiorino: There's so much benefit to it. One is the opportunity to put out the actual data of how a vehicle was repaired to indicate the quality of the repair, and that in and of itself fills a huge data gap. I can look at two reports: One that says there was an accident and I don't know what happened, and another one that says there was an accident, but oh by the way, it was repaired to these exacting standards, and that puts a whole different value on that vehicle.

Equally important is that the collision repair facility will be branded on that repair report with CARFAX, which allows them to demonstrate that they're part of this elite group of shops that performs high quality repairs. That's a significant amount of exposure to the consumer in a very positive way.

Collision repair has always had a tough sell because the only time a consumer talks with their friendly body shop is when they wreck their car, so we think this is a really good way to put a shop's quality information out there in a much more positive light. I would say 99.9 percent of the shops we've dealt with truly see the value of that. Positive marketing, great brand association – it's a win-win.

BSB: Will shops perceive this as a way for consumers to know who to sue if the car fails in a collision?

Fiorino: That illustrates why it's even more important for shops to give us their data. If a consumer owns a vehicle that has been repaired by two different shops, only one of which is giving us data, I don't know what repairs that other shop did. But the shop that is on the report can document what it did and prove it isn't on the line for the repair that perhaps failed.

I think every industry struggles with that liability question with or without CARFAX, and I think that's indicative of why a lot of insurers are starting to move toward guaranteeing those repairs. And in that scenario, it's crucial that that information is documented and reported to a neutral third-party such as CARFAX.

Bayer: It's a glass half-full or half-empty scenario. If you document repairs you did to a vehicle and someone comes back and says this specific part of the vehicle appears to have a problem, you can show that wasn't part of the event which you were asked to repair. It provides shops cover because it discloses what they've done and why, and they have work orders to validate it. If there's a problem with a vehicle, the consumer will come back regardless of whether or not a shop discloses the repair information. So by disclosing it, the shop can say it's proud of what it did and has warranted the repairs and prove it didn't touch that part of the consumer's vehicle. The CARFAX report validates that.

 

 



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