Gathering reliable research on the collision repair industry is about as easy as keeping a New Year’s resolution. I think the last New Year’s resolution I actually stuck to was when I decided to stop eating condiments. Since I’d never eaten condiments to begin with (bad kindergarten experience), giving them up wasn’t tough at all.
But this isn’t about my issues with condiments. It’s about how everybody and their condiment-eating brother will tell you that they’ve got “research” on this industry. In reality, however, very few have accurate research. I say this because I’ve been up to my bloodshot eyeballs in collision repair statistics – for all 50 states – for the past month. And the more I worked with our in-house research guru (Bob Roberts), the more I realized why almost no one has the right numbers: The “right” numbers are nearly impossible to get a hold of, which is why researchers have to base much of their work on assumptions.
Don’t get me wrong. Assumptions are common in research. But what you, as a reader, should question is what assumptions the researcher has made. What was his methodology for gathering these figures? Did he gather them from credible industry sources to make the study reliable, or did he survey 12 people (11 in the industry, plus his neighbor who “likes cars”) to arrive at his figures? (If no methodology is listed, it’s probably something along the lines of the latter.)
For example, in our study, we wanted to determine how many crashes are repaired annually per state in order to determine annual gross sales potential for each shop in that particular state. Easier said than done because even though we gathered crash rate statistics directly from each state, those numbers don’t accurately reflect “Total U.S. Crashes” because so many accidents go unreported. So we had to make some assumptions – but we based these assumptions on the federal government’s estimate that approximately 27 to 28 million accidents occur annually and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s estimate that approximately 6.5 million crashes are reported annually. Based on these figures, we’re assuming that only one out of four accidents is reported. This assumption, however, is rooted in logic and based on credible sources.
But figuring out total crashes was just the beginning. As you know, not all wrecks get repaired. Some are totaled. Some stay damaged because the owner pockets the insurance money. So, yet again, we had to make assumptions here regarding what percentage of total crashes actually get repaired.
Despite these assumptions (and the others we had to make), I feel confident that our “State-By-State Breakdown of the Collision Market” is the most accurate and comprehensive one out there. (And if you’re curious how we came up with our numbers, check out our methodology, which is included in the article.)
Besides my realizing how difficult it is to put together a study of this magnitude, I also came to the realization that I might be a geek. I actually enjoyed putting together this research and crunching numbers.
As if to cement my new opinion of myself, one of my writers wrote this in an e-mail to me – after we had a lengthy e-mail exchange about statistics:
P.S. (Does G really stand for Geek ?) 🙂
So, for all you geeks out there, don’t miss “How Does Your State Rate?” on pg. 20.
For all you non-geeks out there, there’s still plenty in this special “State of the Industry Issue” for you. I wonder, though, how do you know for sure that you’re not a geek?
Heck, I didn’t even know I was until just recently.
Georgina K. Carson