When Doug Richman got the call from Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) Executive Director Aaron Schulenburg asking if he wanted to participate in the OEM Collision Repair Roundtable (Wednesday, Nov. 5 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.) at the SEMA Show, he admits he was flattered and excited.
Richman, who is employed by Kaiser Aluminum and chairman of the Aluminum Association’s Technical Committee, had a deep desire to reach out to collision repairers and educate them on the trends in the marketplace pertaining to automakers’ use of aluminum in vehicles.
“It’s time for independent business people in [the collision trade] to understand what’s coming and make judgments in local regions and markets when it’s appropriate to train their people and get the proper equipment. Also, to know when the volume will be there in sufficient amounts to justify the investment and secure their business position.”
Selfishly, Richman says, he also wants to make sure his customers, the car companies, won’t get any criticism from consumers who can’t get the repairs they need.
“I want to make sure when we advise a car company that we think it’s a decent idea to use an aluminum fender or door that we aren’t creating a situation where consumers are upset,” he says. “We want this to be totally transparent to any consumer in the marketplace.”
Richman will speak on trends regarding aluminum and other advanced materials that will occur from present day to 2025. He will also participate in a panel discussion. He believes the timing for such a talk is perfect given that more than 40 percent of hoods in North America today are aluminum, and there are also aluminum truck decks, doors and fenders.
“Right now, there are no vehicles produced with aluminum body structures, but by the end of this year we’ll be producing one million of these vehicles per year. [Aluminum] hasn’t migrated to a significant share of the market yet, but next year it will become significant and continue to grow over the next 15 years.”
At the same time, Richman will be telling collision repairers not to press the panic button just yet given that only one million aluminum vehicles will be infused into a total fleet of 200 million by the end of this year – only half of 1 percent of the total fleet.
“I don’t want anybody [investing in aluminum] when it doesn’t give them a reasonable return on that investment,” Richman says. “And they don’t have to run out and do it two weeks after SEMA. I want to give them a vision of the rate at which it will be evolving in the marketplace.”
Richman currently believes the market is appropriately scaled right now in terms of the number of aluminum vehicles and the number of shops capable of repairing aluminum.
“Today, Audi and Jaguar dealers are certified and equipped by company standards, and Ford is training its field organizations right now and is in the same mode of having minimum requirements of equipment and training and auditing that,” he says. “We don’t want a situation where consumers have a need and there is no one to service that need. I believe in a free market system, and the market has stayed nicely in balance with that need.
“There will be a tremendous amount of excitement in the industry when the programs that are literally starting to launch internally right now get into the market. I’m delighted to be part of this meeting.”
What is the Aluminum Association?
“We exist to facilitate the use of aluminum. We talk to potential customers of aluminum on how to deploy aluminum in a cost-effective and efficient way. We do studies and analysis and help car companies understand the right alloys and materials. We publish informational bulletins and books for people to engineer from. We don’t do training and don’t tell body people how to do business. In this particular case at SEMA, we’re there to talk about what’s happening with automotive aluminum so attendees have a clear idea of what to expect in their marketplace. Our mission is to provide factual information so people we talk to can make good sound business decisions regarding aluminum.” – Doug Richman
To register for the OEM Collision Repair Roundtable or the SCRS RDE sessions, click HERE.