The Automotive Service Association (ASA) announced that it has embarked on an initiative to address “blend within a panel” or “zone refinish” with the goal of educating all stakeholders in the industry on this process, eliminating the arbitrary reduction of refinish times on damaged panels and getting collision repair shops more fairly compensated for the labor and materials necessary to properly refinish damaged panels.
“Our approach is pretty simple, and it parallels what we’ve done in the past,” said Dan Risley, president and executive director of ASA. “We’re not interested in a lawsuit or grandstanding or finger pointing. Our goal is to bring awareness and understanding around the issue by educating the industry repairers, insurers, information providers, any stakeholder. We’re going to document our findings and then collaborate with all the industry stakeholders to bring a resolution to this.”
ASA’s action plan consists of three steps. The first has already taken place in the form of letters sent to CCC, AudaExplore and Mitchell asking a series of questions to better understand how their databases and refinish times are compiled.
The second step will be to send letters to the top 10 property/casualty insurance companies, asking for their position on blend within a panel.
“Our goal will not be to identify a specific insurance carrier who is abusing the system more than another,” Risley said. “But we will be looking for insurers who don’t accept blend within a panel or look to blend within a panel or look for reductions.”
The third step will be to solicit estimates from collision repairers around the country documenting and substantiating the arbitrary reduction of refinish times. Repairers can either fax the estimates to (817) 977-7767 or email them to [email protected].
“We have seen instances across the country where reductions go as low as 5 percent up to 70 percent, so it’s completely arbitrary in terms of what the insurer can negotiate or require a shop to accept,” said Risley. “When you reduce the refinish time, you’re effectively reducing the material the shop is compensated for.”
Risley said he feels both repairers and consumers are harmed by this zone refinish issue, since if the consumer were to cash out on a claim and there was a reduction of refinish time on the estimate, they may not have been properly reimbursed for the loss.
“If we’re able to resolve this, here’s what I think insurers, consumers and repairers stand to benefit: if we see an increase in the amount of panels repaired versus replaced, you will see an increase in CSI and a reduction in cycle time and severity,” Risley said. “There will also be less chance the repair will fail because you’re keeping the repair in the damaged area. And because you’re not extending the refinish process into a new, undamaged panel, you’re not opening up the possibility of having damage on that adjacent panel where you might be removing and installing something like a door handle or belt molding.”
ASA’s goal, said Risley, is to have enough estimate data submitted by the end of the year to be able to issue a report in January 2015 that would be sent to all stakeholders in the industry and made available on ASA’s website.
“This is not a new issue,” Risley concluded. “This has been ongoing for a number of years. Unlike some of the other larger, broader industry issues, this is one where the industry can come together and devise a solution. It doesn’t require legislation or lawsuits, but all of the industry stakeholders getting together and discussing what we can do to address the issue.”