Ask the Expert: Is Certification Worth It?

Are OE Certifications Worth It?

Being OE certified provides a great opportunity for the quality collision repairer to “strut their stuff” when it comes to marketing and building a trusted relationship with their local community.

We are Ford qualified, and in one more week, we’ll be GM qualified (I-CAR). I’m just not sure if I should pay $3,000 a year to be “certified” by an outside agency. What are your thoughts? 

I suppose when you refer to an “outside agency,” you’re referring to organizations other than the OEMs themselves?

That, of course, depends on the costs involved in securing your own certifications through the various manufacturers. Some can be extremely costly when you look purchasing the required equipment, tooling and training (sending techs to the manufacturer’s training locations, lodging, travel, meals, pay, loss of production, etc.) versus if it can be done in-house.

The first thing you should do is put pencil to paper to determine how many repairs it may take to earn a return on that investment. Then, to try to determine what the future holds and what being certified may mean to your company’s future. In my opinion, a repairer should strive to attain all the viable certifications they can that would prove beneficial to the company.

If it were me, I would seriously consider doing some research and finding out how many of each manufacturer’s vehicles (Toyota, Nissan, GM, Chrysler, Volkswagen, etc.) are currently registered in your market area. If possible, identify them by age as to see which has the highest concentration of later models (newest) as they’ll likely be repaired versus older ones being totaled. Also, newer vehicles have insurance coverage for both comprehensive and collision, where older vehicles generally do not. You may find such assistance through your paint rep/supplier, local dealer or even your state department of motor vehicles or other data collectors.

I would then list the manufacturers with the highest concentration of late-model vehicles from the highest to the lowest and use this as a priority listing, taking into consideration which local dealers don’t have body shops and which manufacturer certification calls for the least investment in training and equipment, and work my way down.

Since you’re in a rural area, the last ones I’d likely be seeking would be Bentley, Tesla, Audi, BMW, Porsche, Land Rover, Maserati, etc. The ones I’d likely gravitate towards would be those manufacturers such as Ford, GM, Chrysler, Honda/Acura, Toyota/Lexus, Nissan/Infinity, Volkswagen, etc. My primary targets would be those local dealers that do not have in-house body shops. Of course, if you’re in a large metropolitan area where the volume allows, you could become a specialty shop providing services to one or more specific manufacturers.

I would then determine which manufacturers require the same tooling, equipment and facilities to be certified. This may enable you to make minimal investments to meet the requirements of two or more several manufacturers. I would then develop a top-three target list and, as I accomplished and secured one certification, I would add the next and continue. I would set both short-term and long-term achievement goals.

Big Advantage

There is little question that, when marketed and promoted effectively, having OEM certifications will be advantageous to most any collision repairer and even more important to those who may be steered against by insurers trying to get consumers to take their damaged vehicles to their selected repairers.

For any repairer who’s a DRP provider and hopes to keep his market share in the event the DRP relationship is ever discontinued, being manufacturer certified could prove to be a very effective insurance policy.

Regardless, being OE certified provides a great opportunity for the quality collision repairer to “strut their stuff” when it comes to marketing and building a trusted relationship with their local community members, local businesses and new car dealerships.

This will also likely safeguard the repairer in the event OEMs begin mandating that only those repairers with current certifications will be able to buy their replacement parts. This has begun with some manufacturers with structural-unibody related components, and will most likely expand over time to suspension, mechanical, electrical and welded/bonded body panels. The more hybrid metals and composites, accident avoidance and autonomous driving, lane departure and braking systems become prevalent, the more likely the OEMs and their dealers will take special interest in which repairers have access to their parts and the knowledge and ability to properly employ them.

I have several coaching/consulting clients who have been able to secure numerous certifications, and I recommend that all quality repairers make every effort to do so over the years ahead…not only to be proactive from a marketing standpoint, but to be prepared to meet not-so-distant mandates and requirements by the OEMs and consumers. Insurers are pushing their DRP shops to become certified for this very reason. It’s better to start eating that elephant now, in manageable bites, versus trying to eat it all in one sitting!

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