“Why don’t car companies enforce quality standards
for dealership body shops as they do for dealership mechanical
service departments? Most vehicles are as good as before when they
leave the service department, but when most vehicles leave
dealership body shops, they haven’t been returned to pre-accident
condition. It’s hard for independent body shops to insist on proper
repair procedures with insurers when factory-authorized dealerships
don’t repair cars properly. Why don’t dealership body shops
(with their captive clientele and the clout that comes
with being a mechanical dealer) take the lead in fighting
insurers and have a single labor rate for any mechanical
or collision work done at the dealership?” – P. Michael Riffert, president, Engle’s Frame & Body Service, Ephrata, Pa.
by Karl Krug, Toyota representative
Summarized, my interpretation of this question is, “Why don’t the OEMs do a better job of supporting the collision repair industry through their dealer body?” That’s a fair question. As a representative for Toyota, I can give you a good idea of what we do to ensure the repairs on the body shop side are as good as those on the mechanical side.
The collision repair industry is very contentious, and a lack of aggressive accountability against the insurance industry or shops is often perceived as a lack of support or interest on the part of dealerships. Despite this perception, Toyota insists on the same level of quality repair standards and offers the same types of support services to the collision repair industry as it does the mechanical side of the business. Standards for both categories should be set high.
As with the mechanical repair industry, we expect both dealers and independent repair facilities to fix vehicles in accordance with their repair standards. All collision repair facilities that choose to ignore these standards – or fail to repair the vehicle properly – become the re-manufacturer of the vehicle and assume full responsibility for subsequent design failures. We hold this position for independent repair shops and dealers.
The Pen Is Mightier than the Sword
Rather than enforce accountability, Toyota goes to great lengths to support the collision industry as a business partner. This partnership begins with the publication of factory repair standards and expands to include collision repair and refinish training, along with an extensive collision center certification program.
We also provide a variety of information to the collision repair industry in order to communicate our repair standards. These publications, which provide the necessary technical specifications needed to repair Toyota vehicles, are readily available to everyone involved in the collision repair industry.
But support in the form of the printed word to ensure a proper repair goes further than that. The centerpieces of our collision repair information are the vehicle-specific repair manuals for collision damage. These manuals contain the information needed to properly repair Toyota vehicles, including:
- Factory welding procedures;
- Jacking and hoisting information;
- Body panel removal and replacement procedures;
- Cut and join locations;
- Location of high strength steel;
- Location of galvanized steel, corrosion protection and sealer application areas;
- Types of plastics used and their locations on the vehicle;
- Sound deadening material placement; and
- Body dimensions.
While the body repair manuals explain the correct procedure, collision repair information bulletins (we call them CRIBs) often address policy and procedural issues. For example, we don’t recommend “panel bonding” or “weld bonding.” Details regarding our official position on this procedure are outlined in CRIB #96. The CRIBs also contain consolidated information not easily found in other sources. Some other CRIB topics include SRS component replacement, paint and refinish color codes and policies on repairing high strength steel.
Published annually, the Collision Repair Reference Guide (CRRG) features an extensive set of specifications on Toyota vehicles and is designed as a “getting started manual” for the experienced technician. Included in the publication are:
- Body dimensions;
- SRS component replacement information;
- Wheel alignment specifications;
- Glass tint codes;
- Paint and finish formula codes; and
- ECT diagnostic information.
Between the last two editions of this book is information on all Toyota vehicles built from 1980 up through the 2001 models.
Training — Keep It Rolling
Many OEMs support the Automotive Youth Education System (AYES), a program designed to expose high school students to the automotive repair industry. This important program, which is supported by Toyota, Chrysler, Ford, Volkswagen and General Motors, helps fund high-school vocational/technical programs to encourage young people to seek a career in automotive repair. At the same time, the program also seeks to increase the quality of education and prepare high-school students for a more advanced technical education. By improving training and education, we can improve repair quality.
We also sponsor the Toyota Technical Education Network (T-TEN), which supports a series of junior college collision repair training programs throughout the country. These programs help improve the skills of entry-level technicians by teaching automotive theory and practical hands-on repair techniques. While many of the 55 schools currently involved in the T-TEN program teach collision repair, five have a dedicated T-TEN collision repair program.
To help train active technicians, Toyota owns and operates two training facilities in the United States – one in Torrance, Calif., and the other in West Caldwell, N.J. The program includes a curriculum for both body repair and paint repair and refinish. Instructors average more than 25 years of collision repair experience, and the program is based upon technician input to ensure that classes teach what technicians need to learn.
Our certified collision center program was developed in 1996 to help raise the quality of collision repair. Certification isn’t achieved simply by paying an enrollment fee. It’s earned. Stringent standards have been established and only shops that meet those standards become certified. Rather than applying pressure to the shops as a way of raising standards, we developed a system of support to help shops achieve those goals.
Achieving the basic level of certification isn’t a simple task. In fact, the average time from initial consultation to final certification is more than three months. Dealers who request certification must meet certain minimum requirements. These include standards for business ethics, customer satisfaction, financial performance, management practices, marketing strategies, production processes, training/technician certifications, facility requirements, tools/equipment and safety/environmental compliance. Once dealers meet the qualifying standards, they then become involved in the certification process, which requires the dealer to meet specific standards prior to receiving certification. Some of the specific standards are:
- CSI tracking of all repairs;
- Toyota collision repair and refinish technician training and certification; and
- ASE body and paint technician certification.
One of the major skills taught and emphasized during certification is the importance of writing a thorough and correct estimate when the vehicle first arrives in the shop. This helps increase shop productivity, improve the on-time delivery rate, and most importantly, ensure that all factory-recommended repair procedures are followed.
Currently, 75 Toyota and Lexus dealers are involved in the certification process, with a projection that another 25 will achieve certification by the end of 2001. This represents nearly 15 percent of our dealers that possess body shops. And the CSIs for these dealers has been high, too. A more striking statistic, however, is the on-time delivery rate. The average TCCC dealer returns the car when promised 90 percent of the time versus an industry average of 78.2 percent. This implies that the support we’ve implemented is working to raise standards. Support, rather than pressure, is the key.
Quality Is Expected
In addition to developing repair standards that set high production standards, Toyota makes all the essential information available to the collision repair industry and expects both independent shops and Toyota dealerships to repair vehicles to these standards. We support training programs to improve the competency levels of the average collision repair technician. We also support ASE Certification and shop certification to help raise customer service levels at dealer body shops.
Toyota believes in the “Kaizan” principle, which encourages continuous improvement in any system. The core of Kaizen isn’t conflict or pressure. Instead, Kaizen embraces communication and support in order to constantly improve standards.
Rather than “enforcing quality standards among the dealers” – as reader P. Michael Riffert suggested – we publish a set of repair standards and expect collision repair facilities to meet these standards. Rather than acting as an agency enforcing standards, Toyota believes the industry is better served by supporting dealers and independent shops in their attempt to improve quality and customer satisfaction. This includes publishing all of the essential data to properly repair a vehicle, supporting quality collision repair technician training and offering collision repair certification and management consulting. Part of this consulting includes estimating, negotiating and sales skills to help ensure that all of the necessary functions are included on the initial estimate.
Our support of the collision repair industry is similar to the support of services it offers for mechanical repair. All of this is done to ensure that the collision repair performed at the dealership meets the same consistent quality as the mechanical repairs performed.
Writer Karl Krug is a Toyota representative and is the managing editor of Collision Pros, a quarterly publication dedicated to promoting quality collision repair of Toyota vehicles.