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Let’s Be Real, Folks

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Jason Stahl has 28 years of experience as an editor, and has been editor of BodyShop Business for the past 16 years. He currently is a gold pin member of the Collision Industry Conference. Jason, who hails from Cleveland, Ohio, earned a bachelor of arts degree in English from John Carroll University and started his career in journalism at a weekly newspaper, doing everything from delivering newspapers to selling advertising space to writing articles.

I would sure love to see an empty stadium at the Cleveland Browns’ home opener next season as a protest against outrageous NFL ticket prices. Maybe then my son and I could afford to go to a game. But are fans ever going to band together and make such a collective statement? No. Cleveland will sooner turn into a tropical vacation destination. The same fools will continue taking out second mortgages on their homes to buy season tickets yet continue to complain about how pathetic the Browns are.

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This kind of reminds me of what’s going in our industry relating to the DRP debate. It seems that some repairers want the whole industry to dump them, and they devote all their time and energy to this cause.

Do they realize how difficult it is to get everyone to collectively do the same thing? It’s so difficult, it’s impossible. There are many reasons why, but the main one is that it’s incredibly difficult to get most people to agree on anything. Besides, we live in the United States, the land of the free. You can’t make anybody do anything. Every person has a right to believe what he or she wants. Likewise, every business owner has the right to make the decisions necessary for his or her unique business circumstances.

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This is why I believe the Coalition for Collision Repair Excellence’s (CCRE) recent statement decrying Scott Biggs’ “14 Points of DRP Reform” (featured as this month’s cover story on pg. 22) was unfair and unproductive.

It was unfair in that the CCRE sounded like the rabblerouser heckling from the back row, only none of its members were in the back row. As far as I could tell, none were in any row at the Collision Industry Conference (CIC) in Las Vegas where the points were discussed. CCRE members will tell you that they believe the CIC has never accomplished anything, which is probably why they weren’t there. It seems fair to me that if you’re going to criticize a group that has done what so few in the industry have failed to do and turned words into action, then you should at least be present at that group’s meeting. Also, the criticism should not just be distant catcalls but constructive feedback aimed at promoting intellectual discussion.

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It was unproductive because it basically called on everyone to shun DRPs, which is asking everyone to do the exact same thing. As I previously stated, this will never happen. I would rather see the industry focus on what’s realistic than pursue a pipe dream.

Further shining a spotlight on CCRE’s absence from the meeting was misinformation contained in the press release. Most glaring was the insinuation that the “14 Points of Reform” was the brainchild of the CIC’s Fair Trade Practices committee. It was not. Committee member Biggs himself came up with it last year as a way to stimulate discussion among repairers and insurers about how DRPs could be improved to provide equal benefits to insurers, repairers and consumers.

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The press release also failed to address the viability of any one of the 14 points. Instead, it offered the blanket statement that “the practice of writing and rewriting proposals in hopes that the insurance industry will comply has never accomplished anything positive for the collision industry, and it never will.”

Perhaps the CCRE’s criticism might have been acceptable if any of its members had actually witnessed the discussion, which was comprised of insurers and repairers (both DRP and non-DRP) weighing the pros and cons of the reform proposal. Instead, it
was abominable.  

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I believe this kind of tomato tossing is one of the reasons why the industry is in such dire straits today. More people need to get involved in the discussions and not just rip on the efforts of those trying to facilitate change.

I understand that the CCRE wants to kick the entire insurance industry out of collision repair and reduce it to a third-party payer of claims. But I see two problems with that: one, that the shop and the insurer have a shared customer and thus have an equal obligation to provide the best possible customer service to him or her; two, insurers’ hooks are so deeply embedded in the industry now that to rip them out would cause significant bloodletting. Are we willing to endure that?

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The one thing I can’t tolerate is stubbornness and unwillingness to consider others’ viewpoints. I think staying open-minded and working toward realistic goals will go a long way toward solving the industry’s ills.


Jason Stahl, Editor
E-mail comments to [email protected]

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