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Letters to the Editors

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If You Do It, Charge for It

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Dear Ms. Georgina Kajganic:
In response to Mr. Yurek’s article, “If You Do It, Charge For It” [Sept. 2001, pg. 36], it’s about the same things my father complained about. We’re a company of 50 years located on the same corner and have the same company name. I’ve watched this industry since I was old enough to paint my bicycle and lawnmowers for the neighborhood. … We’ve played into the hands of the insurance companies to the tune of, “I have a bank note, and I’ll do it cheaper if I can get the work.” We’ve invited insurance companies to see us at conventions, to speak at our meetings, to teach that all our book times are beatable and to let them dictate to the crash guide companies what times are fair and which ones aren’t. We’re a service that’s dictated to, instead of a service that dictates.

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As for Mr. Yurek’s article, I’ve tried all of the techniques for years and have heard every response that could be thought of, and they all end with: “Your profession is weak, and we have the government on our side. We also have more money than all the collision shops put together, so sit down, shut up and we won’t blackball your shop!”

We still fight for every penny, and we still try to act like we’re doing well, but we’re just puppets on their strings. Mr. Yurek is on the right track, but the industry won’t support him. The first shop that has a slow week will be begging the insurance companies for work, and they’ll do it cheaper than what Mr. Yurek’s company will do it for.

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It’s amazing how we like to show insurance companies how our industry repairs cars to the point of letting them sit in on our education programs. But do they invite us to their top secret estimating classes? No, because then we’d question what they’re teaching, and that is: Don’t give in to the front of the estimating guide. All the other shops will do it for just the estimating times. And don’t worry, the person at the repair shop doesn’t know how to read the P-pages.

I never could figure why the famous and know-it-all industry leader I-CAR never thought of a class on how to read the estimating guide. This is the first and most important step in repairing a vehicle. It has the blueprints to a quality repair, but it’s because the insurance industry has control of them. If we all started on the same page, then we’d understand what’s included and what isn’t.

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I could write a book on all the crap I’ve witnessed and who’s being screwed by who, but it would be worth nothing. As an industry, we’re not financially strong enough to win this war, so we’ll always have massive casualties.

Thank you, and may God bless all
Stanley Caldarera, president
Johnnie’s Paint & Body Shop, Inc.
Lake Charles, La.


See Spot Run

Re: August 2001, pg. 62
Mike:
I think it’s necessary to clear the air on STRSW and the Chrysler group’s current position. Mr. West erred in saying that “DaimlerChrysler recently adopted this procedure.” We haven’t yet accepted STRSW on its own as a method of welding replacement panels on our products. We’ve approved STRSW when used with an adhesive referred to as “Weld Bonding” as an acceptable method of attaching “cosmetic” panels. As stated in the DaimlerChrysler Weld Bonding publication (document 81-699-99097, available through any DC authorized dealership or by contacting Tech Authority at 800/626-1523): “Weld Bonding should not be used in areas of the vehicle that would adversely affect the structural integrity or its original impact properties.” Since defining what’s a structural panel, or energy load path, is constantly becoming more difficult, weld bonding should be used carefully.

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The article in question is in fact well timed, since we’re currently performing testing and analysis of STRSW at DC, and there’s also an SAE committee formed to work through some of the details. (And yes, I believe GM and Ford are also looking very seriously at this topic.) STRSW is used extensively at the manufacturing level to build vehicles, but there’s an enormous amount of engineering, testing and validation to ensure that safe structures are built. I personally agree that we need to look carefully at this process for its chief merits of improved corrosion resistance and overall repair appearance when used to repair a vehicle. And we’re doing this. But for the time being, it must be clarified that MIG (GMAW) welding is the approved method of body repair for collision-damaged Chrysler group vehicles (Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep).

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Now for an agreeable comment. Mr. West states to purchase ” … the more powerful, more technologically advanced machine.” I agree! Without getting into an equipment specification, it’s important to note that the equipment is only as good as the facility’s power supply infrastructure and feed from the supplying utility. If three-phase power is available from the utility, use it! (You’ll probably see three-phase resistance welding equipment specified by manufacturers as the acceptable method in the near future) According to STRSW equipment manufacturers, the single greatest cause of poor equipment performance is power supply, not the equipment.

These machines aren’t cheap, so buy the best, and then spend the money to ensure the facility and the technicians have the power supply needed to operate the equipment at 100 percent efficiency. Additionally, training the technicians how to test their weld coupons for quality welds is probably the single most important factor in the STRSW equation.

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Doug Craig
Collision Repair Specialist, Corporate Quality
DaimlerChrysler/Chrysler Technology Center
Auburn Hills, Mich.


You Can Take It … So Dish It Out

Hi Georgina!
My name is Mario Diaz. I’m a new body shop owner – three years of business. I read your Editor’s Notes in the July issue [You Can Take It … So Dish It Out, pg. 4] about what Mr. Juniper said about educating our clients. I do many different things to educate my clients and explain the complete picture of our industry. We’re the only body shop in a small town, and though insurers don’t have total control, they have most of it. We don’t have problems getting repairs in our shop because I have a good team of technicians and we all take pride in what we do here. In fact, not one unsatisfied client or a “re-repair.” It’s just taking time to build our business and reputation, and many insurers are very unprofessional and use strategies that I think aren’t fair – and sometimes I think aren’t even legal – but what can you do when you’re small?

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Well, it’s very hard, but I do tell my clients and insurers the truth. My clients stay with our shop, and some of them even help our industry by fighting for their rights and canceling policies with an insurer when it doesn’t deserve their business. The insured is the “boss.”

For example: As an insured, I don’t think any insurance or repair facility has the right to make decisions on my property when I paid for it and I pay the insurance to protect my investment. By law, they have to explain to me how my vehicle is going to be repaired, and I’m the one who says I agree or disagree with the repairs.

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Insurers don’t give the insured the opportunity to know their rights. They direct business and make decisions on property that doesn’t belong to them, and they’re getting paid to deliver a service and to protect the investment. But nobody says anything because everybody’s making money off the insured. To me, that’s not honest, and that’s why people think bad about our industry and we don’t get the respect we deserve.

Insurers even want to decide how much they’re going to pay for a repair. That’s what sometimes causes small- and medium-size body shops to not deliver a quality repair or to lie or hide things to their clients.

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We use quality products and technicians to deliver a quality repair, but all that costs! And when my clients come to our shop to pick up the vehicle, we show them the complete process of the repairs on digital pictures. We keep these on file with every repair to show our clients that we’re proud of our industry and our commitment to honesty, integrity and craftsmanship. And if we run our business with that commitment, we don’t need to be a DRP for any insurance company because the insureds have the right to pick the repair facility of their choice to do the repair on their investment (vehicle). And if you’re a quality, honest and reputable shop, they’ll pick you to do the repairs.

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Sincerely,
Mario Diaz, owner
The Body Shop, King City, Calif.

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