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Panelists discussed what cars of the future will look like and what equipment body shops will need to repair them.
The Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) Repairer Roundtable, held April 8 in Atlanta shone a spotlight on training and safety and the increasing sophistication of vehicles.
The moderator of the event was SCRS Executive Director Aaron Schulenburg. Panelists included I-CAR Industry Technical Support Manager Steve Marks, Chief Automotive Technologies Global Training Manager Ken Boylan and Reliable Automotive Equipment (RAE) President Dave Gruskos.
Schulenburg began by focusing on training.
“What are some things shops should be considering as they’re looking at updating equipment, making sure they understand how it works and how to use it?” he asked the panel.
Safety, Marks explained, is one of the things that is toughest to get people excited about. “I think we always have to struggle just to keep up with very basic things like eye protection, wearing respirators, and things that should be accepted and owned by all.”
Marks added, “We need to not only be more careful about how we protect ourselves, but how we protect vehicles.”
The discussion flowed into how safety and quality interrelate with one another.
Chief’s Boylan expressed his concerns over the art of quality control. “We need to get better at what we’re doing.”
Gruskos of RAE agreed, explaining that “our whole industry has a challenge like we’ve never seen before, especially when you look at the demand the consumer now puts on us.”
Boylan then discussed the increasing use of aluminum and the specific temperature range at which it should be heated and the fact that it absorbs twice the force of steel.
“A little ding in the past has now become a replacement, per manufacturer’s instructions,” he said.
Mark Allen, workshop equipment specialist at Audi of America, took exception to Boylan’s general statement about heating aluminum and clarified that Audi does not recommend heating or pulling aluminum. He pointed out that both methods will cause cracks and cannot be used on “aerospace aluminum.”
“If you have a question, pick up the phone and call the manufacturer,” Allen pleaded to the collision repairers in the room.
When the question of how to keep a shop clean and ready for vehicles constructed of a variety of substrates came up, there were more than enough suggestions from the panelists.
Marks said shops should get in the habit of blowing everything off and using their vacuums more, so residue and dust don’t collect.
“Have all the right equipment in the area – dedicated equipment so you don’t have concerns over contamination,” Gruskos said. “With mixed material vehicles, you really can’t have a lot of dust lying around.”
In regards to the equipment, Gruskos added, “Shops should be forced to use their fancy equipment. They bought this stuff and they don’t use it. Your toolbox isn’t a trophy, it is there to be used.”
Schulenburg then asked what the panelists thought the cars of the future will look like.
Gruskos believes in two years, the outer skin of cars will be 6000 series aluminum and will have boron inner pillars. The inner shell, he said, will be made of regular steel, while the front half will be aluminum.
“There will be a tremendous amount of riveting,” he said. “Skinning areas will be carbon fiber, and they’ll put in steel for the strength but carbon fiber for the lightness.”
Four to five years ahead, it will be all about nanotechnology, added Boylan. “Nano steels can reshape themselves to a blueprint.”