Viewpoint: A Call to Arms - BodyShop Business

Viewpoint: A Call to Arms

Shop owners need to stand up and make an effort to take back control of their businesses.

As many in our industry are now aware, the Mississippi Collision Repair Association has initiated an attempt to legally block PartsTrader from entering our market, viewing it as an unprecedented and illegal intrusion into the collision repair industry. The shop owners who have signed their names to this campaign, or may in the future, are holding themselves up for the world to see and are taking risks many have been unwilling to take – not just to benefit themselves, but for the general welfare of our industry. The road we have before us promises to be a long one with lots of twists, turns and obstacles along the way.

Everyone’s a Critic
It has been disappointing, to say the least, that news of this effort has been met with criticism by some in our industry who hide protected in the closet of anonymity that screen names provide and hurl insults and unfounded accusations through the crack in the door. Those who engage in this behavior should con-sider doing one of three things:

  1. Take credit for their remarks, using their real names, and list all the contributions they have made that have benefitted the industry so that we understand the credentials that qualify them to insult and vilify others.
  2. Publicly pledge, once again using their real names, to never take advantage of any benefits to our industry that may be realized as a result of the hard work and risks taken by those joining this effort.
  3. Stand down and allow others to try to slay this dragon without helping the dragon. The fact that some parties to this lawsuit currently participate in DRP programs certainly doesn’t justify the verbal assault against an issue that so urgently needs to be addressed – and it certainly doesn’t negate the fact that PartsTrader has to be stopped.

Root of All Evil?
It’s simplistic to believe that the DRPs that have pervaded our industry are the root of all the evil and that their abolishment would solve all our problems. DRPs are just one of a long line of control mechanisms that have been inflicted upon us by the insurance industry for decades and are not the sole cause of all our current problems. Our industry had profound problems long before DRP controls were put in place. Remember the 1963 Consent Decree? There were no DRPs then, but insurer intrusion and illegal business practices that had gone on for decades became so egregious that the U.S. attorney general had to step in and restore order. That didn’t just happen; brave men and women set that in motion, too.

Many shop owners initially adopted the DRP approach to doing business, not out of greed but as an alternative to the delays in the repair process due to insurer meddling and incompetence in establishing a streamlined approach to repairs. It was a short-sighted way to get insurance companies out of our day-to-day business. Without having to face delay after delay and waiting for the insurers to approve the addition of parts or procedures to the seriously deficient repair estimates (many times prepared by them), cycle times improved dramatically and we were able to process more repairs because we had more control of the process.

“We don’t pay for that,” “It’s included” and “You’re the only one” were already facts of life. In retrospect, we can see that the DRP business model has morphed by design into what we now have: just another way to take us to the edge of the precipice, where we currently find ourselves. There is little question that the DRP business model should be abandoned, but we’re now facing a much more pressing issue in the form of a mandated parts procurement program that threatens our very existence as independent small businesses.

To believe that simply removing one’s business from a DRP list will result in PartsTrader withering and dying from lack of interest is incredibly naïve.

Pay attention to what our friends in other countries such as Australia and New Zealand, where PartsTrader has been in place for several years, are saying. Like the cancer it is, PartsTrader will be much easier to stop before it spreads any further.

Pay attention to what the businesses in the “test” markets are telling us. The program provides none of the benefits claimed and is an administrative nightmare. Reports are already coming in that other insurance companies are adopting their own parts procurement programs and imposing the prices and sources for parts procured through the use of such a program on those who have no DRP agreements. In short, it’s coming to you, whether you want it or not. Doing nothing to stop it ensures that it will eventually be just another part of the way we’re forced to conduct business.

Take a Stand
Have the courage to stand with those who realize they must fight back, and at least make an attempt to take back control of your business. Insurance executives in boardrooms across the country must be laughing, comforted in what has become an all too predictable reaction from the collision repair industry. When they attack us, we respond by attacking each other. Think about disappointing them this time by taking a stand against an industry that has had their foot on our neck for far too long. This could be your last chance.

Bill Fowler has owned Bill Fowler’s Bodyworks in Southaven, Miss., since 1997. His collision career began in 1968 building funny cars and repairing Corvettes. He can be reached at [email protected].

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