BMW April 2022

With 24 months behind us finally starting to dissipate, the industry has to start thinking about the next 13 years. Looking to the future, what might 2035 look like? So, where are we going? Future cars might be laden with telematics, microchips, sensors and other technologies to correctly identify what happens to it in a collision and produce data to prevent it from being repaired at a shop that isn’t adequately equipped or trained to take it on. This is one of the anticipated realities by the time this year’s babies are born and start practising for their driver’ tests.

With the industry rapidly approaching an era where damaged commercial vehicles will be “communication multiple times per millisecond”, about what they need to get back on the road, all industry stake holders, from repairers and insurers to parts dealers and other supply chain vendors, will have to either adapt quickly, or get along, or simply pack it in and get out. 

“If you do the right thing by the car – no matter what your stake holding is in the entire claim process – everybody comes out in a really good spot. But we tend to divert ourselves a great deal on the route to doing the right thing. We have engineering issues, and we’re trying to solve them using economic solutions.

“That hasn’t worked. That’s why we are fragmented and somewhat disorganised as an industry. “This ‘fragmented’ mindset could lead the industry to see shops that are currently taking in as many different makes and models as possible to keep the lights on – whether they have the proper training and equipment or not – close their businesses in darkness by 2035. We’ll end up with licensed shops that are capable only of repairing certain types of vehicles. This mainstream practise of ‘bring it all in on Monday, and we’ll shove it all out by Friday’ will be a thing of the past.

“The data will know exactly what shop is capable of repairing what vehicle, and it will simply just not allow the vehicle to go to an unlicensed shop that doesn’t have the license to repair Model A, Model B, Model C. That’s 13 years from now, but what about what will happen within just the next four?” 

Almost all of them will have ‘electric vehicles’ in the headlines. As just one example, General Motors has driven home its commitment to EVs in a widely covered announcement posted on its consumer-facing website stating that it ‘is on its way to an all-electric future,’ with a commitment to 30 new global electric vehicles by 2025.” 

While the fact that 2025 is really no time at all from where we are today, many automakers could have the capabilities to pull the trigger on these vehicles today. “By the time you’ve heard about something in the press, it is developed to pretty much the nth degree. “If that’s indeed the case, then owners and technicians alike need to grasp as much about OEM-recommended/required procedures for EVs as they can.” 

EV production is set to dramatically expand over the next few years, and this growth will lead even the most skilled auto body craftspeople out there to face fundamental changes in how they apply their talents. “Collision repairers better start focusing on fundamental things like braking systems, cooling systems and steering systems, because those will be radically different on an EV. Things that repairers have assumed for years that they know could be different on those vehicles. I can’t think of an OEM right now that’s not working on an electric platform or at least a mild hybrid.”

“While more automobiles will certainly be fully electric and loaded with even more telematics and ADAS features by 2035, the jury is still out on whether the vast majority of them will be completely self-driven as well. It is only a matter of time before existing issues are perfected and a safe and dependable autonomous vehicle becomes a staple of American roadways. 

“By 2035, it will be consumer choice whether you drive your car or have it drive you. That’s an inevitability; the capability of the vehicle is there now. The technology already exists; it’s about market acceptance.”

Why the industry isn’t ready

Although it’s clear that automotive technologies will only get more complex as time goes on, the collision repair community still needs to come to terms with the fact that it is largely trailing behind in meeting the demands that exist right now. 

“Even today, less than 60% of vehicles are being pre- and post-repair scanned. What’s even more shocking is that 12% of present-model vehicles are receiving a calibration after a repair. All of us in the room should be scared to death.” Here are some possible reasons for a technician’s lack of attention to those needed operations. “They’re not doing it because they think the vehicle doesn’t need it. Also, people in our industry sometimes choose not to do things because they’re not getting paid for it. For example, people don’t do test drives for this exact reason, which is crazy.” Additionally, there is a general unfamiliarity with ADAS as another cause for industrywide alarm. “If technicians don’t know what’s on the vehicle, then they don’t know what to do. Also, if we only have X percent of people using repair procedures on vehicles, then the rest don’t know what they’re doing. Thirdly, shops are concerned about not getting paid by insurers for calibrations. Insurance personnel on the local level have no clue about the complexity of vehicles.” 

Of course, current insurer-prompted cycle times – a concept that has gone from inconvenient to downright inconceivable – in light of modern and developing technology – is also driving the crisis.

“If you’re sending a vehicle out to the field for calibrations, it adds at least a day or two to cycle time. All of the things I’ve mentioned lead to improperly repaired vehicles being put back on the road.” This is especially worrisome when considering the OEMs’ dramatic shift in focus toward the development of new electric vehicles. “I don’t think our industry’s ready for them. There is a very small number of facilities that are qualified to repair EVs properly – and that’s the key word. Even with EVs taking centre stage in most inter-industry discussions, it will take a very long time – perhaps well beyond 2035 – to see the complete disappearance of combustion-engine transportation.

We have to open our eyes to how the accessibility of OEM repair procedures may change over the next decade-plus. He predicted that this information might end up “living with the vehicle” – attainable via cloud technology and identified through the sensors on the vehicles picking up on the damage. “To my mind, that just makes sense. If a vehicle needs to be repaired, why not connect the information related to the repair of the vehicle to the vehicle?” 

While such advancements are still a few years off, they could go a long way in eventually eliminating many of the logistical frustrations surrounding accessing OEM information in the here and now. “The industry has not made it easy for people to get access to easy-to-use repair procedures. Every manufacturer has a different use case for their repair procedures. 

In a world moving faster every day, 2035 will be here before we know it.

To remotely stay ahead of the changes to come you need to:  consider opening a calibration centre. There are 70 million ADAS-equipped vehicles on the road today. If you add 15 million new cars a year, that means we’ll have 130-plus million of those vehicles by 2025. That will end up being a billion-dollar business, and somebody has to be in it. 

Secondly, you need to play in the OEM certification sandbox, and thirdly whether you like it or not, you need to figure out how to play with virtual claims. Lastly, from a technology perspective, you’re either going to be in it with EVs or not. I think we’re going to eventually see stand-alone EV repair businesses.”  

The bottom line 

Now is not the time for anyone who calls the collision repair field their home to stay set in their old ways. These issues are only a fraction of the critical changes about to completely reshape how vehicles are manufactured and repaired.

 

By Joel Gausten