October 5, 2020 by Adam Malik
A push to require Ontario collision repair shops to meet minimum standards when repairing vehicles is expected to even out the playing field, make the claims process run more smoothly, help client satisfaction, make roads safer, and potentially bring down auto insurance premiums.
Canadian Underwriter talked about these projected benefits of certification with J.F. Champagne, the head of the Automotive Industries Association of Canada (AIA Canada).
Champagne said the main issue is not establishing a system that can bring in all of these benefits. In fact, AIA Canada has already established similar programs in the past, notably the Canadian Collision Industry Accreditation Program two years ago. The challenge is to make the turn from a voluntary program to a required certification program.
“We already live in an environment in which we do have a wide range of certification programs,” Champagne told Canadian Underwriter. “As the technology in the vehicle dramatically changes, how you fix a car today is rapidly changing and will continue to change. I always use the example of a bumper that, a few years ago, was a piece of metal that could be fixed with a hammer. Nowadays, it’s a piece of plastic with a wide range of sensors…that requires reformatting, calibrations and re-connections to the central computer of the car.”
Hence the need for a required certification program, which would create a baseline of mandatory training for technicians, as well as tools and business processes for the shop.
“We need to make sure the people fixing the cars are using the right tools, the right training, the right business process to, again, maintain consumer confidence in making sure they’re fixing the car right the first time,” Champagne said.
One ongoing issue is that vehicles aren’t being fixed properly the first time around, thus requiring additional repairs and increasing cost claims for insurance companies. Also, safety concerns arise if a client is driving around in a vehicle that isn’t properly repaired, as pointed out by Ryan Stein, executive director of auto insurance policy and innovation at Insurance Bureau of Canada.
Required certification is about making sure drivers involved in collisions have confidence that their vehicles are repaired safely, and that consumers can get back to using their repaired vehicles as quickly as possible after a collision, Stein told Canadian Underwriter.
Stein said he has confidence that AIA Canada can deliver a program that will help, noting that the group’s programs are well-respected. IBC would support AIA Canada in administering a mandatory system.
“But because it’s a joint customer, it would make sense that whoever would end up administering a certification program does engage the insurance industry to get their feedback on not only how the program works but also how the program is administered and how it’s going,” Stein said. “I think that would benefit the customer.”
Neither Stein nor Champagne could estimate exactly when the system would be in place, mainly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“All of these efforts really took a backseat once COVID started,” Champagne said, adding he expects continued communication and engagement on the topic to continue through the fall.
“But our understanding is that this remains a high-priority file for the government. We feel there’s a high likelihood that the current government will want to look at the auto insurance file in the foreseeable future. We’re confident that shop certification will be a component of that policy.”
Feature image by iStock.com/anyaberkut