Canadian Underwriter

How a new breed of car repair technician can drive down insurers’ repair costs

February 21, 2018   by Jason Contant

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Newer technology in vehicles is creating the need for a different skill set in collision repair facilities, something that could ultimately affect vehicle repair times for insurers.

“This technology that is in the car now from a safety perspective brings in a new skill set that really doesn’t exist in the industry today, which is an electromechanical diagnostic capability,” said Jerry Gastineau, content manager with Mitchell International’s editorial department. “The veteran technicians in the industry today really don’t have any exposure to that type of job requirement.”

This new job would involve diagnosing and restoring all the technology in the car, whether it is safety systems, in-car entertainment or infortainment systems, so that it goes back to the vehicle owner in its original specifications. “All that’s going to take skill sets that don’t all exist today and information, while it exists today, isn’t commonly utilized by the repair facility,” Gastineau said.

The time required for those in the collision repair industry to spend researching these new diagnostic techniques could negatively affect vehicle repair times.

Gastineau predicts that there will also be an increase in the importance of information for everybody in the shop, from the person who intakes that car, who will need some new processes, to the sheet metal technician that’s replacing damaged components. “He’s going to need access to collision repair information, so he knows how this car needs to be repaired for this damage,” Gastineau said of the latter technician. “He can no longer rely on the ones he’s done in the past, he’s got to know for this car.”

Even when the vehicle moves into the paint shop, the complicated finishes on vehicles today may require the paint technician to reference a unique step-by-step procedure for the actual colour he’s working on, Gastineau said. “We’re seeing this more and more as these glamour colours become more and more prominent on mainstream vehicles.”

Traditionally, there would be a body repair technician who would replace panels and perhaps weld, for example, and a refinishing technician. “Two different skills sets; two different career paths in the industry.”

While it’s too early to map out this new career path, “I think eventually we will be able to train to it,” Gastineau said. “But until then, we need a toolbox with some new tools and we need a technician who’s savvy enough – someone with an understanding of technology, and who can follow procedures step-by-step that are specific to each system on each car – in order to successfully restore that car to its safe operating condition.”