A Higher Standard

by David Ribeiro —

ARA and AIA sign a Memorandum of Understanding to create a common national certification standard for collision repair.

Canada is unique, eh? Besides our recognizable charm and global popularity, we also have a “git-r-done” mentality. (Urban Dictionary definition: the sudden urge of progress that makes men feel good, like we’re doing something)

The Automotive Retailers Association (ARA), recognizing this game changer, took steps in 2014 to begin developing certification programs.

Some have described certification as a “game changer,” and I would have to agree. Almost every vehicle manufacturer has developed or is in the process of developing a collision repair certification program for its brand(s). The Automotive Retailers Association (ARA), recognizing this game changer, took steps in 2014 to begin developing certification programs. Yes, “programs” — not just our Certified Collision Repair program but also programs (soon to be released) for towing, recycling, and mechanical repair, as well as the already implemented glass program (CAGS: Certified Auto Glass Service). Why? Our ARA vision statement says it all: “Driving Industry Excellence.” We saw a need to prepare industry to meet the ever-expanding requirements. We were determined to demonstrate to consumers, insurers, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), and suppliers that automotive facilities in British Columbia have the necessary infrastructure and training to transport, repair, and/or recycle modern vehicles accurately and safely. It is part of our “git-r-done” mentality.

Getting Together

In May 2016, the ARA and the Automotive Industries Association of Canada (AIA) began discussing the harmonization of the ARA’s Certified Collision Repair (CCR) program with the AIA's accreditation program. The CCR program was well along in its development, and the AIA was in the process of developing its program too. The fit made sense to everyone. However, at the time, the AIA had an executive member promoting another, US-based program while simultaneously looking to develop AIA’s own program. This created some concern and confusion, which resulted in the ARA opting to not synchronize at that time.

This approach recognizes that in some communities, it does not make financial sense to invest where there is no potential return on investment.

In September 2016, Canadian Collision Industry Forum (CCIF) requested that ARA, AIA, and Collision Care make presentations on their various certification/accreditation programs at CCIF Vancouver. I was pleased to be one of the guest speakers, as it provided an opportunity to showcase our Certified Collision Repair program. I was able to speak about the key factors that had led us to see the need for our brand of certification — a program developed by industry for industry. We wanted to gain recognition for the collision repair industry within British Columbia and distinguish those shops that met the highest standards. Our program was a bit different from the two others, as we were not trying to duplicate OEM certification. Rather, we concluded that we needed a sliding scale of certification. This approach recognizes that in some communities, it does not make financial sense to invest where there is no potential return on investment. Our program recognizes that shops in those circumstances are still able to provide quality repairs and are still properly trained, but that they are appropriately investing where the benefit is the greatest — hence our sliding scale to identify and promote those shops that have the greatest capabilities.

It is better to have the nonprofit industry organizations develop programs and then attract support from insurance companies and OEMs, rather than leave it to for-profit organizations to develop the programs.

Andrew Shepherd of AIA spoke of the national program that it was developing for OEM certification, the Canadian Collision Industry Accreditation Program (CCIAP). This program, which has similar requirements to the requirements of ARA’s CCR program, is national in design. Although it does not specify what its OEM certification will result in, it does have in common the desire to see the industry be identified as providing the best service.

The presentations must have struck a chord. Following the meeting, the Fix Auto banner group requested that we look into synchronizing our programs so that industry members could attain both certifications in B.C. without duplication of effort and costs.

Coming Together

On December 20, 2016, the ARA was pleased to announce that the presidents of the ARA and the AIA had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the organizations. The MOU set out the terms in respect to synchronization, recognition, and processing of applicants for both programs.

Ken McCormack, president of the ARA, summarized the MOU, stating, “By harmonizing our programs, B.C. collision shops that have businesses in other provinces can be assured that they are not being asked to perform to two different standards. It will be the same standard regardless of where their business is located in Canada. In addition, by certifying themselves under the ARA program, B.C. shops not only help support the activities of the ARA on their behalf in B.C., but also get recognized as belonging to the AIA program. The programs are the same, but the ARA program offers significant cost savings to its members.”

This is a great Canadian example of how two separate non-profit associations are able to work together for the overall benefit of the Canadian collision industry.

Profit and Non-Profit

The move by the associations to develop industry-led and self-determined programs is an opportunity to highlight the value of associations to shops, consumers, partners, and stakeholders. Some might argue that these certification programs are added costs to industry, but the reality is that for-profit organizations are developing certification programs as well. My personal belief is that it is better to have the non-profit industry organizations develop programs and then attract support from insurance companies and OEMs, rather than leave it to for-profit organizations to develop the programs.

For example, Rocco Neglia, vice president of claims at Economical Insurance, has made an announcement offering clear support for the CCIAP program. He stated, “We will require all of our collision repair facilities to work towards and become accredited through this independent non-profit organization.” We hope that Economical is the first of many insurance companies that will endorse CCIAP. In fact, we hope most, if not all, insurance companies will eventually, endorse and support the program. In doing so, they will also be endorsing the ARA’s CCR program.

Ontario on Board

These Canadian-made programs are helping the Canadian industry set national standards for collision repair services. The ARA is pleased that the direction it set in 2014 seems to be resonating with other associations. The most recent example is the RoadTrust program announced by Collision Industry Information Assistance (CIIA) in Ontario. The CIIA is not new to accreditation programs, having had a program in place since 1988. But CIIA reached out to the ARA for the content of our program, and the organization has confirmed it is looking to add its support through an MOU with AIA and ARA. CIIA Executive Director John Norris is looking to build-in further refinements and assurances that industry is acting appropriately by following OEM requirements around tool use and recommended repair procedures. Through these partnerships, we have been able to see the ARA, AIA, and CIIA programs further refined — to the benefit of our members and our stakeholders.

These Canadian-made programs are helping the Canadian industry set national standards for collision repair services.

Benefits

The ARA and the AIA have been independently promoting the synchronization of our programs. In B.C., the ARA will further expand its efforts to include a re-release of the CCR program with updated materials to better articulate the added benefits. B.C. members will:

  • receive a substantial discount for joining a program with national scope
  • gain third-party recognition, join the top tier of collision repair facilities, and be identified with the best (Silver, Gold, and Gold Plus recognition)
  • be able to measure their facility’s standards against those required of major auto manufacturer certified collision repair networks
  • have their company promoted as one of the best businesses in B.C. — on the ARA and AIA websites and through other promotional efforts by the ARA
  • be able to demonstrate to their customers that they have the skills and equipment to repair the newest vehicles

B.C. collision repair shops are encouraged to contact me (davidribeiro@ara.bc.ca) to begin the process of becoming certified and demonstrating their leadership position in the B.C. collision repair marketplace. Those outside B.C. should contact their provincial association or CCIAP. This is a great opportunity for shops to step up and be recognized among the best in Canada.

 

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This article originally appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of Collision Quarterly.

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