OEMs offering help for collision repairs in many ways

By John Yoswick

A West coast shop owner smiled as he watched a 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe being towed into the shop with not insignificant front-end damage.

“Just 10 minutes ago I was reading a GM article on full-frame sectioning steps,” the shop owner said, pointing to his desk where the winter issue of GM’s “Repair Insights” (https://gmrepairinsights.com/insights-magazine/) was on his computer screen. “We’d be looking up the procedures before we started the job anyway, but the article offered a good summary of the process and some helpful graphics.”

General Motors isn’t the lone automaker regularly publishing a periodical aimed at collision repairers. Shops can also sign up to receive Toyota’s “Collision Pros” magazine (https://www.toyotapartsandservice.com/collision-pros-magazine), or Ford’s “On Target” (https://fordcrashparts.com/on-target/).

  The magazines are just a part of a growing trend over the past decade of automakers paying a lot more attention to collision repair than they had previously. Body shops have significantly more access to OEM information and help, often not limited to just those that have earned an automaker’s certification. Here are some ways to tap into the training, tips and tools from the car companies.

Central site for information

For the most complete and current information from the automakers, a good first stop is www.OEM1stop.com. The site was created by a coalition of automakers primarily as a quick way for users to connect to each car company’s information pages. But there’s also a lot of helpful items right there at the site.

Need Hyundai’s position statement on vehicle scanning or clear coat blending? Fiat Chrysler’s position statement saying it does not have an “opt-OE” or “OE surplus” parts program, and does not recognize or approve of the sale or use of any such part? A video showing how to navigate Nissan service manuals? Or justification for using an OEM replacement windshield on a Subaru that includes the automaker’s EyeSight system? All of those are just the start of what’s available at OEM1stop.com

OEM-specific training

For many years, I-CAR prided itself on offering training that was “agnostic,” to help ensure the industry understood repair methodologies that were applicable on a wide variety of makes and models of vehicles.

As vehicle technology, training delivery options and automaker interest in collision repair have evolved, however, I-CAR increasingly offers training that is manufacturer-specific — sometimes even focused on a particular OEM model.

Visit the I-CAR website to find out about its online training for the aluminum body and structural repair for the 2018 Ford Expedition, for example, or much of the training required to become Honda certified.

The automakers themselves continue to open new training centers and hands-on classes, often open to independent shops as well as dealerships.

Nissan this year launched hands-on calibration training at a 30,000-square-foot facility in Jacksonville, Fla. Over two days, technicians work in pairs to diagnose and resolve Nissan and Infiniti vehicles that have been “bugged” with an ADAS problem. After those five calibrations, each technician must complete three more on their own to pass the class.

Nissan said the class teaches the same calibration processes taught to dealership service technicians, but the training focuses more on what collision techs encounter when working on Nissan and Infiniti vehicles after an accident. It includes what shops need to know about paint thickness over sensors, for example, and calibration issues related to the unibody alignment and specs.

The course is currently open only to technicians from Nissan and Infiniti certified collision centers, but Nissan is working to make it more broadly available. Shops can get more information or get placed on a waitlist for the training by emailing Nissan (NNACollisionRepairNetwork@nissan-usa.com).

Reach the OEMs through intermediaries

There are also some indirect links to automaker help available. Scott Kaboos, chief collision repair instructor for American Honda, said a shop that is unable to locate needed OEM information can contact “Ask I-CAR” (if they are a Gold Class shop) (https://rts.i-car.com/ask-i-car.html) or VeriFacts Automotive (if they are a VeriFacts Medallion shop) (888-999-9320). Those organizations may be able to locate the needed information, and if not, have contacts at the automakers they can reach out to.

Tips on Honda resources

Kaboos also has a tip for shops concerned about whether Honda repair procedures are “recommended” or “required,” sometimes a friction point in the industry. He said shops should rely on the actual procedures rather than automaker position statements.

“The position statement is just to guide you to the repair information,” Kaboos said. “If you pull up our service information, it doesn’t say ‘require’ or ‘recommend.’ It is just our repair procedures, simply how we designed the car to be repaired if it is in a collision. If you’re using just the position statement, you may get into that semantic argument with an insurance company. If you’re using the actual repair procedures, that’s no longer part of the conversation.”

Kaboos pointed to a number of other resources Honda offers. One of the company’s websites (https://www.hondatechtutor.com/) aimed at owners of its vehicles offers model-specific videos that can help drivers or technicians understand how lane-keep assist and other such systems operate.

 “This is a cool resource,” Kaboos said. “If a customer picks up a vehicle from you and says, ‘Something’s not the same, something’s working differently,’ you can go on here and see how that system is supposed to work, and work with the customer to get that car back to the settings that they had before, so it functions the same way.”

At another Honda owners’ website (https://owners.honda.com/), shops can download vehicle owner’s manuals or check vehicle recall information. 

Toyota widens door to shop certification

Eric Mendoza, collision operations manager for Toyota Motor North America, said his company welcomes input about missing or unclear information in its technical information website (https://techinfo.toyota.com). Users can click a symbol (with a green “+” sign) in the upper right corner of each page of the site to submit feedback.

He cited an example of a question submitted by a shop relative to positioning a bracket for a blind-spot monitor.

“On some of our quarter panels, you order the panel and the bracket comes attached to it,” Mendoza said. “On some of them, you order the panel and the bracket does not come attached. You have to get the bracket separately and weld it in place. Originally when those two parts started to come out separately, we didn’t have a specification in the repair manual to show the location for the bracket. This is an example where user feedback turned into specifications within the repair manual.”

A change last year to the Toyota Certified Collision Center program also may give independent collision repairers one way they can earn the certification now limited primarily to dealership shops.

“We’ve lowered the legal entity ownership requirement for the program,” Mendoza said. “Previously, a collision center had to be at least 51 percent owned by the Toyota dealer legal entity. We officially lowered that to down to 15 percent. We want to broaden the net for dealers who are invested in collision businesses.”

The change opens the door to a shop that may be largely owned by someone else — such as a relative of a dealer or even just an existing shop owner — as long as a dealer has at least a stake in the business.

“The key there is that the dealer is invested in the collision center business,” Mendoza said. “Whether that accident results in a repair, or results in a total loss, a dealer with an investment in, and understanding of, the collision business, can make sure the collision center delivers a good repair experience on the brand’s behalf.”

Any such shop needs to be within the “primary marketing area” of the dealership, and though it wouldn’t have to go by the dealership’s name, it would have to follow Toyota’s branding standards, including those relative to Toyota exterior signage. 

Websites and more websites

Hyundai, which has long been criticized within the industry for the dearth of collision repair information it provides U.S. shops, last year begun adding body repair manuals for some of its 2019 and 2020 models to its information website (https://www.hyundaitechinfo.com/).

In addition to Subaru’s technical information system (https://techinfo.subaru.com), shops may find the Subaru owners’ website (https://www.subaru.com/owners/index.html) useful for accessing vehicle owner’s manuals, as well as its “Service Solutions” website (https://subaru.service-solutions.com) for accessing Subaru-specific tools.

Some Fiat Chrysler websites that collision shops might find helpful are Mopar Essential Tools (https://www.moparessentialtools.com/), where shops can order FCA-specific tools, such as those needed to support ADAS features; Mopar.com, where vehicle owners’ manuals are available (just as they are through TechAuthority); and Mopar Repair Connection (https://www.moparrepairconnect.com/), which includes videos and documents highlighting (for shops or consumers) some of the potential distinctions between FCA parts and non-OEM versions, such as corrosion resistance and dimensional differences.

Trainer Mike Anderson of Collision Advice is an advocate for putting such OEM information aimed at consumers to use within your shop. Shops working to get paid for the additional materials for three-stage and four-stage refinishes, for example, might want to check online for sales literature from the vehicle manufacturer related to that vehicle.

“I’ve found Honda and Toyota brochures, for example, that clearly show that new-car buyers who choose vehicles with certain colors pay a premium for those finishes,” Anderson said, an indication that “it takes more to refinish those vehicles.”  •

John Yoswick, a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore., who has been writing about the automotive industry since 1988, is also the editor of the weekly CRASH Network bulletin (www.CrashNetwork.com). He can be contacted by email at john@CrashNetwork.com.