Smash repair budgets and stakeholders

The number of compromised collision repaired vehicles on public roads has grown rapidly since the 1970’s into what IVIC considers are now at pandemic proportions. An insight as to how this problem has developed is to understand how the motor vehicle insurance claims management and collision repair process which has not altered significanty for the past thirty (30) years.

Insurance companies, whose first responsibility is to their shareholders, primarily control the quality of repairs undertaken by the motor vehicle repair industry in Australia. They are largely responsible for creating and continuing to fuel this crisis.

Whilst insurers will argue adamantly ’damaged vehicles are repaired to a standard, not a price’ there seems to be a disparity between the claim and the truth. Many aggrieved insured have challenged this untrue declaration and numerous newspaper and television current affairs programs have also chronicled the shortcomings of conventional automotive repair practices and the subsequent repair budgets which ultimately deliver culpable deficiencies in quality and safety.

Insurers insist on holding the repair budget purse strings which allows them to govern the price of vehicle repairs. Having control over the chequebook restrains the smash repairer from quoting for an adequate repair budget or to deliver a collision-damaged vehicle to its ‘pre accident condition’ which is in many cases the insurer’s guarantee of quality to their clients.

Approximately eighty percent (80%) of the smash repair industry relies on insurance directed repair work as their main source of revenue. For that privilege repairers are required to accept and conform to the insurance industry benchmarks which to the smash repair industry are inequitable.

In the majority of instances smash repairers are required to tender for insurance controlled repair work. However to exploit the tender process, Insurer’s run additional ‘Dutch Auctions’ where the lowest original quote attained is again offered to an alternate group of repairers so they can quote to further beat the initial quote to win the repair business. (This is known in the industry as the ‘Bull Ring’)

Such behaviour has led to ‘quote fixing’ and consequently causes intense price completion amongst smash repairs as they fight between themselves to win more work by producing the cheapest repair quote.

Unfortunately this over the years has shamefully misled the smash repair industry into believing this scheme of quoting is an acceptable practice and in most instances, the only avenue the repairer has to deliver a collision-repaired vehicle within budget is to off set quality by cuting corners and compromise on safety. 

To achieve this, the following methods are adopted:

-    Reduction in labour,
-    Reduction in quality,
-    Use of substandard and non-genuine replacement parts and equipment,
-    Use of ‘bog filler’ to fill and disguise holes in structural components instead of replacing components.
-    Use of ‘extreme heat’ to stretch and bend metal chassis, rails and other structural components into shape rather than replacing those items.

 A critical metallurgical fact

The application of ‘heat’ to metal will always compromise, weaken and distort the tensile properties of metal. Heat should NEVER be applied to stretch or bend chassis or structural rails, particularly near vehicle safety ‘crumple zones’. These components should be replaced to preserve the structural integrity of the motor vehicle.

Rather than replacing damaged chassis rails or safety components, smash repairers habitually use heat to assist with the straightening or stretching of components only to keep costs down to maximise their profits.

Note the extreme heat applied to the crumple zones and chassis rails in the two images.

Chassis rails are critical components of safe structural integrity of a motor vehicle.
Heat significantly weakens and compromises the tensile strength of steel and subsequently should NEVER be applied to structural components. These areas are later disguised with primer and painted and to the untrained eye, it appears these components have been replaced with new parts.

These chassis rails now are significantly compromised and very dangerous. If this vehicle is involved in another collision, laboratory results conclude a high probability exists that the occupants may sustain sever injuries or be killed. 

However the smash repair industry continually practices this dangerous method of repair under the guise of being part of the acceptable ‘Industry Standard’

If you own a collision repaired vehicle, ensure you obtain an IVIC ‘Structural Tolerance Report’ on your vehicle immediately.