Industry Seemingly Wary On SEMA Attendance Amid COVID-19

A survey run by US industry website CollisionWeek targeted at collision repair industry stakeholders and asking them whether they think they will participate in the SEMA Show later this year has discovered that a majority are likely not to go.

The survey, conducted from 30 June to 6 July, also included questions about the many meetings and training opportunities surrounding the November event in Las Vegas. The number of submissions and valid responses was not disclosed.

According to CollisionWeek, 29 per cent of respondents said that they would definitely not participate in the SEMA Show this year, while an additional 24 per cent indicated they would “not likely” participate. Combining the two numbers, 53 per cent of respondents are uncomfortable about attending the SEMA Show in November.

9.7 per cent of respondents said they would definitely attend and 10 per cent indicated they were likely to attend, meaning 19.7 per cent overall are leaning towards attending. 27.3 per cent said they were currently undecided.

Respondents who said they were definitely or likely not to attend were asked to rank their concerns and issues that led to their conclusion. 59.8 per cent said safety due to the pandemic was their number one concern, while 23.3 per cent said company travel restrictions and exhibition plans were their biggest concern. Others also cited cancellations of other meetings surrounding SEMA, along with economic factors facing their business and possible lower attendance for the event as reasons for concern.

Another common issue mentioned was concerns about government travel quarantine requirements that might be in place that could impact participants on their return to their home community. Both participants based in other US states and international participants said they were concerned about uncertainty on the need to quarantine after returning from the SEMA Show as a factor affecting their decision to participate.

Several US states have 14-day quarantines for travellers from other states considered COVID-19 hot spots or that have incidence of positive coronavirus tests above a specific percentage of the population.

Many international trade shows and events originally scheduled for this year have either been rescheduled for 2021 or brought online, while others have been cancelled altogether. However, the SEMA Show has continued to plan for its 2020 event amid the backdrop of increased coronavirus cases across many states in the USA, especially Nevada, California and Texas.

Ezi-Methods Reaches Two Million Downloads

Ezi-Methods has reached the milestone of having its methods downloaded two million times, achieving it in March right before the COVID-19 lockdown was imposed. Dan Dillon, training co-ordinator at Gemini Accident Repairs, was the lucky one to download the landmark procedure.

While the number of downloads decreased over the weeks that followed, a further 170,000 have now been downloaded since Dillon reached the milestone. Dillon was presented with £250 vouchers and a bottle of champagne to celebrate the achievement.

“The speed in which we have recorded our two millionth download just two years after reaching our first million is a testament to the pace and faith in which the industry is adopting our services,” said Ben Cardy, Commercial Director for Ezi-Methods.

Ezi-Methods says it offers over 44,000 repair methods spanning 57 vehicle brands and 944 models encompassing 1330 body styles, statistics which evolve and increase on a daily basis as the company continues to add to its library.

“Gemini is leading the industry with its drive to develop multi-skilled apprentices which I am privileged to oversee,” said Dillon. “As our more experienced repairers use Ezi-Methods, I turn to the company on an almost daily basis to ensure our apprentices, whether they’re new to our business or coming to the end of their programmes, follow the correct repair methods as specified to meet the latest industry requirements. You also have the added advantage of having the Ezi-Methods team instantly at the end of a phone if ever there’s a query.

“To say I’m delighted to receive the gift is an understatement – I never thought for a second I was downloading the two millionth repair method. I just downloaded for what I needed as I do most days. All I can say is thank you.”

Axalta 2020 Training Courses Resume

Axalta has announced that its training sessions will resume in most states, with new dates now available for registration. Sessions had previously been paused, with online training videos bridging the gap during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Axalta says it has two types of face-to-face training, with each course run by experts in the field. For refinishers, product training is offered to expand knowledge and skills, helping to improve capability, productivity and performance. With technology evolving and new products constantly being introduced, the company stresses the importance of this training.

For body shop owners, Axalta Services offers training courses focusing on Pre-Lean, Lean Foundations and Paint Optimisation. Axalta’s training alliance with I-CAR also means that participants who complete any of the Axalta Services courses will be awarded credit that can be applied towards the I-CAR Gold Class Professionals, Platinum Individual designations, or be used to meet role-relevant annual training requirements. Each credit point earned will be submitted to I-CAR and recorded on the personal training record.

“Our trainers and training centres are ready to go,” said Paul Polverino, Axalta Training Manager for Australia and New Zealand. “The past few months have been challenging for a lot of people and it will be great to give attendees a refresher and a boost as we head into a recovery state from COVID-19.  Technology is moving quickly and keeping abreast of the latest processes and products, like Axalta’s patented fast-cure, low-energy system, is crucial if you want to remain ahead of the game at this time.”

The company says that all sessions will be following government advice in relation to class sizes and strict social distancing protocols. Due to the current situation with COVID-19 in Victoria, training dates have not yet been announced there, but Axalta is continuing to monitor the situation and will announce training dates when possible.

Suncorp Launches Image Upload Functionality

Suncorp has released its Customer Vehicle Image Capture (CVIC) technology, allowing its customers to upload images of their damaged vehicle through a secure link using their smartphone.

Submitted images are immediately accessible by the allocated repairer who can view the damage, plan out the repair process and, in some cases, pre-order required parts prior to the vehicle arriving on-site, leading to increased efficiencies and faster repair times.

“Suncorp continues to embrace technology and has recently fast-tracked a number of digital solutions to ensure insurance claims continue to be resolved quickly, and CVIC is just the latest,” said Anna Cartwright, Head of Motor Claims, Suncorp. “We’re incredibly excited about the initiative and hope to continue exceeding our customers’ expectations through an improved repair experience into the future.”

Suncorp says its other digital solutions designed to enhance the customer claims experience include increasing online chat capabilities, extending online claims functionality and offering virtual claims assessment for commercial and consumer properties.

Solera Announces Full AI Vehicle Claims Platform

Solera Holdings has introduced the latest iteration of Qapter, the company’s automotive claims workflow solution which is powered by artificial intelligence (AI). Solera says its AI technology provides a globally available end-to-end solution for full digitalisation of the modern claims workflow.

The company says its AI has the capability to detect damaged parts, determine the type and severity of damage, define appropriate vehicle manufacturer repair operations and create an estimate based on those operations. Automation tools improve the process of triage claims workflow, speed up reviews of damage photos, rapidly improve identification of total loss vehicles, and support identification of the next best action for repairable vehicles. These capabilities all save time, speed up the claims process and shorten the lifecycle of a claim for insurers, body repair centres, assessors and vehicle owners.

Solera says it is combining its repair science technology with over 300 million historical claims, one billion historical images and enhanced machine learning algorithms to drive efficiency and increase accuracy. The approach is intended to provide superior accuracy and performance compared to rudimentary standalone AI image recognition point solutions.

“Implementing AI will drive huge efficiency gains, but above all, the extent of such gains are determined by accuracy,” said Darko Dejanovic, CEO of Solera. “This accuracy depends on the quality, not just the quantity, of the data and images that are used to train the algorithms, as well as the supporting historical damage estimate. This historical data more thoroughly trains the algorithms, not simply on the repair itself, but also on the broader context of the damage.

“With leading claims platforms currently available throughout North America, Europe, Latin America and Asia Pacific, we are excited to provide even more value to our customers by making current platforms ‘smarter’ through the use of AI and supporting a seamless transition from existing solutions to the new platform. We’ll be working closely with our customers to deliver this functionality over the coming months and provide regular releases across markets.”

Fix Auto Sunshine, Northern Beaches Rebrand, Reopen

Fix Auto Australia has seen two of its newest franchisees fully rebrand and open for business again despite the challenges of operating during COVID-19.

The company says Fix Auto Sunshine, located in Melbourne, Victoria, and Fix Auto Northern Beaches, located in Cromer NSW, have both undertaken significant rebranding programmes for their locations to ensure they can continue to deliver the highest levels of service to their customers, while aligning with the requirements of the world’s largest independent repair network.

Fix Auto Sunshine.

Both locations received extensive work to the interior and exterior of the shops, with special attention paid to customer waiting areas for increased comfort. There’s also a dedicated waiting area, refreshments and Wi-Fi for customers who are dropping off or collecting their vehicle. The franchisees also included allocated customer parking and dedicated vehicle appraisal spaces to make things easier and safer with social distancing.

“We have always had great road presence with our location and have held this prominent position for 54 years,” said John Gebing, Director and Owner of Fix Auto Sunshine. “Being able to transform our business with such a striking brand identity has been an exciting experience for us. You can imagine, after 54 years in one place, people notice when you make a change of this scale. We have also taken the opportunity to rethink the flow of customers through our shop and reconfigured the space to put the customer first and make their experience with us a truly enjoyable one. Everyone loves the new look, from customers to staff. It is just another example of how joining the network has revitalised our business.”

From left: John and Nicole Gebing.

“We have always delivered fantastic service here, but have revelled in the opportunity to upgrade and rebrand our location to create the visual impact that reflects the professionalism and customer care we deliver daily,” said Jason Walsh, Director of Fix Auto Northern Beaches. “The feedback from customers is already very positive. We are really happy with the transformation overall.”

Jason Walsh.

“The rebranding of a location is the first big change we undertake with our franchise partners,” said Stuart Faid, Head of Fix Network Australia. “It is an opportunity for them to reinvent themselves under our banner. They get to take a fresh look at how they use their site, how they handle customers and process work efficiently, make changes if needed, with our support and guidance along the way. Without a doubt, it is an invigorating experience for all involved and it is a real joy to see the passion to do great things return to a site once it is rebranded and ready to open its doors under its new identity.”

WIN Announces Cornerstone Award Winners

The Women’s Industry Network (WIN) has presented its annual Cornerstone Award to Michelle Sullivan and Jenny Anderson. The organisation says the award is given to WIN board members who demonstrate remarkable commitment to its vision and set an example that others can follow.

A strong advocate of WIN and a past WIN Chair, Sullivan increased membership during her tenure and has been a mentor to many women. WIN says during the last year she worked to redefine sponsor opportunities and benefits, served on the WIN Executive Committee in various roles and served in a leadership capacity on many committees, including membership and sponsorship.

Anderson, who serves as Vice Chair on the WIN Executive Committee, selected and implemented a new WIN membership database and website. The organisation says she devotes endless hours working on the marketing initiatives of WIN, has served in many roles on the Executive Committee, co-chairs the marketing committee and is involved with the Most Influential Woman award committee.

“This award provides a way in which we can say ‘thank you’ to those board members who make a lasting impression on WIN,” said Cheryl Boswell, Chair of WIN. “Michelle and Jenny’s actions and contributions have created a great example for future board members and leaders in our organisation and we are so lucky that they are a part of WIN.”

Plastfix Celebrates Five-Year Anniversary

Plastfix, a company specialising in automotive plastic waste management and plastic car parts restoration in the collision repair industry, is celebrating five years in operation this week.

Since its inception, Plastfix said it has diverted 740 tonnes of plastic parts from general waste, created 54 jobs, processed over 200,000 plastic parts and prevented over 1400 tonnes of carbon emissions. The company says the achievement would not have been possible without the support of its key partners – AMA Group, Capital S.M.A.R.T and Bridgepoint Group.

Plastfix said it has moved from strength to strength developing its filler-free plastic restoration process, running a paper-free business model via its cloud and mobile based applications, designing and developing its own speciality hand tools and creating 3D printing material and systems for the repair of headlight tabs.

“It has been a wonderful journey to date – we have the privilege of working with one of the world’s most advanced collision repair brands [in] AMA Group and Capital S.M.A.R.T,” said Mario Dimovski, CEO of Plastfix. “Driven by the demand of our client base, Plastfix holds a strong focus on advancing technologies and innovation in plastic restoration and waste management. I am confident to say we are an industry leader in our space.

“I am very proud and grateful for the Plastfix team, from our on-field technicians, administrators to management who all play a pivotal role in shaping our culture, services and company values. It is a great feeling when you can say we enjoy a staff retention rate of over 90 per cent. With the COVID-19 situation behind us we have had an increase in down-time that has allowed us to plan and reassess our business offerings.

“We have some very exciting developments in progress such as our digital training collaboration with I-CAR and the launch of our EU-based 3D Collision Lab that will focus on the development and manufacturing of automotive repair grade 3D printers, parts and tools.”

The company said it recently began its recruitment drive, with more than a dozen positions open across most states around Australia to support key clients, with plans to triple its work volume and team in the next 24 months. It is also working closely with Tradiebot Industries to deliver training and new skills, while shifting its attention from hands-on training to remote technology and virtual training solutions which has been accelerated by the pandemic.

Plastfix says it’s in the final stages of preparing for the launch of its Digital Training and Streaming Studio that has been established within the MTA SA Auto Innovation Hub in South Australia, with plans to stream content to staff as part of their upskilling programmes and possible I-CAR training courses.

NRMA Slashes TP Fire & Theft Insurance Premium

NRMA Insurance has reduced its Third Party Fire & Theft car insurance to $10 per month.

The new offer, for both existing customers who wish to take out a new policy along with new customers, is available on a 12-month policy and will be run from 7 June to 7 August.

“While traffic volumes are beginning to increase again, we know the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic will continue to be felt by many,” said Amanda Whiting, NRMA Insurance EGM Consumer Distribution. “We hope that by offering our Third Party Fire & Theft car insurance at such a competitive rate, we can help ensure our customers’ cars are still protected at a time when spending might need to be reined in.”

NRMA Insurance Third Party Fire & Theft protects vehicles with fire and theft cover up to a market value of $10,000.

BMW Australia Launches New Training Programme

BMW Australia is currently rolling out a rapid expansion of its national vehicle repair programme that will repair BMWs to a structural integrity and quality of the factories where the vehicles were manufactured.

The company says the new globally-certified training programme for BMW body and paint repair can repair advanced components including carbon-fibre and the structural elements of electric vehicles. The multi-step training programme covers the following aspects:

  • Carbon-fibre repair
  • Insurance assessor training
  • Structural repair
  • Panel replacement
  • Electric vehicle overview
  • Model technology updates
  • Painter training
  • Glass replacement

BMW says the programme uses cutting-edge techniques in all body shops to provide a “peerless” final result. It includes aviation-standard methodologies to ensure the vehicle performs to its highest standard and also carries a superior finish following an accident or repair work. The company says it also has a training career pathway for specialists so they receive updated modules and training information.

“BMW Australia and its partnered body shop network employs the most progressive techniques for vehicle repair, including for the very latest BMW models,” said Dr Reiner Meierbeck, Head of Aftersales at BMW Group Australia. “Our aim is not to repair BMW vehicles to OEM standards, but actually repair to a much higher level so they can capably withstand another impact, ensuring superior cabin integrity for all occupants.”

BMW says its training programme was designed to future proof the work of local professionals in providing them knowledge and education of new generation automotive design, engineering, and construction techniques and how to deal with the intricacies of repairing highly complex vehicles.

“As we transition into more mainstream adoption of electric vehicles and autonomous technologies, we are seeing an increased requirement for chassis and bodies to balance strength, weight, flex and rigidity,” said Dr Meierbeck. “BMW vehicles now include increased levels of high strength steel, aluminium, aluminium-steel composites, carbon, plastics and thermal plastics, and we therefore need to ensure our people are educated and fully informed of every detail.

“This is where such a high-quality training programme plays such an important role, and when combined with our technical capability, further differentiates a BMW body shop from a conventional body shop.”