Car Insurance Claim Costs – The Latest Threat

NEWS FLASH!  The cost of a car insurance claim is about to sky-rocket.  The most common car insurance claim by far involves the vehicle’s bumper – 90% of car accidents are front or rear, from minor car park prangs to high-speed motor way nose-to-tail crashes.  Modern vehicle design for passenger cars and light commercials involves a strong steel or aluminium bumper frame that bolts to the chassis rails, over which fits the plastic outer bumper cover that provides the design and style. Bumper covers also house a range of lights and indicators, and more recently a feast of high-tech sensors, radars, and other gadgetry that helps driver safety and comfort. Plastic bumpers are very flexible and easily reshaped after a collision even if torn or distorted. It’s far more economical to repair a bumper cover than replace with a new part, so the method is very popular with all insurance companies. But this may soon no longer be an option.

General Motors has banned the use of all “aftermarket, reconditioned, or salvage (second hand)” bumper fascias on vehicles with advanced driver assistance systems and restricted repairs to “topcoat refinish only.”  The sweeping position statement reflects fears that deviating from factory fascia specs will compromise automatic safety systems behind the bumper cover.  This mandate is sure to be accepted by I-CAR,  the international collision repair research and repair technology police.  It’s also bound to extend to other car brands very quickly, with immediate implications for car insurance claim cost, premiums, customers and repairers in NZ.

ADAS uses technology such as radar to detect vehicles and other obstacles on the road and automatically stop the car if the driver fails to react to a threat, thus avoiding the need for a car insurance claim. It also allows for features which blend convenience and safety, such as adaptive cruise control. Since human error is responsible for more than 90 percent of crashes, the technology can, and does, save lives, prevent injuries and property damage. The technology reduces the likelihood of an accident and car insurance claim, so overall reduces the total cost of repairs, though in itself the technology is very expensive to replace.  It’s imperative though that insurers, consumers and collision repairers comply with GM and other automakers’ instructions related to preserving and restoring ADAS systems. That way, everyone can be confident that the ADAS can properly “see” through the fascia material.  GM said:

At General Motors, safety is our overriding priority. With the safety of our customers at the centre of everything we do, we are limiting repairs to bumpers/fascias with Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) to topcoat refinish only. Any repairs such as gouges, tears or damage that requires the use of substrate repair material or reinforcement tapes must be avoided. Reconditioned bumpers/fascias available in the aftermarket may have been repaired using substrate repair “filler material” or reinforcement tapes and as such General Motors does not endorse the use of reconditioned ADAS bumper/fascia systems. Only genuine GM ADAS bumpers/fascias and components are tested and validated as a safety system. Using only genuine GM replacement parts will ensure that the ADAS systems will perform as designed by General Motors, which will also reduce cycle time. Aftermarket Bumper/Fascia assemblies may not have been designed, engineered, or tested to operate and perform as intended by GM. Non-original parts can be made of different material, or a slightly different configuration, which may cause the safety functionality to not perform as designed. The use of non-OEM safety and structural parts and components may compromise the overall crashworthiness and occupant safety of General Motors vehicles in a subsequent collision.

Primer and topcoat refinish methods can be employed on ADAS equipped bumper/fascia systems, provided the total paint mil thickness on any portion of the bumper/fascia does not exceed 13 mils, as measured by a non-metallic paint film thickness tool gauge.

GM also implies repairers can’t always tell from eyeballing a vehicle that it has an ADAS system so estimators, adjusters and body technicians involved in a car insurance claim will have to check the build data and OEM repair procedures to see if one exists. ADAS systems such as Adaptive Cruise Control, Automatic Collision Preparation, Integrated Brake Assist, Ultrasonic Blind Spot Detection, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert and Rear Emergency Braking may be among those relevant to the position statement, according to GM.

See more on car insurance claim repair technology at:

Collision Repair – It’s a Hi-Tech Game

Quality Panelbeating Shop Fined $31million for Substandard Job

Windscreen Technology: Not Just a Piece of Glass

3 Responses

  1. Mike
    | Reply

    This looks like blatent scare tactics and profiteering from GM and others. There is NO reason a slightly distorted plastic bumper cover can’t be professionally repaired in a light impact car accident claim. Insurance assessors will see right through this and won’t authorise replacement over reconditioning where is is not justified. If this did happen the cost of car accident repairs would skyrocket, premiums would rise, and many more cars would be total losses. Insurance companies, customers, and panelbeaters would all lose out. Car manufacturers already dictate ridiculous prices for replacement parts and will take full advantage to hike the price of moulded plastic even further.

  2. Crash Management
    | Reply

    We’ll need to watch this space carefully Mike. OEM’s dictate crash repair methodology best practice and once it’s adopted by I-CAR it’ll be cast in stone and accepted for NZ operations by both collision repairers and insurers/assessors.

  3. Diane
    | Reply

    This announcement is concerning indeed. I understand reconditioned bumpers are around two hundred dollars and viable for most light nose-to-tail type low speed car accidents. If you’re saying that NO bumper repairs will now be possible and ALL will have to be replaced at $1000 plus, the effect on insurance premiums will in exponential and immediate. Underwriters are sure to be caught out initially but premium hikes will follow quickly once the car accident claim assessments start rolling in with additional $thousands for new bumpers. We have many large commercial fleets that will be seriously affected if this happens so I’d like to be aware beforehand. Please keep us posted. if/when this hits in NZ?

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