I-CAR Collision Repair Standards Increase Panel Shop Compliance

I-CAR is the U.S.-based organisation that researches crash repair techniques and delivers technical training globally including NZ. It’s well established here and compliance represents the expected quality standard.  Vehicle construction and repair technology continues to evolve, and is increasingly sophisticated. This means standards must adapt and quality panel shops must continue to invest in on-going training. Significant cost is involved, insurance companies expect it, but don’t necessarily want to pay for it so it’s a tense relationship. Collision repair is an industry in crisis and we’ve reviewed it before including https://crashmanagement.co.nz/collision-repair-sector-crisis/.


U.S-based research and standards are about to change again. We’re told that panel shop that had sat idly on the “on-ramp” of “Road to Gold” standard can no longer claim that status starting 1 January 2019. In addition, a panel shop that had accomplished Gold Class under the looser criteria of ProLevel 1 technicians and a single employee satisfying all four major shop roles will be given one year to meet the tougher Gold Class rules.


I-CAR explained the transition and why the “Road to Gold” concept would expire, promoting a sweeping overhaul of its curriculum and the Gold Class and Platinum criteria. CEO John Van Alstyne said the “Road to Gold idea had taken on a ‘recognition level’ status, yet it was never meant that way.” Some panel shop s were content to stay on that “on-ramp,” Van Alstyne said, and so I-CAR was eliminating that concept at the end of this year.  I-CAR sales and marketing senior vice president Nick Notte said that a panel shop on the Road to Gold and “very close,” and his counsel to them was, “‘Do what you can.’” It would be much simpler in 2019 for a panel shop that had made Gold Class under the old rules to meet the new Gold Class criteria, than it would be for a panel shop that failed to achieve Gold Class by the end of 2018.”  He suggested repairers examine which Alliance training their technicians had taken as some of it may count for I-CAR credit, but their technicians may not have applied for it. Another possibility involves having technicians interviewed by I-CAR to gauge their existing skills as proficiency might translate into I-CAR ProLevel 1 credit under a new initiative.

I-CAR also said it would introduce “Heightened Platinum and Gold Class requirements aligned with industry benchmarks and repair requirements.” Van Alstyne said that going forward, a Gold Class panel shop must have at least 100 percent of structural technicians reaching ProLevel 2. Half of the employees within each of the three other key role categories (estimator, non-structural technician, steel structural technician, refinish technician) at the panel shop must also reach ProLevel 2. The reason for the change involved the fact that the “minimally required skills courses” were housed in ProLevel 2. It was important for a technician to have the “fundamental knowledge” of ProLevel 1 and the “foundational skills” of ProLevel 2.  “No longer can a single person represent all four roles necessary for Gold Class either. I-CAR will only allow a maximum of two categories per person to count.  Allowing a single person to still put two technical roles towards the Gold Class Checklist was done for the benefit of a small scale panel shop, which might have a single person functioning as a structural and non-structural technician,” Van Alystne said.


I-CAR will give existing Gold Class repairers a year to catch up. “During this time, shops must meet progress milestones that are outlined in a pre-assessment report, or they will lose their Gold Class status,” an I-CAR website discussing the transition states. We asked why I-CAR had opted for a transition period rather than just making a hard deadline to retain Gold Class status. I-CAR strategic development vice president Ann Gonzalez said that a panel shop that had worked hard to reach Gold Class, and technician turnover had often led to staff being at different levels of accomplishment today. We wanted to give every panel shop time, and we couldn’t evaluate all of them in January 2019. She said I-CAR would offer shops “some trust” that they would keep training and give them a prescription that needed to be followed within a year, calling it a “fair deal” to every panel shop that had made the effort to clinch Gold Class already. “We’re trying to work with the industry,” Gonzalez said. “This acknowledged the hard work existing Gold Class shops had done and gave them a 12-month cycle to catch up.”

Technicians since 2010 have been designated Platinum at ProLevel 1. But under the overhaul, an employee couldn’t call themselves Platinum unless they’d reached ProLevel 3. It made no sense to bestow I-CAR’s “highest credentialing” without requiring the technician to reach the highest level of training, Van Alstyne explained. I-CAR said it will allow Platinum technicians two years of that title before yanking the designation. “Depending on their current level of training, current Platinum Level technicians will have up to two calendar years to achieve the increased requirements, with progress milestone goals achieved throughout this period.”  However, I-CAR plans to improve its process of allowing Alliance training (such as a paint manufacturer’s class) to count for I-CAR credit. “We don’t care who teaches,” Van Alstyne said. “Just take the training.” I-CAR will also continue to grant waivers for ProLevel 1 training to technicians who demonstrate suitable knowledge in interviews. Van Alstyne presented a slide of “Strong Industry Support” from all three sectors carrying logos of all Big 4 consolidators and CARSTAR, and all top five automakers. He said he had discussed the changes with the brands, many of which had Gold Class built into their panel shop network programs.


3 Responses

  1. RJ
    | Reply

    Another nail in the coffin for the panel & paint trade. How much longer are we expected invest millions in a 21st century high tech business but work for insurance companys for $60 an hour!!!

  2. Gary
    | Reply

    FINALLY SOMEONES LISTENING! Good report in PanelTalk this month about insurance company fairness ratings but not really enough about the elephant in the room. Thats right the 1990’s labour rates that haven’t changed for 30 years. I saw in the Collision Repair website today the CRA in the UK are doing a study now and they’re finally talking about labour rates and power games check it out.

    The UK-based National Body Repair Association (NBRA) recently announced it is launching an investigation into insurer treatment of the body repair industry. The aim of the investigation is to understand which insurers act responsibly in true partnership with the industry and those that may be taking advantage of their power.

    Chris Weeks, Director of the NBRA said, “In the last 20 years, the working relationship between insurers and body repairers has changed drastically. Originally, consumers selected their own car body shop, which estimated the time to complete the repair and charged what they thought was a fair rate following negotiations with a motor engineer. Over time, most repairers joined insurer networks with fixed contracts and regular work volumes, which worked well for both parties. Eventually, as insurer supply chain management became more advanced and repairers became so reliant on the work, the overall balance of power between the two entities has arguably shifted firmly towards the insurers.

    “As a first step, NBRA is initially asking for members and non-member repairers to complete a detailed and confidential insurer attitude survey, which began in August, with the results to be collated by the end of September, depending on how quickly the NBRA gets a significant response back,” Weeks continued. “We have been liaising with representatives from the top insurers and our aim is to lobby and collaborate with them individually and work together in the interests of repairers to increase their long term prosperity, standards, and importantly, the ongoing relationship between the two entities. By working in a positive way and building on best practice already out there, we have already seen insurer willingness to engage, listen and change in a controlled way when presented with honest opinion. This is an important piece of work and we are calling on the whole repair industry to get involved.”


  3. Rob
    | Reply

    Good to see this conversation carry on. CRA sent through some links today showing Pritchard doing a radio and a TV interview actually pretty good. This is the newspaper story. It’s tame but makes the point we’ve all had a gutsfull of insurance companies dictating ridiculous labour rates from the 90s and inventing impossible time allowances . We all know good shops are being squeezed out of business their dropping like flies and no one wants to work in this trade any more and customers complain because they have to wait 2 months for the job to be done. In another 12 months they will be lucky to find any shop that event wants the job. The lunatics are running the asylim. Here’s the CRA story that pretty much agrees.

    New Zealand Insurance Sector – Satisfaction with NZ Insurers Declining – Survey
    Source: Impact PR
    The use of an outdated pricing model is contributing to a decline in satisfaction with the way vehicle claims are managed according to the results of a new survey.
    New research released by the Collision Repair Association (CRA), an industry body covering hundreds of panel beaters from around NZ, has found increasing levels of dissatisfaction among its members with the way insurers process consumer claims.
    CRA general manager Neil Pritchard says insurers are using a pricing model which is 15 years old and does not take into account the significant advancements in vehicle technology in that time.
    “The current model uses an estimate on the amount of time it would take to say repair a specific part of the vehicle from a rate card which is well over a decade old. Panel beaters are remunerated based on this time estimate.
    “The obvious flaw in this practice is that in the past 15 years vehicle safety tech has advanced so much that parts of the vehicle may take significantly longer to repair than they did in the past.
    “A rear tailgate exchange on an older model vehicle used to be a simple enough procedure. Now two employees, trained in replacement of electronic componentry as well as panel repairs are required,
    “This particular task on a modern vehicle could need new wiring looms, cameras, glazing, self-closing and, opening door mechanisms etc, making it a very time consuming process,
    “In a normal free market economy, the rates would have naturally moved to accommodate this demand and allow the business to pay higher wages and attract more skilled staff.
    “Increases in administration demands, health & safety requirements, compliance costs as well as the outdated pricing model used by the insurance industry are all adding to the overheads of panel beaters and resulting in delays of up to eight weeks or more for repairs.
    “These capacity constraints are not sustainable in the long-term and we are concerned that it is consumers who will bear the brunt of the delays,” he says.
    Pritchard says it is conceivable that this could mean consumers may face different levels of delay depending on which insurer they are with.
    Pritchard says the organisation’s research shows IAG were rated as the poorest in terms of rates and allowance with Medical Assurance, NZ owned cooperative Farmers Mutual Group (FMG) and AA Insurance the fairest.
    “According to our industry data, IAG process around two out of every three vehicle claims in this market so it is quite concerning to see the level of satisfaction with a market player of this size so low,”
    “Despite this, we are encouraged by IAG’s constructive attitude to CRA member concerns. IAG appears to be focussed on improving communications with repairers and reducing the administration burden that many face,” he says.
    The CRA survey also asked panel beaters which insurers they would be most like to recommend to friends and family with the results showing Medical Assurance, FMG and AAI the most likely to be recommended.

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