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A welcome alliance to address cost control in auto repairs

Pundits and pols have written much in recent years about the need for various factions to come together to solve problems impacting Californians –whether those problems are big or small, or immediate or long term.  Most would argue that our biggest problems, especially our budget woes, continue to go largely unresolved, due to the deep-rooted impediments of partisan posturing and gamesmanship. 

However, there is an issue for which a solution is being crafted that will, in fact, have a budget impact on millions of Californians.  Certainly, it does not have an impact as large as that of our State’s goliath budget deficit, but it will impact the cost paid by every driver who gets into an accident and needs their car repaired. 

The solution being sought is to an issue termed capping, and it is being pursued by groups that have typically been adversaries – insurance companies and auto body shop interests.

Our common goal is to make the cost of car repairs more predictable and directly related to the actual cost of the materials and the time spent to make the repair.

The cost to repair automobiles is significant.  Insurers are always looking for ways to keep those costs down to protect their customers, and to combat fraud. 

Auto body shops have always been concerned about insurance companies capping costs – of setting a limit on how much we would pay for paint, materials and labor for making repairs. 

Instead of squaring off in our respective corners for another year, we came together this year to solve the problem.  We’ve dropped the accusatory rhetoric. We’ve convened each time in a true spirit to craft a solution to determine how to properly price repairs and ensure that the costs are acceptable to insurers.

Senator Lou Correa (SB 1371) is carrying a bill that will end capping and require auto body shops and insurers to work together to ensure that costs are factored correctly, without being overly prescriptive as to every single drop of paint that has to be measured. 
Auto body shops have acknowledged that detailed documentation helps bring needed transparency to the process.  At the same time, insurers have acknowledged the difficulty at times in assigning exact costs to some specific repair items.  For instance, it is remarkable to learn how many steps it takes to get the correct color match on a repair.  Often it takes the mixing of up to 8 different toners to get the proper depth and color mix desired.  In fact, sometimes only a gram or drop is used to achieve a particular color.
Those are some tough measurements to calculate, and the Personal Insurance Federation of California (PIFC) acknowledges the difficulty in mandating that those amounts be accounted for in cost estimations.

We are pleased that PIFC and the California Autobody Association (CAA) have set aside our differences and acknowledged areas for improvement that can be resolved by ending capping as proposed in SB 1371.

They say that politics often makes strange bedfellows.  The maxim has certainly been evident in all of our discussions.  We don’t always agree, but we have in this case by working to find the solution, rather than carrying on the weary battle. 

Consumers are the winners in all of this. 

That’s a worthy ending we are hopeful of bringing to fruition by getting SB 1371 passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor.


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