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Friday, August 06, 2010

State Farm seminars preach value of recycled parts

Today's salvage parts facility is not your father's junkyard, or even your older brother's boneyard. In just a few short years the used-component industry has become increasingly sophisticated and is a significant sourcing alternative for collision repairers.

In New Jersey, body shop owners belonging to State Farm's direct repair program (DRP) have been attending a series of educational sessions to learn more about the recycled parts process. The insurer's classes are held in locations accessible to the upper, middle and lower portions of the Garden State.

This year's seminars attracted 120 attendees representing 98 of State Farm's 113 New Jersey DRPs, known as Select Service Shops.

"People think of salvage yards as junkyards, and that's not the case," says State Farm Auto Estimatics Inspector Pete Fryzel. "The reason to bring everybody together is to not forget the role that recycled parts can play in the repair – people have been using recycled parts since Henry Ford."

Vehicle owners who are inclined to think green are intrigued with the concept as well.

"Using recycled parts helps reduce costs, expedites repairs in many cases, and helps reduce our carbon footprint," Fryzel says. The educational sessions "brought to light a lot of the issues around recycled parts," such as condition, shipping and return policies.

The program included I-CAR materials along with three New Jersey members of the Premium Recycled Parts Group (PRP), which is a collaboration of 17 salvage operations.

"They are a very sophisticated group," says Fryzel, "who comply with a high set of standards and focus on quality recycled parts. We advocate the shops use the PRP group because we know they're good, they price their parts correctly, their recycled parts are quality and their delivery is prompt."

According to I-CAR figures, 75 percent of the vehicles going into salvage are recyclable in some way; 75 percent of the parts do indeed get reused, 20 percent are recycled as raw materials and 5 percent are destined to be buried underground. "The goal is to reduce the amount of parts going into the landfill," Fryzel notes, adding that it is also "one of the responsibilities we have to keep costs under control."

Estimatics Team Manager Vincent Castaldo says using recycled parts is well within the realm of the "State Farm satisfaction promise to the policyholders for fit, corrosion resistance qualities, and performance for as long as the customer owns the vehicle."

"We're all concerned with the cost of repairs for our mutual customer," says Fryzel. "If our repair costs go up, premiums can potentially follow."

The salvage parts trade is the nation's 13th largest industry, amounting to $10 billion in annual sales – much of them coming from the collision repair segment. Instant messaging has greatly enhanced connectivity among the yards and their customers, Fryzel says.

"Everybody's on the same page," says seminar attendee Michael Gerstein, owner of Circle Collision Center in Old Bridge, N.J. "The key is to have a strong network to reach out to the other places in the blink of an eye. You don't want to wait a couple of days for information on your parts – you want someone to say, 'I'll get back to you in a couple of minutes.'"

"The quality (of the used parts industry) is better than it’s been in years," Gerstein continues. "It's really tremendous. If I want to see something they can get me a picture (of the part) in minutes."

Circle's customers are equally enamored because "they understand 'green,'" he says. "They want quality parts – not aftermarket parts."

Flemington Auto Body was one of the first shops in its area to make the switch to waterborne paint, and pushing the ecological aspect of salvage components – along with the associated cost savings – is among the operation's marketing plans, according to office manager Scott Shepherd.

"It's coming full-circle now, especially with this oil spill," he points out, referring to heightened customer interest in the issue. "The recycled parts are helping the environment because they're being reused."

Shepherd says that while aftermarket parts typically still lack consistency in fit, form and function, "recycled parts are OEM – it's the same thing."

Imparted at the seminars was the fact that customers need not fear that their late model vehicle will return from the shop outfitted with leftovers from a 1964 Falcon. "Your car is three years old, so it has three-year-old parts on it," says Shepherd, adding that "a lot of the recycled stuff has driven down the OE prices" for new components.

"They're really brought the recycled industry around. Within the last five years they've really gotten their act together," he says.

In the past, ordering from salvage yards "created a lot of problems and it was not something that we really wanted to do," Shepherd recalls, noting that Flemington's cycle times are now equal whether OEM or recycled parts are applied. "It's working a lot smoother now."

Providing prompt and accurate information is a particularly admirable aspect of today's recycler, according to Shepherd. "It's critical to know the condition of the part ahead of time, and they'll be honest about it instead of saying, 'We'll wait and see.'"

Citing a past incident in which a previously pristine hood arrived in a seriously bent state, Shepherd praises the refinements being made in the delivery process. "They've gotten so much better at handling the parts; they're taking better care of them and they've got the proper equipment to deliver them."

As a recent example of appreciated customer service, Shepherd tells of how a recycler brought over an entire front portion of a matching car being worked on and then removed the carcass when the job was done. "There are all kinds of crazy clips and fasteners on these things, and to have the whole nose sitting next to you is a nice way to do it."

By James E. Guyette,

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