Infiniti beefs up body shop network to boost image
To improve its image, Infiniti is assembling a group of 1,000 or more body shops that meet certain quality standards.
Infiniti is being choosy about qualifying shops for the Infiniti Certified Collision Repair Network, says Carnie Colliver, senior manager of parts wholesale sales and marketing.
Some franchised new-car dealers will have to change their operations in order to qualify, he says. If an Infiniti dealer does not operate a body shop, he has been asked to recommend a shop to join the network.
Colliver says that so far, more than 70 percent of Infiniti's approximately 200 retailers plan to participate and about 150 shops have completed or are going through assessments to join the network.
He says Infiniti wants 1,000 to 1,500 qualifying shops out of the estimated 30,000 U.S. collision repair centers.
"We've had some shops recommended by our retailers who frankly did not make it through the assessment for a variety of reasons," Colliver says. "Maybe they didn't have a 360-degree frame machine. Or maybe it was a smaller shop that didn't have the right type of spot welding equipment we're looking for, with the right specifications.
"And we've had some of our own retailers who had to invest in some equipment and make some other changes to meet the requirements."
Infiniti is having an easier time qualifying shops that already are qualified under similar programs established by Infiniti's European luxury competitors, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi.
Infiniti will expect network participants to have technicians trained through the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair, the third-party industry training service, and to receive that service's Gold Class designation. Infiniti also will continually survey the performance of network members to make sure they meet performance and customer service standards.
The result, Infiniti hopes, will be improved brand loyalty, says Fred Suckow, Infiniti senior manager of customer quality. Collisions are the leading cause of brand defection, as owners use the opportunity to try a new vehicle or become dissatisfied with the repair to their car, he says.
"Not all body shops are built the same," Suckow says. "That's the biggest risk to the brand. If we have an Infiniti customer go to a nonqualified shop to do the repair and the shop does work that results in structural or mechanical problems, the customer could end up switching brands because they've had a poor experience.
"To the extent that we can control that repair experience," he says, "we stand a better chance of keeping them in the brand."
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