When General Motors launches its certified collision repair program for dealerships and independent shops this summer, it will use the lessons learned from the Cadillac Aluminum Repair Network it rolled out two years ago to service the CT6.
Although CT6 sales are modest — Cadillac has sold about 23,000 of the sedans since its launch — the network has helped GM understand the problems that shops face in repairing vehicles made of aluminum and other lightweight materials. The automaker's John Eck provides an update.
On how the Cadillac Aluminum Repair Network is performing
The process is working very well. We have about 100 to 125 shops. There might be a market or two that we'd take a look at adding. From sales and distribution and the repairability that we see coming through the shops, we have coverage.
We built in the extra towing requirements that it would take to get the vehicle to the repair shop. Typically, you're saturated in the market and you don't have to tow very far. But knowing that we wouldn't have that many shops and we'd have to tow farther, we built that in to cover the cost. We are getting the vehicles to the correct shops and vehicles are getting repaired to the standards.
On lessons that will carry over to all GM brands and lightweight vehicles
We've learned a lot through the process that has helped us. We're looking at our general structural repair program for what we call our collision repair network. There are other vehicles that will require special attention (such as GM's autonomous vehicles and its new generation of lightweight trucks). How we handle that is going to be different from how we handle a general repair.
We're setting up for structural repairs in the network. We've also learned there is a legitimate need, especially for the fleet market, for repair facilities that are moving away from structural repairs and that focus on cosmetic and light repairs. There's a need for that, which doesn't mandate the need for the structural tools and equipment and facility investment.
On repairing the next generation of Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups
Because shops will be repairing more aluminum, not just replacing a hood or a decklid, the shops will have to have aluminum capabilities for repair. Shops will need a dedicated space with dust mitigation, where technicians can sand and work on aluminum panels.
On how GM's collision repair program will help keep tool costs down
There is a significant investment in tools and equipment needed to fix today's technology, and that is not lost on us. We're not a testing organization. We don't test every piece of equipment. We're working very closely with the engineering teams.
We write to a specification versus a very specific brand whenever and wherever possible, so that we are not mandating a GM-only tool. Writing to a specification allows a shop the flexibility to use what they already have or what we know will work.
Our focus is really on technicians, to make sure they are skilled and trained and use the appropriate tools to make the repair.
On collision repairs performed by franchised GM dealerships vs. independent shops
Our repair network will accommodate both GM dealers and non-GM dealers. We know the volume of GM vehicles involved in an accident. We know that not all of that volume can fit through the dealerships that have body shops, so we need the independent market.
Regardless of who is touching the vehicle, we need to have the same criteria and expectations — that the shop has the facilities, that technicians working on the vehicle are trained at the level they need to be, that they are using the right tools and equipment. And that they are doing the scanning and calibration, checking the GM recall database and doing everything they can to restore the vehicle before it goes back on the road.