A key feature of Subaru's new certified collision repair program enables customers to use their mobile devices to get daily photos of their vehicle as it goes through the repair process.
The AutoWatch software is produced by Audatex, a division of Solera Holdings. The Web portal the vendor has created for Subaru also allows customers to get updates by email or text message and to direct questions and feedback to the body shop.
At the same time, AutoWatch permits Subaru to monitor a shop's repair practices and ensure it is complying with the certified network's standards.
"We get collision center statistics, with cycle time and everything else that they're doing," says John Lancaster, Subaru of America's national wholesale parts manager. "We also get customer satisfaction information, and the customer gets great communication out of it."
The technology employed by AutoWatch is not new, but it is being applied comprehensively for the first time to an automaker-certified collision repair program, says Roy Duplantier, vice president of business development at Audatex.
"You can get visibility into the shop virtually, as opposed to having to physically visit every shop," Duplantier says.
Insurance companies, rental car providers, independent body shops and fleet companies use AutoWatch. Tesla became the first automaker to use the system in a certified repair program capacity in 2015, but it never required its certified shops to adopt it.
Collision repair centers that use AutoWatch operate more transparently and tend to repair damaged vehicles faster, Duplantier says.
The system's two-way communication also reduces phone calls and "puts more accountability on the shop," he says. "If you've been notified about a concern in the process, and you resolve it, the post-repair survey typically gets a better satisfaction rating," he adds.
Dennis Kennealy, general manager of Autobahn Collision, a body shop affiliated with a dealership group in suburban Phoenix, says he has used AutoWatch successfully. But he expresses reservations about the age and design of the product.
"There are other competing products that might be more fluid in the repair process because they're built into the estimating software," he says.
Kennealy's shop has just joined Subaru's certification program. Before that, he estimates, Autobahn was fixing 120 of the brand's vehicles a month.
The new program is likely to require greater use of AutoWatch, he says.