IBIS Partner Interview – Audatex

Here we catch up with Solera Holdings’ David Shepherd, regional managing director, Audatex UK Ltd, Audatex South Africa (PTY) Ltd and Africa to find out more about the ever present IBIS partner and its role within the global collision repair industry.

 

Please provide a brief overview of Audatex/Solera globally.

Audatex’s parent group Solera is driving a digital revolution in the insurance claims cycle, transforming the way motor claims are processed. It is now extending this to the consumer audience, ensuring insurers, dealers and vehicle manufacturers are able to interact with customers throughout the 54 significant touchpoints of a vehicle’s lifecycle.

Audatex is already known for offering a complete end-to-end insurance claims workflow system. The appetite also exists in the market for a similarly integrated solution for bodyshops, which will allow repairers to manage the entire workflow of a vehicle’s repair, from first notification of loss (FNOL) through to the processing of payment, creating a seamless, fully integrated end-to-end service, removing waste and non-value added touchpoints.

How is Audatex embedded within the collision repair sector?

Providing an end-to-end solution for customers places Audatex at the heart of the claims process. Its focus is on streamlining the process and connecting all parties in this space, joining up individual companies through technology, allowing businesses – and the overall collision repair sector – to become more efficient and effective.

Rather than simply providing a technological solution for bodyshops and insurers, Audatex is focused on educating those in the sector through solutions, collaborating with the different stakeholders to add value; it sees this as one of its core responsibilities in the industry.

Audatex is prioritising the consumer, helping them to make informed decisions and enriching their experience though the process. This is increasingly important due the rise of AI and machine learning in the sector. If, for example, its solutions use AI in generating an estimate that is 80% correct, Audatex needs to educate the human element on supporting these technologies to generate a 100% accurate estimate, guiding them to where their experience needs to be used.

Far from the human being replaced by technology however, Audatex is continuing to invest in educating the human through the expertise of machines, allowing people to play an increasingly effective role in the estimating process.

How does its involvement within the sector vary regionally? Please provide examples.

Different markets continue to vary in how they operate from one another. In the UK, the majority of bodyshops are independent and not directly affiliated with a vehicle manufacturer or its dealer network.

The majority of claims are directed straight from an insurer to the bodyshop. This process has been so successful because the repairers have done a great job of dealing with the customer immediately after a claim has been registered. They manage the process from start to finish, including delivery and collection of the vehicle, not to mention the repair and a replacement vehicle.

As a result, Audatex is now starting to see the fully managed bodyshop service model proliferate across Europe as the customer recognises, and demands, this enhanced level of service from their insurer and repairer partners.

There are a variety of models that operate across Europe and the rest of the world; Solera operates in these markets and deals with each insurer individually, allowing it to deliver highly valued knowledge and experience to those companies. They all have a slightly different operating model, to cater for differing market regulations and customer demand, which, as mentioned above, is changing rapidly.

How does the business continue to create value within the supply chain?

Solera invests over $200m a year in software development and data, enabling Audatex to continuously enrich its core offering and deliver more value. Everything it does is driven by the requirements of its customers.

This investment is being poured into research to make its solutions better for the customer by adding more value, which makes the overall process more effective and streamlined. Efficiency is also being driven by a continuous effort to link together insurers, bodyshops, suppliers and the end user.

What challenges and opportunities do you see globally within the collision repair sector?

Audatex operates in a world that moves increasingly towards a more customer-centric, ‘do it for me’ model, with the change in vehicle technology that supports these requirements, a big challenge. The variety of body structures, components, and ADAS systems in new vehicles, mixed with a combination of fully electric, hybrid and possibly hydrogen-powered powertrains, is taking the sector into unknown territory.

Another challenge is the rapid shift in consumer behaviour and vehicle ownership models. Fewer people in the UK actually own a vehicle, instead returning it to the manufacturer once their PCH or PCP deals have expired. This raises the question of who cares about that vehicle, whilst reflecting on changing consumer behaviour, not only in ownership, but how they view the car of today. The vehicle is often not a thing that is desired in its own right, it is merely seen as a mode of transportation.

Claims frequency is actually reducing across mature markets, but Audatex is seeing the cost of repairing vehicles increase, due to the complexity of in-built safety and electronic systems, as the smaller prangs no longer happen. The complexity of vehicle build is forcing bodyshops to gather a wider-range of knowledge on repair methods and parts needed in the event of an accident.

This is complicated further still by the increasing number of trim levels and packages that are offered on every model. The repairer will have to immediately ascertain what the vehicle’s specification is, and the information needed to safely repair it. It’s this knowledge that Solera is gathering and making available to its customers, on demand, at the points of need.

What is the key strategic focus for the business moving ahead?

Audatex’s key strategic focus is to effectively manage assets, and risks, for the end consumer. This includes the service, maintenance and repair (SMR) of the vehicle, while utilising the expertise from its cap hpi business, to predict the best time to replace the vehicle and optimise the total cost of ownership.

The UK market hasn’t yet fully realised the investment Audatex has made in SMR. As all of the recently-introduced ADAS safety systems become increasingly available in a vehicle, once it falls out of a manufacturer’s dealer repair network, there needs to be a similar – if not higher – level of knowledge in independent bodyshops that will service and maintain these technology-loaded machines. This is crucial in accurately repairing the vehicle back to manufacturer-recommended levels of safety, ensuring that the ADAS will work in the event of a future accident.

Audatex’s vision is to ensure it continues to provide this information at the points of need throughout the vehicle’s life, adding value and reducing risk, while maintaining the value of that asset.

All eyes are on innovation and technology, how does a company the size of Audatex/Solera stay agile enough to keep ahead?

It’s all about investment in people, as well as technology. In the last 12 years, Solera has acquired approximately 58 companies that sit with its brand values. Blending these new businesses with Audatex’s core claims estimating software has created something new and exciting for the business.

Audatex stays close to its customers in all of its markets to ensure it is continually in touch with changing and advancing technology in vehicle build, claims process technology, software development and product ideation and build.

Audatex invests heavily in the millennial generation and apprentices, to ensure it keeps growing the business, and remains at the forefront of software design and development. Audatex looks for entrepreneurial people, who get things done, to run its local businesses, promoting from within and handing them new mission opportunities as they develop.

What makes Audatex/Solera a truly successful, global business?

Solera’s founder is always analysing what he could do differently, if given the chance, living in a ‘constant state of dissatisfaction’. This is all about the business’s continuous investment in technology and its people, raising the bar higher and higher to meet, and hopefully exceed, customer demands.

How do you see the industry evolving over the coming 12 to 18 months?

The seamless link between the insurer and bodyshop will continue to evolve. Rather than just repairing cars, repairers are acting as fulfillment centres that manage the entire customer journey; they have to be flexible to deal with each customer as an individual.

That’s the biggest change I see, especially as everything is now required on-demand, always on, and instantaneously. As a result, the traditional bodyshop is having to adapt quickly; I continue to be impressed with the way the bodyshops absorb and deal with change.

Lastly, you’re a long-term IBIS partner – what makes IBIS so important to you as a business?

IBIS is a fantastic networking event that allows us to bring customers together, in one place, and meet with global partners. It’s a great reflection of how the industry is changing; IBIS provides an opportunity to show customers how Audatex is staying ahead and adding value.

It is also a great way for Audatex to learn from other industry experts and share intelligence, alongside understanding what they are doing and how they are having to redesign their products for the needs of their customers. It also enables Audatex to remain at the forefront so that we can continue to lead and set the pace of change.