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Industry split over benefits of CAPS offer

The launch of the new Common Automotive Platform Standard (CAPS) in January raised plenty of interest and just as much confusion in the bodyshop industry.

Backing from the Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMIF) has given it credibility, but there are still concerns over data protection issues, costs to bodyshops and whether it will be truly independent.

According to its maker CAPS is designed to be a ‘facilitator’ of information between bodyshops management system and third party applications such as cycle time management or web based repair tracking.

“CAPS should not be confused with the new generation of accident repair applications including web tracking. It is merely a facilitator of these applications and helps them to function more effectively,” says Eddie Longworth, managing director of Norton Consulting and CAPS co-ordinator.

Open competition

The system is available to any third party company and bodyshops management system company, which potentially opens up the new applications market to free and open competition. CAPS has the support of the nine management systems that cover approximately 90% of the market and has been trialled on tens of thousands of repairs, across 30 pilot bodyshops.

“The primary benefits to bodyshops are those of reduced costs and administrative effort. The connection is free and applications such as web tracking of repair status can be automated.”

Questions have been raised over the data protection and sharing element, but Longworth says this is not an issue.

“CAPS does not store information taken from bodyshops management systems and thereby does not violate data ownership laws – it merely acts as a distribution hub like a telephone exchange. It can only transmit information allowed by bodyshops, management systems and work providers.”

Adopting a single system

One of the issues which will doubtless affect CAPS is the difficulty of getting the whole industry to adopt a single system, which is totally independent.

“Those opposing the scheme wish to maintain a monopoly of the market place for their own applications see the system as a threat to their position – and they are right. The future depends largely upon those decision makers currently examining their options in the new applications of web based repair tracking and cycle time management,” says Longworth.

While the system has been promoted as free of charge, there have been rumours circulating across the industry that there will in fact be a charge attached which bodyshops will be forced to pay, denied by Longworth. Nevertheless, the is still an element of confusion over CAP’s role.

“We are still unsure as to whether CAPS is a commercial or a not-for-profit organisation and so at this stage we are not backing it. Instead we want to see what it will bring to the industry and what costs will be involved,” says Lesley Upham, director of communications for Thatcham.

“There is still general confusion in the industry. People are interested but there needs to be a clear definition of what it is, what it can do, the costs and how it can benefit insurers and bodyshops.”

Adding cost but no value

Richard Salter, commercial director of marketing estimating supplier Audatex, raises further questions.

“There is no value added to the data – they don’t translate or enhance it so what is its requirement?” he asks.

“Why would a repairer or insurer want to submit data to a third party who can sell it onward and make money? We do not pool data, it’s absolutely unnecessary – the only thing CAPS will add is cost, waste and risk, but no value,” says Salter.

He believes that the only way for an industry standard to be established is for a government controlled body to handle the business. “This would control risk and waste without adding cost,” adds Salter.

BRIC calls for full CAPS explanation

The Body Repair Industry Campaign (BRIC) has called on CAPS to clearly explain what its proposition is to the industry and to confirm if it intends to charge repairers.

“It has been reported to us that it is proposed to charge repairers for the supply of their own data to insurers once repairers are signed up to the scheme. This appears to be quite at odds with what BRIC had understood some months ago,” says Shaun O’Reilly, research director for BRIC.

“We do not feel that it augurs well for any new product or standard – it is unclear which it is – to be the subject of such confusion. If it is a product, then rightly repairers are entitled to know what both the purpose and the benefits to repairers will be and the likely costs involved.”

If CAPS is setting itself out as an industry standard then BRIC feels it is necessary for those behind it to explain fully how that standard is to pass into the hands of the industry, and what mechanisms the industry will have to develop for the future.

“We suspect that repairers would be incensed if CAPS is yet to be something else mandated upon them by insurers, with a cost attached, at a time when so many are facing serious commercial pressures in a very challenging market,” adds O’Reilly.

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