Designing for Insurability:Best Practices to Achieve Lower Vehicle Repair Costs 2004-01-1774
The twenty-first century finds the automobile industry facing an accelerating pace of change in vehicle design, materials and manufacturing processes. More daring vehicle styling, innovative designs (modularity, platform commonization, hybrid powertrains, side airbag curtains, electronics), new materials and applications (dual-phase and boron steels, structural foam, aluminum, composites), manufacturing techniques (hydroforming, tailored blanks, weld-bonding, laser welding) and the like are offering consumers an increasing variety of product choices, with continuous improvements in comfort, safety, convenience, durability, fuel economy and emission reductions.
In spite of all these advances in technologies, the reality is that vehicles will continue to be involved in collisions. The rate of increase in average collision repair costs more than offsets decreases in collision claims frequencies. How can the cost of insurance and collision repairs be kept in control, to keep vehicles affordable? How will collision repair technicians be able to repair these new technologies?
The purpose of this paper are to provide real-world examples of designing vehicles for insurability, which means designing for damageability and repairability by recommending improvements, based on SAE Recommended Practice J1555, the Research Committee for Automobile Repairs “Vehicle Design Features for Optimum Low Speed Impact Performance” and other examples from automotive manufacturers. Among the specific topics covered include bumpers, exterior lighting, closure panels, body structures, chassis, exterior ornamentation, and engine compartment packaging.
Utilization of these and other design guidelines by automobile manufacturers, along with the analysis of collision repair claims data and consultation with insurance companies and body repair shops, can provide assurance to customers that motor vehicles they purchase will be resilient to collision damage and inexpensive to repair. Collision repair shops will benefit from vehicles that are simple and cost effective to repair, increasing their productivity, quality and profitability.
The Collision Repair Committee of the SAE Vehicle Service Development Division has sponsored incorporating many improvements in the Recommended Practice, J1555 Design Guidelines for Optimizing Vehicle Damageability, revised in 2000. The Research Council for Automobile Repairs, (RCAR), has also supported this effort over the past 30 years, by working directly with vehicle manufacturers. The development of design guidelines for improving vehicle damageability, repairability, safety and theft deterrence represents one of the best interactions of different industries with a common customer focus.
While this document provides examples of the best design practices as observed by the North American RCAR research centers and specifically targeted toward vehicle manufacturers in this region, the recommendations herein are generally applicable to all new global vehicle designs. Also, automotive, insurance and repair industry experts have developed the guidelines in J1555 to provide practical alternatives and trade-offs so that all new vehicle program design parameters can be met in the most cost and time-efficient manner possible.