Vehicle safety improvements boost repair costs

Jan. 1, 2020
Manufacturers are doing a better job of making vehicles safer in a crash, but those improvements continue to increase repair costs, which often lead to more total losses following accidents.

Manufacturers are doing a better job of making vehicles safer in a crash, but those improvements continue to increase repair costs, which often lead to more total losses following accidents.

In his May 4 presentation at the Women's Industry Network (WIN) 2010 Conference entitled "Future Shock: How Advances in Technology, Safety and the 'Disposable Car' Affect Vehicle Repairability," Kim Hazelbaker, senior vice president with the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), said that new safety features and design changes targeted at fuel economy have made vehicles safer and lighter. However, these designs and additional technologies that may be added to vehicles in the future (such as crash avoidance systems) have caused repair costs to skyrocket.

"I can truthfully say to you that I think we've been very successful in working with manufacturers to develop safer vehicles," Hazelbaker says. "I cannot say the same thing about being successful in designing for reasonable cost, low-speed repairs."

In bumper crash tests, for instance, impacts at speeds as low as 3 mph can cause thousands of dollars of damage. "That's just not right," Hazelbaker says.

As repair costs rise, total losses also have gone up, which has had a negative impact on the collision repair industry. And there are more safety innovations to come that could further increase repair costs. Crash avoidance systems, for instance, will add expensive sensors to the mix.

Mercedes already has deployed one such system, called Distronic, which was able to marginally reduce crash frequency, according to HLDI's research. However, the system relies on a $2,000 radar sensor placed in the vehicle's grille.

Volvo also has released a crash avoidance system. In this case, the system available on the XC60 Crossover actually brakes the vehicle. "That's really the end-all, be-all on crash avoidance," Hazelbaker says.

However, these high-end sensors are expensive and difficult to replace. "As you load more and more expensive safety equipment into vehicles, then those vehicles can't be repaired because of the cost of that technology," Hazelbaker says. "There's clearly a price here, and at this point it's a big one."

New fuel economy standards also will push manufactures to make further design changes. "There are going to be multiple levels of corporate average fuel economy depending on the footprint of the vehicle," Hazelbaker says. "This isn't going to be as easy as just changing the fleet size to include more small cars. Every vehicle will have to improve, and that will mean using lighter components and more exotic metals and composites."

Other factors also may reduce the incidence of vehicle collisions. HLDI's research indicates that the use of roundabouts, as opposed to four-way intersections, can reduce crashes while improving fuel economy. Red light cameras and speed cameras, increasingly being adopted by a number of cities, also reduce accidents.

Efforts to reduce driver distractions, however, may be futile. "Everybody is fixated on driver distraction," Hazelbaker says. "We've looked at cell phone usage, which is increasing, but we've seen crash rates go down over the same period."

The organization also has compared crash rates in states with and without cell phone bans in place for drivers. "Nothing happened in the states with a ban that didn't happen to crash rates in the surrounding states," Hazelbaker said. "The bottom line is that we can't say there's a big payoff to that approach."

Sponsored Recommendations

Access Carside OEM Repair Data with MOTOR TruSpeed

Now available on all Autel MaxiSYS Ultra Series tools, MOTOR TruSpeed Repair delivers expanded OEM service and repair data within days of being published by

ADAS Case Study: From 10 Calibrations a Month to Over 10 A Day

Originally published by Vehicle Service Pros, March 26, 2024

Autel MaxiTPMS TS900: 3-in-1 TPMS Tablet

Originally published by Tire Review, April 4, 2024

Ask The Expert: The Basics & Benefits of Bringing ADAS Calibrations In-house

Originally published by Vehicle Service Pros, March 26, 2024

Voice Your Opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Vehicle Service Pros, create an account today!