By Amy Hohl
"Motor home windshields should be repaired first whenever possible." I was shocked to hear these words come out of my boss mouth! As an employee in a motor home windshield distribution company, I never thought my boss would advocate repairing a motor home windshield instead of replacing it. After all, selling these huge windshields help pay the bills.
The following rules are on a plaque in the bosss office: Rule No. 1The BOSS is always right! Rule No. 2When the BOSS is wrong, refer to Rule No. 1. He was wrong, and here was my chance, in print, to prove it. I assumed motor home windshield repair was more difficult than automotive windshield repair, not as profitable, unacceptable by motor homeowners, and not a big potential in volume of work available for glass shops.
Motor home windshields, which usually require two technicians to install, must have special repair procedures, or so I thought. A few calls to glass shops and posting the question on the discussion board of an auto glass website proved me wrong. Except for needing a ladder, working on a more vertical surface, and entering and exiting the motor home with care when repairing a crack, repairing a motor home windshield follows the same steps and guidelines as repairing an automotive windshield. One glass shop manager, a member of the National Windshield Repair Association (NWRA), said the curved ends on the motor home windshield can be a tricky area to repair. Otherwise, he told me, they are routine.
My first point was shot down after discovering a motor home windshield does not present an unusual repair challenge. If they arent difficult to repair, I was sure there would be less profit for a glass shop to repair instead of replace. Dee Uttermohlen, marketing manager, Safelite AutoGlass, told me the profit margin isnt huge for repair work. However, repairs keep the insurance companies happy. A new motor home windshield costs in the range of $300-$1200 compared to $50 for a repair, so insurance companies are happy to waive the deductible if the insured chooses repair. While the glass shop wont get the mark-up or labor from a new windshield, they will get a repair job that takes only 15-30 minutes and is usually a one-man job instead of the two men needed for most motor home windshield replacement. One glass chain manager told me that total repair work they performed in 1998 (including all automotive windshields) was $1.5 million. Even if the profit margin isnt enormous for repair work, the volume in potential sales is impressive.
My case to prove my boss wrong was falling apart. Motor home windshields can be repaired and the glass shop can make money on the repair. But what about the motor home owner? Recreational vehicle (RV) owners who pay $100,000 for their home on wheels are very particular about the results of any repair work. A repair will create a blur in the windshield that can bother the driver, especially if it is in the drivers line of site. Dave Meeker, Foremost Insurance Company, assures me that if the motor home owner isnt satisfied with the results of the repair, Foremost then authorizes windshield replacement. RVers also appreciate the speed in which a windshield can be repaired instead of replacing the windshield. A day or a weeks lead time is necessary for the glass shop to receive the motor home windshield.
With my focus on selling replacement motor home windshields, I assumed the percentage of possible repair work in the field would be too small for consideration. One figure estimates that 18 percent of all vehicle windshields are repaired. Potential repairs range from a conservative 25 percent of damaged windshields to 75 percent of damaged windshields. With 42,900 class A motor homes shipped in 1998, according to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), and 44,400 projected to ship in 1999, the potential for repair work exists.
Promoting the option to repair a motor home windshield will keep the customer and insurance company happy. At Safelites call center, repair is an option that representatives know how to identify. If the insured has not correctly described the damage to the representative and the glass technician decides repair is not an option, authorization is given for replacement. The weak links in the process are insureds who try to minimize the damage in their description to avoid paying a deductible and networks where repair is never given as an option. In the first case, the technician must wait for authorization to replace the windshield that originally was evaluated for repair. In the second case, the technician is shipped a windshield to replace that could have been repaired. Both instances illustrate the problems when motor home windshield damage is incorrectly evaluated or repair is not given the priority insurance companies and insureds prefer. When the glass technician is involved at the beginning of the repair or replace decision, the process can be smoother.
Seems as though Rule No. 1the boss is ALWAYS rightheld up again. The good news for us as motor home windshield distributors is that there are circumstances when replacing the windshield is the only option. Repairs that could obstruct the drivers vision, cracks or bullets that are too big, or damage that extends to the interior portion of the laminated windshield should not be attempted. As windshield repair technology advances, these guidelines will change and possibly allow for larger damage repair. Until that time, my competitors and I will continue to ship replacement motor home windshields. And I will wait for the next chance to prove my boss and Rule No. 1 wrong.
Amy Hohl is director of marketing for DCM Company, located in Elkhart, IN.
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