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Auto Recyclers Go Upscale

If you still think of the auto salvager as a seedy tough guy in dirty coveralls chomping a cigar, selling parts that may or may not work once they’re on a car, you’re behind the times. But unfortunately, many consumers (and even some professionals) still have this image in their mind. That’s why the Auto Recyclers of Canada is putting its full weight behind the Gold Seal program, a certification system that not only guarantees the quality of every part an ARC member sells, but provides detailed information on the condition and a grading mark. It also seeks to certify recyclers themselves and to rehabilitate their image into complete professionals ready to supply a reliable, cost-saving alternative to new.

“Bodyshops and insurance companies alike are under pressure today,” notes ARC managing director, and recycler, Steve Fletcher. “But on average a recycled part can save as much as 50% over new, so in principle, the insurance companies love us.” For years, however, the industry has faced two chronic barriers. The first is that until now, there was no way to guarantee beforehand that a part could be comparable in quality to new, making them seem (in perception, if not fact) like a risky proposition. The second problem was that sometimes procurement could be troublesome, since of course it depends on what end-of-life cars had been brought in to the recycler and were being held in stock.

Enter the Gold Seal program, a sweeping initiative introduced in 1994 to provide a quantifiable way of describing both the state and quality of a salvaged part. In order to receive a Gold Seal rating, a product must be thoroughly inspected; in the case of mechanical parts, it has been tested on the car prior to dismantling, and with body parts, it has been visually inspected and given a rating number corresponding to the level of repairable physical damage (if any) on the part.

What’s great about the program is it provides a way to quantify the state of the part, notes David Gold, of the Toronto recycler Standard Auto Wreckers. “There’s still some skepticism out there about the quality of [used] parts,” he says. “Our job is to accurately portray the quality. Admittedly, they have been in an accident, so some of these parts might need some repair, but if the price is significantly less, it might be worth it.” Gold emphasizes that it is in the recycler’s interest to be as honest as possible about any flaws, and online procurement entries will go so far as to show detailed photos and other information about an individual part, so the customer knows exactly what he’s getting before he makes the transaction.

In fact, the advent of online procurement services like has been a boon for the recycling industry, since it allows them to both promote what parts are available from individual sources, and to procure parts from across the industry much more easily. “No dealer will have every part in stock,” says Fletcher, “so this is a way to find the part quickly no matter where it is in the region.”

In the case of mechanical parts, they are thoroughly tested and inspected before and after being removed from the car. “Actually, our lowest-return parts are often the mechanical parts,” Gold says. “We also have guarantees that include replacement labour. There’s a checklist we follow to check the car at each stage of the dismantling process, so it’s very thorough.”

Often recycled parts are sold as complete units, which makes it more difficult to compare apples with apples against either aftermarket or OEM new parts. But as Gold observes, there are certain advantages to purchasing a part this way, chief among them being that labour costs can be substantially reduced by saving you from having to dismantle a door, say, and reattach all its supplementary parts.

Steve Fletcher explains that another important part of the Gold Seal program has to do with the recycling parts supplier itself, to certify a consistently professional level of quality. “It’s first, an educational tool,” he says. “It describes all we need to do to meet the bodyshop’s goal of quality, on-time delivery and so on. It puts the rules of engagement in place.” Right now the standard is voluntary, but more and more recyclers are seeing the value and coming online. “It also has branding appeal; we hope it will eventually be the case that being identified as a Gold Seal Supplier will be proof of accountability in the industry.”

One of the greatest obstacles the recycling industry faces comes from a source you’d think would be supportive, which is the insurance industry. In theory, insurers are positive about high quality used parts as an alternative to new—and in some cases, these parts are preferable for older model cars especially, since they are, after all, usually OEM parts. The problem is that many claims processes are geared to compensate the bodyshop with a percentage markup on required parts, which unfairly penalizes the lower-cost recycled part. “What incentive is there to save a company a few hundred dollars on a part when they’ll make more money on new?” laments Gold. With insurers looking at every way to find savings in their premiums, taking another look at how parts are costed – including used – may come under question in future.

For the time being, the salvaged parts industry is looking at ways to polish up its image, by promoting the Gold Seal standard, at least within the auto repair and collision repair industries, and even targeting the consumer market in the future. For now, the goal is to present salvaged parts as a reliable, cost-effective and environmentally smart alternative to new – and to put the old image of the tough junkyard guy behind them.

Automotive Recyclers of Canada First to Adopt Gold Seal

The Automotive Recyclers of Canada (ARC) has become the first international association to adopt the Gold Seal Program. As part of their decision, ARC also elected to have all of its automotive recycling members adhere to the Gold Seal standards. All ARC Members are already audited to the Canadian Auto Recyclers Environmental Code (CAREC), and now Gold Seal certification takes those qualified members to the next level.

ARC’s decision to supply high quality recycled parts with no surprises on delivery ensures successful applicants will be best in class within the automotive recycling industry by implementing industry standards for customer service and recycled part quality based on the highest professional service goals and ethical business practices in the automotive recycling industry.

The Gold Seal Program sets up a quality assurance accreditation program for ARC Members that utilizes a series of standards, audits and CSI requirements to help ensure high quality recycled parts are reliably provided to repairers, insurers and the motoring public.

Modelled after the Automotive Recyclers of America’s successful Gold Seal Program, ARC’s business certification program will further channel the strength of the ARC recycler network and assist in addressing the unique characteristics present in the Canadian market.

“We are pleased to be the first international association to support ARA’s efforts to enhance the auto recycling industry on a global scale. Adding on to the existing Gold Seal model has meant a smooth transition for our members,” says Steve Fletcher, ARC’s managing director.

By Martha Uniacke Breen, Bodyshop Magazine