What is OEM Certification?

When it comes to collision repairs, debates about the value of gaining OEM certification are common among technicians, managers and everybody in between in body shops. Many body shops wonder if the return on investment is worth it, if it can attract more customers, and if it can help them outshine competitors. These questions arise frequently when considering taking the financial plunge into gaining OEM certifications. Not to mention the resource, space and time considerations that must be made for additional training and new tools and equipment.

If you’re finding it difficult to determine whether OEM certification would be beneficial for you and your customers, this guide will explore both sides of the debate to help you make an informed decision. We’ll cover everything from the meaning of being OEM certified to its advantages, as well as alternative routes to consider.


What is an OEM Certification?

OEM is an acronym which stands for ‘Original Equipment Manufacturer’. When a body shop obtains OEM certification, this means they’ve received official recognition from a manufacturer for using only factory-approved parts and processes. Body shops that are seeking OEM certification must apply directly to manufacturers either over the phone or online and prove that they have the proper equipment, facilities and knowledge to install these parts using factory-approved procedures. Typically, body shop technicians will undergo specialist training and testing before a body shop can receive its certification.

Some manufacturers have decided to take their OEM certification process in-house. For example, Ford requires body shops to apply for their Ford Certified Collision Network (FCCN). Body shops must also hold and maintain the I-CAR Gold Class certification to become eligible for Ford’s OEM certification. Therefore, your team needs to understand what will be required of them for each certificate application. This might also influence which manufacturer OEM certificates your body shop chooses to try to obtain.

The process of completing OEM certification can be expensive, although it varies depending on the manufacturer. The annual fee for a certificate is typically between £1,500 and £5,000, so if cost is a worry, this is something worth finding out before making a decision. Factors that can affect costs can include additional fees, any other certifications or requirements, the equipment and tools needed and the number of technicians that will receive the training.

Technician looking at computer screen in garage

Understanding the Differences Between OEM, ODM and EMS

Working in the collision repair industry, you’re likely to come across a seemingly endless string of acronyms and specialist terms. While we’ve covered what an OEM is, you might also have come across ODM and EMS and wondered how these fit into the puzzle.

ODM stands for ‘Original Design Manufacturer’, and parts from these manufacturers are designed in the same way as the original maker, but might come with different branding, colour options or packaging. This differs from OEMs since they supply the original parts used during the initial manufacturing process rather than parts that are simply designed in the same way. However, obtaining ODM certification can sometimes be easier and cheaper than OEM certification because body shops can work with a wider range of suppliers that offer ODM parts. This also eliminates the need to purchase tools and equipment needed to complete repair jobs to factory standards.

EMS, or Electronic Manufacturing Services, provides design, manufacturing, and logistics expertise to help OEMs quickly scale production and expand into new sectors. This is less relevant to body shops but still worth understanding where OEMs get their expertise and product development.


Why are OEM Certifications Becoming More Popular?

OEM certification seems to have grown in popularity over the last few years, which could be because parts are becoming more difficult to source and the technology is increasingly complex. Being certified means that your body shop has a relationship with the manufacturer and can order parts as and when they’re needed with the guarantee that they’ll meet factory standards.

OEM-certified collision repair body shops have the necessary tools, equipment, training, and access to OEM repair procedures to ensure that the repair work is done correctly. The most reliable and trustworthy body shops make every effort to maintain the highest possible certifications. These certifications involve rigorous vetting procedures, demanding tests and specialised training, as well as an investment in specific tools and equipment as required by different manufacturers. Most certifications require technicians and facilities to complete annual or routine re-testing to stay up-to-date with new tools, technologies, and processes.

technician using a computer in garage

Body shops work with many technical parts, so many see the value of using factory-approved parts and processes to ensure that each repair job is completed correctly for their customers. In return, customers can trust that the job will be completed to a high standard and feel that their vehicle is in safe hands when they bring it to an OEM-certified body shop.


Benefits of being OEM Certified

OEM certification can benefit body shops and their customers in several ways, including:

  • Increased business
  • Boosted product knowledge
  • Competitive pricing
  • Faster production
  • Working with a wider range of products/equipment
  • Safer repairs

The biggest benefit for customers is that they can have peace of mind that their collision repairs will be completed to the manufacturer’s standard. This means that their vehicle will be returned to the condition it was in before sustaining damage and can perform exactly as intended. In turn, their confidence will reward your body shop with returning customers and allow you to raise prices to match the quality of your jobs.


What to do After Becoming OEM Certified

Once your body shop has obtained OEM certification, there are a few additional steps you can take to make the most of your investment. Firstly, it’s important to align yourself with local dealerships, as they will understand the significance of your certification and are more likely to send work your way. If you have a body shop in an area with a high number of other body shops, it might be challenging to find a dealership that isn’t already aligned with a body shop. However, it’s still worth approaching service managers at dealerships to start building relationships in the meantime.

Female technician check underneath of a car.

Secondly, your certification should be visible to your customers and clearly communicated wherever relevant. While it’s a good idea to add your certifications to your website, advertising and paperwork, you shouldn’t assume that your average customer knows what this means. For example, if your body shop has Ford OEM certification, this should be explained as simply as possible to customers who bring in Ford vehicles for refinishing or repairs. By saying your body shop has undergone specialist training and carries brand-specific parts and tools to finish the repair job to the manufacturer’s standard, you can help customers understand why this is important while setting you apart from other body shops.

On a similar note, brand promotion is crucial. This goes not only for your brand but also for the manufacturers that your body shop holds OEM certifications for. By becoming OEM-certified, your body shop is agreeing to promote the processes and products of the manufacturer. Whether it’s Honda, Ford or Renault, you must be prepared to advocate for why their parts are best to use and why customers should choose you to deliver their services on their behalf.


Other Body Shop Certifications to Consider

OEM certifications are just one type of certification that body shops and technicians can acquire. As mentioned above, it might be the case that to obtain OEM certification for some car manufacturers, your team could be required to gain other certifications.

Other body shop certifications include:

  • AAA Approved Auto Repair (AAR) Certification: Body shops in the US and Canada can apply for membership to this certification and benefit from a network of qualified, professional automotive facilities in return.
  • Better Business Bureau (BBB): Body shops in the US, Mexico and Canada can receive BBB accreditation which signals that they produce high-quality work that meets local and federal laws.

Technicians can also obtain personal certifications such as Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) which indicates the quality of their work, and Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair (I-CAR) which has different classifications depending on the skills held by the individual for collision repairs. These are unrelated to the body shop which means that they might need to be self-funded, but this also means that auto body repair specialists can use the accreditation to further their careers. They can also take these with them if they work on a self-employed basis or move to another body shop. 

Ultimately, body shops and technicians should weigh the pros and cons when deciding whether OEM certification would be right for them. From the costs and requirements to the benefits, we’ve laid out everything worth considering.

At JTAPE, we’re proud to work alongside OEMs to provide excellent adhesive and masking solutions for use in body shops. To discover our range, check out our product page.

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