A Blog Written by Optima Automotive President and CEO Mark Claypool

I want to set the record straight. In my writings here, and as a contributing editor for BodyShop Business magazine over the years, and in my hundreds of workshops and seminars, I have never once said that being OEM certified/recognized isn’t important. Quite the contrary in fact. Nevertheless, I have heard that some shops have gone to the OEMs and told them that I supposedly said that being OEM certified won’t bring them any cars to fix. Not so, and you can read my BodyShop Business magazine column from April of 2019 to see what I have actually said on this HERE.

Here’s the truth, backed by facts, on being OEM certified. I am fully in support of shops seeking and earning recognition by the OEMs. No one knows how best to fix a car better than the entity that designed it, engineered it and built it, PERIOD. And if you have sought to become OEM certified/recognized to repair a particular make’s vehicles, you have invested a significant amount of time and financial resources to earn those designations. Now what? Sit back and wait for the vehicles to start flooding onto your lot? You could try that, and many have, but becoming OEM certified/recognized isn’t like a DRP, you actually have to do something to leverage your time and money to get certified and turn that into cars to fix.

What does that mean? What should you do to get vehicles in house for the makes you are certified/recognized with?  Promote it everywhere, in your shop, outside your shop, on your website and through your social media accounts. Build relationships with dealers in your area for the makes you are certified/recognized with. Give these dealers some flyers they can hand out and maybe train them on looking for damage during a walkaround and use that as an opportunity to refer prospects to you. These will all help, but let’s manage expectations.

On a regular basis we are urged by our clients to help them bring traffic to their door by optimizing their websites to promote their OEM certifications.  But will people actually use search terms that include the OEM name or the word “certified”? The tough love answer is “No”, not by any numbers that will impress anyone. Sorry, not what you may have wanted to hear but the answer is backed up by actual facts from Google. Don’t let that fact dissuade you however, you still need to promote your certifications everywhere. Why? Because, for example, when a Honda owner finds you using the terms the public actually use to find a body shop, and they see that you are Honda ProFirst Certified, that will likely be a deciding factor and you’ll get the keys.

Reach out to me and ask me to show you the volume of search terms nationwide. I’ll be happy to run the report for you.  In the meantime, let me share just a few examples for you to bring this point home:

Search Term

Avg. # of USA Searches Per Month

FCA certified collision


Jeep certified body shop


Honda certified body shop


Nissan certified body shop


Nissan body shop (notice not using the word “certified”)


Ford body shop (notice not using the word “certified”)


Ford certified body shop


In a nation of around 330 million people, you can see there are a very small number of people who search using the term “certified” or adding in a particular make in their search. These numbers are trending up when compared to two years ago, and that’s encouraging, but they are still very small. Here is where the confusion and misrepresentation of what we have said about shops getting certified came from. Some people interpreted this to mean that being OEM certified/recognized doesn’t pay off because people aren’t searching by these terms. That is NOT what I have said and is NOT my recommendation. IMPORTANT NOTE: you need to have realistic expectations when it comes to traffic coming your way, and you need to understand that is will rarely be a result of search terms that includes OEM names and the word “certified”.

The top four search terms the public actually continue to use, year after year, are:

  • Auto Body
  • Body Shop
  • Collision Center
  • Collision Repair

We don’t just pull these terms out of the air, these are the top terms that Google tells us people use to find the services you provide in your body shop. To further validate this, I searched all of the above and more on Google and got a ratio of 94 to less than 1 for the term “auto body” vs. every possible OEM term I could think of. Here’s just one example using Toyota, Honda, Acura and “Ford approved body shop”.  It’s the same no matter what I search.

Search Trend

If we optimize our client websites to actually bring traffic to their sites, using the terms the public actually use, our next step is to capture the attention of the visitors to the site. That includes promoting the OEM certifications/recommendations the shop has earned. If the visitor owns a make you are certified in, doesn’t it stand to reason that this becomes a deciding factor for them? What if they have followed you on social media over the years and periodically you have highlighted your certifications/recommendations, isn’t it possible they will remember this and look you up?

But, most shops haven’t done enough to promote their certifications/recommendations. Just ask any of the OEMs. They’ll tell you. Many shops haven’t included any information on their websites. A few years ago we did an analysis of Honda ProFirst shops for American Honda and Mike Anderson of CollisionAdvice. We found that 40% of the certified shops hadn’t included their certifications on their websites or mentioned them in their social media accounts. That number has improved a lot since then but there are still some that haven’t lifted a finger in this area.

A while ago Nissan created a series of promo materials and promotional posts for their network of certified shops and used Promobox to disseminate these promo pieces. We at Optima Automotive used these a lot for our Nissan certified clients. These resources were fantastic. But, not enough other shops used the free, professionally developed materials and Nissan scrapped the program. Shame on those who ignored this amazing resource. I’ve said it before and will say it again, sometimes the shops in this industry can be their own worst enemy. A wonderful resource made available for free and it was underutilized. Wouldn’t you pull the plug, too, if you were Nissan? Such a shame.

Importantly, on the other side of this, it is my opinion the OEMs could be doing a better job marketing these certified/recognized shops as well. They do bear some responsibility in this discussion. At the point of sale they could mention something like, “If you ever get into a fender bender someday, be sure to find a certified shop in the area. There’s a laminated card in the glove box with a link to search for a shop near you.” Dealers could have stronger relations with certified/recognized shops in their area and refer body work to these shops. I bought a GMC truck a couple months ago and asked the dealer if they have a recommendation for a body shop in the area if I ever needed one. They told me about a consolidator up the street that wasn’t even certified, and their reviews were averaging 3.8 stars! Are you kidding? In contrast, two years ago, I bought a Kia Telluride and they proactively mentioned a Kia certified body shop in the area. OEMs could certainly be more proactive, overall, in promoting their networks of certified/recognized shops, but get this glimpse into the future… soon there will be automated systems on board, using technology such as OnStar, that will be able to do a number of things almost immediately after a collision, including linking you to certified shops for that make vehicle. This will be a game changer.

Again, let there be no mistake, I am fully in support of shops earning OEM certifications/recommendations. And I am fully in support of promoting this at all levels. It is exactly what we do for our clients and, importantly, we make sure that we are using the approved logos and verbiage in these promos.  That’s another thing we see shops doing incorrectly, using non-approved logos and violating trademark law. That will never happen for shops we work with. We have the utmost respect for OEM marks and terminology.

Please contact me with any questions, and also, feel free to ask me to run a keyword report for any term you wish. It is good to have facts rather than speculation when doing anything online.

Mark Claypool

President and CEO

Optima Worldwide Limited/Optima Automotive