By Andrew Chandler, sales director, FMG
The increasing complexity of vehicles has seen the bodyshop repair industry go through a period of significant pressure in recent years, resulting in capacity constraints, resource implications and a rising skills shortage.
The growing focus on vehicle safety with the introduction of ADAS features such as autonomous braking systems, pre-collision assist and active parking, command multi-faceted repair methodologies and stringent quality standards, complicating the overall repair process. Add electric vehicles (EVs) and the use of lighter, but stronger, vehicle body materials to achieve higher safety ratings with improved fuel economy performance and the investment in training and specialist equipment needed to keep abreast of these changes is higher than ever.
Significant repairer consolidation over the past 10 years has seen larger groups continuing to buy up smaller operators, increasing capacity and centralising administrative functions to achieve economies of scale. Consider the very specific and dedicated repair options for electric, hybrid and PHEVs – generic repair methods of yesterday, where every repairer could repair any and all types of vehicle, are long gone.
The rising skills shortage is interconnected. The traditional view of repairers as ‘panel-beaters’ has been replaced by highly-trained vehicle technicians capable of repairing today’s modern technology to an extremely high standard, commanding higher salaries as a result. Attracting and retaining such skilled staff is a huge challenge, with fewer young people entering the industry and a distinct lack of training available.
Taking all the above into consideration, we have a compelling reason as to why the overall length of the repair process is only set to increase, and therefore costs will follow the same trend.A study conducted by Thatcham Research and the Association of British Insurers (ABI) revealed that average vehicle repair costs have increased by 32%, to £1,678, in the three years leading up to June 2017.
All this on a backdrop of customer expectations being higher than ever, as the digital world we live in encourages customers to expect instant gratification, with goods and services to be delivered at breakneck speeds. There has never been more pressure on vehicle repair times.
Businesses must play their part in protecting the future of high quality modern vehicle repair. FMG has taken proactive steps to counteract these market changes, investing significant time, resource and expertise in bodyshop repairer relationships. Maintaining our network of manufacturer-approved and BS10125-accredited repairers ensures FMG remains abreast of emerging technologies and EV repair.
Our significant investment in market-leading technology drives the most efficient working practices within the network. Establishing direct links to repairers through CAPS, ClaimWatch, AudaInvoice and bodyshops’ own communication systems enhances real-time communication while reducing manual touchpoints and traditionally lengthy transactional processes, enabling bodyshops to become more operationally efficient.
The entire repair supply chain must continue to work together to strike the right balance in order to keep up with increasing demand and control costs.