The use of non-original equipment (non-OE) parts and panels in the accident repair industry has increased over the past 10 years, as insurers look to cut repair costs on older cars.
Repairers, however, often complain about low quality standards and fitment issues, which has worsened with the growth in the number of companies supplying non-OE parts. Thatcham, the Motor Industry Repair Research Centre near Newbury, Berkshire, is responding to the complaints by publishing a list of accredited parts makers.
The initial target is to create within 12 months a list of audited parts suppliers for the top selling volume cars aged 3-10 years old. The list would focus on products that offer the greatest savings, including exhausts, lights, clutches, front end panels and bumpers.
Peter Roberts, Thatcham chief executive, said the action would counter the high OE parts prices and excessive year-on-year increases.
“There are around a dozen companies making a 1,000 non-OE parts – insurers want us to accredit them and produce an approved list of parts that can be fitted with confidence,” he said.
Thatcham will be looking for parts that meet OE standards to ensure same fitment times. Repairers, though, will make less money fitting non-OE parts because of the lower prices. “It will be a matter for each insurance company as to whether they recognise any other commercial issue,” said Mr Roberts.
Non-OEs account for 3% of the parts market. Thatcham believes its accreditation list will encourage greater use, but predicts they are unlikely to take much more than 9%. Insurers are likely to continue using original parts on cars up to three years old.
“The listing will help to alter the dynamics of the market, though,” said Mr Roberts. “It will force carmakers to look at their parts prices in order to compete.”
Despite the obvious impact on manufacturers' parts profits, Mr Roberts was hopeful of maintaining a strong relationship with them. He pointed to a new whiplash injury assessment that Thatcham was co-ordinating to help minimise claims costs for insurers. Carmakers would benefit from improved insurance ratings.
“By autumn next year we hope to have a full set of head restraint ratings for every model,” said Mr Roberts. “We hope that initiatives like these will keep our relationship with carmakers strong.”
Thatcham has discussed its accreditation plans with CAPA, which accredits non-OE parts in the US, but ruled out replicating its findings.
“We have similar objectives to CAPA, but we believe we need our own accreditation process,” said Mr Roberts.
He confirmed Thatcham would carry out regular spot checks to ensure parts quality remained consistent.
The list is likely to be extended to recycled and reconditioned parts within 12 months as their use becomes more widespread.
Thatcham has, in the past few weeks, started work on 3D graphics for its estimating package TTS in association with Mexican IT specialists ExpertSys.
Natalia Galarraga, Thatcham director of IT, said: “The graphics will put TTS streets ahead and enable systems houses to produce programmes for bodyshop and insurer users.
“We plan to launch the first database by early summer, selecting volume models first.”
The graphics use co-ordinates instead of pixels. They require less memory, which makes the system quicker to use. The programme also incorporates repair methodology – an alternative to Thatcham's repair manuals – which makes it ideal as a training tool for estimators.