Honda is confident its approved repairers can retain a far higher level of accident repair business, boosting customer loyalty to the marque and raising bodyshop profitability, if the network conforms to consistent levels of service.
The company launched its own repair standards programme in March, replacing the Motor Vehicle Repairers Association which had managed the standards for the previous six years. Roger Dunn, Honda UK body and paint manager, said the MVRA had done “a fairly decent job”, but the programme was not achieving its full potential.
“We needed to have our own standards in order to drive the network forward,” he said.
Brown Brothers, a Unipart subsidiary, was appointed in March to manage the programme, which took a year to develop. “They have seven people on the road auditing our approved repairers and supporting the programme,” said Mr Dunn.
“Each bodyshop will be audited twice a year.”
Approved bodyshops presently retain “at least 22%” of Honda's total accident repair business, estimated to be worth £92m.
“We are looking for a dramatic increase in accident repair retention over the next three years,” said Mr Dunn.
“The standards programme will help to achieve a uniform consistency of service throughout the network which will draw Honda cars to our approved bodyshops.”
Around 70% of Honda's 185 approved bodyshops have so far been audited. The network is split between 85 dealer-based bodyshops and 100 independent subcontracted repairers.
Dealers who use subcontracted bodyshops retain responsibility for customer service. The subcontractor is a hidden partner.
“Subcontractors are not allowed to advertise that they are an approved Honda repairer – this would defeat the objective of driving work through our dealerships,” said Mr Dunn.
“It's all about the strength of the brand – our customers like their cars repaired by Honda dealers.”
He has been talking to insurance companies, who exert a powerful hold over where their policyholders' cars are repaired, and hopes to announce several tie-ups soon.
“We have based our service on meeting the needs of insurance companies so they don't try to remove work from our bodyshops,” he said. “Their reaction has generally been positive – they can see we are trying to drive forward standards in the network.”
Honda's accident management scheme, now managed by the AA following the collapse of MLG, helps to direct business through the approved network.
“The AA is a high profile company that fits our image. They will operate a breakdown service which directs work to the bodyshop,” said Mr Dunn.
The accident management scheme links to Honda's popular insurance plan, which is underwritten by Marsh.
Motorists can, from this month, request insurance quotes via the www.honda.co.uk website, as well as at the dealership or by phoning Honda, which will help to raise consumer awareness.
The three-pronged aftersales approach is driven by Honda's need to raise customer service and satisfaction levels.
“We are not doing it to make money from selling insurance or parts – we want to offer a 'no inconvenience' service for Honda buyers,” said Mr Dunn.
“If we get it right, we will improve customer loyalty and, hopefully, repurchases.”
Once the approved standards programme is established, Honda will look to extend it to include the motorcycle division. “A number of our dealers' bodyshops can also repair motorcycles, but there are a number of organisations that compete in this area so we will probably have a mixture of dealers and subcontractors,” said Mr Dunn.
“We are already talking about it, but we have achieved a lot over the past year and we need to ensure the car programme is right before going down the bike route.”