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Direct Line insists no bodyshops will close

Direct Line has threatened legal action against former employee Keith Johnson for a breach of confidence. Mr Johnson claimed in Automotive Management that the insurer's bodyshop network had “no long-term future”.

Head of affairs Chris Wermann accused Mr Johnson, who is now commercial director at independent bodyshop network ABS, of being “a disgruntled former employee” who appeared to have an axe to grind against Direct Line.

“We have four sites remaining and they are all part of our on-going strategy,” said Mr Wermann. “All the outlets are making a profit on a monthly basis and have met our repair targets.”

Direct Line closed two London-based sites earlier this year - in Croydon and Hayes - and dropped plans to launch two more outlets, citing contractual difficulties.

ABS has moved to distance itself from Mr Johnson's comments and in a statement, managing director David Wallace said: “They represented the personal views of Keith Johnson and are not the views of ABS, its directors or any of its member bodyshops.

“We enjoy an excellent relationship with Direct Line and expect this to continue into the future.” (December 17, 1999)

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