Cosmetic and paintless dent repair (PDR) companies are coming under increasing pressure from US rival Dent Wizard as it makes rapid inroads into the UK market.
Dent Wizard, owned by auctions giant Manheim, is challenging competitors on quality by offering a uniform standard across the UK through its in-house technicians.
The gradual growth in PDR in the UK over the past seven years encouraged a flurry of new companies to enter the sector, promising dealers and repairers a fast route to higher profits.
But quality standards have varied as companies took different approaches to the market. Some sold equipment and training to dealers, others offered a mobile franchise service.
Dent Wizard has accused rivals of offering a substandard service, concerned with quick-fix repairs at the lowest prices. It is competing on quality at premium prices, with technicians trained at its Telford centre in Shropshire.
Scott Blind, Dent Wizard European managing director, said: “We have been approached by two PDR companies in the UK that are feeling the pinch and wanted to sell up. We declined to buy them because their standards do not meet ours.
“There has been a degree of complacency with some rivals who have not been developing new products and techniques. They are still repairing small dings, but we have the ability to do much larger dents.”
Dent Wizard is planning to boost business in the UK on the back of new product developments, as it educates the market to understand the opportunities offered by paintless dent and cosmetic repairs.
“We have a number of PDR approvals in the UK, including VW and Hertz, which gives us leverage with franchised dealers. We are in talks with other manufacturers on a preferred supplier basis,” said Mr Blind.
Dent Wizard was persuaded to expand into Europe by US customers like General Motors, Ford and Mercedes-Benz, which have a global demand for PDR. It acquired rival Dent Magician in 1999, giving an immediate customer base in the UK, and now carries out more than 3.5m repairs worldwide, turning over £123m a year.
“We work with around 4-5,000 dealers in the UK, the majority of which are franchised. We intend to expand the number of dealers we work with and increase business with existing clients,” said Mr Blind.
“We will also grow by developing new techniques and products that enable us to repair ever larger dents. It will be three or four years before we reach a plateau in the dealer market, then growth will slow.”
The majority of Dent Wizard's business – around 85% – is with dealers, but Mr Blind intends to broaden the customer base.
“In the future I hope to split the business 40% dealer, 30% auction and 30% rental/fleet,” he said.
“We also do some dent repair work with bodyshops – which is more cost-effective than them doing it in-house – but we are still at a stage where they see us as a competitor.” Dent Wizard is choosing partners for a scheme called PDR for Profit, which boosts dealer profits in return for exclusivity on used car dent repairs.
Dealers get a fixed proportion, possibly 25%, of the income generated for selling the PDR service to their customers. Dent Wizard technicians carry out the repair.
In return, they agree to use Dent Wizard for PDR on used cars, which improves resale values.
“PDR for Profit offers dealers a monthly bolt-on profit with no associated costs,” said Mr Blind. “They could expect to make up to £2,500 a month depending on volumes. In the US, conversion levels are around 40%.”
Dent Wizard offers a new-car no-charge, 90-day warranty scheme called Ding-free and DingShield, a paid-for warranty. DingShield is sold to customers when they buy the car, with the proceeds divided between Dent Wizard and the dealer. For a set number of months – to be decided – the customer will get all dents repaired free.
In addition to PDR, Dent Wizard offers cosmetics repairs under its Flying Colours subsidiary.
“We plan to be around for the long-term, so all our cosmetic repairs must last,” said Mr Blind, referring to claims that some smart products are of inferior quality.
“We are using named brand products similar to those the car manufacturer would use for the original finish – they are all environmentally safe.
“Manufacturers have shown an interest in Flying Colours to refurbish new cars that are damaged during transit and we are working with several companies. All work will match their warranties.”
Dent Wizard plans to dominate the PDR/cosmetic repairs market by exploiting manufacturer and insurance company approvals.
“We want to do business with every dealership in the UK – 100% market share is the ultimate target,” said Mr Blind.