Motor engineers at several insurance companies are concerned that they will have problems finding bodyshops to repair their policyholders' cars. One told AM that labour rates would have to rise for them to secure winter capacity - but his boss has said that this is not an option.
The high-cost M25 region is particularly badly affected due to the number of bodyshops that have collapsed over the past 12 months, but the problem is starting to spread to other cities. Repairers in Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds have also highlighted capacity issues, while in Bristol lead times are already exceeding four weeks.
“We are only at the end of October and already feedback suggests repair lead times of four and five weeks - the situation is going to be much worse this winter,” says Bob Hood, RMI bodyshop services director.
Last year lead times of six weeks and longer were reported by accident repairers..
The RMI estimates that bodyshop numbers have this year dipped below 5000 due to closures and companies going into administration.
The latest casualties include Sheffield-based Halls Body Repair Centre, and Dixon Motors' Bury Car Clinic - closed after plans to relocate the business to a new site were dropped.
Barry Whittles, Dixon Car Clinics managing director, has called on insurers to ensure bodyshops get a reasonable profit margin.
“They must share the responsibility and acknowledge that the facilities required don't come cheap,” he says.