The launch of the Bodyshop Owners Fellowship, which aims to have a limited membership of between 400 and 800, is one of a number of organisations set up over the past few years to combat poor profits in the sector. They range from national networks like ABS, trade bodies like the defunct Association of Body Repairers and pressure groups like the Body Repair Industry Campaign (BRIC).
It will operate with a regional structure where members' views are directed through regional committee members, similar to the Vehicle Builders and Repairers Association's branch constitution. And it promises the chairman of regional committees will regularly meet to discuss important issues and formulate plans for action.
The Bodyshop Owners Fellowship is the brainchild of Peter Woodhouse and Peter Warrilow, directors of a specialist consultancy for the accident repair industry with more than eight years experience of advising clients and a total of 72 years' industry know-how between them.
They stress the organisation is not a trade association but more like a profit forum or chamber of commerce and say it will be both proactive and reactive.
“We have witnessed first-hand the steady decline of our industry in terms of profitability, bodyshop closures, a general reduction in morale and an increasing amount of cynicism, frustration and isolation,” says Woodhouse. “This cannot be allowed to continue and we believe we can do something about it.”
But industry reaction to the new group has been lukewarm, questioning the need for another trade body promising to boost profits.
“I'm not convinced about this latest move,” says one bodyshop owner. He believes the directors should instead put their weight behind BRIC, which is campaigning to improve repairer profits and encourage more people to enter the sector.
The RMI is equally sceptical. Bob Hood, director of the RMI bodyshop services division, says: “If a bodyshop has that sort of money to throw around, they'd be better off investing back in the business.”
The Association of Body Repairers was set up two years ago promising lower costs for its body repair members by acting as a direct supply chain. It had a number of deals in place with parallel importer Bodyshop Warehouse, but fizzled out after just a few months.