It is the calibre of the bodyshops that have gone out of business that makes this data so worrying, says the MVRA, which claims its QA bodyshops represent the leading edge of the industry.
The specific reasons for the demise of so many bodyshops are varied and range from repairers not making sustainable profit margins from their work providers; poor business performance and/or financial management; repairer inability to meet ever increasing legislative demands; through to the unavailability/affordability of skilled staff; and repairers retiring or moving out of the body repair business into more lucrative ventures.
Important as these individual explanations are, Mike Monaghan, Managing Director of MVRA believes that they are mainly the minutiae of a much more serious set of underpinning circumstances. He says, "I was initially surprised by the percentage of top quality bodyshops that have disappeared in the past few years, yet, on reflection, it makes more sense. I¹m certain that these figures accurately reflect a broad section of demoralised repairers who are struggling with an industry that shows little willingness to address the key long-term problems."
Mike Monaghan identifies four key areas that need to be addressed to allow bodyshops the opportunity to operate and grow: - Labour rates - Skills shortage - The increasing costs of courtesy cars, recovery, full valet and other 'free' services that repairers are required to fund - Repair centre efficiencies.
Monaghan adds, "The industry - and I include the MVRA, the other trade bodies and the work providers in that - needs to continue to find ways to address these challenges. If we ever stop taking steps to tackle these issues then more and more experienced high quality repairers will be forced to shut their doors. These business failures can not just be written off as the expected shortcoming at the weaker end of the market.We¹re talking about some of the UK's best repairers who no longer have the appetite or the financial incentives to fight to survive."
Mr Monaghan concludes, "This really is a wake up call! Work providers need to continue to look at the demands they are putting on their repair networks. Without investment they will lose the repairers they rely on to fulfil their obligations to their policyholders. However, MVRA has obligations too; not only to support members with specific day-to-day difficulties, not only to maintain a dialogue with the work providers, but also to work together to promote the motor industry as a career choice for school leavers, graduates and mid-career changers alike."
The MVRA announcement follows the recent news of merger talks between the rival crash repairer organisations VBRA and the RMI's bodyshop section, hit like the MVRA by the attrition of member numbers.