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Body Repair Industry Campaign criticizes trade associations

In its second annual report recently issued for the period to 31 July 2003 to the BRIC Steering Committee, the campaigning bodyshop organisation levels sharp criticism at the RMI and VBRA, whose merger plans were announced in December.

“The impartial observer of this dire market,” writes BRIC's research Director Shaun O'Reilly, appointed to BRIC in October last, “would have thought to see the trade associations working assiduously to promote the interests of their members. This has not been apparent.

“The VBRA has been singularly silent throughout most of the year, although we are aware that they have done some good work in getting their code of conduct agreed with the Office of Fair Trading.

“The RMI saw the departure of Bob Hood in the early part of 2003 along with all his team. This is a real indictment of senior management at the RMI and their lack of support to the repair industry. One has to wonder what their agenda actually is. Lip service has been given to supporting the industry but, apart from words, nothing tangible or of help to repairers has been forthcoming since the effective collapse of the RMI Bodyshop Services Division. This continues to be a source of profound disappointment to repairers. In our case, we have sought to co-operate on a number of occasions on different issues with the RMI but found it wasteful in terms of time and resources.”

“However,” adds O'Reilly's report, “we were pleased to learn that the RMI and the VBRA had agreed to merge but, frankly, we were, and still are, horrified to learn that this merger is to take the form of a “trial marriage” and is scheduled to take place over a full twelve months. There would appear to be no concept of the urgency that repairers need for their trade association to articulate the issues affecting the industry.

“So we foresee significant withdrawals from membership from both these associations since, at present, they appear to have lost their way. They could reverse any decline if they just remembered and acknowledged they were there to support their members. Again it is noteworthy that no trade association felt able to make any financial contribution towards the costs of BRIC whose research has been instrumental in moving a number of industry issues forward.”

BRIC's Steering Committee is considering mounting a repairer conference and a series of regional meetings. - This week the VBRA urged its members to lobby insurers and other work providers on the impact on profitability of OE parts price reductions and reduced trade discounts.

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