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ABS calls for certification

Britain's largest independent vehicle bodyshop network is lobbying to raise and monitor industry standards through official certification.

ABS, which has 240 members, is also calling for a tiered system to ensure specialist or franchise-specific work is channelled to appropriately skilled and equipped bodyshops.

Alan Hodgkinson, ABS chief executive, believes Thatcham – the insurer funded reaearch and training orgaisation – is best placed to manage a certification scheme.

“The trade knows what Thatcham stands for and the public is aware of Thatcham's work,” says Hodgkinson. “If a bodyshop were able to say it met Thatcham standards the customer would have greater confidence that it was capable of carrying out repair work to recognised standards. We have had discussions with Thatcham.”

He also believes that the proliferation of industry bodies and associations issuing certification with a wide variance of criteria confuses work providers and the public and is difficult to monitor.

“There should be one set of standards and these should be set high. Membership should mean something,” says Hodgkinson. “But the sad fact is that until the wheels drop off a poorly repaired car and the result is a massive motorway pile-up, there will be no Government pressure for meaningful and properly audited bodyshop certification. Until that happens it's up to people in the industry to push for it.”

He adds that a national scheme should also lead to a tiered system based on established skills and equipment. The top level would be qualified to handle new technology and materials such as aluminium and boron steel. ABS is also looking to recruit more franchised dealer groups to the network to expand its manufacturer-specific coverage – it currently has two on its books.

“Few work providers check to see whether the bodyshop appointed is capable of handling the work,” says Hodgkinson. “It's more often awarded on postcode and price.”

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