Churchill Insurance is recruiting key staff for three new accident repair centres in Leeds, Stockton-on-Tees and Bristol. The insurance giant, which is owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland, is advertising for managers and assistant managers.
The bodyshops, based on Churchill's blueprint of 12,000sq ft centres employing around 50 staff, will open later this year and take the wholly-owned network to 12. Both Churchill and Direct Line, which also has its own accident repair sites, are owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland, which means that they have a combined number of 15 sites, making them one of the biggest bodyshop groups.
Insurers say that opening their own bodyshops gives them coverage in high cost areas of the UK and allows them to provide a high level of service to policyholders – although industry watchers claim poor standards mean a high level of rework jobs. A strong brand also means they can recruit staff from outside the industry.
Analysts say the centres are not intended to replace Churchill's approved bodyshops and instead will fill gaps in network coverage across the country. But critics argue that such supersites could put smaller players out of business.
Insurer-owned bodyshops are exempt from paying VAT on labour rates, which enables them to cost out work at lower prices. There are also rebates to be picked up on paint deals.
Churchill does not rule out more bodyshops in the UK if demand for accident repair services continues to grow.
One insider comments: “Plenty of insurers have gone up and downstream and always sold off additional activities to focus on their core business.”