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The future is in your hands...

Repairers have been urged to trim down insurance direct repair contracts and explore more profitable alternatives.

One Kent business says marketing directly to consumers and local fleets will allow repairers to reduce their dependence on insurers’ approved contracts and bring full control back into the hands of the management.

It’s a strategy that has worked for Joe Godfrey, managing director of Edenbridge Accident Repair Centre. “The hardest thing is to get a customer to come to the bodyshop before their insurer directs them,” he says. “If you can make yourself the first call when the customer has had an accident you can get them to come to you.”

Edenbridge, annual turnover £1m, is marketed to medium and large fleet operators in its region, and provides its own accident management service.

Godfrey says 80% of its jobs are captured by its own service, at an hourly retail rate £5 higher than its insurance approved headline rate.

“I believe the way forward is to separate ourselves from the insurers,” he says. “Approved schemes are fine but they are one-size-fits-all, which doesn’t always work. When you’re independent you’re fully in control of your shop.”

Franchised dealer group St Leonards Motors in Hastings, Sussex has taken a similar step with its bodyshop.

Profits were in decline even though it was working more hours, and 90% of its work was through insurance approvals. Its management elected to cut this by a third and go hunting for more profitable retail work.

“We decided we’d look at every car that comes into the workshop. If we notice a few scratches or dents we ask the customer if they’d mind being contacted by our bodyshop. That generated 10% of the work back,” says dealer aftersales director Brian McNeilly.

SLM, which has Nissan, Vauxhall, Toyota and Fiat franchises, also direct mailed all customers in its database, advising them that they were not forced to use their insurers’ approved bodyshop.

David Nutter, dealer principal at Halliwell Jones BMW & Mini in Warrington, Cheshire, sees carmaker approvals as the way ahead. More than half his business comes through warranty, pre-delivery inspection and from within the group.

“We’re comfortable with the work we have now, but we would like more manufacturer approvals, such as Audi and Bentley,” he says.

The £1.3m bodyshop opened in mid-2004 and was profitable within six months.

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