According to the latest Sewells Bodyshop Opinion Survey there has been a slight improvement in these relationships compared to 2004 – notably in respect of insurers, accident managers and paint distributors – the general level of satisfaction continued at the same very low level recorded last year.
While the present state of body repair industry relationships is clearly strained, there are obvious exceptions, says Sewells, an AM sister-title.
Paint distributors turned in the highest satisfaction rating of all at 80.6% (up 0.2% on 2004). Contrast this with the 62.4% awarded to relationships with insurers and 61.4% for estimating system suppliers, and there is no doubt that bodyshops find paint distributors ‘nice people to do business with’.
"It would be easy to suggest that the secret of this success is the local nature of the businesses which make up paint distributors and factors. But in almost all of the eight Sewells Bodyshop Opinion Surveys conducted since 1996, two large groups – Morelli and Brown Brothers – always return outstanding performances. Indeed Morelli has been effectively top distributor in all eight surveys, and this year scored an excellent 84.6% satisfaction rating," says the report.
The high satisfaction with paint distributors is, however, one of the very few bright spots.
In almost every other respect the results of this year’s Bodyshop Opinion Survey make for grim reading.
The value of the body repair market to bodyshops has fallen for the second consecutive year in real terms, following several years of exhibiting zero growth. And the trend in body repair market value could be much worse than the latest Opinion Survey results indicate, because respondents’ reports of annual sales can lag behind because of financial year-ends.
Another problem in this marketplace is the continuing slide in the numbers of bodyshops.
Taking into account every business involved in body repairs, there were 6,524 bodyshops at the end of 2004.
This compares to 12,719 at the end of 1997. This is itself a considerable fall, but it actually understates the true position since 90 per cent of the work is completed by primary bodyshops for which body repairs are the main business. At the end of 2004 there were 4,480 primary bodyshops operating in the UK - 3,290 independents and 1,190 franchised. In 1996/97 there were 6,300.
At this rate of decline, the number of primary bodyshop will fall to 3,770 by 2010. Over the UK as a whole, this might not create a disastrous loss of capacity, but regionally, motorists will suffer.
A total of 464 body repairers responded to the 2005 Sewells Bodyshop Opinion Survey and rated their satisfaction with the suppliers and work providers. Overall, the 2005 Body Opinion Survey describes an industry going through troubled times. However this research will help suppliers and work providers assess their relationships with bodyshops, and identify areas where crucial improvements can be made.