Their statements, made at the unveiling of this year’s AM50, came after the RMIF admitted it has let the sector down, but now hopes to attract crash repairers back into membership.
Since the mass resignation of the RMIF’s bodyshop consultancy group in February 2004, around 50% of its then 3,000 bodyshop members have pulled out of the trade body.
Tony Lowe, RMIF board director and owner of Impact Repair Centres, says this is “absolutely tragic”. Yet he hopes bodyshops will return once they understand the RMIF’s new structure.
“In 12 months’ time you will not recognize the RMIF,” he says. “I need the AM50 bodyshops to be involved in decision-making and shaping what we do.”
However, bodyshop groups Deejay ARC, Karl Vella Autobody Repairs, M&M Vehicle Repairs and Simon Bailes all say they will not be joining. “It has not got any value to us,” said Karl Vella. All four are equally scathing about the Vehicle Builders and Repairers Association.
Deejay boss David Shepherd says the RMI has done “irreparable damage” in the bodyshop sector. “It’s difficult for them to represent our sector when their main revenue comes from the franchised dealer sector,” he adds.
The RMI’s recent cost-cutting and re-organization led to the redundancy of Jeff Mack, head of bodyshops. His role is now shared between Ray Holloway, also director of independent garages, petrol retailers and motorcycle dealers, and Mike Owen.
Lowe says the federation cannot afford a full-time bodyshop spokesman, but this statement is challenged by repairers who point out the 1,500 remaining bodyshop members contribute £1.5m in annual subscriptions.
He told delegates that if the RMIF restructure is not successful, he will consider resignation.