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NU acquires Solus chain

Norwich Union’s purchase of the Greater London and East Anglia-based Solus chain of bodyshops is unlikely to herald an era of insurance company-only owned repairers, according to David Cresswell, chairman of ABP Club.

Unlike other industry bodies, like the Vehicle Builders and Repairers Association, ABP Club feels this will not spell the end for small independent bodyshops.

“I think it’s unlikely that insurance companies will end up owning all bodyshops, as they have shown no appetite for it so far. And if you take a look at the accounts of the vast majority of bodyshops and they’re really not making that much money,” says Cresswell.

He quotes the likes of Eagle Star and Direct Line as examples of the relative lack of success experienced by insurers entering into bodyshop ownership.

However he speculates that the company’s master plan may be becoming clear. “It looks as if Norwich Union is attempting to provide a ‘cradle to the grave’ motoring experience with the purchase of companies such as the RAC, HPI and in addition to this latest acquisition,” says Cresswell.

“If the Solus purchase were to be bolstered by the purchase of another group of body repairers, they could be all be branded RAC – a hugely powerful brand – and suddenly there’s a very compelling business opportunity.”

Launched in 1997, Solus, a £38m turnover business, has nine sites in the London and East Anglian area. It carries out exclusive work for Norwich Union at eight of those bodyshops and also handles DaimlerChrysler Retail’s bodyshop work within the M25 region.

A Norwich Union spokesman called the acquisition a “logical step”, adding: All affected staff have now been informed about this move.”.

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