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A third of bodyshops could close

More than 1,000 bodyshops will be forced out of business when the new EU Directive on waterborne and low solvent paints comes into force on January 1, 2007.

That’s the grim news from many leading industry figures who predict the legislation will be a catalyst for massive change in the refinishing sector. Just 18 months before the deadline, only 30% of the UK’s 6,617 bodyshops are using waterborne paints.

John Griffin, business manager of Spies Hecker UK, believes body-shop owners who cannot cope with the change will have to retire or sell up. “There is no loophole around this and there is no hiding place. There will be more than 1,000 bodyshops that don’t cope with this legislation. We’re not scaremongering, but come 2008 there will be a lot less bodyshops in the industry,” he says.

Griffin’s prediction is echoed by Charles Long, an independent bodyshop consultant. But Long paints a bleaker picture. He believes up to a third of the 6,000 primary bodyshops in the UK may decide to close rather than invest in the necessary technology. He points to a recent survey which found that only 21% of repairers expect to be able to buy major equipment during the next 12 months, and their average budget will be less than £16,000.

“This is a huge strategic change and I don’t think we’re going to see anything like this for a long, long time,” adds Long.

DuPont Refinish has a team of 10 technicians in place to assist its bodyshop partners convert and retrain. Chris Vickers, marketing manager, expects its 150 Five Star partners to be converted by the end of this year, and is encouraging others to book up. Vickers warns that converting one bodyshop takes a technician a week on average.

“If shops start changing now, there’s still time, but if they leave it to the last minute there isn’t the resource within paint companies to help them,” he adds.

Spies Hecker, which is branding its compliant product range as Greentec, agrees.

“All the paint companies have a big task, we all have a lot of bodyshops to convert in small space of time. But if bodyshops move now then they will benefit in the future,” says UK marketing manager Tyrone Kirk.

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