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Bodyshop sector set for cull in 2007

Next year could see the largest number of bodyshop closures in one 12-month period since the 1980s, according to the UK boss of DuPont Performance Coatings (DPC).

Nick Lock, the regional sales manager for DPC, UK and Nordics, believes up to 20% of the 4,500 primary bodyshops (those whose main business is accident repair) could close next year due to the introduction of new paint legislation.

From January, paint companies will only be able to supply waterbased-compliant refinish products. Production of non-compliant paints will cease at the end of the year, with most paint companies predicting stocks will run out long before the end of 2007.

At that point, bodyshops that haven’t invested in waterbased paints, including new ovens, sprayguns and training, will be unable to secure supply of paint.

“At the back end of next year, when stocks run out, we will see a reduction in the number of bodyshops – it could be as many as 20%,” says Lock. But, he adds: “They will be the smaller owner-operator shops, so in terms of overall capacity, it won’t be a 20% fall.”

The issue is cost. Many smaller bodyshops cannot afford to invest in the new products and will decide to call it a day. DPC is keen to ensure this fate doesn’t befall its customers, most of whom have already switched to waterbased products.

Its new Refinish Academy, which opened this month, is intended to help bodyshop users of its three brands – DuPont, Standox and Spies Hecker – be as effective and efficient as possible. “This site will enable us to have highly skilled staff who can train our customers to use our products in a more effective way – that’s key to productivity,” says Lock.

The 20,000sq ft facility, in Stevenage, Herts, replaces three separate training centres, which means cost savings, fewer staff and more back office synergies. It is also DPC’s UK head office.

Lock stresses that opening a shared facility is not a sign that DPC intends to merge its three brands, pointing to their individual strengths in different global markets.

“This facility is a brand neutral arena with a branded experience,” he says. “It’s about our commitment and confidence in the UK.

“We will keep all three brands – they are powerful brands that give customers choice – and we are ready to grow this business and take the competition head on.”

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