AM Online

The big picture: Back the Kitemark

The bodyshop Kitemark programme, developed by Thatcham and now being piloted at several bodyshops, is the biggest development in accident repair since the first Model T head-on crash (which probably took place at a leisurely 5mph).

No question, PAS125 has the potential to reshape the bodyshop landscape. But only if the industry gets behind it. And by industry, I mean insurers, accident managements, fleet suppliers and vehicle manufacturers.

So far, insurers are backing it “in principle”. A few, including Norwich Union and Chaucer, have indicated their intention to mandate it. Chaucer even suggests it would replace its own compliance checks. More insurers are dragging their heels, however, waiting to “see how it develops”.

Understandable, perhaps, but not good enough. Too many people have invested too much time for this initiative to fail now. Mandate the Kitemark and it’s as good as Government legislation; as good as licensing, which many bodyshops support.

Yes, there will be cost, but it will spell the end to sub-standard businesses. Think of the publicity potential – the Kitemark is the most recognizable symbol for consumers. And bodyshops will have Thatcham to thank for bringing it to fruition; it is arguably a job for a trade association.

As well as the work providers, it needs the backing of car manufacturers. The Kitemark needs to capture both independent and franchised bodyshops. They’ve been quiet so far, but need to be included in the process.

There is a possible fly in the ointment: a lack of auditors. One source tells me that it takes six to eight hours to audit a business to Kitemark standards. The scheme currently has 15 auditors who my source believes will be able to audit only around 80 bodyshops a year, far fewer than the target of 2,000 audited businesses within two years.

British Standards Institute, which governs the Kitemark, needs to put more investment behind its auditing team to enable as many bodyshops to get on board as quickly as possible. The time to act is now.

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