Many independent bodyshops complain of being either unable to find accurate repair methods and information from vehicle manufacturers, or unaware how to access it.
Concerns about this issue are reaching a peak as carmakers continue to launch new cars made from composite materials such as ultra high strength steels and aluminium, which some bodyshops may not be capable of repairing.
Some bodyshops seek information through local franchised dealers, however they complain this can cost them time.
Plans are now in place for an analysis of the availability, cost and suitability of online data from around 30 major vehicle manufacturers, based on input from leading bodyshops. The results will be presented at the second summit, to be held in spring.
David Cresswell, chairman of the ABP Club, which called the summit, says bodyshops are required to have current recognized repair methods for all vehicle body work.
He adds: “Body repair is a specialized craft skill, requiring specific training, experience and equipment. The construction of vehicles has become increasingly complex as vehicle manufacturers bring in advanced steels for strength and lightness, which have their own methods of joining and repair.
“The extent and complexity of electronics in vehicles is increasing at a staggering rate – partly as a result of new safety equipment. To conduct anything beyond the simplest repairs, specialized equipment is often needed.”
“This is a significant problem for repairers. Thatcham has its excellent eScribe product, but this doesn’t cover all vehicles; Audatex reflects the manufacturers’ times, but these do not contain full methodology; and the vehicle manufacturers’ websites vary greatly in the depth of information carried and the price of accessing information.”
Thatcham’s chief executive Peter Roberts says it currently covers repair methods to around 40% of vehicles with its current funding, and is unlikely to get sufficient funds to cover the entire parc. Nevertheless, the organization is willing to check vehicle manufacturers’ times and processes.