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Bodyshops’ voice is revived

The Retail Motor Industry Federation is planning a revival of its bodyshop services division (BSD) this year.

It aims to bring independent and franchised accident repairers together to agree which issues most impact their businesses.

Tony Lowe, chairman of the BSD’s executive committee and a member of the RMIF’s main board, said that from this autumn the BSD will have its own budget and will be accountable to body-shop members. It will have a dedicated member of staff.

BSD is no longer under the umbrella of the RMIF’s Independent Garages Association, as it was when major body-shops resigned en masse. Significant improvements have been made since chief executive Matthew Carrington’s exit in October 2006.

Lowe, owner of Impact Repair Centres, said: “Dealers don’t run the show. Five or six years ago they did and they called all the shots.

“The RMIF board is now run like a proper business should be run – everybody is equal and accountable. Since Alec Murray took over as chairman he’s been a great presence and has held the reins and moved it forward.

“We have to re-engage bodyshops. At the moment we don’t have a mandate. I’d like a full consultative group to go and tackle the issues. If I have 40 members agreeing a mandate we can take that to the management of the RMIF and say ‘this is what our members want, deliver it’.”

Lowe said the bodyshop industry needs one voice and people prepared to devote time to provide it. At present the RMIF has around 1,500 bodyshop members, who are predominantly from the franchised sector.

He wants to recruit 100 more body repairers from the independent sector.

"The future is bright. There’s a plan to bring together the franchised and independent bodyshops and address the issues they want addressing. The BSD committee will have a say on what’s done, and the RMIF should be executing the wishes of its members," Lowe added.

Annual subscription fees to the BSD will be modest in comparison to some rival trade groups. Lowe has a figure in mind of £550 per branch. Fees for the RMIF’s QC standard, optional to bodyshops, would be on top of that.

Lowe said there is still a place for QC, as it provides business support and features outside those of the PAS 125 standard, which is focused on quality of process. Nevertheless, the BSD is in support of a single industry standard, and has been involved in PAS 125 from conception.

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