The technology, offering on the spot fixes for light damage to bodywork at a lower cost than a full panel respray, was once seen as a background (and backwater) operation.
Now there are now more than a thousand smart repairers in the UK, according to analysts Trend Tracker.
There are several reasons for its increased popularity.
The products are improving and the choice of services has expanded to cover a wider range of repairs.
It’s become more accepted (the Vehicle Builders and Repairers Association offers membership).
Smart repair technicians are also very proactive with their promotion, setting up in car parks and shopping centres.
For customers, the biggest draws are convenience and price.
Smart repairs can be carried out while the car is in for other work or, with a mobile company, it can be done at a time and place which suits them.
The technology is made even more appealing by rising insurance excess prices, now up to an average of £250, which make it less attractive for drivers to claim for minor damage.
Savvy smart repairer operations offer prices which are deliberately set to undercut the customer’s excess.
Paul Jobling, managing director of SSR Europe, says: “The bodyshop market is estimated to be worth £5.3 billion, and it’s estimated that 15% of that figure, or £800 million, could be repaired using smart techniques.
“Suddenly the market is starting to look very attractive.”
And the scale of this potential is huge. Trend Tracker estimates an additional £916 million of value for the sector, claiming that 47% of the 30 million cars in the UK need smart repairs every year. Rising numbers of vehicles being written off could mean less work for bodyshops.
Already operating on high fixed costs and with tightening margins, even a small drop in revenue can cause rapidly problems.
Smart repair could provide a solution to this decline in work.
It’s a low investment addition to a bodyshop and with most jobs taking less than 50 minutes to complete it can be an quick and effective way to supplement insurance work.
According to remarketing solutions company BCA, in a study of 1,000 vehicles presented for auction, 98% required repairs to bodywork, with 56% having both dent and paintwork rectified before being sold.
This is work which can be carried out by bodyshops, if staff are trained.
Good practice guide for repairers
Smart repairers fall outside much of the legislation aimed at bodyshops, but there are guidelines in place to protect people and the environment.
Environmental requirements differ for mobile operators, since they generally do not stay at one location for long enough to become a statutory nuisance.
Similarly, they typically do not use enough solvent product to require a licence. However, companies should be aware that for those who are based at a single location, whether residential or commercial, action can be taken against the owner if the repairer does not follow environmental guidelines and waste requirements.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) released a good practice guide for smart repairers in October 2007, setting out guidelines to ensure that their work does not endanger the repairer or others.
It advises breathing apparatus and, when work is done outside, taking steps to ensure those without are kept at least five metres away from spraying.
Businesses with more than five staff must do a full risk assessment.
The full guide can be found at www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/web33.pdf