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AM Awards: Bodyshop of the year, Solus Norwich Union

Bodyshop of the year sponsored by Britannia

Solus has a mission: to be Norwich Union’s (soon-to-be Aviva) centre of excellence in vehicle body repair and to be the employer of choice in the accident repair industry.

The south-east bodyshop chain has 19 sites, which have all achieved Thatcham BSI Kitemark status.

It also has more than 100 technicians accredited to the ATA Senior level across all disciplines.

Bob Florence, Solus director, said investment on training to deal with increasing vehicle complexity had equipped Solus to meet the demands of PAS 125.

Solus began life as family business M & A Coachworks in 1970. It specialised in premium brands. In 1997, it started working exclusively for Norwich Union in a partnership which was the first of its kind.

“Almost half the technical staff hold industry-recognised qualifications”

Originally on a five-year contract (now 15-year, signed in 2002) with volume guarantees, the partnership gave Norwich Union capacity in an area of high policyholder density but with poor customer service and high costs.

It allowed Norwich Union to enhance its brand by differentiating on customer service.

Innovations include self-authorising estimating, which has cut authorisation times from seven days to four hours, Car Tracker, which gives customers visibility of their car’s repair journey, and lean manufacturing processes which reduce cycle time.

Real-time feedback is used as a CSI tool and its continuous training programmes ensured the group was the first bodyshop chain to get Kitemarks for all its sites.

Staff turnover is 11%, down from 19% in 2006. Employee satisfaction is measured by two surveys – a leadership survey and a climate survey.

Solus says its unique selling point is its focus on its people. Staff entertainment is strongly encouraged, not least at summer barbecues where management cook for staff.

Nearly 10% of staff are serving apprenticeships and almost half of technical staff hold industry-
recognised qualifications.

Its strategy to target premium marques such as Audi, Bentley and Porsche has seen market share of these repairs increasing, access to technical information and training and improved repair efficiencies.

In the future, Solus wants to grow while further improving CSI, increasing revenues with reduced costs and increasing throughput.

It is looking to improve efficiencies by addressing costs and credit hire issues and personal injury expense.

Highly commended

  • Alton Cars 


  • Academy Group
  • Castle Coachworks
  • Marshall Cambridge
  • Marshall Peterborough

See the awards photo gallery.




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