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Bodyshop news: Accident repair millions go begging

The economic downturn has led some of the UK’s largest dealer groups to miss a multi-million pound profit opportunity in accident repair.

Distraction of the fall in new car sales and the resulting over-reliance on used cars has contributed to a loss of millions of pounds per dealer group between September and February.

Accident Exchange has highlighted the problem and has launched a programme, called ‘Together we can beat it’ to help dealers begin exploiting the profit opportunities in customers whose cars have been involved in non-fault accidents.

It is working with 36 dealer groups, including Inchcape Retail, Marshall Motor Holdings, Lookers, Jardine Motor Group and JCT 600 on a consultancy basis. 

“Across the 36 groups the loss to our dealer community in the last six months has been about £14 million – or £5,000 per month per individual dealership,” said Accident Exchange chief executive Steve Evans. 

“So, across the whole of our 1,000-strong dealer customer base the annual uplift opportunity in the next 12 months is in the order of £50 million in commissions alone. Add to this labour hours and the increased opportunity to get a customer out of an accident-repaired vehicle into a new one and the idea of using aftersales to beat the recession is attractive to dealers.”

Accident Exchange’s progamme sees its staff visiting or telephoning dealers weekly to examine body repair estimates, call logs and customer databases to help identify where opportunities are being missed, establish why and then create training plans to rectify the problems. An Accident Exchange in-plant in one dealership taking part in the ‘Together we can beat it’ programme helped double accident repair earnings in one week.

The company also provides dealers with performance benchmarks, putting brands into league tables for like-for-like comparisons, meaning senior management can set targets for body repair, sold hours and parts and materials used in an “integrated accident management service”.

Accident Exchange also carries out mystery shopping during the consultation process. All accident-related enquiries are recorded at each site.

Evans said: “We have identified simple failings in the process that might include a receptionist claiming not to have received an accident related call. But we know we made such a call and it failed to be converted into business.”

The cause of the loss of focus on accident repair business was simple, he said. As the recession worsened, dealers became pre-occupied in used car sales. 

“But their volumes of used cars would never be able to match what sales of new were going to be. In effect it left them treading water and allowed them to miss a massive opportunity in accident repair work since October that was lost to insurance company repairers,” he said.

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