Crash repair work has dropped by 21% between 2002 and 2011 according to a new report by Trend Tracker.
The value of the repair market fell in real terms (accounting for inflation) by 29%, because the real-terms price of the average job has fallen along with job numbers.
The increasing fitment of active safety systems to cars is helping to prevent accident in the first place, but another reason for the decline in repair work is an almost continuous fall in the average annual mileage of cars in the UK.
Fewer miles driven equals fewer chances of accidents. The percentage of owners of insured cars notifying their insurance company of a claim dropped from 19.4% in 2000 to 13.9% in 2011.
The recession has hit bodyshops’ non-insurance work supply hard, too. The squeeze on motorists’ pockets means less retail repair work is available, and the volume of trade work – essentially used car reconditioning for dealers – has fallen along with the volume of used car sales.
The result of these negative trends has been many bodyshop closures, and the ‘right-sizing’ of many more.
The number of primary bodyshops (where car body repairs are the core business) fell by 35% between 2002 and 2011, although this shake-out has at least sustained the demand available to their surviving competitors.
Robert Macnab, Trend Tracker’s lead analyst, said: “The outlook for bodyshops is highly dependent on the UK economy picking up again, reviving demand for new and used cars, and giving motorists back more spare cash for elective repairs.
“But,” he adds, “the increasing installed volume of safety features such as Lane Departure Warning, Adaptive Cruise Control and Emergency Brake Assist in new cars is likely to reduce the frequency of accidents in normal conditions as ABS has done in the past, while the congestion now endemic in urban traffic is likely to reduce the severity of the average collision, along with the average value of collision repairs."