Panel debate: Divide and conquer

Repairers have been told that being all things to all brands will not be viable in the future. Instead, they have been advised to decide what type of business they want to be and then be relentless in getting there.

That was the message of the second panel debate at the launch conference of ARC360, held at Leicester City’s King Power Stadium at the end of November.

Rob Harper, head of claims business performance, Admiral Group, but expressing his own views on the day, said, ‘There is a polarisation of repair type: volume at one end and more technical repairs at the other. You need to decide where you want to be and if you can’t get there with current processes, then make it or break it. You have to be relentless. Those companies that don’t look for ways to change had better watch out, because in the next three to five years there will be a contraction in repairers.’

That was a view echoed by Mike Partridge, paint and body business manager, Volkswagen Group UK.

He said, ‘Repairers are going to have to look at how they define themselves and almost choose the area they want to occupy. That’s because of the cost of technology. They will have to make a choice because segmentation will happen.’


Richard Steer, CEO of Steer Automotive Group, agreed that consolidation across the industry would continue, but said there would still be enough work to sustain the aftermarket.

He said, ‘If 10% of cars are autonomous, that means 90% aren’t. So accidents will still happen. But what we need to do going forward is work more closely with our clients so we understand what they want and are properly rewarded for meeting their objectives. It’s not just about raising labour rates. That’s quite dull. There needs to be more flexibility, and a collaborative approach with insurers is the only way to find a way around that.’


A closer relationship between insurers and vehicle manufacturers was another point of conversation, with Rob suggesting that customer service over cost needed to be given priority. However, he admitted there were concerns among insurers that VMs would start to control FNOL.

Mike said, ‘It’s only a risk if you’re not talking to manufacturers. If we get FNOL, we’d like to share it with the insurer. They’re good at handling FNOL. All I want to do is repair cars. That’s what we are good at.’

He continued, ‘The pace of technology does pose a repairability challenge. We are working closely with our network to ensure they have the necessary skills, and now engage a lot closer with insurers too. Next year we’re going to deploy a web portal that can be accessed by insurers so they can see the latest models too.’

Major change

Meanwhile, Paul Sell provided a welcome note of calm. He said that while major change was taking place, change is nothing new and businesses have always had to be adaptable.

He said, ‘Technology is both a challenge and an opportunity, and businesses are always finding new ways to win. I don’t think we’re at a tipping point. I just think this is the latest evolution and businesses must find a way to get through it.

‘To do that, there must be an absolute hunger to improve all areas, whether that’s investing in technology, investing in people or improving customer journey. That has to be your mindset.’

ARC360’s inaugural event was supported by corporate partners: 3M, ACIS, BMS, EMACS, Entegral, Enterprise, Nationwide Vehicle Recovery Assistance, S&G Response and CAPS; sponsors Indasa, Stanners, Symach, Thatcham Research, and The Green Parts Specialists; and strategic partners AutoRaise, NBRA, RepairTalks and Trend Tracker.

ARC360’s next event takes place on 18 March 2020 at the British Motor Museum – book your ticket now.


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