Sun shines on IBIS Middle East

Nearly 200 delegates from around the region attended the third IBIS Middle East in Dubai on Wednesday, when industry leaders delivered a vast range of presentations touching on key topics such as technology, telematics, skills shortages and the move towards standardisation in the collision repair sector.

Supported by headline partners AkzoNobel and Audatex, and partners 3M, Al-Futtaim Auto Centres, Axalta, TEROSON and Thatcham Research, IBIS brings like-minded people together to share ideas and knowledge for the better of the industry.

This is especially relevant in the GCC, where there is such diversity in the repair market.
Among the speakers at IBIS Middle East, Kevin Jones, managing director of Al Futtaim Auto Centre, spoke about the role the Automotive Dealer Council is hoping to play in bridging the chasm between the industry’s top repair centres and those at the bottom, by introducing a level of standardisation.

Initiated and underpinned by the Ministry of Commerce, he said the Automotive Dealer Council is on an ambitious road that will ultimately lead to safer cars, safer repairs and safer drivers. The first step will be licencing new garages, and the Council hopes to have documentation in place by the end of next year.

Licencing will follow a process of self-assessment, with Council representatives visiting sites and carrying out spot checks thereafter. Any garages that fail to meet the required standards risk having their licences revoked.

Logistically it is not possible to include from the start the 17,000 garages already in operation in the UAE, although they will eventually be incorporated as Kevin, who is chairman of the Council, said they will have to follow the same process as new garages when renewing their licenses.

Kevin said, ‘We owe it to our customers to keep them safe, and we owe it to our brands to make sure the car is repaired properly. We have to make sure the car is repaired by people who are qualified to do it properly.

‘What we’re doing isn’t perfect, but we want to start a process and then continually improve. We need to be proactive to meet the demand of ever-increasing technology coming to vehicles, to keep the drivers safe.

‘We have unity with the government, they are behind us. It’s time now for the Dealer Council to embrace insurance companies as well, because we’re better together. We need them to be part of our team to make it safer for our customers and consumers.’

Branching off from the Automotive Dealer Council are three sub-committees: the Spare Parts Committee, Private Garage Standards Committee and the Body Repair Advisory Committee. A fourth sub-committee, Vehicle Safety and Protection, will be formed in the coming months.

Spare Parts Committee

This committee comprises 21 members who meet once a quarter and then report their findings back to the ministry.

Its core objectives are protecting authorised distributors by clamping down on parallel importers, preventing fake parts being repackaged under an established brand name and then being sold into the market, and highlighting the risk of using non genuine parts.

Kevin said, ‘There are fake copy parts being brought into this market to completely mislead the consumer. They have no quality at all. We want to be able to say to the consumer, ‘that shop is selling genuine parts, you can go in there with confidence’.’

Private Garage Standards Committee

Formed in March 2015, this committee’s aim is to raise the standards of repairers. It will measure their assets, operation and staff, with four levels of certification. The over-arching aim is to guarantee a safe working environment, compliance with basic environmental requirements and a satisfactory level of repair.

It’s open to all dealers, and already includes BMW, Chevrolet, GMC, Honda, Infiniti, Jeep, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan and Toyota.

Body Repair Advisory Committee

Comprising members representing the entire market, this committee is dedicated to improving standards and professionalism in the industry, and helping to prepare to meet future demands.

The projects it’s working on include ensuring correct repair methods are implemented, creating body repair specific criteria, and reviewing the structure of motor insurance underwriting.

Vehicle Safety and Protection Committee

Meanwhile, the fourth committee is actively looking for members. Its aim will be finding ways of reducing accident frequency and therefore fatalities. Road statistics in the region make for grim reading, with 16,300 traffic offences committed every single day in the first 10 months of 2015.

The committee will hope to educate drivers to change their habits behind the wheel. It could well call on telematics to help drive this change in the future, with 25% of cars in the UAE expected to be retro fitted with devices by the end of this year.

Conclusion

IBIS 2016 concluded with a global panel discussing the future landscape of the collision repair industry in the Middle East. Representing Henkel was Afif Hachicho, vehicle repair and maintenance sales manager GCC, Egypt and Levant; Keith Malik, director, global accounts spoke on behalf of AkzoNobel; Audatex Middle East put forward managing director GCC, Steve Watson; while David Williams represented commercial manager, Behbehani Solutions.

Again, standardisation was a hot issue.

Steve Watson said, ‘What I’ve learned coming to IBIS is that I have to sometimes forget I’m from Audatex It’s all about where we’re going as an industry and when we’re in the room together, we never mention brand.’

‘We talk about standards as though they don’t exist. The manufacturers and importers have their own standards. In the OEM sector, the standards are already there. It’s just about bringing all those standards together into a common standard, and bringing those that aren’t already there up to a level. I think there will be a huge shrinkage because some of the repair shops simply don’t have the skills to meet these standards.’

Keith added, ‘It’s incumbent on more mature businesses to drive standards and safety within the industry. We’re teaching people to fish, not trying to feed them. IBIS allows dialogue to take place and there is a lot of drive to invest in training centres. But we need to underpin that with the resources to upskill the workforce.’

David concluded, ‘Are we on the right road when it comes to standards? The first step was realising we needed to be on a road, and we have the mistakes and successes of all the other regions to learn from. But there are big challenges – the government backing that exists in other regions is not there.

‘We know where we’re going, what we want to do to get there, but maybe there are a few left or right turns to take along the way. But that’s evolution.’