Industry panel calls for open dialogue

IBIS ME 2018 invited leading industry experts from the region to take part in an open and insightful panel debate on the state and future of the automotive aftermarket.

Thomas Faerber, general manager, project and logistics, Al Nabooda Automobiles, Mark Hayes, group aftersales director, Audi Volkswagen Middle East, and Zia-Ul Jaweed, claims director, RSA joined Graham Threlfall, IBIS Middle East development director on stage to represent all sectors of the market.

Setting the stage, Graham said, ‘2017 has seen the biggest coming together of the industry in the region that I’ve seen, and that’s a great sign.’

The panel discussion, representing an insurer, a manufacturer and a repairer, furthered that convergence. Graham began by asking what the greatest challenges were for each.

Thomas said, ‘The challenges faced in Europe 30 years are now being faced here. I think agencies have made a mistake by taking advantage of insurers in the past, by increasing prices of repairs when they could. But now I think it’s gone the other way.’

Many dealers argue that insurers in the region refuse to pay their estimates, with non-agency (and non-safe) repairs considerably cheaper.

Thomas said, ‘As dealers we have to earn the trust back from the insurers. To do that we need to make a proper estimate and back it up with images. But then they need to accept that. ‘My wish would be that we work together as partners – that I give them what they want, and they give me what I need. Nothing is stopping us doing that.’

The need for lower cost repairs, argued Zia-Ul, is often a result of the depreciation of vehicles, which can be as much as 30% in a single year. ‘We insure the value of the car,’ He said. He argued instead for tiered pricing based on the age of the vehicle, although repairers in the audience argued that the time spent repairing a two-year-old car is the same as the time spent repairing a seven-year-old vehicle.

Thomas added that there was a third aspect to consider – he said manufacturer prices make life difficult for repairers to invest adequately in tooling and training. In many cases different brands demand different equipment, meaning repairers handling multiple manufacturers often to invest in the same things multiple times. He explained that, in the real world, with downward pressure from insurers to repair vehicles at lower cost, this is often impractical.

He said, ‘The third part of this is the OEM. Regardless of brand, the price of parts and training makes it difficult to achieve the target of being a fair partner to them. But by talking to each other, I think we could find a much better solution.’

Mark said, ‘We put an obligation on our dealers to train their technicians and invest in the technology that enables them to repair our vehicles safely. We think customers always choose the cheapest. They don’t. They go for value. If we tell customers they can pay this amount for a dealer repair and this amount for a non-agency repair, but with a non-agency repair they won’t get this and they won’t get that, I think we’ll see shift.

‘Our objectives here are all aligned. But we also need to manage expectations. Manufacturers have spent billions of dollars building vehicles that are safe, and as soon as we lower the standards of repair, the safety is compromised.’

Thomas said, ‘If I had a dream, I’d like to form a panel where we can have proper discussions and find proper solutions.’

IBIS ME 2018 is supported by lead partners AkzoNobel and Audatex, and partners 3M AutoMillennium Group, Spanesi and Symach.