The bodyshop of the future is here

Tom Hudd, operations manager, repair technology centre, of Thatcham Research, told delegates at IBIS Ireland 2017 that the ‘Bodyshop of the Future’ is already here.

He said that the technology advances in recent years have arrived into the market and are no longer just the preserve of top-end vehicles. He said that a recent visit to a bodyshop revealed that more than a quarter of the vehicles it was repairing was fitted with one form or advanced drivers assist system (ADAS) or another.

He said, ‘This isn’t the bodyshop of the future. It’s here. What we’re trying to do at Thatcham Research is pull the fact from the fiction. We don’t have all the answers, but we’re looking into them.’

He continued, ‘As an industry, we’ve never had this level of complexity before. We might have seen it in high-end products, but the volume coming down now is unprecedented.’

Referring back to ADAS, he pointed out that there is no one solution that covers all manufacturers and bodyshops trying to be all things to all men would break the bank before achieving blanket coverage.

He said, ‘For bodyshops, it’s not feasible that you can repair everything. If you want to focus on a single manufacturer that would be a really good choice, or if you want to focus on a range of manufacturers and specialise on certain types of repairs, you could thrive. But you can’t do 100%.’

Among the technologies under the spotlight at Thatcham are front sensors – ‘they will prevent you going into the back of the car in front, but won’t prevent other vehicles on the road avoiding you,’ Tom said; hot and cold joining; aluminium, with manufacturers putting more and more aluminium into the production of vehicles to reduce weight or increase speed; adaptive forward lighting; and electrification.

‘Electrification is a rising trend,’ Tom said, ‘it’s not going to go away.’

He said that batteries cost between £4,000-£8,000 and while manufacturers insist they are replaced not repaired, Thatcham Research understands the pressures that places on bodyshops and it actively seeking ways to repair batteries instead of replacing them.

‘These batteries are made up of cells and they can be repaired. Thatcham wants to establish a process for doing that and then share it with the industry.’

These though, are just some of the challenges facing bodyshops today.

Tom concluded, ‘We need to work with repairers, repairers need to work with insurers, insurers need to work with manufacturers. It all needs to unite. If I was going to give anyone one piece of advice, it’s training, training and more training.’

IBIS is only possible thanks to the support of headline partners AkzoNobel and Audatex, and partners Enterprise Rent-a-Car and Synergy.