‘We’re heading in the right direction’

The final session of IBIS ME 2018 included a panel of industry experts offering their views on the challenges ahead for the collision repair market in the Middle East, and where they see the sector going in the coming years.

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

Moderated by IBIS CEO Jason Moseley, the panel included Mark Hayes, group aftersales director, Audi Volkswagen Middle East, Ben Barber, managing director, GCC, Audatex FZ LLC, Andrew Harman, Mega Bodyshop site manager, Zubair Automotive Group LLC, and Graham Threlfall, development director, IBIS.

All agreed that the estimating process in the region is often flawed, and that is often the issue that sets the entire repair process on the wrong footing. They agreed that a more scientific, fact-based approach needs to be embedded into the culture before insurers, repairers and manufacturers can begin to operate in a successful, functioning environment.

While Andrew said his business uses Audatex, that’s not the case across the region with some vehicle damage estimaters simply looking at the surface damage and not taking into account the required operations behind the panels.

One delegate suggested that the estimators sent from insurers are little more than accountants who have no idea of what technology is built into cars now.

Andrew said, ‘We have a team of experts who educate the estimators from the three main insurers who come to us. It’s taken some time, but we don’t have a problem with that now. Generally, they accept that if we tell them this is the job, they will accept that. We are totally transparent and have a great reputation in Saudi Arabia.’

Graham said, ‘There is some responsibility from manufacturers to educate insurers, to tell them this is the only way to repair our vehicle safely.’

Mark said, ‘It seems that this is being driven from the bottom up and not the top down. Assessors at insurance companies should know more about Audatex and estimating than we do ourselves. They should be telling us, not the other way around.’

Graham urged all sectors of the industry to come together to agree on a way forward, ‘or nothing will change’.

Skills was also a key issue, and again Andrew said that a policy of promoting from within and encouraging engagement among their workforce was a key to their success. That’s not duplicated throughout the region, however. Mark said, ‘The best technology in the world and all the greatest systems will be useless if you haven’t got the technicians capable of operating them.’

The demand for skills could be one of the driving factors behind the slow shift towards standardisation in the region. However, Mark said legislation was not a solve-all. He said that even if manufacturers created information portals open to the industry, they wouldn’t be used. He pointed to the VW Group portal in Europe which, throughout all of 2017, was accessed just 600 times.

‘Even if the information was there, no one would access it because they don’t know how to use it. But we’re missing the point. We should never rely on legislation that locks our customers into us. They should want to stay with us because of the service we provide.’

Supply of parts is also a major obstacle within the industry. Andrew said that in January the average time for parts delivery was 22 days, with key to key times at 34 days.

Those delays are tempting some repairers to use counterfeit parts instead.

Graham said, ‘It’s a common problem for most of the major manufacturers. It’s worse in the unregulated sector, where you don’t just see copied parts, but spurious parts, reused parts, parts that aren’t safe. It comes back to standards.’

Ben said, ‘At the moment, for anything that’s repaired outside of agencies it’s an open book on where you get your parts. So it’s down to government regulation to ensure the safety and standard of parts used in repairs.’

It’s clear the future presents a number of challenges, but cooperation between all sectors, with a continuous, committed focus on safety, suggests there is hope.

Jason concluded, ‘We’ve had a wide, diverse range of speakers from all over the globe, and I’ve seen more interaction today than ever before, which is really positive. I think there is an awful lot more still to do, but I think we are heading in the right direction.’