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T he Collision Repair Association (CRA) have begun a national roll out on this year’s marketing plan. The plan has two objectives: to increase representation on a regional basis and improve service delivery at every level for their collision repair members.

Automotive Refinisher travelled to the Western Cape to touch base with the new area manager for CRA, Ross Kavanaugh and to interview a cross section of members. “This expansion,” says Ross, “is proof positive that the four-year-old CRA has great plans for the market in the upcoming year.”

Stephen de Beer is the Cape chairman from the CRA and is based in Cape Town. He says that there are a number of pressing issues that lie ahead of repairers. “For a start, we need much better systems co-ordination in a great many areas of activity. The current level of approvals from manufacturers is out of control in many shops. A great deal of hassle and wasteful expense is accrued to keep all these compliance issues at bay. You have the recent demand from a German manufacturer, that a new multi-mix repair room must now be built to repair their brands at a cost of some R1 million approximately. All of this to cover just 3% of South African models that employ the mixed aluminium and high strength steel. This is an outrageous current demand in my opinion.

“Commercial arrangements will always be negotiated on a one-on-one level so that is the way this market has worked since we opened our repair shop way back in 1976. The CRA as a body are trying to attract a different type of basic member. We need to put back into the industry in some way and not just take out all the time.

“The life line of sustainability has to be the way that we train and nurture our apprentice programmes, assessor training and profitability understanding that shops are pursuing. Right now the Cape needs delivery of between 30 to 40 apprentice journeymen each year and it is not happening from our Cape Town colleges. It is less than half of what we need in the Western Cape.

“Coupled to this is the trend for serious over trading in the repair side of our operation in which some shops simply don’t know what their actual costs are and conduct business for almost no profit without doing any analytical focus on their net returns. At the CRA we now have programmes in place to assist in areas of profitability to improve operational success because if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it,” says De Beer at Human and Associates.

Italia Motors – Montague Gardens

Auto Italia Panelbeaters operate a smaller type of body shop and are CRA members. Robbie and Gina Morola have been successfully trading in the business for the past 16 years.

“We’re happy with our progress with the CRA,” says Robbie, “Last year we experienced two difficult customers who disputed our repair procedure and with intervention from the CRA, both those issues were successfully resolved. We are enjoying much better feedback from the CRA now than we had from our previous association. This year we’re hoping to get some resolution on the problem of hub salvage currently in operation in Cape Town. It is problematic for work flow to the business but thankfully we have many loyal clients who still support our service.”

De Jongh’s Panelbeaters – Strand

De Jongh’s Panelbeating centre in Strand is a fully appointed concern with state-of-the-art company controls and a very professional approach to customer service and retention.

Dirk and his brother Jaco say that often clients are unaware of their rights on warranty repair and De Jongh’s have invested heavily to meet many of the equipment levels now being demanded by OEM companies. “Right now we are looking at direct supply of body repair parts with reduced mark up levels with a further 5% less in our profitability. This is combined with the artificially suppressed labour rate that is on offer from insurers right now as well as slow paying insurers too.”

“The CRA have done well for us in the last two years as an association because they are adapting to the changing market circumstances. Insurers always want to tell us how to repair a vehicle but it’s always a balancing act with our loyal clients and the insurers who trust our quality and delivery times. We now have our own training centre up and running and with the latest video procedures from YouTube which are available, we are upskilling on the fly.

“Steve Kessel has been a big help from the CRA, and we’re hopeful that now with full representation in the Western Cape that Ross will continue to battle it out on our behalf with the major role players in body shop repair.”

Weskaap Bakwerke – Vredenburg

Travelling to Vredenburg to Weskaap Bakwerke sees Robbie Green’s repair centre doing very well. “We have received great support from the CRA in recent times,” says Robbie, “and our outlying position as a body shop repairer is very different market from that of our colleagues in the Cape Metro area.

“I think it was around two years ago that we stopped working for some of the direct dial type of insurers simply because we were not enjoying the repair pricing and we were losing money on many jobs that we were doing. We stopped chasing turnover and concentrated on quality and profitability at the loss of certain insurers work at the time.

“Thankfully most of them are back in our repair concern because they got tired of transporting clients cars miles and miles everyday and we were able to get the commercial rates that were acceptable to us as a business.

“The CRA have been instrumental in showing us a way forward, with improved operational profitability training and support. As a multi-structural repairer we’re currently working with over 11 approved manufacturers. The company has had a record year so we are very happy with our progress.”