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The Collision Repair Association of South Africa (CRA) is on a drive to increase membership in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and spearheading the drive will be Lisa-Marie Germanus who has many years of association experience. Lisa-Marie says that for a long time the CRA has felt that a local representative who could attend to issues that arise in the KZN business arena would be a great step in the right direction.

Along with James Stewart from Classic Coachwork, who heads up the CRA in KZN, they are out to drive the CRA ahead on key issues that repair shops face. Stewart says that work procurement is a large grey area right now with towing organisers delivering a poor result from distribution yards to most small to medium operations in body shop repair.

They also need to ramp up public awareness of what the CRA stands for. This is a big area of activity to boost the perception of their members in KZN. There is an opportunity to do much better with the average driver’s understanding about quality repairs so they plan to do more motor shows and public events as well as hold increased member evenings to better understand where their repair future is going in KZN.

The CRA has also started with certain key refinish training centres to increase profitability training for member business operations. Touring the local body shops quickly shows that local CRA membership features some state-of-the-art repair concerns like the all-new Palace Panel & Paint concern. This is just one of the shops that Clifford Christian owns.

He says he is pleased with the care and attention being employed by the CRA and he received his accreditation with a big smile. He says that the advent of approved panels have ups and downs with some OEM demands on equipment being set at very high levels of attainment. Vehicle assessment levels are falling far short of what’s needed in the future of the technical car that we’re trying to repair back to factory levels. He feels insurers would need to train their appraisers to much higher standards.

Dev Moodley of Finesse Panelbeaters in Durban central, is adamant that current work steering being seen in the Durban metro is a problem.  A large majority of work is going straight to large business concerns and it is a practice that needs urgent intervention from the Competition Commission who are currently investigating practices that are of an unequal nature in the business in body shop repair. Another concern is the level of current write-offs which is unsustainable. The industry are losing way too many cars with minimal body damage to technology like airbags that deploy and electrical computer damage as well. It is also a sad point that lower end repair shops still get work when they, in many cases, lack both expertise and equipment. “After 25 years in the business, our profits are the worst ever as allocated work is at very low levels from central yards. You have to keep an eye on sustainability but our drive must continue to be one of to repair more and replace less to keep customers on the roads,” concluded Moodley.

Gerald of Brian Day Panelbeaters is a founder member of the CRA operation in KZN and says that pronounced industry cycles are a part of the local business repair trade. He sits on the Merseta training board to increase learner expertise but is adamant that current apprentice training standards are way too complex for body shop compliance under the section 28 structures. He went on to say that a major worry are the franchise operators who do, in some cases, head office workflow rebates for major insurance companies. “They don’t seem to know what their bottomline profits actually are and a significant overtrading takes place in this area of collision repair. There are also unbelieveable write-off thresholds which simply denude clients in the repair trade as cars are handed off to be auctioned and are often poorly repaired only to be returned to our highways.” said Gerald.

Gerald’s front office shows a huge wall of official approvals for body repair. “We have been hard at if for over 25 years and we are now witnessing big changes with the connected car coming for repair. Syndicates are buying up scrap motor vehicles and it is, in my opinion, unfair for uninsured drivers. This simply puts the smaller repair companies at a disadvantage. That said, we believe that the CRA are in a determined mood to fix and realign some of the unfair work streaming that takes place in KZN.” Gerald concluded.