BMW April 2022

Looking at the introduced Right to Repair policy and the Consumer Protection Act in South Africa, the thought of whether or not being OEM approved is a necessity came in to focus. Recent times has shown us that the way we used to do business is not necessarily the best way. The definition of change is not to keep on doing the same thing again and again hoping for a different outcome.

OEM approvals obviously has two sides – the side of the OEM and that of the repairer. Plus, it must be said, the ever invisible  “third” side of the customer. Equally important and given much lip-flapping in the marketing of importance, but not really regarded the highest on the food chain normally.

The approval methods are a great initiative to ensure  that industry standards and quality are adhered to and make sure that the vehicle is repaired to spec after an accident. As most things start out, they work well on paper, but it seems that the wood has been lost in the trees after years of add-ons. The simple cookie cutter approach of what works in Europe must apply in Africa isn’t working very well anymore. Yes it draws customers to your business, but the hoops, jumps, headaches and expenses involved are fast becoming very unpopular

The models available in Europe are now begging to be slanted more to an electric vehicle perspective and not the hybrids that we find mostly in our local market, which are far more relevant. That said, the equipment needed is different and yet another expense to qualify to be an approved OEM repairer. What is the point in investing in the equipment if you’re never going to use it just because there is a prescribed “one-size-fits-all” approach?

I’m all for a customer experience – it truly is what we should live for, but I’m pretty sure we’ve lost the plot when the focus is on what coffee you supply in your waiting room or if you have single or double ply loo roll, versus the quality of workmanship. A revision of what is important to our local market needs to be had. An emphasis on the bodies that help manage standards within the industry like the CRA and SAMBRA are well-equipped to manage this. They already have this grading criteria in place to become members. Surely, if these standards and good business practices are achieved, it should suffice?

At the end of the day lets speak plainly. Does having an OEM approval guarantee you more work? No. Does investing in a prescribed list of equipment for vehicles that you may never see in your workshop make sense? No.  A prime example of this is the “must have” aluminium bay which many body shops had to sell a few kidneys for to install. For most I speak to, it’s a glorified waste of money and space they have literally used a hand full of times over a decade, if ever!

Consumers now have the right to decide the best repairers for their vehicle. Most OEMs still remain silent as regards to these warranties and are happily enjoying the wait and see approach, while imposing sets of rules for the collision repair industry. One industry standard, at each graded shop level, one voice, one annual fee and not per audit – these are a few positive of the steps we need to take.

There is so much interference in business in South Africa today. You have to please unions, BEE quota’s, chosen repairer lists and manifesto’s dictated by insurance and OEMs that need to be juggled – and each of these entities has their own way of doing things. At the end of the day, the body shop is bogged down in paperwork, and hardly able to run their business with so much red tape. Surely they should just be in the business of doing what they do best? Repairing  damaged vehicles to as good a new. 

Mazda’s approach to all of this has already shown that there is light at the end of tunnel and it’s not an oncoming train but definite hope. They outsourced their programme to the industry bodies over five years ago now and just last year they only had two disputes that were seen last year and were easily settled with the collision repair association bodies. Just goes to show, with a bit of trust, OEMs and the collision repairers can work well together. 

Dispelling our third world status

It’s wonderful to be able to dispel our often quoted “third world” status. We have come up trumps in the issue of coverage of an all new industry Sealer App. Unlike the USA and Europe, where civil court actions have needed to be used, here in sunny SA, we can show them the way forward. After two years of painstaking time and effort, a comprehensive calculator has been developed to cover all the costs and labour variable on sealer application materials used in collision repair these days. 

This was a cross-industry user forum and it’s hats off to trade organisations like the CRA and others for backing the project to the hilt in the full development. It shows that collaborative efforts do deliver better rewards for all concerned.

By Claire Macfie