Taking an ‘aerial view’ of our industry a few glitches are very apparent. The first one to come under closer inspection is audits. Why are OEMs more interested in what coffee you serve your client – or whether or not you have single- or double-ply toilet paper – while skimming over the fact that your body shop has invested heavily in skills development and equipment to maintain the best workmanship in your area? Surely at the end of the day getting one’s car back as good as new is what will truly “delight” the customer?
I agree that standards need to be met and that the modern body shop is a place of cleanliness and organised, but where is the focus on what is important? Why is a body shop, which is based in the rural heart of “back-and-beyondsville,” being dictated to about employing one person who is the panelbeater and spray painter? Why does an OEM now decide to make it mandatory that there should be a single person for each of these jobs or no approval? Smaller “Ma and Pa” shops cannot afford this extra salary and have been accomplishing great work for the longest while staying with this format. And exactly where do they think these skills will be found in the middle of nowhere?
Do all of these approvals really bring in extra work? Not really. Does it bring in extra work form any insurance house? Still no. If you have invested in an aluminium bay and have been doing the work perfectly for over 10 years, why are certain OEMs now saying that you can only repair bumpers but not bonnets? When you take the work to the dealers who have been prescribed by them, they need to outsource it to someone else on the other side of town who has the correct equipment and knowledge. Methinks there are a few “Egyptian-style” handshakes on the go at the same time here – one hand giving at the front with the other taking something from the back.
The manner in which the auditing companies are spoken about in the industry definitely lets you know that there is no love lost when they darken the doors of collision repairers. And let’s not forget the cost. Each audit – yes, each manufacturer wants their own, even sister companies – costs approximately R15 000. If you have 20 OEM approvals, it’s a crazy amount of money to pay at the end of the day with very little, if any, recompense for the business owner.
Why can’t we have a single audit done, as they basically all ask for the same information? Why can this not be the new industry norm?
Recently the Fair Business 4 Bloemfontein Association stood together against an insurer and told them: “no thank you”. Work had to be taken elsewhere to be fixed as they were not happy to settle for newly introduced rates that were far below market necessity in meeting costs, let alone making a profit.
Well done on having one voice! Long overdue. We always forget that together we truly make a difference, but you must have solidarity. For too long the collision repair industry has been kept divided by outside factors. Each industry has a collective body to negotiate rates for them, but we have been dictated to individually and therefore kept pinned up against each other in competition. We need to start thinking corporately as a community of collision repairers and truly see our sector in the important light that it is. We are an integral cog in the wheel of customer service!
At the beginning of the year I wrote an editorial called “Hurry up and wait”. It was a piece about the problems we would possibly have this year due to container shortages and different shipping patterns being introduced. Little did I know just how horrific it would get.
Costs of shipping have become outrageous. A container that cost R6000 at the beginning of the year, now costs R12 000 (A gazillion Rand by today’s conversion calculated on the price per barrel of oil and South African petrol price I think?) You purchase stock at a competitive price, but by the time it lands – months after its due date – costs have gone through the roof.
How are you meant to maintain a flourishing business when you can’t supply stock? You don’t know what is arriving when and where it lands, what will you be able to sell it for? Never before has it been more apparent that we need to revive local production of everything! However, heavy-handed unions fly in the face of any entrepreneurial spirit and investment. This archaic bully needs to be given boundaries once and for all and really look at addressing record unemployment by walking hand-in-hand with budding small businesses instead of trying to stamp out any life before it’s even started with red tape and rules that seem to be really one-sided in benefiting themselves.
Once again, it falls back to a united voice and a vision of how we want our future to look.
By Claire Macfie