A roaring occasion – BE2015

Returning to the Celtic Manor Resort for the second consecutive year, the bodyshop Event & Awards 2015 (BE2015) proved, yet again, to be a priceless feature on the annual accident repair industry’s calendar.

A thought provoking seminar programme provided much food for thought for attendees of BE2015 with changes to mobility, industry consolidation and merging trade associations coming under the industry spotlight.

In a session entitled ‘The changing mobility landscape’, Rupert Pontin, head of valuations at Glass’s discussed the current car market, today’s buyers, future transport and how people will travel, and the impact all of this will have on the repair industry.

Rupert told delegates, ‘The propulsion of vehicles is changing for the first time in hundreds of years.’ He went on to highlight how vehicle ownership is also likely to change and explored how Apple, Google and Tesla are now all major influencers on the future of mobility.

Despite all the changes taking place, Rupert said, ‘There will always be accident damage to repair and the only way to stay ahead is embrace market intelligence and technology to ensure you stay on the field. Whoever owns the vehicle will look for a solution from a highly accredited repairer who understands technology.’

‘Speed is everything’

The session ‘Consolidation – what does it mean’ drew a standing room only audience as panellists Chris McKie, director – network development, Vizion Network Ltd; Dom Napier, commercial director, Elevation Group, and Robert Snook, director of BSG debated the hot industry topic.

Delegates heard how experts break industry consolidation down into four stages – opening, scale, focus, and balance and alliance (see p 20 of magazine) and were told ‘When it comes to consolidation, speed is everything.’

The panel discussed the activity around investors looking at the UK’s bodyshop sector and Robert explained, ‘Right now investors see us as the ripest apple on the tree – this is the best investment they can make.’ It was agreed that the biggest winners in all of this might not even yet be in the market.

Discussing the impact all of this has on insurers, vehicle manufacturers and the supply chain, Chris said, ‘the supply chain will consolidate behind the frontline but it is important that there remains options. The moment you have one of anything, you lose innovation.’

With clear change ahead, the exact path is still not clear. ‘No one is sure of where it is going,’ said Dom, ‘but you have to be prepared to invest to drive the change your business requires. It’s got to happen now.’

All on the panel agreed, ‘all bets are off, the normal rules no longer apply’.

‘Single-point of reference’

Discussing the merger of the National Association of Bodyshops (NAB) and the Vehicle Bodybuilders and Repairers Association (VBRA), the session ‘One voice – the way ahead’ took the form of an interview with Tony Lowe, RMI board member. Tony suggested the merger was ‘moving at a very rapid pace’ and the appointment of an executive director was imminent. ‘After the executive director is appointed several weeks from now, things will move very quickly,’ explained Tony. ‘Towards the end of the year the two bodies will combine and out of that will come a chairman and a vice chairman and a direction will be identified in terms of what they want to achieve for all members.’

Addressing the opportunities the merger offers, Tony advised, ‘The government always want to refer to one body and by combining the two, it will make the government focus on a single point of reference. The RMI can ensure a balanced view is given going forward as lots of input is provided to central government.’

BE2015 was sponsored by headline partners AkzoNobel and Enterprise Rent-A-Car, who headed-up a long list of sponsors featuring Audatex, AutoFlow, Axalta, BMW, Car-O-Liner, Direct Accident Management, EMACS, Glass’s, Glasurit, IAEA, Indasa, Mirka, NAB, NIBS Group, S&B Automotive Academy, Sikkens Autocoat BT, Thatcham Research, The Trade Parts Specialists, Veetec Motor Group and Vizion.