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UK body repair association asks for reforms to secure industry future

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Announcements | Legal
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The United Kingdom’s National Body Repair Association is asking its incoming government, which will be elected on July 4, to prioritize reforms that will secure the industry’s future. 

It asks the country to address skills shortage issues, electric vehicle concerns, and business financing rates. 

“The next government needs to recognize the importance of supporting the vehicle repair sector,” said Martyn Rowley, NBRA executive director, in a news release. “Addressing the skills shortage, standardizing BEV repair protocols, and reducing business rates will secure a sustainable future for our industry and the communities we serve.” 

Two policy reforms would immediately address a skills shortage in the industry, a report released by NBRA says. This includes reform of the country’s Apprenticeship Levy Program and reversal of the Skilled Worker Visa Rule. 

“The current Apprenticeship Levy is failing our industry, hindering rather than fostering apprenticeship opportunities,” Rowley says in the release. “Simplifying access to levy funds and removing barriers that discourage apprenticeship uptake is crucial. Additionally, recent changes to Skilled Worker Visa rules threaten to exacerbate our industry’s workforce challenges. Adjustments are needed to ensure our members can continue to access overseas skills.”

The report says the application process for accessing the levy is too complex and a “clawback” cap causes businesses to lose money to the Treasury in unspent funds. It says enrollment numbers have dropped by 32% since the levy was introduced. 

Government officials can look to the Youth Training Scheme Policy of the 1980s as an example of a policy that was supportive of apprenticeships, the report said. It doesn’t give specific examples or details about the policy. 

Changes to the Skilled Worker Visa rule are also putting financial strain on businesses, the report says. 

According to the report, the rule increases the general salary threshold for a Skilled Worker Visa by 47%. 

“Overseas skilled workers are hired in this industry due to the ongoing skill shortage in the United Kingdom,” the report says. “If businesses must pay their overseas workers the new threshold salary, then it is only fair to pay every worker the same pay for the same job. This, however, will result in many sites not being viable and requiring closure.” 

The industry is also feeling pressure from rising business rates, the report says. 

“High business rates, currently at their highest-ever levels, pose a significant burden for vehicle repairers and reducing these rates is necessary to ease financial pressures and maintain essential services for motorists,” Rowley says in the release. 

The report says shops across the UK have limited cash reserves and high operating costs for skilled staff and machinery. 

“The service that body shops provide to customers is necessary to ensure their vehicles are put back on the road in a safe and roadworthy condition following a collision,” the report says. “The government must ensure that there will still be body shops for motorists. The next government should back business by reducing the Uniform Business Rate.”

Electric vehicles are another major concern for the repair industry, according to the report. 

“The transition to Battery Electric Vehicles presents significant safety and operational challenges,” Rowley says. “Mandating standardized rescue and recovery protocols is essential to ensure the safety of first responders and minimize risks associated with BEV repairs.” 

For example, the report mentions how some OEMs say the first step in an EV rescue is to cut the responder loop, while others suggest disconnecting the 12V battery or pulling a service plug. 

“This lack of clarity needs to be dealt with,” the report said. 

Not only should guidelines be standardized but how to access information, such as manufacturer rescue sheets, should be a part of mandatory training, the report says. 

NBRA says the repair industry has inadequate post-accident diagnostics for EVs and limited availability of recycling and reusability options. 

“Claims costs will likely continue to rise without implementing a mandated process to bring about change,” the report says.  “Modelling shows that in 2022, 9400 vehicles were potentially involved in an accident which could result in battery inclusion in a post-accident repair. This is estimated to reach up to 260,000 vehicles annually by 2035.” 

Property insurance for repairers is likely to rise because of the risk of fire, the report says. 

“Having a robust process in place to mitigate these risks will inevitably reduce premiums and loss of business,” according to the report. 

The UK is also receiving demands from Stellantis that says it will stop production in the country unless the government helps boost demand for EVs, which it says is needed for the OEM to comply with regulations requiring automakers to sell more EVs, according Reuters. It reports a decision by the company could come within less than a year. 

“Unlike the European Union, where automakers can meet CO2 emissions reduction targets by selling a mixture of hybrids and EVs, Britain is demanding from this year that automakers sell a minimum percentage of fully electric cars or face fines of 15,000 pounds ($19,033) per non-compliant vehicle sold,” Reuters said. 

The UK’s rule requires 22% of all new cars sold must be EVs this year, according to the article. Yet, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) in London says EVs have only made up 16.1% of sales through May. 


Photo courtesy of nevenmn/iStock

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