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Green Parts Forum a great success

Green Parts Forum
Karl Vella MBE, the owner of a group of top tier insurance-approved bodyshops addresses the audiance. The forum pulled all interested sectors together for the first time.
In front of a packed and expectant CARS-IRT audience, a diverse group of industry experts gave their views on the current status and the future potential for ‘used’ (Green) parts in the UK.

The session was expertly chaired and co-ordinated by Phil Gledhill, former senior Motor Engineer at Aviva (formerly Norwich Union). Phil is well versed at catalysing this kind of debate. The other participants were from the UK trade association for the vehicle recycling industry (Chas Ambrose, Motor Vehicle Dismantlers Association) insurance industry (Mark Dibley, Co-Operative Insurance), a repairer (Karl Vella), a parts location system (Mike Anderson, 1st Choice Spares), an IT software supplier to the recycling industry (Dave Harcourt, DH Systems), and last (but not least) Norman Wright of Stadium Autoparts from the USA. Norman is a former President of the ARA (Automobile Recyclers Association of USA) and brought with him his considerable experience.

What was truly remarkable was that all participants agreed that there was major potential for an uplift in the use of green parts in the UK, if a number of key issues could be addressed. Furthermore, there was no disagreement about what those issues were.

MVDA kicked off the session with a review of the current ‘state of play’ in the UK. MVDA confirmed that the use of ‘green’ parts had been well established since the advent of the motor car, although on a small ‘ad hoc’ basis. Despite numerous attempts, no large-scale national scheme has become established of the type to address the needs of an user such as an insurer or fleet operator.

MVDA went on to analyse the reasons for this. Because it is so difficult to assess the actual level of used parts sales in the UK, they looked at to important aspects: supply and demand. The supply of green parts is determined by the number of vehicles scrapped, either due to accident damage, major mechanical failure or general wear and tear. The exact number is unknown because the UK de-registration system doesn’t work properly and the huge number of illegal operators. But there is thought to be 1.5-2m annually.

Following on from this Mark Dibley from Co-op insurance outlined the ‘green credentials’ of his company, and then went on to reinforce most of the points made by MVDA, in particular the requirements for vehicle insurers. Probably the most important point he made was that in developing/ delivering a system, vehicle recyclers needed to focus less on the insurance company, and more on the ‘customer’ or the ‘end user’: in their case, the bodyshop. This was a point also made by MVDA, who advocate a general ‘solution’ for all customers, not just insurers.

The points raised by the two previous speakers were further reinforced by Karl Vella MBE, the owner of a group of insurance-approved bodyshops in the north of England. In terms of standards, Karl’s bodyshops are in the top tier of UK repairers. He already uses large numbers of green parts, in fact as often as he can. Last year he spent £100,000 on green parts and this has risen from virtually nothing in just 2 years. He uses green parts to reduce the cost of repairs (to attract work and keep his bodyshops busy), to avoid total losses and to locate parts for where new parts are no longer available or in very short supply (e.g. Rover, Saab). Once again, the problems he experiences are outlined in the table. He also said he preferred using green parts to aftermarket parts because of the better quality of OE parts. But his biggest barrier to using more green parts is actually locating them.

Consistency in quality and delivery are important, but equally so is the ‘expectations’ issue. This is often overlooked. It is about accurate and timely information, but also honesty, and also a ‘stress-free’ mechanism for dealing with things when it all goes wrong (e.g. refunds and returns). Vehicle recyclers really need to see things from the perspective of repairers. Price was less of an issue than these other factors. Interestingly, he appears to be fairly open-minded about the use of safety critical ‘green’ components as long as all of the other key criteria are in place (i.e. quality and reliability in supply and the use of approved repair methods etc.).

Mike Anderson from the UKs largest on-line Parts finder 1st Choice Spares examined the way in which people were searching for and buying parts nowadays, and how this had changed since 1st Choice Spares had first started. Like everybody else, they had seen business migrate on-line, with the younger generation clearly more comfortable with on-line propositions. But on-line marketplace was becoming increasingly crowded, with larger commercial organisations better able to afford what is required to dominate on-line listings. So he questioned the continuing ability of individual vehicle recyclers to compete. A better proposition would be to work co-operatively, not only to meet the cost of advertising, but to meet customer’s expectations.

Dave Harcourt, of DH Systems, the supplier of the popular software system, Frontier Salvage and Dismantling, gave a brief but succinct presentation about what he could deliver for the industry, but also what he couldn’t. Information and networks had already been identified as a key requirement, and he was confident that he could deal with this challenge. But what was really required was the desire of the industry to work together.

Rounding off the discussion in ‘storming’ style was Norman Wright, owner of Stadium Autoparts, and past President of ARA (American Autorecyclers Association). It was clear that here was a man with considerable experience in this industry, both at Trade Association and company level, having already come to terms with all of the issues of current concern to us in the UK, and discussed above. Not only had they achieved what we aspire to in the UK with regards green parts usage, but they had experienced the effects of intense competition from very large organisations. But there, the other players had risen to the challenge, by working together. So there were a number of large ‘groups’ operating there – LKQ, PRP, URG. Although it would appear that many UK recyclers work to higher environmental standards than our US counterparts, the US is much further forward in terms of co-operative commercial ventures. Not only this, but their trade Association, the ARA, was very focused on standards and professionalism, and marketing. It would appear that green part suppliers in the USA are held in much greater regard, certainly in terms of their product, than we currently are in the UK.

I hope readers can appreciate that we are sitting on an enormous potential here and that this subject isn't going away. We shall be investigating in depth over the coming months many of the issues raised in the forum - stay tuned!

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