As we kick start national transport month, our team at AMC took the initiative to interview the Collision Repairers Association of South Africa President, Mr Steve Kessell.

As we kick start national transport month, our team at AMC took the initiative to interview the Collision Repairers Association of South Africa President, Mr Steve Kessell.

For those who don’t know, Steve Kessell is a well-known and highly regarded authority in the motor vehicle body repair industry.

1. Greetings, Steve Kessell; thank you for taking the time to conduct this interview with us. Firstly, we would love to kick off our chat with you by asking if you had an autobiography. What would be the title of it and why?

Passion and pride in assurance of safety through standards for accident repair restoration.

This speaks for itself and emanates from a long standing career in the autobody panel and paint industry sector and giving back through experience to the next generation.

2. What inspired the creation of the Collision Repairers Association of South Africa.

A voice was needed to provide likeminded operators of Motor Body Repair facilities and owners of these small enterprises a collective voice over sustainable trading, adoption of safety standards and assurance to the man in the street of fair and equitable practice through the restoration of their accident damaged asset and future use of the said vehicle for their and other road user safety. To this end we have over 200 subscribed panel beaters as members of our Association and confirm their ability and standing over best business practices.

3. In the past few years, there have been a lot of incidents with South African insurance companies that have provided their customers with lousy quality repairs and either underpaid or didn’t pay collision repair companies that they hired. How would you describe the current relationship between the collision repair industry and insurance companies?

Unfortunately it is not great but we understand the loss ratios which may occur due to the lack of law in South Africa against the enforcement of compulsory insurance to operate a vehicle on a public road. At present less than 1 in 5 cars carry comprehensive cover against the unfortunate incidence of an accident.

Commercial reward offer for services rendered is with respect pathetic and not conducive to quality and accredited services

4. What is your take on insurance companies allowing their customers the right to choose their service providers when they have submitted a claim?

This has changed through the introduction of right to repair guidelines although voluntary but will change the face of consumer rights as the general public take notice of the opportunity afforded we hope like in Europe and other first world countries.

5. South Africa has had an incredible rise in informal service providers in the collision repair industry. What do you think influenced this, and what are the challenges of this raise?

Short Term or no life Insurers are very receptive to paying out claims as cash in lieu settlement. In most instances the quantum or determination of value is understated and the consumer takes the settlement without knowledge of what safe repair may in fact cost. Bigger concern is that cash strapped consumers look for cheap and in most instances nasty service providers whom repair at less than the paid out value and pocket the cash balance. These practices are growing and are fed through stolen parts arising from increasing vehicle theft and hijacking which is on the increase.

6. Could you please tell us about the exciting partnership you have with Fender Bender and Nedbank and the goals of this initiative?

The initiative was created to assist non-insured consumers and/or those whom do have insurance but have high excess liability the right to afford qualified repair and safety. We were of opinion that this practice would create more responsible repair but unfortunately credit rating of the public has not allowed many individuals the opportunity of being granted credit. The basis would also ensure Nedbank paid the service provider directly to prevent the consumer using this funding for other purpose and thus due diligence in on boarding repairers is stringent.

7. Quality products are an essential element of ensuring the satisfaction & safety of motorists. There have been a lot of challenges in your collision repair industry. What would you say influences the challenge of consumers accessing quality repair products or services at times?

Not being aware of their rights and also genuine parts are in most instances imported and with exchange rates being unfavourable place high value on procurement. Further hereto policing of road worthiness of vehicles is not a priority and that allows for high visibility of damage body panels seen on cars on our roads. Not all alternate parts are bad either but should be left in the hands of a qualified artisan to make the decision.

8. How does CRA plan to protect an ordinary South African who owns a car?

We are unfortunately not a policing operation and only make recommendation and through social media campaigns attempt consumers to be more vigilant.

9. Being a CEO of an association looks like a big job with many responsibilities. How would you describe your time being CEO of an association, and what is the biggest lesson it has taught you?

Do not ever believe learning is not a new experience which happens every day. Collaboration and relationship must always be top drawer and the ability to come together in support of best practice at times is a challenge but never give up.

10. What advice would you have for other associations regarding managing their associations?

Be honest, transparent and truthful and allow for equal and fair competition which makes all more open to fulfil similar challenges but in a respectful and truthful future.