Experts call for tighter controls of the UAE's repair garage industry
Industry leaders say a poor quality of workmanship in the cheaper end of the market is a safety hazard for motorists
Car repair companies are calling for tighter regulation of the industry to help drive up standards and keep motorists safe on the roads.
Industry leaders said that without a recognised minimum standard of work, some unscrupulous garages are able to "operate under the radar" and are causing a "real risk" to drivers.
Graeme Threlfall, from car body paint company AkzoNobel, believe it is imperative that the UAE bolsters protection available to road users.
“There is an absence of a minimum standard which is causing safety problems,” he said.
“There needs to be a process by which customers who are not experts in car repair can identify reputable garages in the UAE.”
Mr Threlfall, who has lived in the UAE for the past five years, said there was a need to ensure vehicle safety features and structural integrity were maintained.
“Without a recognised technical and quality standard for bodyshops, it is very difficult for them to ensure they are using a garage that is competent to complete the necessary repairs,” he said.
“This is where the real risk is for car owners. Having a recognised standard also provides insurers with a method to ensure they only use competent workshops.”
Mr Threlfall, 49, was the head of the National Association of Bodyshops in the UK until 2012.
“We are talking about introducing a certification process that gives customers a minimum standard to look for in terms of the correct equipment, parts, repair methods and skills,” he said.
Mr Threlfall said that the introduction of a minimum standard for garages could have consequences for some operators.
“Some smaller garages are existing because they are getting under the radar and below internationally accepted industry standards,” he said.
“There is a fear that standardisation will cut some people out of the market but road safety has to take precedent.”
He said the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (ESMA) is discussing the introduction of a star rating system for garages in the UAE, though the authority said it was unable to “answer inquiries on this subject” when approached by The National.
Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority has previously acknowledged the need to tighten regulations, with Ahmad Bahrozyan, CEO of its Licensing Agency, telling a newspaper in 2015 that "as more vehicles hit Dubai streets, it is becoming imperative to ensure they are all road-worthy".
Mr Threlfall’s views were echoed by Alexander Renner, partner at ARM, a garage that specialises in repairs on high-end cars.
“As it stands anyone can open a garage in the UAE as long as they have the necessary money,” he said.
“In Germany you need to obtain a certain level of qualification before you can work in a garage.”
Independent garages were often used by customers when warranties on cars had expired, or if the owner felt that the manufacturer approved workshops were too expensive.
Another issue was that insurance companies often sought out the cheapest possible deals for car repair, at the request of their customers hoping to ensure costs were kept to a minimum.
However, a lack of a standardised level of service had left many car owners regretting their decision to go for the cheapest possible option.
“Standardisation would be a huge help to the entire industry,” said Mr Renner, 39, who felt that the less ethical operators were creating a bad reputation for independent garages.
“Some garages are charging such low fees for repairs that it is impossible for others to compete with them on the price, especially if we want to perform a certain standard of repair.”
He said the issue of insurance companies directing customers to the cheapest possible garages was major issue for the industry.
“In some cases I have been told by insurance company reps that other garages offer much cheaper quotes on repairing cars, without even seeing the car and what work is required on it,” he said.
“I do not know how this makes sense. Some of the prices I have heard are impossible unless that garage is cutting corners.”
The German national said he had been shocked by the standard of work that had been carried out by cheaper garages.
“We had a Porsche Cayenne that had work done on it previously, by another garage, and we found that most of the airbags were missing,” he said.
“The owner had no idea at all. Could you imagine what could have happened if there had been an accident on the road with children in the car?"
Updated: January 19, 2019 12:07 PM