Ford's 170 UK crash repair centres are introducing new standards to match the increased complexity of new vehicles.

"As vehicle technology advances, the capacity of repairers to fix more than one brand competently will decrease," the automaker said. "For example, Ford models such as the new Mondeo, S-Max and Galaxy are constructed using highest strength steel and feature electronics including dozens of control sensors.

Such advanced vehicles currently account for about 5% of the repair centres' business, but this is expected to top 40% within three years.

The automaker is meeting the challenge by launching a new premium standard for the repair network.

Measures include comprehensive new model training for technicians; sophisticated tooling including the latest generation of welding equipment to handle high strength steel; Ford diagnostic equipment to enable modules to be correctly replaced or reset; a repair certification scheme for customer reassurance; a lean production programme to optimise workshop capacity and job flow; an on-line bodyshop management system to allow job tracking by customers and insurers; full technical support from Ford specialists; increased integration with insurers' operations to promote the centres for Ford repairs; and andependent annual audit of the network to ensure standards are met and maintained.

Ford customer service division director John Cooper said: "Ford's renewed emphasis on its accident repair centre network demonstrates how our after-sales operation is raising its game."