The proportion of non-genuine or non-OE parts used in car body repair in the UK, has increased to 22% of all replacement parts used by bodyshops in 2003.

The finding, based on a survey of bodyshops which is part of a larger study on the car body repair market by independent automotive analysts MFBI, reveals a much larger increase in non-genuine parts usage following the initial introduction of the new Block Exemption Regulations in October 2002, which introduced a more competitive market for replacement parts. Prior to this, the usage of non-OE parts in car repair had been less than 10%.

The car body repair market is worth £6.66 billion in the UK and replacement parts including body panels, electrical and mechanical components, account for 46% of repair expenditure at £3.04 billion. The value of the replacement parts market for car body repairs has grown by 28% since 1998 despite a 1% decline in the number of repairs carried out since 1998. The replacement parts market is an important profit centre for the vehicle manufacturers, many of whom rely on the higher profits obtained from the sale of replacement parts in the aftermarket to support low profits from the production and sale of new cars.

The size and value of the car repair market in the UK and in other countries in Europe, is an attractive proposition for both the manufacturers of non-genuine parts as well as for the companies who manufacture the genuine OEM parts under the vehicle manufacturers' brand. The introduction of the new Block Exemption Regulation has opened up the replacement parts market to competition from suppliers of aftermarket parts that are of equivalent quality to the vehicle manufacturers' OEM parts. This includes the companies manufacturing the vehicle manufacturers OEM parts and the companies manufacturing the equivalent non-OE parts, sometimes known as pattern parts.

The increase in the usage of non-genuine parts in car repair is therefore a significant threat to the vehicle manufacturers. Much of the increase in non-genuine parts usage by bodyshops has been at the behest of insurance companies who pay for 76% of all accident repairs in the UK. Non-genuine parts provide a much cheaper alternative to the vehicle manufacturers' genuine OEM parts, and so insurance companies have been specifying their use in a higher proportion of repairs in an attempt to reduce the cost of insurance accident claims.

MFBI's analysis of 30,000 repairs invoiced to insurance companies by bodyshops, shows that the average cost of repair excluding VAT is £1,208 in 2003, ranging from £973 for Suzuki to £1,590 for Subaru. In terms of parts cost, Jaguar is the most expensive make to repair with an average parts cost of £910 while Fiat is the least expensive make to repair with an average parts cost of £434 according to MFBI's analysis.

Although the increasing usage of advanced and more crash-resistant materials such as advance high strength steels means that cars incur less damage in low speed impacts than before, if a car is involved in a major collision, the increasing technical complexity of new cars means that the repair cost of heavily damaged cars is increasing due to the high replacement parts cost. Data from MFBI's report shows that the proportion of accident-damaged cars written off as being too expensive to repair by insurance companies has increased by 39% since 1998 to reach 0.59 million cars compared with 5.69 million actual cars repaired.