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An automotive industry association says car repairs may take longer as COVID-19 limits freight options available and the cost of repair will increase with the introduction of new sanitisation standards.

The Collision Repair Association (CRA) is calling on insurers to pass on some of the millions of dollars saved on insurance payouts during the lockdown to cover the increased cost of repairs – as new level 3 health and safety standards see vehicles sterilised up to six times – for even minor repairs.

Neil Pritchard, spokesperson for the CRA says while parts suppliers would normally air freight parts for repairs from regional suppliers in Australia, Asia and Europe, however with COVID-19 they are restricted to bringing parts in by sea – which may take up to 12 weeks.

He says these delays may extend to other parts of the automotive repair industry as well – including mechanical workshops.

Pritchard says new standards for car repairs under level 3 will see the vehicle sanitised every time a new staff member enters the vehicle to perform part of the repair.

He says depending on the repair this could mean a vehicle is sanitised five or six times as well as sanitising a courtesy car when it is provided to a customer and again when it returns.

“Modern vehicles, in particular, have a number of different layers to the repair – even following a minor collision.

“In addition to cosmetic paintwork on the exterior panels and internal structural repairs the car will often need a wheel alignment and, if any of the sensors are damaged, these will need recalibration at a dealership – both of which will see the vehicle transported off-site and require sanitisation before and after these parts of the repairs are completed,” he says.

Pritchard says this will see the cost of repairs increase but there is little support from the insurance industry to help meet the additional cleaning materials, labour and PPE expenses.

“The insurance industry has saved an estimated $100m during the level 4 lockdown and will continue to make savings as fewer people venture out of their homes in the months to come.

“Under the current insurance model, the increased workplace hygiene costs will not be met by the consumer as collision repairs are paid by the insurer under contracts with the repairer.

“We are now asking insurers to support the thousands of Kiwis employed in the collision repair industry by helping to cover the increased cost of work under COVID-19,” he says.