Industry Voices: Repairing Auto Parts Can Reduce Carbon Emissions and Costs

June 12, 2023 12:00 PM

Opinion piece by Ron Soreanu, vice-president of global operations at

The global automotive industry has made a significant effort to reduce its carbon footprint, especially as regulation ramps up in regions like the UK, where the country plans to transition to zero emission vehicles by 2035.

Increasingly, carbon reduction efforts in the automotive industry are extending beyond simply reducing emissions from driving. This focus on sustainability is now contributing to a growing interest among insurance companies, auto resellers and large fleet managers in repairing vehicles in a less carbon-intensive manner, including fixing rather than replacing parts. Those businesses carrying out repairs are also increasingly concerned about reducing emissions, and are shifting to repairing parts whenever possible, especially since the PAS2060 certification (which verifies that businesses are carbon neutral), became available to automotive repair shops in the United Kingdom.

The production of steel, plastic, and other materials needed for car parts results in significant carbon output. While it is difficult to estimate the exact amount of carbon output from the production of car parts, the International Energy Agency (IEA) reports that steel production in general accounts for at least 7% of global CO2 emissions; and emissions from plastic production and incineration of old plastic are more than 50 times those of coal-fired power plants.

Making these parts last longer is a key step in cutting the industry’s carbon footprint. For example, an analysis commissioned by Swiss insurer AXA found that consistently repairing bumpers and windshields can save over 1,000 tonnes of CO2 every year in Switzerland alone.

Not only is repairing parts more environmentally-friendly but it can be more cost-effective and faster than purchasing new parts, making repair an important priority for any business that handles or resells cars, including auto remarketers, fleet managers, rental firms, and insurance companies. Advanced tech, like AI and computer vision, along with the use of innovative filler free plastic repairs and new glue pulling techniques on metal, in which special tabs are stuck to the vehicle then used to pull out dents, are changing the way vehicles are repaired, making the process more efficient.

Reducing cost, time and carbon emissions

Repairing a car is often more cost-effective than buying a new one; even major repairs, such as engine or transmission rebuilds can cost up to $5,000, which is still significantly less than purchasing a replacement car. In addition, when it comes to the parts themselves, repairing them is often less costly, especially with the prices of auto parts in Europe and elsewhere rising rapidly.

It is also usually faster, especially as the global automotive supply chain continues to recover from challenges during the pandemic, offering yet more savings on the costs associated with overall repair time.

In addition to being more cost efficient, environmentally friendly and faster than replacing parts, repairs can retain the integrity of the original vehicle, give an entire car a longer life, help it fetch a higher resale value, and offer financial incentives to those carrying out the repairs. For example, some insurers in the UK reward PAS2060-certified repair shops with financial incentives for their commitment to investing in improving their annual carbon footprint. In addition, identifying and repairing minor issues earlier could prevent them from becoming major problems that require more energy-intensive repairs, further contributing to reduced carbon emissions.

More efficient inspections

Identifying which parts to repair, especially after a collision, is key but vehicle inspections and damage assessments can be time-consuming. One way to make this process more efficient for those maintaining fleets, or for businesses that buy or sell used cars, is to use computer vision tools, such as mobile phone apps, to inspect cars. Computer vision and machine learning algorithms can quickly analyze the video or image data of a used vehicle to help assessors determine its condition, and which parts need to be repaired. In addition, this tech can also determine the price of required repairs.

Besides being faster than human inspections, AI-powered inspections can be done remotely; a car’s current owner or insurance adjuster can scan the vehicle and upload the footage to a cloud-based system that potential buyers, engineers, fleet managers or others can view remotely. When a vehicle is still drivable, the ability to carry out an inspection and assessment of damages remotely adds further value because it allows the car to stay in service on the road, cutting down on the time and costs associated with taking the vehicle to a shop for inspection, and arranging for an alternative car while a damaged one is out of service. This further improves efficiency and can ultimately push profit margins higher for any business that handles cars, from leasing companies to rental fleets to auto remarketers. Engineers who analyze the data can make accurate assessments without physically inspecting the vehicle, saving time and resources.

Improving plastic repair

Repairing many car parts has also gotten easier. Today it is possible to repair more types of material, including plastic, which makes up 50% of cars; as plastics help make vehicles lighter, thus reducing fuel demand and greenhouse gas emissions. Technology like 3D modeling and robotics has made repairing plastic parts, which was challenging in the past, easier and more efficient. Emerging techniques like being able to repair plastic body parts without the need for filler, point to a future of even more efficient plastic repair.

The shift towards repairing and maintaining car parts instead of replacing them will no doubt accelerate, propelled by economic and environmental considerations. With the aid of advancements in AI and repair technologies, businesses can enhance the accuracy and efficiency of repairs, reducing operating costs, and increasing profit margins on used vehicles. Meanwhile, as repairs become more prevalent, companies reselling cars, insuring cars or running fleets can also anticipate a further reduction in carbon emissions.

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