Sydney hailstorm brings massive repair challenge

By Robbie Wallis on 7th January 2019 

More than 30,000 cars are part of $210 million insurance bill for NSW hailstorm

OWNERS of cars and other vehicles damaged by the vicious hail storm in Sydney and the New South Wales Central Coast on December 20 appear to be in for a long wait for repairs as the motor industry casts doubts of whether it has the capacity to fix the widespread damage.

The main forms of vehicle claims are for smashed windshields and dented panels.

By Christmas Eve, less than a week after the storm, insurance claims for storm damage had climbed to 45,000 – three quarters of which were for cars and other vehicles. The damage bill is estimated at $210 million.

The storm was labelled a “catastrophe” by the Insurance Council of Australia, with other forms of damage including roofs, awnings, solar panels and water damage from overflowing gutters.

As a result of the storm, thousands of cars will require significant repairs, particularly in body panel damage, where hailstones as wide as 8cm ravaged vehicles across NSW.

But the motor trade, which has been warning about skills shortages in vehicle workshops across the nation, has warned there are just not enough trained repairers to fix the damaged cars in a timely way.

Motor Trades Association of Australia chief executive Richard Dudley said that a nationwide shortage of panel repair specialists could result in a large delay for owners looking to get their vehicles fixed.

Speaking to The Australian, Mr Dudley said that currently there is a shortage of approximately 35,000 positions across mechanical and motor body repair trades, of which body repairers make up a large portion.

In the interview,, he added that there were approximately 450 to 550 independent motor body repair businesses had left the industry 2018, mainly due to the consolidation of business by major insurers.

Over a period of at least the last five years, insurers have moved to consolidate repairs under their own control, therefore offering cheaper repairs than smaller, independent operations who struggle to compete.

Furthermore, motor trades are struggling to attract new apprentices due to the “dirty” image of motor repair work, while skilled migrants have also been hard to come by.

A $210m bill makes the hailstorm the costliest natural event of 2018, ahead of storm and flood damage in Hobart in May ($99.6m), bushfires in Victoria and NSW in March ($82.5m), Cyclone Marcus from the same month ($62m) and Queensland floods ($16.8m).