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The way ahead for Australia’s largest repair group

The new chair for the AMA Group, Caroline Waldron, has a clear message for the repair industry; it must stay relevant by staying focussed on serving its customers well.

In this way, AMA Group reflects the larger repair industry and many of the struggles it has gone through, including COVID and supply issues, and those which it continues to face, such as a major skills gaps and rapid technological change.

But Waldron remains quietly confident in both the Group’s financial position and its direction for the future.

It has been a year of change for AMA Group and Waldron sees no relenting of this pace, but this is where she believes the vision for the company and its investment in people puts it in a solid place.

“From an AMA Group perspective, what’s really important for us and for our people, is to stay focused on continuous development,” Waldron says.

While her role as a director is oversight of governance and strategic direction, continuous development is essential to the future of the company.

“At AMA Group we continually develop our people, so that they in turn can focus on delivering a quality product to our customer. It gives us an opportunity to turn the negative experience of a car crash into a positive one for the customer.”

A lawyer by training who has made Australia her home for the last 25 years, Waldron comes to the collision repair industry with a wide range of leadership roles in the legal, health and retails sectors before moving into a portfolio of director roles.

Waldron maintains it is her ability to reinvent herself and adapt to different situations that make her well suited for an industry that is feeling the pressure to do the same.

“When you’ve been in these things for long enough, you realise that the underlying things in a lot of these sectors can be quite similar. So, if you ask what’s common between health and collision for instance, at first glance, you’d say nothing. But when you analyse it, you realise that both face similar labour shortages and reliance on skilled migrants, for example. Both have visa issues, hiring issues, and all things that intersect with that.”

If change is a constant for AMA Group and the wider repair industry then perhaps nowhere is it more pressing and acute than with technology, where again, Waldron’s experience in technology businesses guides her input into the company direction.

Putting customer needs first and looking after staff will be key to AMA Group’s future.

“There’s no room for stagnation in the collision sector,” she says.

“It’s very much about understanding the role technology and innovation play in supporting business processes.”

But she says despite technology advancement and changes, the foundation of the collision industry is the people who operate in it, so this is a key focus of AMA Group.

“Our people are such a core part of our offer,” she says.

“We have 3200 people who we’re responsible for but those 3200 people in turn are responsible for getting a large number of Australians back on the road after they’ve had a car accident.

“Our people focus on doing a good job day in day out. We are always looking at ways to keep them engaged, trained, and safe every day. Safety is key for us.”

In AMA Group’s recent annual report, safety was one of the measures that experienced a major boost with a lost time injury frequency rate of 2.07, an almost 50 per cent improvement over 2022.

The report also listed labour shortages as a key factor in 2022/23 and while international restrictions were lifted post-COVID, delays with the federal government’s mandatory skills assessments under Visa 482 have impeded international recruitment.

Nevertheless, AMA Group managed to add approximately 100 staff from April to June 2023 including utilising lateral hiring.

“There’s no silver bullet that’s going to suddenly make 10,000 new workers come into our sector, but I think we can have a steady, sustainable set of initiatives to attract, retain and engage our people,” Waldron says.

The size of AMA Group also gives them the advantage of scale that can source and deliver higher levels of skills development.

“We’ve lifted the operations of our business through training. It means that there is continuous upskilling, and we can take on more apprentices.”


Waldron believes recruiting women to a traditionally male-dominated industry will be part of the long-term solution but likens the gradual changes of female representation on boards to how an industry can embrace a beneficial change.

“It’s not something that will happen overnight, but with the right strategies, it can change over time.”

Supporting women apprentices in collision
Waldron would like to see more women in automotive trades.

While there is a partial solution to industry recruitment issues with skilled migration, one of Waldron’s high priorities is having a united industry approach in shaping the longer-term pipeline of workers.

“As an industry, we should encourage more young people into the workforce and show them that the collision industry does offer credible career options,” she says.

“They need to see that their careers can evolve from an apprentice to a leader in the industry if that is their desire. And I think everybody, all leaders in the industry need to take some responsibility for that.”

The immediate focus of AMA Group, however, has been the financials after another year without paying a dividend and accumulating a net loss after tax of $146.8 million. This figure was slightly improved from 2022 and included a non-cash impairment of $116.8 million for the two collision businesses from overall revenue of $869.6 million.

However, the brighter news from the annual results was a $23 million last quarter earnings, with strength into August. This has contributed to the company’s outlook for a stronger 2023/24, with predicted earnings of $86 to $96 million, up from the $64.6 million for the last financial year.

“It’s been tough, but we’ve navigated those challenges and feel like we’re in a solid position,” Waldron says.

“We’ve just completed our fully underwritten $55 million capital raise. We are about to commence debt refinancing shortly.

“We have some strong initiatives coming up over the next 12 months. We have a team that is completely motivated to drive revenue, manage costs and improve productivity. We are feeling quietly optimistic about where we are and where we need to get to.”

The other big change in 2023 has been a major reshuffle at the top, including the imminent retirement of Carl Bizon as CEO in November and Anthony Day’s retirement from the chair of the board in September, along with the departure of Paul Ruiz from AMA Group’s audit and risk committee.

Carl Bizon

Waldron acknowledged that the foundational work by these men set AMA Group up for the future.

“They put in some strong governance processes and corporatised AMA Group for the better.“

The next milestone for AMA Group will be the next quarterly report which will give a perspective into the company’s position and then the Annual General Meeting in November.

But Waldron says the foundation for the company, that gives it ongoing growth is to focus on better understanding their customers’ needs and how to meet them in a timely and efficient manner. Waldron is determined to make that a constant in a world of change.

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