Repair instead of replace – better for the environment and better for all concerned

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Replacement parts for car repairs pollute the environment. If only windshields and bumpers were consistently repaired rather than replaced, this would equate to savings in Switzerland of more than 1,000 tonnes of CO2 every year. AXA is therefore championing more sustainable work in workshops through an assessment for bodyshops and by co-founding a sector label.

Repair rather than replace: this trend is also gaining traction in the car sector. But according to claim statistics, AXA alone, Switzerland's largest motor vehicle insurer, pays to replace 8,000 windshields every year, although repairs would have been possible. This means that overall, around 40,000 windshields in Switzerland are directly exchanged. According to an AXA-commissioned analysis by Empa (Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology), even replacing rather than repairing one single windshield pollutes the environment, as it accounts for an additional 15.3 kg of greenhouse gases (in carbon dioxide equivalents). This means that under AXA's calculations, more than 600 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents would be saved every year through consistent repairs.

The situation is similar for bumpers: throughout Switzerland, around 30,000 of these could be replaced rather than repaired whenever there is a claim. According to the Empa analysis, replacing rather than repairing a bumper pollutes the environment by generating an additional 14.5 kg in carbon dioxide equivalents. Here too, there could be savings of 400 tonnes. "If only windshields and bumpers were consistently repaired rather than replaced, this would equate to savings domestically of around 1,000 tonnes in carbon dioxide equivalents every year.  This corresponds to the carbon emissions of a journey in the average petrol car of around 3 million kilometers, i.e. circumnavigating the globe 75 times", explains Marcel Stettler who is responsible for partnerships with bodyshops at AXA Switzerland. The high carbon emissions are mainly generated by the production and disposal of components. "For example, the energy required to manufacture glass for the production of windshields is considerable", explains Roland Hischier from Empa's Technology and Society Research Department.

Self-assessment for Swiss bodyshops

To increase the repair quota, AXA Switzerland has recently developed a self-assessment procedure for Swiss workshops. Using an online questionnaire, they can determine how sustainably they work, and they are also given specific recommendations on how to carry out more sustainable repairs, such as which tools are suitable or which training courses are available. "Our aim is to enable workshops to repair defective parts wherever possible so that they don't have to use unnecessary replacement parts. The way to do this specifically is through skilled workmanship", explains Marcel Stettler.

The potential for repairs is enormous. Of course, there are already many businesses taking the lead in this. According to a 2021 study by AXA1, almost 70 percent of garages and bodyshops surveyed said they felt it was important or very important for them to carry out environmentally friendly repairs. But AXA estimates that the repair quota could be doubled in the sector overall. Marcel Stettler thinks that even a three-fold increase in windshield replacements is possible.

"If we can encourage repair rather than replacement wherever this is technically possible, this not only helps the environment, but also the workshops, customers and us as an insurer."

Marcel Stettler, responsible for partnerships with bodyshops at AXA Switzerland

"green car repair" label for environmentally friendly workshops

As well as developing the assessment, AXA is co-founder of a national sector label for any business working to environmentally friendly standards and favoring repair to replacement whenever possible. The "green car repair" label will be introduced this year led by Carrosserie Suisse. One of the requirements for workshops seeking certification is to pass the self-assessment. The label gives car drivers an idea of how sustainably the workshop works. According to a 20212 study, 60 percent of AXA customers currently favor repair over replacement, but they must be made aware of the benefit for the environment and of the equal value compared to a replacement.

Kinder to the environment, lower costs, same quality

Thanks to the knowledge and technical skills of the workers in the bodyshop, a small claim can often be completely repaired in a few hours without compromising quality. This also saves costs, which is a particularly crucial factor given the rising cost of replacement parts: "If we can encourage repair rather than replacement wherever this is technically possible, this not only helps the environment, but also the workshops, customers and us as an insurer. This is of course done without sacrificing quality", explains Marcel Stettler.

More emphasis on skilled workmanship and less of a throwaway mentality

“Our customers are very pleased if damage can be repaired quickly. If they have to wait for expensive spare parts, it means their car is left standing in the garage for longer and they have to drive a replacement car. However, minor damage can often be repaired completely within hours, without compromising on quality. This means companies need staff with the necessary expertise and skills for the job. For now at least, Switzerland still has this skills base and we should continue to promote those skills,” says Dominic Schenker of André Koch AG. 

Felix Wyss, Chairman of Carrosserie Suisse, also supports the approach: “Body shops, which employ a lot of people in Switzerland, stand to benefit more themselves if they can carry out repairs. Cases of major damage are becoming increasingly uncommon and can’t really be repaired anyway. Most claims involve minor damage. If we repair these instead of replacing parts, everyone benefits,” says Wyss. 


1 AXA questionnaire of 1,649 Swiss garages and bodyshops
2 AXA questionnaire of 644 customers in German-speaking Switzerland

Some practical examples

Successful repair of a windshield chipped in the driver’s field of vision   

Perfect repair of a large crack on rear bumper

Do you need to report damage to your car? 

If your car has been damaged, AXA will take care of the whole claim settlement process, it will organize the repairs for you and it will ensure you remain mobile. In addition, your policy enables you to benefit from exclusive advantages from our partner companies. Report your claim quickly and simply at or by calling 0800 809 809.

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