Archive | May, 2012



The Competition Commission will investigate UK insurers

The Competition Commission will investigate UK insurers

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is calling on the UK’s  motor insurance providers to make their business more transparent, and is considering referring the industry for investigation by the Competition Commission.

The OFT says that insurers present the idea to motorists that it doesn’t matter where their vehicle is repaired, when in fact evidence shows that the dysfunctional methods used by some insurers could be driving premiums up by as much as £225 million.

The government body found that insurers of at-fault drivers have very little influence over where a vehicle is repaired, meaning that mediating companies like brokers and credit hire organizations can dictate repair methods which drives up insurance bills.

Of particular worry to the aftermarket is the news that certain insurers receive referral payments and rebates by using approved repairers and parts suppliers. It is the cost of paying these rebates that can push up the cost of a repair for consumers.

The report has also found that certain insurers have agreements with garages to charge high labour rates to the customer, increasing bills for the consumer and profits for the repairer.

It is considering asking the Competition Commission to investigate and take appropriate action, something which could break the chain between motorists and insurer and allow more crash repair work to reach independents.

Evidence has also been found showing that insurers of not-at-fault drivers are referring drivers to credit hire organizations that charge much higher than normal daily rates, making repair bills on average £560 more expensive each time.

Not-at-fault drivers are also being given replacement vehicles for much longer than is necessary, further increasing costs.

Chief Executive of the OFT John Fingleton said: “Competition in this market does not appear to work well for drivers. We believe the focus that insurers have on  the competitive edge through raising their rivals’ costs means that drivers pay more than they need to for their motor insurance policies.”

Chair of the Transport Committee Louise Ellman MP said she agreed with the decision: “The OFT’s decision is a major step forward.

“Like the OFT, we found evidence to support the view that various features of the private motor insurance prevent, restrict or distort adequate competition in ways that do not deliver a fair deal to motorists.”

The OFT will make its decision later in the year.

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It only seems like a short time since we announced the winners of the CAT Awards 2012. This year’s awards entrants presented the CAT website with quite a challenge, keeping up with the number of votes being cast!

We’re already gearing up for the 2013 awards, will this year be your chance to shine?

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Chris Meredith

Chris Meredith

Three-time CAT award winner ABP Motorsport is also now the Motor Codes Garage of the Year.

The Crewe-based workshop in Cheshire took the top prize in the small business category, while Reynolds of Selby in North Yorkshire was judged the best large businesses.

The two garages fought off 6800 other Motor Codes subscribing businesses and 18 regional finalists in the competition which attracted record levels of votes from consumers.

Founded in 1964, ABP is now owned by Chris Meredith who joined the company 22 years ago at the age of 17: “I was beginning to think it was never meant to be – we’d been North West finalists two years on the trot, which is great, but never made it to the top until now.

“The best thing about winning is that it’s because of the good feedback we got from satisfied customers.

“It’s great to learn from the feedback. Generally we’re very good, but we did have one horrendous one about not answering the phone quickly enough or calling back with a price. We learnt a lot from that, more than we do from the positive feedback.

“We changed things and improved. Multiply that by the number of years we’ve been in business and the result is that we now have third generation customers coming back to us.”

The customer votes and feedback used to highlight the best garages is updated live on the Motor Codes website so garages have an effective way of reassuring consumers and bringing business to their doors. CAT Editor Peter Lawton joined Chris Mason, What Car? Consumer Editor Emma Butcher, Sun Motors Editor Ken Gibson and Halvoline’s John Jackson to decide the overall winner. Both garages were also independently assessed by the RAC.

Stephen Reynolds of Reynolds of Selby said: “We’re a family-run business and treat all of our staff and customers as an extended part of that family. We’re so pleased to be named Garage of the Year because it show recognition from the community and reflects the long-standing relationships that we enjoy with many of our customers. I would very much like to thank all of our customers for their continued support and for voting for us to win this prestigious award.”

Motor Codes Managing Director and competition judge Chris Mason said: “Congratulations to two exceptional businesses. The judges certainly had a tough time picking the winners from the shortlist of regional champions and this is indicative of the quality of customer service that motorists across the UK regularly experience, particular from garages committed to our Government-backed codes of practice.”

Reynolds of Selby won the large business category

Reynolds of Selby won the large business category

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Competition Clutch builds dedicated UK centre

Competition Clutch builds dedicated UK centre

Competition Clutch's products are enjoying UK success

Competition Clutch's products are enjoying UK success

American transmission brand Competition Clutch has taken its first steps into the UK market by setting up a dedicated UK sales and logistics centre.

The company, which has partnered with Universal Automotive, is hoping its customers in the UK can enjoy the same level of stock holding and service as its US clients.

The 40,000 square foot Universal Automotive facility in Kidderminster will handle all popular Competition Clutch lines, available for immediate delivery.

The Competition Clutch brand is already enjoying success in the UK, with its products becoming the brand of choice for drag racers and drifters, as well as being specified as a control parts in the Buddy Club Civic Cup.

Dan McCarny, Sales Manager for Competition Clutch said: “We are delighted to be able to offer our UK customers a dedicated call centre and customer service team, as well as the fact that by working with Universal, we can increase our inventory of parts and improve our speed of delivery. This is a great partnership for us that will allow us to build on the success and hard work of our existing UK dealer network.”

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The new website has a number of new features

The new website has a number of new features

The United Aftermarket Network is celebrating the launch of its new website.

As part of a number of new initiatives aimed at supporting the core business of its members, the UAN has launched its new website to improve visibility and usability for consumers.

The group says one of the site’s most radical new features is that distributors can now instantly access UAN approved supplier agreements online, giving real time access to supplier data.

The new site also includes a new section detailing its central rebate program. This is the first time such an element has been included.

UAN Managing Director Andrew Dickinson commented: “The industry benchmark has been set with this new website. We have worked in close collaboration with our distributors to design a site that becomes a helpful and integral part of their business. The end result is a website that delivers some genuine tangible benefits to them. On a purely practical note it was also imperative that our distributors could view and utilise the supplier agreements which are constantly improving.”

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Industry blog: The future is far from certain

Steve McCann is Managing Director of CES and Cat Council member

Steve McCann

Steve McCann

The last few years have shown that predicting the future is far from easy. One certainty is that vehicles will continue to become more technologically advanced, particularly when it comes to fuel. Rising diesel prices could see lower capacity petrol engines using turbo or hybrid technology becoming more popular. Also, expect to see further progress in technology, such as regenerative braking, that utilises various power sources and improves fuel efficiency. For distributors this will mean adapting to different parts demand and technical knowhow.

With insurance premiums and fuel costs rising, running a car is increasingly expensive. One positive outcome has been the migration by motorists from franchised dealerships to independent garages. The question is whether this is temporary shift or more permanent.  To encourage long term behavioral change, independents will need to invest in training, standards and equipment, so they’re well positioned to retain this custom once the economy improves.

This will be particularly challenging as franchised dealers react to stagnant car sales with aggressive advertising and offers on servicing. With a gloomy economic outlook, it’s likely that dealers will continue to attack independents to protect their revenue. Making sure motorists understand that under block exemption they have a choice for in-warranty servicing has never been more important.

Increasingly complicated vehicles will mean that technical competence will become even more important. Continual learning and skills development will be vital for technicians. You can see the technician of the future being seen in the same light as engineers, architects and programmers as a highly specialised profession.

For this reason it will be increasingly vital for technicians to invest in their future. This includes gaining new knowledge by attending training courses on new technology, such as hybrid systems. It goes without saying understanding and owning up-to-date diagnostic equipment will also be vital – nowadays there are very few jobs that don’t involve diagnostics. Finally, using suppliers that can provide technical support and continually invest themselves in technology and training will help garages future proof their business.

When it comes to parts supply, garages currently have a plethora of choice including the web. It’s doubtful the market can continue to sustain so many offline suppliers. Consolidation is inevitable and it will unfortunately mean many smaller factors find it harder to compete. As technology advances, those that adapt and focus upon a niche may well survive. We expect a landscape of fewer factors, dominated by larger distributors who will deliver a wider range of services. Even for those, it will no longer possible to simply offer the lowest price or the most add-on services. The market now demands a combination of both – that’s best value and best price.

For long term success, all players in the aftermarket have their part to play. Manufacturers need to treat the aftermarket as a key part of their business. That means offering the whole package – range, availability, price and support. For distributors, investing in value-add that helps independents compete, along with pricing that’s fair and not self-defeating has to be the way forward. Whilst independents must have the confidence to sell their skills and knowledge, not undervalue it. They should also support the distributor that supports their business.

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A history lesson in parts


Wilfred Leland Jnr, the grandson of Henry Leland, Cadillac co-founder, sitting in the Dewar Trophy shortly after the 1908 win

A car that has a problem with its brakes has just arrived in your workshop. After a few hours stripping it down you identify a damaged component. So off you go to your local motor parts supplier to get a replacement. You explain to the chap on the counter what you’re after and fortunately they have one in stock. Returning to your workshop in good spirits you attempt to fit the new part only to discover it’s slightly different to the original. You return to the parts supplier, disgruntled and demand the correct part. You may think that this sounds familiar, but the year is 1905 and things were a little different back then.

After explaining the problem, the parts-man gets another part from his stock. However, this item is not just different to the original, but different to the first replacement as well. With no other option available, you are forced to grind, file and machine the replacement until it will fit. You then discover another problem and another broken component. And so the sequence replays.

This may all sound ridiculous, but this was the way of the world until an American engineer called Henry Leland came along. It may seem an obvious necessity now, but until Leland came up with the idea of parts interchangability all components on all cars were ever so slightly different. Early automobiles were built and crafted by skilled engineers, rather than being manufactured en masse. During construction each component would be minutely fettled and modified to give a perfect fit. Subsequently this made each car unique and the components could not be shared between them. Therefore replacement parts would never be exactly the same as the part that was removed.

During his time as a machinist at a federal arsenal prior to the American civil war, Leland learnt the importance of fine tolerances and precision. And it was this knowledge that he brought to the then fledgling motor industry. Previously nobody had given any real thought to the consequences of working with such varying and unmanaged tolerances, but Leland knew that precision engineering was the only way forward.

He demonstrated his mandate during his time at Cadillac and in 1908 by winning the much acclaimed Dewar trophy for advances in automotive engineering. A team of technicians completely disassembled three identical Cadillacs, jumbled up all their parts, and then successfully reassembled them, without having to make any alterations to any of the components. This was dramatic proof of Leland’s philosophy of interchangeable parts. The achievement demonstrated to the automotive world that precision machining parts in bulk was undoubtedly the future.

Most importantly however, the result of Leland’s work meant that independent garages and workshops were able to repair and service cars using standardised parts. Every time a new design of component was made, its exact dimensions and properties were recorded to allow reproductions to be manufactured to an identical design.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

Of course the funny thing is that with more and more options and variations on modern vehicles, the range of different versions of the same part is on the increase. Some may say that modern complications are wiping out all of Leland’s good work and that the progress is being lost. However I believe that this just makes it more important than ever that the aftermarket keep up with ongoing developments. Despite this, we should all be thankful that Henry Leland had the foresight and vision for what has become the mainstay for keeping cars on the road. If it weren’t for him, we’d still be visiting the blacksmith to get a couple thousands of an inch filed off a gearwheel to make it fit properly.

By Chris Small, Automotive Parts Specialist

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Delphi in £620 million negotation with FCI group

Delphi in £620 million negotation with FCI group

Delphi has entered exclusive negotiations to buy the Motorized Vehicles Division (MVL) of the FCI Group.

The deal, valued at £620 million, is expected to close by the end of this year.

If the sale is agreed the division will become part of Delphi’s Electrical/Electronic Architecture segment. This division of Delphi currently manufactures interconnectors for various market sectors including safety restraint systems, powertrain and electric vehicles..

The MVL acquisition could well prove to be profitable for Delphi, in 2011 the division had a revenue of over £500 million. The division is currently owned by affiliates of Bain Capital.

CEO and President of Delphi Rodney O’Neal said: “This transaction will solidify Delphi’s position as one of the premier global automotive suppliers and will create significant shareholder value.

“he addition of MVL strengthens the high growth connector product portfolio of our E/EA segment, broadens our mix of global customers and furthers our strategy of providing our customers with solutions to address the trends of Safe, Green and Connected.

“As a result, following the acquisition, we will be better positioned to further drive growth in electronic content in motor vehicles.  As MVL’s largest customer, we respect their accomplishments and share a commitment to developing innovative products and delivering solutions that meet a wide range of needs and applications.”

President of MVL Liam Butterworth added that a strategic partnership with Delphi would enable the company to continue its growth plans. He said: “By leveraging both parties’ strong innovation and R&D capabilities, we will continue to provide the market with the highest quality innovative interconnect systems, while exceeding the expectations of customers worldwide.”

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The CAT Council: supplier (M-Z) responses

Richard Shortis

Richard Shortis

“About £40 is a fair rate for basic job, but it varies depending on how complicated the job is, as you are paying for the knowledge of the fitter.

Garages should be allowed to charge what they feel is fair price for an MOT, or offer a free retest, guess it depends if they think the car is going to fail or not, after all they could be getting paid to do the work it failed on.

Just because a garage has a sign outside saying it is licensed, it does not mean you won’t get shoddy workmanship, they are only as good as the people doing the work and they could have changed since the licensed was granted. After all I have seen some bodges done by Gas Safe engineers before!

NO, the industry is too varied, does a garage that only fits tyres need the same license as one that is doing crash repair? After all there are already rules on what you can and can not do with tyres, why burden us with more regulations?”

Richard Shortis, the Shortis Group

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Grant Thornton is looking for a buyer

Grant Thornton is looking for a buyer

The seventeen-strong Motormania chain and Midland Car Parts have been put into administration.

Grant Thornton has been appointed as the administrators for the two companies which traded under Richard C Hartley Limited. The 25-year-old business employs 92 people across its sites.

David Bennett of Grant Thornton said: “Motormania and Midland Car Parts are long-established businesses with a strong reputation in the market place. We are continuing to trade the businesses with a view to selling them as going concerns and are currently in discussions with a number of interested parties.”

More information on the businesses is available from Raj Mittal of Grant Thornton on 0121 232 5177 or by e-mailing

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