The CAT Council: garage responses

Andy Savva

Andy Savva

“I think that it is generally agreed that the future of the industry is going to become more challenging for various reasons; including complex vehicle technology, longer service schedules, customer service expectations and political influences on competence and accountability, all these issues will reduce the number of independent repairers able to work on the modern vehicle.

There will be number of key influences that will drive the need for more professional business management within the aftermarket. These include Euro 5 & 6 legislation, the BSI, ATA accreditation and the Motor Industry Codes, enhancing both the business and the individual. For those within the industry who embrace change will survive

  • Economic situation can only get better
  • Customers looking for true alternative to dealers
  • Smaller garages not investing  – more work for others
  • Recruitment – opportunity to find skilled personal
  • Continual investment in personnel and equipment
  • Parts & equipment suppliers offering better deals
  • Passion for excellence and customer service – believe in what you do

It needs to explore what other successful businesses outside the automotive arena are up too and absorb some of the practices and strategies used to recruit and retain customers. It needs to place the customer at the beginning, middle and end of any business plan!”

Andy Savva

Owner, Brunswick Garage

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Chris Meredith

Chris Meredith

“I believe the future is very bright for the industry PROVIDED it adapts to the customer needs and gives the very highest levels of service. Yes, cars are becoming more complex but that’s been the case for the last 20 years and all garages have had to adapt even if the industry doubters had Independent garages written off! As much as a challenge as technology presents it offers opportunities too, franchised dealers seem unable to train their customer facing staff to the customer needs and the good independents out there should take full advantage of the disgruntled motorists looking for brilliant customer service away from the dealers. The days of the one-man band operations I think may be numbered as motorists need customer service and I feel that even the best technicians can’t offer this whilst making a living actually working on the cars.

Opportunities include more motorists looking to save money against franchised dealers and receive better levels of service and care. With the MOT frequency now confirmed all testing stations can sleep easy knowing that the safety of motorists and the security of regular MOT income is secure. With motorists keeping privately owned cars for longer the amount of work we are able to offer our customers obviously increases and there is danger of them getting pulled to an all inclusive service package on a new car. The independent garage industry has an opportunity to lift its game to force a compulsory scheme membership with government backing which should be followed up with technician licensing similar to Corgi for gas fitters etc – these would result in improved confidence in the motorists eyes and drive the cowboys out of business.

Challenges it faces include manufacturers forcing radical technology onto their cars – hybrids although complex aren’t a major concern as there are so few purchased but with the search for improved efficiency by all manufacturers we have to hope that the solutions generated allow independents to thrive and not die. Other challenges in my opinion are the myriad of so called garage schemes all offering X, Y or Z but in essence all they achieve is greater confusion in the motorist’s eyes potentially pushing them to the security of the franchised dealers!

MOT testing standards & quality must be a priority and a mandatory price introduced. We need to educate motorists on the vital nature of the test and eliminate the discounters who simply test vehicles with a view to recouping their discounted price by dubious failure points! The VOSA guidelines also need rewriting to allow testers to pass or fail with confidence as the current wording can be easily misinterpreted. We simply must introduce a government backed COMPULSORY quality scheme that is recognisable by all motorists – currently the strongest scheme with the most members has the worst name and the worst scheme with sales driven membership and dubious criteria has the best name! We also need to look forward to the licensing of all vehicle technicians in a similar line to Corgi etc so that motorists can rest assured that the car they drive is safe and maintained by a skilled person.”

Chris Meredith

Owner, ABP Motorsport

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Julian Glover

Julian Glover

“This is not an easy thought to contemplate, but here goes.

My first though would be as long as politicians etc do not have anymore hair brain ideas like the scrappage scheme that affected the aftermarket in a big way by reducing MOT testing and servicing older vehicles, things might be ok.

I am finding that being in a recession is actually good for my business as my turnover is increasing , we are gaining many more customers who would of normally changed their cars every three years.  We have also found customers have remembered the last recession and how costly it was for them by not servicing their cars.

The opportunity we face now is to in still confidence and good value for money in the independent aftermarket trade so as we slowly come out of the recession and people once again start to buy new cars they will remember you don’t have to take them to a dealer to get good honest service, with that in mind I intend more training for my staff and keep my eye on the ball for new equipment to deal with new technology”

Julian Glover

Owner, Anglo Continental Cars

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Hayley Pells

Hayley Pells

“In five years’ time the British car park will have continued to age and our distant relations in car sales will seek to retain the customers they do have with lucrative clear, menu type pricing and initial purchase servicing plans.

They have an arsenal of advertising and marketing tools with which to accomplish this so we in the aftermarket will need to react with superior customer service in order to compete with this strategy.

I believe we are in a position in which to do so by comparing their “fast food” type menu with our Michelin

Star standard service and this distinction will have to be brought to the attention of our consumer group.

Marketing is no longer completely defined by time or a measured space, social media platforms enable us to nurture relationships and network on a real and personal level.

Word of mouth is out there in the digital medium and is here to stay. A reluctance to utilise it would be like ignoring the potential customer that walks through your door. Using it badly will only achieve a waste of your time – are you going to embrace this growth method of networking now or later?”

Hayley Pells

Avia Speed Shop

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Chris Paxman

Chris Paxman

“It’s a big year for the aftermarket, with the planned changes to block exemption threatening to pit de-franchised dealerships against existing independent garages, so it’s definitely going to be a turning point for the industry. Businesses will need to invest or die – the public expect main dealer standards, even at aftermarket prices. Those who step up to the mark will reap the rewards.”

I’d say it’s not so much a ‘big step’ that’s going to significantly affect our industry, as a continuing process.  Every part of the aftermarket, from parts to service, is undergoing consolidation at the moment – with companies striving to create national chains through acquisition, or clubbing together to form buying groups – and changing legislation is accelerating this drive. But businesses don’t necessarily need to join a franchise or align with a recognised brand to adjust to these market conditions, they simply need to advocate and fulfil high standards of service.”

It would benefit the aftermarket to educate motorists on the options available to them when it comes to parts, since most don’t appreciate the different benefits of new, remanufactured and repaired parts – which means they can’t choose the most cost-effective option for themselves. Additionally, a recognised standard for reman parts would go a long way to providing reassurance that their installation would not jeopardise the warranty on a customer’s car.”

Chris Paxman

Managing Director, TT Automotive


This post was written by:

- who has written 295 posts on CAT Magazine.

CAT magazine's in-house reporter and self-confessed petrol head

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