As before, the VMs stand to gain from a scheme, but is the aftermarket organised enough to mount a challenge?
The jungle drums are beating and the environmental lobby, whilst not yet in full howl, is becoming vociferous about the state of the air pollution in our cities – they are not wrong! However, as usual, the first choice of action is to rain hell-fire and damnation in the shape of increased congestion charges and additional parking costs for anybody who has the temerity to drive a diesel vehicle and the second, to throw money at
Once again the ‘scrappage’ word is being bandied about as the way of removing these vehicles from our roads but, the question must be asked, will this not reward the perpetrators of the crime? Some of the vehicle manufacturers by producing ‘non-compliant’ vehicles could be said to have added to the problem; will those named-and- shamed be excluded from the list of ‘acceptable’ vehicles to benefit from any such scheme? – I feel that I can answer this conundrum, No!
Those of us who can remember the hedonistic days of Tony Blair, his sidekick Gordon Brown and the ‘New Labour’ movement will remember that during their reign they were actively promoting diesel, due to its economy. As with so many things from that era, the genaral public are once again left holding the baby.
Have we learnt nothing from the last scrappage scheme? The ‘dirty’ old vehicles are not the ones that will be replaced – the owners of these old ‘nodders’ don’t do so from choice, they own them because they can’t afford to replace them so a new scheme benefits the VM’s and the new vehicle owners.
Scrappage starves the used market by frustrating the cascade of vehicles down to the cheap seats. If a scrappage scheme is introduced the VM’s will squander it in the name of increased vehicle sales and it will not benefit our sector one jot.
If the diesel devil is the problem why not champion a ‘conversion’ programme; convert diesel vehicles to petrol or other propulsion methods? “Can’t be done!” I hear various commentators shout; as my old apprentice master used to say ‘you can do anything you want but first you have to want to do anything’ – of course it can be done but are the cost, benefits and the rewards big enough?
I admit the problem will be the infernal electrics but nothing is insurmountable. If we look outside our own sector of the industry ‘transplants’ are common; those who can remember the original Leyland National bus will remember, probably with scars to remind them, that the original ‘headless’ engine was a god- awful contraption and were almost entirely substituted by Cummings or MAN engines; look at the boat industry and you will see the same happening across the globe – it can be done.
There is no magic bullet, there will be several years of transition if the problem is to be sorted but we need to be looking at how we can turn weaknesses into opportunities and avoid strengths being threatened. With the ‘dirty old dogs’ could we, the Independent sector, not champion a need for maintenance? We know that vehicles which are not serviced are a large part of the problem – within the aftermarket there are a myriad of cleaning products; injector cleaners, fuel system cleaners, oil additives etc. which all help; the EDT engine cleaning system, I can attest, gives startling results both in economy and emissions. But we need to be careful that we are not seen to be peddling snake-oil, we need measurable, certified results and strong representation. Is the time not right (again) for us to promote the legislative need for vehicles to be maintained?
The Government though will once again be lobbied by those with the loudest voice, the VM’s who will offer a quick fix and an offer to tick the box to appease the need rather than cure the problem.
So why does the aftermarket never look at to providing the answer? Is it because we are fragmented with little enclaves each doing their ‘bit’ but no joined up thinking or holistic solution seeking? (By which I mean one firm sells parts, but another fits them; with each player being prepared to prey on the other rather than forming an alliance– hardly an environment for solution seeking nor likely to inspire confidence in others at the table looking for a solution).
Once again our sector finds itself marred by its ‘independence’ – who will really represent our sector? The only voices heard around the corridors of power are the SMMT, the VM’s by any other name, and the NFDA representing the dealers but the Independent sector – either garages or factors – name your champion, when did you last hear their voice? So when the tide of opinion once again turns in favour of the VM’s, as it will, the independence from each other, the lack of unity, will have denied you a voice.
Those of you who have tested yourselves using the now slightly outmoded SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) will have realised that there is no black and white only shades of grey (I’m not referring to ‘that’ book) – an opportunity could have been as the result of a weakness and not to address it is now a threat but you could turn it into a strength so into which category do you put it? Now ask yourself the same thing about the Diesel fiasco, the problem is that it gets put into the ‘too difficult tray’ and the VMs become, by default, the only show in town.
If, as we expect, this Scrappage MkII is going to get off the ground can we, the independent sector, try not to get caught napping; can we get our backsides into gear and organise ourselves? The old adage ‘are we failing to plan or planning to fail’ springs to mind – there is one racing certainty and that is if you’ve got nothing to say, don’t be surprised if nobody is prepared to listen.