By: Peter Lawton, Head of Aftermarket section at SMMT and a former Editor of CAT 

Workshops are facing a surge of demand for MOT tests and service work this autumn, unless deferred work can be managed. By next spring, the sector could find itself living a replay of boom and bust, with test centres either bursting at the seams or lying fallow.

No one wants a repeat of what happened then when, according to sobering GIPA statistics, aftermarket work volumes plummeted by almost 90 percent, even though workshops were given the green light to remain open.

The situation is improving: DVSA reports that, from a low of 20 percent of tests taking place on their due date, more than 80 percent are now being done on time – but, there’s some tricky capacity management coming up.

Taking action

Throughout the crisis, SMMT has worked closely with the government – first to provide reassurance that testing could be conducted safely before raising the alarm that the growing backlog of MOT tests, if left for too long, could turn into unmanageable levels of demand in October and November, with long term consequences.

Through constructive discussions with Department for Transport officials and direct engagement with the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps MP, SMMT successfully flagged the concerns of the aftermarket sector and helped to steer government policy towards repealing the six-month MOT extension. Regular testing is now set to resume, helping to safeguard businesses and jobs, as well as ensuring vehicles remain safe on our roads.

Managing demand 

With millions of vehicles now urgently requiring an MOT, the aftermarket sector is set to receive a deluge of bookings over the coming months.

That might sound like an attractive proposition but meeting this demand and avoiding another lull come next spring will be challenging.

Safety first 

While Covid-19 remains a risk, customers may have concerns about visiting workshops. Likewise, you may have questions about how to reopen and operate in a Covid-secure fashion.

To help the sector get back to business and reassure customers, SMMT has published detailed guidance on how to operate safely, with input from sister organisations the Garage Equipment Association, Independent Automotive Aftermarket Federation, Institute of the Motor Industry and Scottish Motor Trade Association.

The guidance is designed to ensure a safe environment for employees and customers at all points of interaction during an MOT test and covers measures including customer communication, social distancing, sanitisation, PPE and non-contactless payment processes.

SMMT is committed to supporting the service and repair sector through our dedicated Aftermarket Section, which has more than 200 members from every facet of the industry. We have been working hard on behalf of these companies and the wider sector to provide comprehensive business support during the Covid-19 crisis, with services including dedicated webinars, newsletters and regular engagement across government to ensure industry issues are heard, understood and acted on. You can find out more at:

Make the most of the spike

  • Triage as much as possible to help anticipate what might go wrong with an MOT and what would be required for any necessary remedial work. This allows throughput to be maximised and ensures ramps and technicians aren’t under-utilised.
  •  Target vehicles that may benefit from an earlier test by looking at any advisories issued the last time a customer visited. Critical safety items such as brakes and tyres could easily be overdue attention.
  •  Advise customers to book in for MOTs as close to their original due date as possible – warn them that waiting until October or November may mean they can’t get a slot.
  • Manage expectations about the time it may take to get any remedial and/ or servicing work done
  • There will be less flexibility in managing demand with a mix of extended tests and original due dates next spring, so attempt to bring some forward from June and July into April and May.
  • Remind motorists that they can have MOTs up to a month-minus-a-day earlier than a standard due date, and much earlier than extended dates, and that making the trip to a workshop is a legitimate journey.
  • Offer collect and deliver services to customers who are shielding, where possible.

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