Independent garages will need to clean up in order to stay competitive, according to the boss of LKQ Euro Car Parts.
According to Euro’s CEO Andy Hamilton, keeping the workshop looking good is one of four areas that he believes the trade will need to keep focussed on in 2023.
Hamilton said: “Firstly, there will be a renewed focus on enhancing the [garage] customer experience. Independent garages and bodyshops can look to displace franchised operators if they can add a more professionalised experience to their more competitively priced offerings.
“A welcoming reception area, a clean workshop and a modern and functioning online presence can give motorists looking to make their money go further the confidence to work with an independent operator.”
Offering a more tailored set of services is second in Hamilton’s list. He explained: “Being able to offer lower cost alternatives to OEM brands without compromising on quality, for example, may offer a more cost-effective solution while showing empathy for the customer’s own financial situation”.
Third is the ongoing fight to protect the interests of the independent sector, notably the renewal of Block Exemption. however, the issue of Brexit has thrown our trade a few curveballs and Hamilton notes that the threat of an extension of the mandatory MOT period remains, and that there is uncertainty around whether an equivalent of SERMI will be introduced in Great Britain, as it will be in Northern Ireland.
Lastly, the sector’s training and talent gaps continue to widen, which Hamilton says must be addressed this year. The worry is that as garages and bodyshops inevitably become more focussed on controlling cost this year, neither issue is likely to improve.
Hamilton said: “Leaving aside the race to get EV-ready and the need to build a sustainable future, which may rightly or wrongly feel like a problem for another day, the arrival of ADAS-equipped and even hybrid vehicles in the aftermarket is very much upon us – an issue exacerbated by the decline in new car sales.
“Where they can, garages and bodyshops must continue to invest in the skills, people and equipment needed. There is even an opportunity to help take market share from franchises if they can service more sophisticated vehicles.”