Part one: Powering down

Energy bills can be a drain on a business’s bottom line. Businesses that aren’t switching supplier could be paying more than necessary
Published:  04 December, 2017

Brexit is on the horizon, costs of energy are rising following the fall in sterling and an increase in taxation, and it appears that the UK’s energy generators can only just meet energy demands. It’s not hard to see why firms should be keenly aware of the impact of energy usage on their bottom line.


Scrappage: scrap the negativity?

Vehicle manufacturer-led schemes have put scrappage back on the agenda. We were worried last time – should we be worried now?
Published:  28 November, 2017

With new car sales on the slide during 2017, vehicle manufacturers delved into their big ideas bag and pulled out a classic from the turn of the decade: Scrappage. At the last count, 17 carmakers  including, Volkswagen, Skoda, SEAT, Audi, Ford, Mazda Renault , Hyundai and Toyota had set up schemes. Money on the table varies, but some are offering motorists up to £8,000.

While these are all manufacturer schemes with no government backing, they bring back memories of 2009-2010 when the official programme was offering motorists £2,000 to scrap their old banger. Many in the aftermarket were pulling their hair out at the thought of customers scrapping perfectly sound older cars to get a discount on a brand new vehicle that would probably not see the inside of an independent garage for some years.     

The freedoms of Block Exemption and the overall business acumen of the aftermarket may have mitigated the damage a few years ago, but now it’s back on the agenda. There are even suggestions that government might consider another official scheme to accelerate the exit of diesel vehicles from our roads. You know, those diesel vehicles that a previous government encouraged in the first place?

Talk about dirty politics.

Anyway, while the manufacturer schemes mostly expire by the end of the year, should we be concerned about the return of scrappage?

Impact
Wendy Williamson, CEO at the Independent Automotive Aftermarket Federation (IAAF) is not a fan: “In general, vehicle scrappage schemes can – and do – negatively impact the aftermarket long-term. An example of this is the 2009 scrappage scheme which removed up to 400,000 serviceable vehicles from the aftermarket and did little to support UK jobs, as most vehicles acquired under the scheme were from non-UK factories. Through offering consumers an incentive, scrappage schemes may be seen as a cynical ploy to increase new sales. And herein lies a major problem, as we’re not just talking about off-road cars consigned to the scrapheap that were due their MOT or service, or requiring replacement parts. While the independent automotive aftermarket is very adept at servicing newer vehicles, much of the servicing and repair of new, zero to three year old vehicles is with the main dealer.

“New vehicle sales are declining, hardly surprising given the highs reached in recent months and years but, the repercussions for the aftermarket could be far worse with new vehicles flooding the market thanks to scrappage schemes.”

Legislative loophole
One obstacle of a potential newer vehicle parc for the aftermarket is the forthcoming Type Approval legislation. This relates to the diagnostics, repair and maintenance of vehicles and are an important step towards improving the legislative framework for independent operators. Over 184 amendments were approved and importantly for the aftermarket included a number of key revisions, the most important of which is keeping the OBD port to the vehicle open and accessible.

Wendy has serious concerns here: “There is a risk that some of the vehicle manufacturers would use a legislative loophole to replace the OBD connector with another system in new models of cars, potentially gaining a monopoly on access to vehicle technical condition data.

“A new vehicle parc makes this more feasible and also raises the question of data access.  If we get the access rights that we should enjoy under current legislation then providing the workshop has the right tools and equipment they should be on a level playing field with the franchised sector.

“However, the information the aftermarket currently receives in not at the same detailed level as the dealer network and this is

For Wendy, the larger issue is not scrappage, it’s what’s coming down the line behind newer cars: “The big threat at the moment is that through ‘the extended vehicle’ the aftermarket will no longer be able to enjoy unmonitored access to the vehicle information.”

Minimal
Opinions on scrappage vary however. While scrappage takes vehicles out of the car parc,  more are always coming in. Terry Gibson, head of member services at the Independent Garage Association (IGA) feels scrappage is not a big concern, or even that relevant to the sector: “So called ‘scrappage’ schemes are good for car sales – period. The last time there was a genuine
So, garages are not losing business, and hopefully not losing sleep either. After all, from a legislative and a practical standpoint, today’s independent aftermarket is a much more sophisticated place – they can handle more modern vehicles in larger numbers – why not let them come?  “Exactly,” replies Terry. “Modern independent garages invest heavily in tools, technology and training to keep pace with changes in vehicle technology. We say – bring it on.”

Of course, legislation can change, and you sometimes take your life in your hands when you trust it to committee. Brexit could have an impact on the Block Exemption Regulation (BER) and Type Approval might not go ‘our’ way. Could independents lose the right to service new vehicles without invalidating the warranty?

Terry has a positive view: “While there is no certainty in this area – and a certain amount of noise in some quarters, the high volume of European cars sold in the UK suggests that it is unlikely that we will see any wholesale change in the right to repair arena.”

Assuming the schemes all succeeded, a surge of new cars coming into the parc could speed up some of the more worrying trends, like connected car. However, the industry is resilient says Terry: “Although it’s true that some of issues around connected cars may present challenges for independents, the inevitable outcome of an increase in challenge is an increase in solutions – driven by the efforts of trade bodies like the IGA.”

It’s not a simple picture is it?  “Very little is simple these days,” adds Terry, but one thing is for sure, independents will never lose customers if they continue to focus on the personal service and honest communication that creates the lasting customer relationships that are the hallmark of independents’.”

For industry consultant Andy Savva, scrappage is a non issue: “I don’t worry about scrappage. As far as I am concerned it is a marketing ploy to pull forward sales. Then again, I was never concerned about my business being damaged by older cars being superseded by newer models.”

Andy’s concern is more about business planning in the aftermarket: “Concerns about scrappage are really come down to fears about change and the ability to plan ahead. Unfortunately, many businesses in our industry don’t do so well in this area.”

Andy believes businesses have all the information they need to work forward and invest, if they look at the sales going on at any given moment: “When I was running my garage, I focused on the three popular brands in my area. I would look at the sales figures and know that cars from those brands were going to be coming through my doors for the next three or four years.”

Planning
Knowing what to do is one thing, applying that knowledge is another though: “In the aftermarket, most garage owners don’t plan ahead. The average mainstream garage might be looking a few days ahead, or a couple of months at best, but not much further than that. It is one of the problems we face as an industry.”

For those who are looking forward, there is a bright side to this, although it’s a little hard on those who don’t: “Within five to seven years, a third of the garages currently in trade won’t be in trade, which means there will be more business for those who are looking forward.

“It’s not just independents who struggle remember – if franchised dealers need scrappage to sell cars, what does that say about their ability to cope?”


Bullying in the workplace

Part two: Businesses need to put robust measures in place to make sure they do not inadvertently allow workplace bullying to occur
Published:  13 November, 2017

In part one of our look at bullying in the workplace, we looked at how bullying is defined, enabling businesses to understand when what may be construed as bullying is taking place between staff members. The next step is handling the situation.


Bullying in the workplace

Part one: Businesses need to take a firm stand on bullying. Knowing it when they see it is the first step
Published:  19 October, 2017

Harassment and bullying remain significant workplace issues despite growing awareness. The Acas Workplace Trends 2016 report said anti-bullying policies had been widely adopted in Britain but were not adequately dealing with this behaviour: “last year over 20,000 calls were taken by the Acas helpline on bullying and harassment with some people reporting truly horrifying incidents including humiliation, ostracism, verbal and physical abuse.”


Typical behaviours
According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), many typical harassment and bullying behaviours can manifest in the workplace, from unwanted remarks and physical contact to shouting and persistent unwarranted criticism.

Research shows employees affected are more likely to be depressed and anxious, less satisfied with their work, have a low opinion of their managers, and want to leave the organisation. The CIPD says “organisations should treat any form of harassment or bullying seriously not just because of the legal implications and because it can lead to under-performance, but also because people have the right to be treated with dignity and respect at work.”

An organisation’s public image can be badly damaged when incidents occur, particularly when they attract media attention. This was the situation that Audi Reading unfortunately found themselves in at the end of May 2017 as a coroner examined the suicide of an apprentice mechanic. While the behaviour of some of the staff was found to be unacceptable, the coroner held the dealership free of blame for the death as there were numerous other external influences that led to the suicide. But that finding didn’t stop a torrent of ill-informed abuse being directed at the dealership and staff.


The law
Bullying is not specifically defined in law but Acas gives a definition. It says that “bullying may be characterised as offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means intended to undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient.”


Come and look at my knives!

John Batten explores how consistent diagnostic success starts long before a technician sees the car
Published:  14 October, 2017

Our industry is full of enthusiastic technicians and entrepreneurial business owners; people who love what they do, and their chosen trade.

With all this talent why is it that similar questions prevail year-on-year? Customers constantly ask "how much, and can’t you just plug it in?" Business owners ask "why don’t customers want to pay for diagnosis?" Technicians ask "how can I diagnose this fault when I’ve not been given enough time?"

Individually these are all reasonable questions from the viewpoint of person asking, but really annoying if you’re the party being asked. Is it possible to crack this enigma? I would like to believe so.

In this article we will show you how to grow profit, give your technicians the time they need to succeed and always do the right thing by your customer.


Knives out
We should not be surprised that customers want to find out how much it's going to cost. After all, it's an obvious question. Just because a customer asks "how much?" does not mean they are only focused on the lowest possible price. If you walked into a Gordon Ramsey restaurant and there were no prices on the menu you'd still ask "how much?" You wouldn't expect the answer to be McDonalds prices. This is where as an industry we don't always help ourselves.

Customers will build an impression of your business quickly, and whether they’ll consider using your services during their very first experience, which more often than not starts online.

Back to Gordon Ramsey then. You Google (other search engines are available) ‘Gordon Ramsey restaurant’ and are presented with a list in the search results. Naturally you start from the top, you click, and the page loads. You’re met with a surprising image. Rather than a picture of the restaurant, and amazing dining experience, you're presented with a chef in his whites with the caption, “come and look at my knives; we’ve got the best knives in town.”  The text beneath this states “we have the latest oven technology!” As a customer I’m not sure that’s what I expected to see. Peculiarly though, other restaurants are putting the same message out there and it’s colouring my view of what I need for a great steak.

With this in mind, we shouldn’t be surprised if a business proclaiming “we have the latest diagnostic equipment,” causes customers to think it is the kit that fixes the car. Maybe that’s why they then ask “can’t you just plug it in?” Could it be that our own websites are a contributing factor as to why diagnostics is a difficult sell?


Don’t just take the keys: Ask great questions
So you arrive for your meal at Ramsey's restaurant. The Maître d' confirms your reservation, takes your coat and sees you to your table. Unfortunately the menu is written in French (damn - should have concentrated more at school) and you're feeling uneasy about what to order. At this point, great front-of-house staff will put you at your ease, and ask the relevant questions to help identify the ideal menu choice for you. Garages are no different. Front-of-house staff have a pivotal role to play particularly where ‘diagnostic’ repairs are concerned. They have to put customers at ease, outline their options and ask great questions.

Enter Steve… The battleground on this occasion was a 2011 Skoda Yeti that would intermittently lack power and ultimately cut out. The client explained that it had been inspected previously, but he’d been told by the repairer “it hasn’t happened to us” and no fault was found. Intermittent faults: Our favourite type.


Sleuthing
Steve asked if the customer could spend five minutes to take him through how, what and when the issue occurred. Five minutes spent here often means a reduction in diagnostic time and a reduced cost to the customer. Naturally the client was only too happy to oblige.

The client explained his issue and Steve listened diligently, noting the salient points on the job card. He found the fault normally happened on longer journeys. Further questioning revealed that it was predominantly on the weekend. Steve asked “what’s different on the weekend”?

Now, this was the killer question. It transpired that the client was an avid football fan and would regularly travel to away games, collecting his pals on the way. Steve’s next question closed the door on his sleuthing. “Is it only when you have passengers in the back seat?”

“Yes,” came the reply.


Happy Techs
What a great job card for the tech to receive. In this instance the tech removed the rear squab to reveal a chafed fuel pump harness, which was duly repaired and routed to ensure the fault didn’t re-occur.

Post-fix processes confirmed that the car wouldn’t be back anytime soon and the keys and job card passed back to reception. A straightforward fix but one that could have remained elusive was it not for “diagnostics at the front desk”.

Easy? No. Achievable? Yes. It’s often possible to resist change even though we understand why it’s necessary and the benefits change will bring. If you have been doing it the same way all these years, a new approach could seem difficult. The task can often seem too big. However, small constant steps are all that is required:

Focus on crafting a consistent customer message that delivers on your unique benefits and the skill of the technician

Have a realistic evaluation fee that allows your tech the time required to succeed and a front-of-house team that can show the customer how this benefits them

Add great front-of-house questioning skills to unearth the hidden gems only known to your customer, which will help your techs and reduce the time taken for diagnosis

A winning combination: increased profit, happy techs and happy customers... What’s not to like?

If you’d like to find out more about Auto iQ then call 01604 328500 or go to: www.autoiq.co.uk. Join the conversation on Facebook @autoiq.


It's all about the data

As a business you will be accruing data all the time, but how should you be managing it?
Published:  05 October, 2017

It is pretty obvious to all of us that all sorts of organisations, companies and authorities want or need to know about our data, whether that is personal, business or security related. This is increasingly becoming a business issue as it impacts not just what data you need, but importantly, how you acquire, process, store and use data. This is both a threat and an opportunity.

A fundamental issue will now be that much of the data contained in the vehicle can also be considered personal data and is subject to data protection legislation. It is much more than just logging your customer’s contact details as you may have previously done. To help understand how this is linked together and how it can develop from being a liability to an asset, let’s look at how a typical repair workshop business should handle data.


Aftermarket magazine’s anniversary

Published:  14 September, 2017

It’s 25 years since Aftermarket was first published. Here we look back at the history of the magazine, and the sector


TRUTH APPROVAL

Will the rights guaranteed to the aftermarket in European legislation survive Brexit?
Published:  07 September, 2017

As you will be only too familiar with, the Brexit talks have begun – albeit after some delay. Now there will be a lot of discussion, some of which will be made public in the media, some of which will stay behind closed doors and some will be just plain media hype. As Mark Twain once said; “never let the truth get in the way of a good story.”


Brexit and BER: IMPACT

Published:  18 July, 2017

What are the possible outcomes of Brexit for the UK aftermarket and should we be concerned?


Managers - who needs them?

Can you 'manage' to manage? Getting the best out of frontline staff and your senior team
Published:  24 April, 2017

Every business requires good management to be successful. However, this is not just the most senior manager , who may be the business owner, but often other staff who are the 'engine room' of the business.


Business rates revaluation

Find out where you stand
Published:  10 April, 2017

Taxes on property have been around, in one form or another, for eons. However, the present incarnation, the Uniform Business Rate, effectively a tax on the occupation of business premises and also the ownership of those that are vacant, has been with us since 1990. Every five years the valuations of property which form half of the business rates bill calculation are revisited and evaluated. The last revaluation took place in 2010 when the world, commercially at least, was on its knees. The process was due to be revisited again in 2015 but was delayed for two years and was implemented this April (2017) and many are going to be unhappy with the result.


Show time

Why you should visit Automechanika this year
Published:  04 April, 2017

automechanica
Brimingham


A lesson in particulates

What impact will penalties on diesels have on the aftermarket?
Published:  20 March, 2017

By Neil Pattemore


Recruiting without fear

Be confident in your treatment of applicants and avoid the pitfalls
Published:  06 March, 2017

By Adam Bernstein


The art of advertising

Adam Bernstein discusses the pitfalls in promotion
Published:  14 February, 2017

We live in a highly competitive world where trade is no longer confined to traditional markets. Consumers now come from far and wide and firms are competing with sales from the web as well as the high street; the need to advertise has never been stronger.


The balance of trade

Neil Pattemore looks at the effect of Brexit on currency
Published:  16 January, 2017

Following the Brexit referendum, we are now seeing some of the (inevitable) affects, one of which is a reduction in the value of Sterling against other important currencies. This may be great news for exporters and will not only give the UK economy a lift, but is helping the Stock Exchange reach new highs, based on the larger companies now being able to beneficially use their foreign earnings when re-valuing back into Sterling. So good news all round, or is it? What will be the impact of the devalued pound if you are one of the UK's independent workshops?


Don't pay for discrimination

Adam Bernstein discovers how respect pays
Published:  03 January, 2017

An allegation of discrimination in the workplace can create significant problems for employers and, while the total overall number of employment tribunal claims are falling, employers continue to face discrimination complaints on a regular basis.


Uniformly taxed

Adam Bernstein investigates benefits of workwear
Published:  31 October, 2016

Many firms now offer staff a uniform as both a form of corporate branding and also as a perk. In providing a uniform, employers have to keep on the right side of HMRC's rules and regulations. While the principles are in theory clear, the devil is, as always, in the detail.


Petrol puts up a fight

Sales of diesel powered vehicles are slipping
Published:  24 October, 2016

When the new car sales figures for 2015 were announced at the beginning of this year, there was one statistic that seemed to be slightly overlooked. Although it was a tiny majority, petrol vehicles outsold diesel for the first time in five years.


Difficult employees

Adam Bernstein highlights correct HR procedure
Published:  15 August, 2016


Did you miss out?

Neil Pattemore highlights why you should attend big events
Published:  01 August, 2016

Some of you may have read the article I wrote in the June issue about why you should have considered taking the time out of your business to go to the Automechanika exhibition at the Birmingham NEC. This show was likely to be better than previous shows and came at a time when the rate of change in the industry was increasing. The old adage of ‘knowledge is power’ is ever-more important.


Removing the removers

Phil Curry looks at the problem of DPF removal
Published:  03 June, 2016

A car cannot pass its MOT without a DPF in place, should it have left the factory with one. This statement is true and has been true since February 2014, yet the MOT is still only a visual check with no parts allowed to be removed for inspection, a loophole that is constantly being exploited by DPF removal companies.


New Horizons

Neil Pattemore looks at current automotive technology
Published:  18 May, 2016

You will be very familiar with the increasingly sophisticated vehicle technology as more and more software related functions are implemented by the vehicle manufacturers, yet this creates a range of challenges when repairing the vehicle.


In or out?

Adam Bernstein explores the referendum question
Published:  06 May, 2016


New Year, New Challenges

Neil Pattemore shares tips on analysing your business
Published:  22 February, 2016

The Christmas cheer is well and truly behind us and the realities of business life need to be addressed to see if 2016 can be better than 2015.


A rallying call

The IAAF focuses on 'survive and thrive'
Published:  01 February, 2016

The IAAF annual conference in 2015 ran under the title ‘Survive and thrive’, indicating to the industry that the aftermarket can succeed if it overcomes the challenges that have been put in its way.


Certifying your future...

Published:  26 November, 2015

The rate at which the modern car is developing to include new functions based on new technologies is exponential.


Pass or Farce?

The New MOT system had its problems but will benefit the industry in the long-term
Published:  03 October, 2015

Sitting in front of me is an MOT certificate for my Focus ST170, handwritten. It's the first handwritten certificate I've had in a very long time and if I didn't know better, I'd think the MOT system has gone backwards as a result.


A vision of the next five years

How different will the aftermarket be by 2020?
Published:  25 June, 2015

By Neil Pattemore


Moving with the times

Where could the MOT be heading?
Published:  11 June, 2015

By Neil Pattemore


One size fits all

What is the best marketing method?
Published:  24 April, 2015

By Andy Vickery


Pensions just aren't sexy

Loosening the pension rules will bring its own set of problems
Published:  07 April, 2015


EU debates parts approval

Your choice of spare parts is under threat
Published:  02 April, 2015

By Neil Pattemore


The future is digital

Drive to Digital Now explains latest news on digital radio
Published:  30 March, 2015

By Phil Curry


The personal touch

Andy Vickery explains how newsletters can boost business
Published:  20 March, 2015

There's a little advertising and marketing ditty that I remember from way back, probably to at least the early 80s, that related to producing marketing material for clients - it went: 'If the client moans and sighs, make his logo twice the size; If he still should prove refractory, show a picture of his factory; But only in the direst case, should the client show his face!'


A move forward

Technology has advanced and this year the aftermarket is likely to see it
Published:  16 March, 2015

By Phil Curry


Game-changing tech

Could telematics be used to take business away from independents?
Published:  02 March, 2015

By Neil Pattemore


The future is already here

There are some big challenges ahead for the aftermarket, Neil  explains what's in store
Published:  12 February, 2015

By Neil Pattemore


Big challenges facing our industry

We spoke with IAAF Chief Executive Wendy Williamson before the annual conference
Published:  06 February, 2015

The IAAF is one of the industry bodies at the forefront of protecting the independent aftermarket from the challenges coming up from the vehicle manufactures (VMs). Chief Executive Wendy Williamson discussed how the IAAF is working in Europe.


Professional responsibility

A cautionary tale into conducting business properly
Published:  02 February, 2015

By Mike Owen


The future is already here

There are some big challenges ahead for the aftermarket, Neil explains what's in store
Published:  21 January, 2015

By Neil Pattemore


Review of the year: Part 1

A look back at the news of 2014
Published:  06 January, 2015

January


Review of the year: Part 1

A look back at the news of 2014
Published:  06 January, 2015

January


Countering the counterfeits

A look at the consequences of using fake parts and data in vehicle servicing
Published:  22 October, 2014

By Neil Pattemore


The customer lifecycle

Give some thought to your customer relations
Published:  21 October, 2014

By Andy Vickery


The loan car

Mike looks into the benefits and pitfalls of offering a service of convenience
Published:  30 September, 2014

By Mike Owen


United we stand

How can our divided industry be brought together?
Published:  22 September, 2014

By Neil Pattemore


It's a classic

As technological developments continue at a pace, will the classic car repair market suffer?
Published:  08 September, 2014

If I showed a Nokia 5110 to a teenager they would probably ask what it is. If I told them it was a mobile phone, they may laugh and will probably ask how many apps it has or whether it is 4G enabled. Technology moves at a frightening pace and older components are quickly forgotten. If you want that Nokia repaired you would need a specialist.


Reaching out to customers

Andy Vickery looks at why sometimes the old methods are the best when advertising
Published:  01 September, 2014

By Andy Vickery


Choose your partners carefully

Parts supply chains have come under some scrutiny after recent events
Published:  26 August, 2014

By Neil Pattemore



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