THIS TIME NEXT YEAR?

2018 has begun with many of the same issues as 2017, but where would we like to be in 2019?
Published:  17 February, 2018

The start and the end of a year enable us to ask where we have been, and where we are going. It’s an arbitrary cut-off, but it does provide some punctuation to the stream-of-consciousness that life in the sector can seem like.  

2017 saw wave after wave of big issues battering the aftermarket, from ongoing concerns over diesel emissions, to the challenges represented by the connected car. All these issues were with us a year ago, and they are still with us now. Where should we be in 2019 though, and can we expect any progress on these topics?

Clarity
Commenting on the prospects for the year, Independent Automotive Aftermarket Federation (IAAF) chief executive Wendy Williamson saw cause for optimism: “After the seismic changes that were proposed for the industry in 2017, the IAAF remains cautiously optimistic for 2018. I for one would like to see us build on the progress we’ve started to make, in order to secure a brighter future for the aftermarket. The general consensus is, while there’s still a long way to go in many aspects, by the end of the year we shall see more clarity. Speaking of optimism, Wendy observed that some cold hard reality could be handy for those looking to see some technologies hit maturity far earlier than is likely: “I still believe that, whilst autonomous cars have received a huge amount of press coverage in 2017, they are still a long way off mass market appeal and I can’t see that changing dramatically in 2018. Whilst the vehicle technology has developed at a rapid rate over the last couple of years, the infrastructure required to support a network of autonomous vehicles is still some distance away.”

That isn’t to say the future has been forever delayed: “However, all areas of the aftermarket do need to continue to invest for the future. Whilst this is currently evident in traditional vehicles, newer technologies such as hybrids and EVs still tend to be very much in the domain of the franchised network. With last year’s announcement by the government, that ‘pure’ diesel and petrol engine cars will be banned by 2040, the sector needs to keep pushing to ensure that the relevant parts and technical information are available, so that new vehicle technologies can be repaired by the independent aftermarket.

“FIGIEFA’s call on the European Commission to swiftly implement the ‘interoperable in-vehicle telematics platform,’ following the conclusions of the TRL Report on ‘Access to in-vehicle data and resources’ were fervently applauded by the IAAF. We are hopeful now for swift progress to be made and that 2018 will move us closer to giving the independent aftermarket direct access to in-vehicle data.”

“I’d also like to see more support for new technology and development, so it can reach the aftermarket more quickly,” said Wendy. “The introduction of hybrids and electric vehicles also presents opportunities as well as challenges for independent workshops to invest in the changing vehicle parc. The technology is already there for them to take advantage, but the progression and success of this shift depends heavily on the infrastructure in place. So while we’re on the subject of clarity, in 2018 I’d like to see a clearer strategy on who would pay for this.”

Then there’s Brexit: “We need to establish a bit of sense in the UK/Europe relationship going forward, as we continue to fight the aftermarket’s corner on a number of post-Brexit threats affecting the trade.

“One thing that won’t change, however, and will remain a constant, is IAAF’s continuation of playing a major role in championing the UK automotive aftermarket interests both in Europe and in the UK.”

Top priority
Common sense is clearly shared across the sector, as for Garage Equipment Association (GEA) chief executive, Dave Garratt the MOT is top priority: “I would also like to see the UK MOT brought up-to-date over the next year especially when it comes to headlamp beam testing. Today we are testing using old visual/manual headlamp beam setters in the MOT, which are great on halogen headlamps, but suffer when testing HID and LED systems. Vehicle manufacturers have been insisting that their main dealers use video camera based beam setters for many years and these lighting systems are very difficult if not impossible to
set-up using an aiming screen.”

On the subject of technology, Dave also said he hoped to see some progress on how we deal with connectivity: “It would be great to get some clarity on exactly how the independent aftermarket is going to remain competitive when dealing with the connected car. During 2017 the Automotive Aftermarket Liaison Group (AALG) lobbied the DfT and asked for their support in keeping an open platform on vehicles so independents can have the same access as a main dealer. With Brexit going-on, it’s difficult to focus the attention of the UK government to our concerns. However, the European Commission seems to be sympathetic in maintaining an open and fair aftermarket and our associations in Europe have gained ground when convincing them of this.

Dave added: “Let’s hope that 2018 sees clear regulation on the connected car and that the UK adopts the same as Brexit moves closer.”

Challenging
“As we look ahead into 2018,” observed Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) chief executive Steve  Nash, “It looks like it’ll be another fairly challenging year for the automotive industry from a sales perspective, although the sales successes of recent years should continue to carry through strongly into the aftersales area of the business.

Emissions concerns loom large in Steve’s mind: “Despite the well-presented case from the SMMT on behalf of the industry, the government have so far done little to address the ambiguity in their policies surrounding Euro 6 diesel vehicles, including those that will have been subjected to the new and more stringent ‘real world’ emissions tests. Therefore the decline in diesel sales we have witnessed in 2017 is likely to continue unchecked in 2018. To compensate manufacturers will put all their efforts behind their petrol, EV and hybrid offers, with plenty of new EV and hybrid models due to hit the market next year.”

Europe is less of a concern than ongoing investment in the sector: “Though Brexit’s deal-or-no-deal will continue to dominate the headlines as we move towards the EU deadline, I doubt the motoring sector will see any drastic changes to the way it currently operates as a consequence; certainly not in 2018. With the developments of new technology advancing at record pace, independent businesses across the sector will need to be considering how they can adapt, by investing in new technology and the necessary training that will allow them to safely service vehicles that have automated, electric and hybrid tech.”

EVs and hybrids
The real-world practicalities of working on EVs and hybrids is something that everyone needs to think about: “Following a busy period in 2017, the IMI has been campaigning for a Licence to Practise for technicians working on the high-voltage systems of electric and hybrid vehicles, as well as potentially on autonomous systems going forward. This campaign made great progress this year by gaining support from cross-party MPs, as well as government ministers. The IMI will be working alongside government to help shape the possible licencing scheme with the support of the sector. Without regulation and a minimum training standard, there are clear and significant safety risks for technicians who don’t have any form of training or aren’t properly equipped if they are coming into contact with the high voltage systems of electric and hybrid vehicles.”

The skills shortage is likely to still be with us at the end of 2018. Considering the alternatives out there for young people, you have to wonder why sometimes: “Recruitment has been a well-documented struggle for many employers throughout 2017,” observed Steve. “The IMI published research that showed many young people wanted to avoid university debt, however they felt it was their only option after leaving school since they’d never received any form of effective careers advice to tell them otherwise. It’s essential that 2018 sees employers become proactive in raising the awareness of the excellent career opportunities available to young people. The advances in technology mean the industry has a real and genuine chance to sell itself as a high-tech sector, attracting talented young people that can bring new ideas and skills but who might not previously have considered automotive as a career choice.”

Ending on a positive note, Terry Gibson, head of member services at the Independent Garage Association (IGA) said: “Despite the doom mongers out there, the IGA is certain that there has never been a better time to own an independent garage. The opportunities for the future are open to those who continue to invest in training, tools and technology. That’s not to say that 2018 won’t be hard. An increasingly complex technical and regulatory landscape means that the new opportunities will be matched by new and evolving challenges.“

Not all changes to the MOT are bad, as Terry commented: “Changes to the MOT as a result of the EU Roadworthiness Directive 2014/45 which come into force on 20 May next year will bring lower emissions standards which will require an update to the Diesel Smoke Meter (DSM), as well as introducing the ‘categorisation of defects’. These changes are likely to feature in the DVSA’s syllabus for the 2018/19 Annual Training year starting on 1 April providing a very small window for testers to get to grips with new concepts.” Some challenges may seem daunting, but are not insurmountable: “Closely following the MOT changes, the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) come into full force on 25 May 2018 and all businesses will need to ensure that they are compliant. Whilst the new regulations do not fundamentally change the core principles of data protection and privacy, they do add some significant new responsibilities and requirements for anyone that collects, stores and uses customer data as well as new rights for individuals. This is a subject that garages cannot afford to ignore or treat lightly.”

Then there’s technology: “The increasing proliferation of ‘demand aggregation’ websites – online booking platforms, garage comparison sites and all the other apparently tempting marketing propositions that simply serve to place a third party between a garage and its customers continue to confuse consumers and cost garages money. We must stand behind proper Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) approved consumer codes such as Trust My Garage which allows garage businesses demonstrate their quality and value directly to customers without the need for middle-men. As well as the issues created by the subjects above, the direct relationship between the vehicle manufacturer and the driver of the car created by the connected and extended vehicle is a game changer for the entire motor industry. The IGA will continue to fight for access to the vehicle and its data to ensure that independent garages can continues to provide the quality and service for which they are renowned.”

Summing  up
These are all vital topics that have the potential to change the landscape of the industry. Will we still be discussing some or all of these issues in early 2019? Only time will tell, but Aftermarket expects to keep the files on a few of these subjects open for some time to come…



Facing a new Brexit world

The major issues we face as we work our way through 2018 were laid out at the IAAF Conference 2017
Published:  19 February, 2018

Facing a new Brexit world in the automotive aftermarket was the overarching theme of the IAAF Conference 2017, held just before Christmas.

There is nothing particularly festive, or easy, about reversing out of the world’s largest free-trade area without mirrors, so keeping a clear head is vital.

IAAF CEO Wendy Williamson’s opening remarks were as clear headed as you could wish for. They had a Yuletide feel, themed around the 12 days of Christmas. Among the issues covered were Brexit, emissions, the proposed MOT changes, automotive technology, consumer lifestyle changes.. On tech, Wendy observed: “Automotive technology is moving at a rapid pace, and this is yet another challenge we have to face.” Talking about lifestyle changes, she said: “Consumer expectations are changing, ownership patterns are changing, and there are new entrants to the sector like Google and Apple, along with changes to the distribution structure.

"With reference to impact of Brexit, Wendy said: “What a journey we have ahead of us. I don’t think anyone thought it was going to be easy, but now we know how difficult the process will be.” On emissions, Wendy commented: “Yes, older vehicles emit NOx, and yes some manufacturers were less than honest, but we were encouraged to buy them. Cars with newer Euro 6 engines are much cleaner, and yet diesels are demonised in the press. Meanwhile ships, planes, wood-burning stoves are all far worse for the environment. We need a concerted effort to confront this.”

“The UK’s infrastructure cannot support a  major move away from the internal combustion engine,” she added.

On industry as a whole, Wendy highlighted the resilience of the aftermarket: “We must continue to invest in equipment and training to stay ahead.  All we ask for is a level playing field and the ability to continue to access information. There is a role for our industry in the future, and that future is bright despite the challenges we face.”

Economy
Following the introduction to the morning session by F1 legend Johnny Herbert, the first presentation of the day provided an opportunity to re-examine the impact the aftermarket has on the overall economy. Dr Julia Saini, vice president consulting at Frost & Sullivan looked at the importance of the UK aftermarket to the UK economy and the impact of Brexit on the sector.
On the economy, citing the SMMT figures launched earlier this year at Automechanika Birmingham, Dr Saini said: “2016 was another year of growth, up 2.4% to 21.6bn, delivering £12.5bn to the economy and an extra 1,400 jobs.”

On Brexit, she commented: “The impact of the decision could be manifold. Consumer impact could be higher prices for parts and decreased spending on car maintenance. Introduction of WTO trade rules and tariffs of between 2% and 4.5% on imported components would have an impact.

“The current lack of clarity between the UK and EU is another area of concern to us. The aftermarket is suffering from a considerable trade imbalance – it imports twice as much as it exports.” It was not all bad news however: “Although we are running a trade imbalance, the UK is delivering a wide variety of parts and components into Europe and other markets like Asia.
If UK companies could compete on price there are opportunities for the sector in emerging markets.”

"Moving onto e-retailing trends, Dr Saini commented: “It is likely even more consumers will buy parts online.”

On the evolution in personal mobility, Dr Saini said: “The way we are using cars is changing. Car sharing and e-hailing could remove up to 460,000 cars from UK roads by 2025.  Businesses should capitalise on this and target car sharing and e-hailing operators as potential new customers for the aftermarket. Also, working with fleet companies enables businesses to service more vehicles, and also offer some fleet operators who in-source servicing significant savings. It is worth looking into which companies have in-sourced capacity that cannot meet the demand and make an offer.”

In conclusion, looking ahead at the need for the renewal of the workforce and the entry of new talent to the sector, Dr Saini added: “The industry  must work with schools and government to attract more young people to the industry.”

Next up was Quentin Le Hetet, general manager at GIPA, who was examining the impact of global influences on the UK aftermarket.

Looking at global sales trends, Quentin compared the 137.9% growth in car registrations in China between 2011 and 2017 with the situation in Europe. “Every year, 25m new cars are registered in China. That’s almost the equivalent of the entire UK car parc, every year.”

In the same period, the whole of Europe saw a 3.7% increase. “The car market we are in is not going to greatly increase in future.”
On Britain, Quentin said: “UK registrations are dropping. This is the only G5 country seeing a decrease. This means the UK car parc is not going to grow as fast as it used to. It’s not a threat, but it means the average age of cars is going to increase from 7.6 years upwards.

“The attraction of the franchised sector is going to decrease, and this is good news for the aftermarket.”

Consolidation
Quentin’s next topic was the wave of ownership changes still washing across the parts supply sector. Looking at the major factor chains in Britain, he commented: “It is interesting to note that three of them are owned by North American parents, and that two of those have been bought out in the last year. They are part of a consolidation trend that is going on at a European level.”
Looking for a reason behind the Atlantic crossing taking place, Quentin mused: “In North America, a lot is done by the driver, where in Europe it is done by professionals. This is why there is a lot of interest – more margin. Britain is a gateway to Europe as well, as English is spoken.”

Quentin then covered the growth of garage schemes and soft franchises. While Britain is still some way behind the continent in this area, Quentin thought they offered some advantages: “I think the benefit of the schemes is that they make the garage more professional.”

Labour rates were up next, and Quentin pointed out that while franchised dealers, Autocentres and fast-fits had all seen labour rates rise since 2012, independent rates had actually dropped. “Many independents gauge their labour rate by seeing what their local competition is charging, and then charging £2 less per hour. This shows the kind of support businesses need.”
This is a challenge for the wider industry too: “How can we sustain
the sector and provide support and training to help the sector stay in business?”

Online service providers
The challenges didn’t stop in the next session, as Alistair Preston, co-founder at whocanfixmycar.com contextualised the rise of online service providers and showed how garages can increase their customer base by taking the leap.

“The UK consumer is a big car of aggregators, and we have the insurance sector to thank for that. There is an ongoing willingness
by UK consumers to embrace these platforms.”

Commenting on the success of their offering, Alistair observed: “If the garage is paying us money, then their workshops are full of
our customers.”

Alistair went on to point out how garages are making the most of the site, along with industry partners like  parts suppliers. In some cases they are working with garages to promote specialists in certain areas: “This evolution of independent garages getting smarter and more organised is only going to increase.”

Right2Choose
The IAAF’s Mike Smallbone followed, and he provided information on Right2Choose, and highlighted how the campaign will be kicking up a gear in 2018. “The issue is who has the right to service and repair the vehicle in the warranty period, and is also about who has the right to receive data. Right2Choose is all about choice,” Mike added. “If the consumer wants to go to the dealer, then they will. We want to make sure they know they have the choice.”
 
Clearly we will be hearing more about this. Watch this space.

Developments
After lunch, a change of lane as Olaf Henning, corporate executive vice president at Mahle, showed how F1 technology is being used to drive parts developments in the aftermarket.

“What is important is how we use motorsport as a laboratory,” said Olaf. He cited the steel piston the company developed in 2008, that was used in a Le Mans car in 2009 and by 2015 was in series production. “This was in less than a decade. It does not always go this way but shows what can happen.”

Looking at the drivetrain, Olaf cited Mahle’s dual strategy on the issue of EVs and the internal combustion engine: “Do we need EVs that can drive 500kms? I don’t think so. I think we will see drivetrains being more diverse rather than either-or.”

Future technology
Staying with technology, IMI chief executive Steve Nash was up next. Commenting on the proposed phasing out of conventional petrol and diesel systems by 2040 at home and abroad, Steve tended towards cautious scepticism. On the potential impact  on garages, he said: “There will undoubtedly be a change in the market. I do believe there will be more call for people to specialise. If you are a small garage then there will be an advantage to be part of a larger network.”

On the government’s attitude to the EV challenge, Steve said: “They are looking at infrastructure, but the one thing they are not looking at is skills.”

Looking at possible threats ahead Steve said: “There is very little money in selling new cars. The margins are razor thin. All the money is in used cars and aftersales. It is a very important part of the business.”

He then went on to examine how different ownership models for vehicles could put manufacturers firmly in the driving seat: “The future sales model would give them a lot of power over the aftermarket if they kept ownership of the vehicles.”

The last speaker of the day prior to summing up by IAAF president Lawrence Bleasdale was Figiefa technical director and long-term Aftermarket contributor Neil Pattemore. He looked at the latest technical threats emerging from the UK and Europe. Access to the OBD port, the wider issue of access to technical information, the machinations of Type Approval and many other issues were covered.

“It has been one of the most challenging and most difficult of the seven years I have been in Brussels” said Neil, who went on to discuss the gains the organisation has made on behalf of the sector during the year, and where the sector was winning back some ground.”

With that closing statement from Lawrence Bleasdale, the conference ended on a positive note.





Part two: Powering down

Finding a new energy provider will bring down bills for your business. You can do it yourself, but seeking out advice can be a good idea
Published:  17 February, 2018

With rising energy bills comes the need to invest time in seeking out the best deal. While finding a new energy provider isn’t a money-making exercise, it is something that will lower costs. It is something that can be done alone, but sometimes two heads are better than one.

This is because unlike the domestic market, the business energy supply works in a way that makes a quick online comparison not so simple. While the domestic market is largely based on location, Chris Caffery, an advisor at Utility Options Ltd, an independent energy consultancy, says the commercial market uses a number of elements that determine the tariff cost: “There is a varied mix of wholesale rates, transportation costs, government taxes and levies and, of course, profit for the suppliers. Generators still rely heavily on coal, oil and gas, so actual or anticipated costs of these fuels can create large differences in retail prices.”

Go compare?
Going online to make a comparison isn’t easy. There are a great many more online comparison websites for domestic energy than there are for commercial suppliers. “One of the main reasons for this,” says Chris, “is that domestic tariffs set by suppliers have a longer ‘shelf life’ usually due to a slightly higher margin placed on domestic for this very reason.”

Other factors are considered such as credit rating (because firms are effectively borrowing from the supplier), and the length of contract (a deal may be poorer at first but over time this improves as market prices rise). Using a broker or consultant doesn’t always guarantee price transparency though; it’s not easy to compare the price that’s being offered unless there’s a change in broker, particularly if the negotiations are happening a day or two before renewal. The advice? Don’t leave negotiations until just before the renewal is due as it doesn’t give an opportunity to shop around.

As to what could be saved, Chris offers two examples: “We’ve been helping a large motor vehicle repair specialist in Kent that employs 25 staff. Last year alone we saved 21% for that customer which equated to around £2,800 in monetary terms.”

The second example involves another Kentish firm, a medium sized garage in Ashford. “We consistently save them around 11% over and above their supplier’s renewal prices. This saving works out at around £600 per annum.”

Chris says that using a consultant isn’t just about the rates that are negotiated. It’s about saving time and not to having to deal with suppliers – “sometimes the extra added services can far outweigh the visual savings on the utility bills.”

Clearly, there are a number of lessons that can be drawn. Plan well in advance for benchmarking and renewing (switching) contracts. The energy companies would much prefer customers on standard tariffs, but with some planning and effort, decent savings can be made.

Getting redress
In the majority of instances the energy supply relationship works out well, but where there’s a suspicion of unfair treatment, and the relationship breaks down, there is a natural inclination ask about rights of redress.

There are two avenues of complaint open to firms who think they have been unfairly treated. All suppliers have an in-house complaints process. But having exhausted that route, the next step is to try the Energy Ombudsman to have a complaint taken further. The ombudsman can only help microbusinesses (defined as having an annual consumption of electricity of not more than 100,000 kWh, or gas consumption of not more than 293,000 kWh; or fewer than 10 employees (or their full-time equivalent), and an annual turnover or annual balance sheet total not exceeding €2 million. Ofgem doesn’t get involved with individual complaints but it does have plenty of information on its website that may prove useful.

It is worth noting that help with seeking redress is a service that most consultants and brokers provide to customers. They take up queries with suppliers and use their contacts and knowledge to obtain a swift solution.


WHO REALLY OWNS YOUR BUSINESS?

Changes to the way the vehicle is constructed and powered are likely to have an impact on the business model for garages
Published:  06 February, 2018

Life is always changing and as we all get older we start to remember our younger days and reminisce about how ‘things ain’t what they used to be.’
    
For example, a century ago, horses were still an everyday mode of transport and every village had a blacksmith to re-shoe them. As time moved on, getting to work was done on foot, by bus or by bike – which if you were lucky, may have had an engine. To service these two wheeled modes of transport, every village had a cycle shop who often covered both pedal and motorcycle versions.
    As the UK economy developed, many people aspired to owning a car for improved mobility. I recall how difficult it was for my father being able to afford to buy the family’s first car. It may have had leather seats, but there was no heater, so journeys in the winter were no fun. My father also conducted most of his own maintenance, as did many other vehicle owners, but this gradually started to be provided by the local garage and the aftermarket as we know it today was developed.

Evolution
For the last four or five decades, although the aftermarket has evolved, the basic business models have not fundamentally changed. People and businesses acquire vehicles and these vehicles get serviced and maintained by the main dealer or the independent workshop. Competitive choices exist for locations, labour rates and the spare parts. As vehicles have become more sophisticated with the introduction of electronically controlled systems, the ability to access the technical information needed to diagnose, service or repair the vehicle has become ever-more critical and legislation has been needed to ensure that competitive choices can still be offered.
    
To be able to repair today’s vehicles has therefore been about the appropriate training and equipment, supported by local marketing to attract vehicle owners into your workshop. This is relatively straightforward and more of an education process than a revolution of the basic business model – but this is starting to change.
    
The future is being seen as ‘mobility’ and ‘mobility services’ and the way that this is developing will fundamentally impact the Aftermarket as we know it today.
    
There are a number of key reasons why the future will impose a change to today’s business models. The types of motive power are already evolving and this rate of change will increase. This in itself will change the type and volume of work that traditionally has been provided to vehicle owners. Vehicles may still have an internal combustion engine, but this will be part of a hybrid system, which is more likely to be petrol than diesel – but it will include some form of electric motor – either as a direct drive unit, or as a 48 volt ‘mild hybrid’, but in both cases with energy recovery functions that reduce the amount of braking and consequently the replacement of brake system components. This situation is further increased if the vehicle is fully electric, when there are far fewer service and maintenance requirements. However, these vehicle types will only create an evolution of today’s business models.

Revolution
The revolution comes when you consider the change of vehicle ownership that is increasingly happening and the rate of which it will increase. The ‘good old days’ of aspiring to own a vehicle is no longer the case for the younger generation and a whole new range of ‘mobility services’ are being developed – especially as fully autonomous vehicles are introduced in volume. In many cases this means that the vehicle owner changes from being an individual to become a corporate organisation or even remains the vehicle manufacturer themselves.
    
This fundamentally changes the way that servicing and repairing the vehicle will take place. Firstly, the corporate owner of the vehicle will want to decide where and for how much their vehicles are being serviced and maintained. However, this may rapidly expand into a demand for lower hourly rates, together with a further demand of what parts are used. At best this creates a direct negative impact on your profitability, but it may go further.

Further requirements
There may be a further requirement for specific levels of both technical and management competence, which may require specific standards and management processes to be verified and maintained – increasing costs whilst margins are squeezed. Corporate organisations may also expect a national contact and administration function, which as an individual independent workshop it will be impossible to provide, so now you may need to consider how to be part of a coordinated national group with centralised facilities to be able to be ‘part of the game’. However, on the plus side, as part of a larger group you may also be in a stronger position to negotiate with the larger vehicle operator organisations, so it may not be all bad news.
    
If the vehicle manufacturer remains the owner of the vehicle, then they may also require that you handle warranty work – at the lower warranty hourly rates, together with the specific contracts that the vehicle manufacturer will also expect to ensure that their ‘standards’ are maintained. Ultimately, as vehicle ownership models change and ‘mobility services’ become the norm, each element of your business is likely to be managed by the requirements of the corporate organisations. This is not a legislative issue, but a direct consequence of changes in mobility service models and their commercial impact.

Significant impact
The good news is that independent garages will still be needed, but the most significant impact will be the squeeze on your hourly rates and spare parts margins, in much the same way as insurance companies have controlled accident repair centres. Ultimately, this may also impact your ‘modus operandi’ by imposing technical, management and reporting requirements. This creates the simple question – you may still be the legal owner of your business, but in reality, who controls your actual day to day business – you or the mobility services vehicle owner?
    
Now may be the time to start thinking about joining forces with other independent workshops – probably as part of a national soft franchise or an association – otherwise it may be a case of united we stand or divided we fall.                  


Evolution or bust

Paul Black, CEO of sales-i explains why independent garages must adapt to the changing face of the automotive industry
Published:  03 January, 2018

The global automotive industry is experiencing significant growth: a study conducted by PwC found that worldwide sales increased by 5% in 2016. But we must always be cautious not to mistake growth for health or security: a complex, multi-faceted international market will always face some challenges.


Replacement parts – true to type?

What would be the outcome if a wider array of replacement parts were subject to Type Approval?
Published:  28 December, 2017

The aftermarket has developed for well over a century to provide choices to the vehicle owner concerning how their vehicle is repaired, with an increasing choice of replacement parts and emanating from all of this, ‘affordable mobility’ for vehicle owners and drivers.


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



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