First UK garage signs up with Euro Repar Car Service

Published:  11 October, 2017

Nicholson’s Stalham Engineering, based in Norfolk , has become the first British business to become a  Euro Repar Car Service Centre.

Nathan Culley from Nicholson’s said:  “We’re a well-established family business with a great local reputation. People know us, and they trust us. Now, they also know we have the backing of a great European network, with all the advantages and opportunities that brings us. It can only help us to grow, and provide an even better local service.”

A family business established in 1938, the business offers a range of automotive, agricultural and garden machinery services including new and used sales, servicing and repairs, as well as full garage forecourt facilities.

Euro Repar Car Service, supported operationally by PSA Groupe, announced its arrival in the UK in April, and aims to add around 600 UK independent garages to its network by 2020.

It currently works with more  than 2,500 facilities across France, Spain, Italy, Germany and The Netherlands.   The minimum requirement is two manned ramps, and a separate reception.

Colin Start, head of marketing for parts and service for the PSA Groupe said: “We believe that success relies on our partner garages retaining the personality, reputation and trust they have in the local area. Combining that with the wealth of experience and support we can offer will help them take the next step.”

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  • WHO REALLY OWNS YOUR BUSINESS? 

    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.                  

  • Aftermarket scenario planning  

    Definition of uncertainty:
    a state of having limited knowledge where it is impossible to exactly describe the existing state, a future outcome, or more than one possible outcome.

  • Come and look at my knives! 

    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.


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