RMI calls on government to engage with industry

Published:  20 October, 2017

Government must work to provide a stable environment for growth according to RMI chairman Peter Johnson, speaking at the RMI Annual Dinner in London last night (Thursday 19 October).

Peter said: “It is vital that the government encourages both economic and consumer confidence  and enables investment, in order for the retail motor industry to progress and thrive in a stable environment.”

He added: “The UK’s automotive sector is a global leader and the future state and success of the industry could be jeopardised if a trade deal is not secured to allow tariff free access to the European single market - following our vote to leave the EU.

“It is now essential that the government makes a commitment to outline a clear negotiating position in order to ensure our industry has what it needs to secure its future success.” Peter also announced IGA chairman Colin Parlett, owner of London-based CB Motors as the first ever recipient of the new RMI Honorary Membership Award. As well as leading the IGA, Colin has been RMI chairman on three separate occasions.

“This very special first award could not be going to a more appropriate person,” observed Peter.

Political journalist Andrew Neil was the guest speaker at this year’s dinner.

Andrew Neil

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  • Scrappage: scrap the negativity? 

    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?”


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