Tour blog 3

Our BEN charity challenge sets off through the garages of Cornwall

Published:  27 October, 2008

Monday 27th October . . .


Tony reckons the next few months will be pretty interesting for garages on the business side of things. He hasn't had a bounced cheque for years but last week had two - one of which was from a builder. The building trade is obviously one profession that's been hit hard by recent economic troubles.

What's more, one of his customers who's been coming to the garage for three years, announced recently that he was going to 'get a mate' to look at his car to try and save money. Despite this, Tony is looking forward rather than backwards.

"I don't believe the economy will be as bad as it's hyped up to be," says Tony. "It's the media causing the recession and not the banks." Tony's wife Karen reckons that provided garages keep on offering good customer service, people will keep on coming through the doors.

Either way, a nearby dealer that uses Tony's garage to do a lot of MOT testing has just announced it's thinking of installing its own MOT bay - clearly in a bid to save money.

"We're the same at the moment. We're scared to spend money," admits Tony. "We were thinking of getting a one-man test lane installed for MOTs but with the number of tests we do it would be more about improving efficiency. It doesn't actually generate any work," says Tony.

"Instead, we're investing more in engine management kit and diagnostics because there's more potential to earn extra income from that kind of investment."

Sevenmilestone Garage is right next to one of the area's main roads and Tony has noticed more and more motorists pulling in for what he calls "panic" checks. He says there has been a slight trend for more repair work being booked in at the last minute too.

Tony reckons that after a few months of customers putting off preventative servicing work, they'll soon come back when cam belts start to go and clutches start to get worn.

Tony is clearly a savvy operator and for what it's worth, I reckon he'll keep on prospering through whatever the economy has in store. Just by looking at what's going on and thinking how his business might need to change or adapt, he's well placed to keep things ticking over nicely.

Powells has service and repair workshops, MOT stations, a performance centre and a fast fit centre all in their own separate workshop areas.

Business would appear to be going well seeing as we have to wait at reception behind a small trail of customers asking for quotes or work to be finished.

Owner Heather Powell is a very hard lady to get hold of which is probably a good sign. Like they say, you shouldn't ever eat in an empty restaurant. Who knows, maybe you shouldn't go to an empty garage either.

The first port of call is Flora Motors, a Ford dealership, near Helston where we speak to technician John Barnett. Interestingly he says there has been a real feeling that independents have started to take away large amounts of service and repair work from dealers.

He says a small Ford van that needs a tricky wiring problem solving is typical of the warranty work that dealers are often left with since the introduction of Block Exemption Regulation rules.

John also reckons that the sooner ATA accreditation is made compulsory the better. He got his ATA badge at the Ford training centre in Daventry but would like to see it developed into a Corgi-style mandatory badge to help boost the image of technicians in the sector.

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