An invalid argument

Extended vehicle warranties are not a problem for workshops

Published:  23 June, 2014

Last month, we ran a story concerning an update to the Castrol Trend Tracker, showing a decrease in the market share of the independent workshop. Meanwhile, the franchise dealer sector held its share, its first non-decline in seven years.

There are a number of potential attributes to this slight shift, from the increase in new car sales to manufacturers extending warranty periods. Currently, a number of vehicle makers are offering five-year, seven-year or even lifetime warranties, subject to terms and conditions. This can be a draw for some customers to purchase a vehicle and have it serviced at the dealer. The five and seven-year packages extend beyond the first MOT, a period after which cars often start to enter the independent aftermarket. Yet the warranty period of a vehicle should not be enough to prevent a driver taking it elsewhere for work to be done.

Yet the independent is able to service a vehicle under warranty and more importantly, any work they carry out, as long as OE quality parts are used, should not invalidate the manufacturer warranty. This point was recently highlighted when a member of the AutoCare garage network was challenged by a customer after an Audi dealership refused to honour his lifetime timing-belt warranty, because an aftermarket oil filter had been fitted. The IAAF became involved in the argument, with the dealership reversing their decision.

IAAF Chief Executive Brian Spratt remarks: "Given that the timing belt problem experienced by the customer is a well-known issue on this model of Audi, and given that the fitment of an oil filter (of whatever brand) can have no effect on the timing belt, we felt that the dealership's refusal to accept that the vehicle still had a valid warranty was unreasonable," reported Mr Spratt.

In fact, the IAAF is heavily involved in the Right 2 Choose campaign, which is aiming to make consumers and garages aware that under EU rules, any workshop can offer servicing when a vehicle is under warranty. According to a press note issued in 2010, along with the Commission Regulation EU/461/2010: "Car manufacturers will no longer be able to make the warranty conditional on having the oil changed or other car services only in authorised garages. Of course, manufacturers may request repairs covered by the warranty - and paid for by the manufacturer - be carried out within the authorised network."

Phil Seymour, Network Manager for Approved Garages, highlighted the issue when discussing the Motor Codes report earlier in 2014: "Having achieved this consistent high scoring performance [in customer choice over franchised dealers] over a prolonged period, the only question is why so many vehicles continue to be serviced by frachised dealers during their warranty period?

"The European Union has decreed through the relevant block exemption regulation that providing an independent garage services the vehicle in accordance with the VMs service requirements and uses replacement parts of the same quality as would an FD, the VM must honour the vehicle's warranty.

"Therefore, independent garage members of Motor Codes should be reminding their customers of both the high standards of quality and customer satisfaction they are delivering and that they can provide this exceptional service for any vehicle, no matter how new it might be."

The message therefore is clear. Vehicles can be serviced in the independent sector under certain conditions (OE quality parts and non-warranty servicing) while they are still under warranty. As Chris Oakham highlights: "According to the Department for Transport, there are 7.7 million licensed cars under four years old at the moment and 13.8 million licensed cars 6 to 13 years-old. In addition there are 3.5 million licensed cars over 13 years old."

While the 17.4 million cars aged six years and older is a big target, with manufacturers adding extended warranty periods, it is essential that garages understand their rights to service new cars and with this in mind, manufacturer warranty should no longer be a barrier.

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