EVs: The power of software

Software is now driving the worldwide Electric Vehicle charging market
Published:  01 June, 2023

 By Julien Deconinck, Managing Director of DAI Magister

Filtering out the noise

There are a number of ways to reduce the effects of workshop noise on staff
Published:  11 May, 2023

Garages can be noisy places. The sound of engines, tools, and people working can be deafening at times, and the noise can cause hearing damage if you are not careful, especially for those working long hours in the workshop. Here are some noise cancellation tips to help reduce the effects of workshop noise and create a healthier environment for you, your team, and your customers.
Foam panels are a great way to reduce the overall noise in an auto shop. Foam panels absorb the sound and can help keep the noise levels down significantly. You can find a reputable business to install foam panels along shop walls where possible – the more locations you can install them, the more sound they will absorb. Foam panels are also an excellent option for your reception to minimise the noise that travels from the workshop and ensure you can clearly communicate with customers. You can find foam panels that look nice, much like decor, to add to the aesthetic of your customer waiting area.

Stand on rubberised flooring
Another way to reduce noise in an auto shop is to ensure your workers stand on rubberised flooring. Rubber flooring material helps deaden the sound of your footsteps and reduces the overall noise level in the shop. While it might not be possible to install wall-to-wall rubber floors, you can use rubber floor mats at service stations to reduce the sound. Rubber mats also add more cushion beneath your workers to soften the weight they put on their joints, especially when standing for long hours.

Use noise canceling headphones or earplugs
If you are working in an garage for long periods, consider investing in noise-cancellation devices, like headphones or earplugs. Noise cancellation devices allow you to hear any important announcements or questions but noticeably reduce the overall noise level.  Noise-canceling headphones can also help reduce distractions and allow you to focus more on your work. Plus, who doesn't love getting to listen to music while you work? Some headphones can hook up to phones or other devices via Bluetooth to add an element of entertainment to the sound reduction.

Upgrade old windows
Want to minimise the effects of auto shop noise for your workers? Upgrade the windows. Windows that are old or not properly installed can let additional noise in that adds to the cacophony of sounds. Replacing the windows with double-paned, soundproof windows can help reduce the amount of noise that comes into the garage.
You may also want to consider adding soft textiles window treatments like curtains to absorb even more sound. Upgrading your windows can be an expensive task, but it's a worthwhile investment for your shop and employees. If you can afford the new windows, you'll notice a big improvement in sound.

Apply soundproof blankets
Soundproof blankets are a great way to help reduce the noise in an auto shop. You can hang them on walls or doors to help absorb sound and keep it from bouncing around the room. Soundproof blankets come in many sizes, so you can find ones that fit your needs and budget.
Soundproof blankets are also a good option for covering up tools or other equipment (as long as it's safe) that create a lot of noise. By covering the tool, you can help muffle the sound it makes and make it more bearable for those working nearby.

Require protection for certain tools
Some tools in garages can create a lot of noise, even when they are being used correctly. To help reduce the noise levels in your workshop, you may want to require that workers use hearing protection when using certain tools. Designated hearing protection tools could include earplugs or earmuffs that fit over the ears.
Hearing protection is crucial for all workers, but it is especially important for those that are going to be using noisy tools for many hours. By requiring hearing protection, you can help reduce the overall noise in your workshop and protect the hearing of your staff. While you might not want to be the enforcer of such new policies, explaining to your team that it's for their benefit to protect their health will help your employees implement these changes seamlessly. Most workers will recognise the true intention of the new rules and adhere to the guidelines not only to obey their employer but also because they want to protect their hearing for the long term.

Use a decibel meter to measure damaging noise
Noise levels in a garage can vary depending on what is going on. To get an accurate measurement of the noise levels, you'll need to use a decibel meter. A decibel meter measures the sound pressure level and can tell you how loud the noise is.  You can use a decibel meter to find out if the noise levels in your workshop are too high and if so, take steps to reduce the noise. Many decibel meters come with a ‘hold’ function that allows you to get an accurate reading even if the noise level fluctuates.
Noise levels in an garage should be kept below 80-85 decibels (dB) to protect workers' hearing. If the noise level is consistently above 85 decibels, you'll need to take steps to reduce it. In the U.S.A, the CDC has reported that any noise over 70 dB over a long time can create hearing damage, but some tools and machines used in garages are naturally louder than that. Noises over 120 dB can cause immediate harm, so use your decibel meter to ensure nothing reaches that point.

Final thoughts: Keeping quiet for hearing health
There are several ways to reduce the noise in a garage. By taking some noise cancellation steps like the ones listed here, you can make a big difference in the noise level and create a more pleasant working environment for your team. You'll also protect their hearing health long-term, which they'll be grateful for.
For more information, visit: www.plant-tours.com

Filtering out the noise

There are a number of ways to reduce the effects of workshop noise on staff
Published:  11 May, 2023

Garages can be noisy places. The sound of engines, tools, and people working can be deafening at times, and the noise can cause hearing damage if you are not careful, especially for those working long hours in the workshop. Here are some noise cancellation tips to help reduce the effects of workshop noise and create a healthier environment for you, your team, and your customers.
Foam panels are a great way to reduce the overall noise in an auto shop. Foam panels absorb the sound and can help keep the noise levels down significantly. You can find a reputable business to install foam panels along shop walls where possible – the more locations you can install them, the more sound they will absorb. Foam panels are also an excellent option for your reception to minimise the noise that travels from the workshop and ensure you can clearly communicate with customers. You can find foam panels that look nice, much like decor, to add to the aesthetic of your customer waiting area.

Stand on rubberised flooring
Another way to reduce noise in an auto shop is to ensure your workers stand on rubberised flooring. Rubber flooring material helps deaden the sound of your footsteps and reduces the overall noise level in the shop. While it might not be possible to install wall-to-wall rubber floors, you can use rubber floor mats at service stations to reduce the sound. Rubber mats also add more cushion beneath your workers to soften the weight they put on their joints, especially when standing for long hours.

Use noise canceling headphones or earplugs
If you are working in an garage for long periods, consider investing in noise-cancellation devices, like headphones or earplugs. Noise cancellation devices allow you to hear any important announcements or questions but noticeably reduce the overall noise level.  Noise-canceling headphones can also help reduce distractions and allow you to focus more on your work. Plus, who doesn't love getting to listen to music while you work? Some headphones can hook up to phones or other devices via Bluetooth to add an element of entertainment to the sound reduction.

Upgrade old windows
Want to minimise the effects of auto shop noise for your workers? Upgrade the windows. Windows that are old or not properly installed can let additional noise in that adds to the cacophony of sounds. Replacing the windows with double-paned, soundproof windows can help reduce the amount of noise that comes into the garage.
You may also want to consider adding soft textiles window treatments like curtains to absorb even more sound. Upgrading your windows can be an expensive task, but it's a worthwhile investment for your shop and employees. If you can afford the new windows, you'll notice a big improvement in sound.

Apply soundproof blankets
Soundproof blankets are a great way to help reduce the noise in an auto shop. You can hang them on walls or doors to help absorb sound and keep it from bouncing around the room. Soundproof blankets come in many sizes, so you can find ones that fit your needs and budget.
Soundproof blankets are also a good option for covering up tools or other equipment (as long as it's safe) that create a lot of noise. By covering the tool, you can help muffle the sound it makes and make it more bearable for those working nearby.

Require protection for certain tools
Some tools in garages can create a lot of noise, even when they are being used correctly. To help reduce the noise levels in your workshop, you may want to require that workers use hearing protection when using certain tools. Designated hearing protection tools could include earplugs or earmuffs that fit over the ears.
Hearing protection is crucial for all workers, but it is especially important for those that are going to be using noisy tools for many hours. By requiring hearing protection, you can help reduce the overall noise in your workshop and protect the hearing of your staff. While you might not want to be the enforcer of such new policies, explaining to your team that it's for their benefit to protect their health will help your employees implement these changes seamlessly. Most workers will recognise the true intention of the new rules and adhere to the guidelines not only to obey their employer but also because they want to protect their hearing for the long term.

Use a decibel meter to measure damaging noise
Noise levels in a garage can vary depending on what is going on. To get an accurate measurement of the noise levels, you'll need to use a decibel meter. A decibel meter measures the sound pressure level and can tell you how loud the noise is.  You can use a decibel meter to find out if the noise levels in your workshop are too high and if so, take steps to reduce the noise. Many decibel meters come with a ‘hold’ function that allows you to get an accurate reading even if the noise level fluctuates.
Noise levels in an garage should be kept below 80-85 decibels (dB) to protect workers' hearing. If the noise level is consistently above 85 decibels, you'll need to take steps to reduce it. In the U.S.A, the CDC has reported that any noise over 70 dB over a long time can create hearing damage, but some tools and machines used in garages are naturally louder than that. Noises over 120 dB can cause immediate harm, so use your decibel meter to ensure nothing reaches that point.

Final thoughts: Keeping quiet for hearing health
There are several ways to reduce the noise in a garage. By taking some noise cancellation steps like the ones listed here, you can make a big difference in the noise level and create a more pleasant working environment for your team. You'll also protect their hearing health long-term, which they'll be grateful for.
For more information, visit: www.plant-tours.com

Car ownership; From most to lease?

The experts at Van Ninja look at the decline in private car ownership, and ask if leasing is taking over
Published:  09 May, 2023

In 2021, London won the unenviable reputation of being the most congested city in the world. As things stand drivers populating the roads of our capital can expect to waste 148 hours at the wheel on average due to blocked-up traffic jams. Not only does this consume motorists’ precious time, but long vehicle queues don’t do the environment any favours either. Mindful of the negative effects of traffic pollution, ministers have plans to decrease these figures in the (not so) long run.
In the meantime, more and more people are opting for different ways to get around. Motorists are starting to realise, in fact, that they do not need to own a car to comfortably move from A to B. Leasing vehicles, for instance, is one of the most prominent alternatives, offering drivers an array of general and eco-friendly benefits. Here, we delve into the rising popularity of hiring your own car or van, while outlining what actions are being taken to shrink the number of private vehicles.
Rates of car ownership in London are significantly lower than in the rest of the UK. In the capital, each household owns an average of 0.74 cars. Meanwhile, households in the South East and South West regions of the country possess 1.41 and 1.39 vehicles respectively. Still, Londoners – as well as drivers in large cities across Britain – are being incentivised to limit their car journeys or refrain from buying new vehicles altogether.
The implementation of Ultra Low Emission Zones (ULEZ) is contributing to the mission. First launched in London in April 2019, and now extended to populous centres in the UK, ULEZ are areas within cities where residents are required to abide by certain emission standards. Only electric and hybrid vehicles, as well as ones that satisfy Euro 5 (petrol) and Euro 6 (diesel) standards, are allowed to circulate in these zones for free.
If drivers want to journey through ULEZ with a car that fails to meet these requirements, they have to pay a daily charge of £12.50. For regular commuters, this can soon become a hefty expense. A solution would be to buy an electric car, but there is no hiding that this would be a costly purchase. Leasing an EV, instead, would allow drivers to circulate inside city centres in a sustainable and affordable way without breaking the bank. Hence, it is fair to say that it is an effective green measure to discourage people from purchasing and relying on their own private cars.
Additionally, London mayor Sadiq Khan has unveiled plans to introduce smart road pricing. This means that, from 2024, motorists across the whole of London may be charged every time they jump behind the wheel of their own vehicle. The aim is to minimise carbon emissions and enhance air quality, spurring residents to travel from A to B in more sustainable ways. In this respect, more than one-third of car journeys in London could be walked in less than 25 minutes, and two-thirds could be cycled in under 20 minutes.
What’s more, ministers hope to favour lower private car ownership figures by pushing for more public transport all over the country. The government has set aside £5 billion to fund and level up local transport connections across the UK, which can play a significant role in helping Britain achieve its net-zero target by 2050. By investing in efficient public transportation while also supporting ride-sharing platforms and e-scooter services, there is a good chance that pollution levels will gradually drop.  

Leasing: an alternative solution
For those who like the freedom and comfort of driving a vehicle, what is the best and most popular option? Car and van leasing represents a great way for drivers to get around city roads in a more strategic and sustainable fashion. Leasing benefits do not end here. How can it aid workers and commuters with their day-to-day travels? One of the main advantages of leasing a vehicle is that you have the opportunity to choose the model that best suits your needs. Do you require a spacious van? Do you care about the well-being of our environment? Electric vehicles can be a pricey investment if you decide to buy one from the outset. Instead, leasing an EV is an affordable alternative that allows you to hit the streets without having to splash out a considerable amount of money.
Another factor that makes car and van leasing an appealing option is that you do not have to commit to a specific vehicle for years and years. Has a greener, more sustainable vehicle made its debut on the market? You can hand back your old  model and get behind the wheel of a more appropriate alternative. Hence, leasing offers motorists the opportunity to stay on top of attractive updates. Likewise, if you have reached a stage in which you do not require a vehicle to cater for your business or personal commutes, you do not have to keep a dormant automobile on your driveway. Return the car or van keys, reduce the number of vehicles on the street, and start travelling by bike, by foot, or on public transport.
With specific measures in place, as well as sustainable plans in the pipeline, the future of private car ownership doesn’t seem too bright. In fact, additional commuting fees and increased funding for public transport are favouring more eco-friendly ways of roaming around the roads of British towns and cities. For those who require a vehicle to carry out their daily duties, however, car and van leasing is becoming a handy, popular solution. From shorter commitments to more affordable and sustainable options, leasing is an appealing alternative that ticks all the right boxes.
For more information, visit: https://used.vanninja.co.uk

To the highest standard

SMP Europe recently pulled back the curtain, and Aftermarket was there to learn more about all the work that goes into producing all those parts
Published:  05 May, 2023

More often than not within the pages of Aftermarket, we will refer to the fact that the internal make-up of vehicles has changed greatly in recent years, and that the shift towards electrification is accelerating the process further. No one knows this more than companies making parts, be they OE, Tier One or going straight into the aftermarket.
Wanting to show the world more about the work that go into producing the EGR valves, air mass meters, exhaust pressure sensors and many other parts that they make, SMP Europe recently invited the press to take a peek inside their UK engineering centre in Nottinghamshire in order to shed some light on how their products go from an idea to being a physical item in the hand. With manufacturing taking place both at home and in Torun, Poland, the primary purpose for touring the UK site was to find out how the team take products from idea to prototype at as rapid a pace as is practical, get them tested and then get them into full production.
The company chose a good time to open the doors too, particularly when looking towards the EV side. With electric cars of all types becoming more common, garages are starting to think about the need to get parts, and realising that it is not easy. SMP Europe are already thinking in this direction, and they have even put in an EV garage on site for testing on the vehicle itself, but we are getting ahead of ourselves here. We will come to that later.

The tour began in the engineering department, where the various parts are designed, taking in the reality of the hardware itself – the key physical elements, and the firmware side, which many people would refer to as software. With many ideas on parts that could be produced by the company coming from the sales team that is out talking to the factors and garages, the first step is putting together the building blocks. Once the team have decided that a product will be both viable and profitable, they embark on their work towards producing a part. The part itself is designed just a desk away from where the firmware is written from scratch to do the job it needs to do. To enable this to happen, production designers and mechanical engineering designers sit side-by-side. On one side of the room, you have programming and circuits being designed, then on the other you have the casings being put together in CAD programmes where potential parts can be visualised and designed in 3D.
With just a connecting door to traverse, our next stop took us through to a clean workshop, where thanks to investment in 3D printing, the team are able to swiftly move from the design stage to a point where they can have an early prototype in their hands, which they can then begin to perform physical tests on, to see if what they have come up with is viable. From here we moved onto the machine room where circuit boards drawn by the human staff just a few metres away can be constructed by robots, and then finished via drying in a 12-stage oven. We then stepped through to the Validation Test Laboratory. “This is one of the most important areas in the factory,” said Engineering Manager John Wass, as it is where the team find out if what they are making actually works. This includes three thermal cycle ovens where products can be put through the stresses that both very low and very high temperatures will inflict. If that’s not tough enough, there is also a thermal shock chamber, and a pair of hot soak ovens a salt spray machine and an electromagnetic test unit, built especially for the company.
One of the last parts of the process is on-vehicle testing, and with this in mind we found ourselves in the on-site garage. The area is split between an internal combustion engine vehicle section and an EV area and even has a jukebox sourced from the local pub so the team have music while they work. Here they are able to try the parts in a real-world setting, with real-world stresses and strains as the parts would experience on the vehicle. Once a part has survived and successfully passed the prototype phase, they will ultimately end up in production, and eventually in real garages, with real mechanics.  Once a part works, it can be put into production, and on the factory floor, parts are constructed, with many, such as air mass meters each being set, one-by-one. “Individual calibration is the only way,” John pointed out. “We have tried to find a way to set them all en masse, but there is no way of doing it.” Remember that when you order one in.

This is a tried-and-tested process that works well for the company, which in the last year alone has introduced a host of parts including ignition leads, NOx sensors, fuel vapour valves (FVVs) and much more. However, the company was keen to share its move towards providing EV parts for its customers.
It’s not an easy jump though. As SMP Europe Marketing Director Martin Turner observed, while they can get a product for an internal combustion engine vehicle from idea to production in around six to 12 months, with EV parts the situation is not quite the same: “At the moment, it is relatively early days. From an R&D side, we need more information on what components are failing.”  As well as identifying parts that may need to be produced by SMP Europe, the team is working with experts in the EV field, such as garages in the HEVRA network, and notable names such as Matt Cleevely from Cleevely Garage, who are able to help them source hard-to-obtain donor parts for research. Once they have gotten hold of the parts and are able to study them, they can begin the process we have described here.
Of course, while parts from across the gamut of the EV parc, ranging from the humble Renault Zoe to the proprietorially data-obtuse output of Tesla are often drivetrain or even vehicle-specific, there is still a lot of cross-pollination from traditional internal combustion engine vehicles. Martin said: “We do have, as part of our core ranges, parts that are common across both ICE vehicles and electric as well, like wheel speed sensors and temperature sensors. It's an ongoing project that our product management team are focusing on to maximise that offering as much as possible. We want to make sure that the garages and factors feel confident that if they have an electric vehicle come through, that they're able to offer the parts that they need. This is where they're trying to identify potential needs for the market and create the product to fit that need.”
Martin concluded: “It is a quite complicated process, but the message we want to get out to market is that that development is happening.”

What’s in a name?

Aftermarket recently popped in on Premier MOT Training, and was reminded that that a sign does not always tell you the whole story
Published:  30 March, 2023

The phrase ‘does what it says on the tin’ expresses that a product or service offers exactly what is advertised, and required. On that basis, Premier MOT Training, based on two sites in Hockley, Essex and near Derby, would seem to be pretty explicit in the services you would expect it provides to the motor sector. Sometimes though, a name will only tell you a small part of what is being offered as Director at Premier MOT Training Donna Chapman observed: “We are an automotive training company that specialises in MOT training, but we also do F-Gas training, and hybrid training as well, and more.”
The Essex site, based on a industrial estate in the small town outside Southend-on-Sea is the company’s H.Q, and fields 10 staff, with three in the Midlands. “This is where all the bookings go through. Every student or garage that contacts us will be dealt with in the office upstairs. We are the busier centre, being next to London, and with the M25 nearby, running about 30% more courses here than we do in our Midlands site every week.
“We do the MOT Tester entry qualification every other week and then we do a MOT Site Manager course every two weeks. We do a motorcycle course every two weeks as well. Those are the core courses, but like I said, we do run other courses and a hybrid course as well.” There are three rooms on-site for the class-based training. “We have one smaller room upstairs, and two big classrooms downstairs where we can have up to eight students, two laptops per student, with a projector.”

Obviously, with the training being undertaken, it is not all theoretical, and the site includes a large workshop area, including four MOT bays. The site is a real working MOT station, and is also used for commercial purposes in the evenings and weekends, as Donna explained: “We work with two local businesses who serve contracts for the County Council, taxi fleets  etc. We've got a good relationship with them because rather than investing £50,000 to £100,000 setting up a MOT station, they rent out our bays.” It also helps Premier MOT Training to have real MOTs being performed on-site: “In order to keep compliant, we have to have a live MOT bay. All my trainers have to keep their live testing status in order to be compliant. You've got to do a quality check on each of your testers too. This means we need a live MOT bay, so it is a win-win. When one of our trainers is doing an MOT, we can QC them, or we can use that as part of a course to Quality Control check somebody else, and then it goes onto the system.”
Donna continued: “Our busiest courses are always MOT, hence why we have run them every week since the pandemic. We used to run groups of nine, but since COVID-19 we keep them below eight just because then they get a desk each and a laptop each, without banging elbows.”
While MOT training is the core offering, the business is keen to promote its wider training, and is looking to push in this direction in the next few months. “We are currently building a new website. We currently have two websites. our MOT Annual Assessment site, which is www.annualtraining.co.uk, and we're currently merging that into our Premier MOT website.”    
There are also new courses on the horizon:“We're about to do a pilot in December with Ian Gillgrass, which is going to be launching us as becoming accredited with the IMI. We're going to launch a IMI-accredited diagnostic IMI accredited course for Level 3. Obviously we do offer the hybrid and the F-Gas as well. We are trying to put it out there more about hybrid and F-Gas.”

That’s not all: “We had a first-generation Toyota Prius here, and we kept it as a historical talking-point, because people still don't believe the first hybrid vehicle ,the Toyota Prius, was first released in 1998. People were just still shocked that. Types of vehicles that in our sector we tend to think of as new have been out on our road for 25 years. We've still got 70% in the market to train up in this area, which is quite surprising. We try and keep our cars to pretty much what our students see. We could go out and buy brand new cars, but none of our students are ever going to do a test on that or ever do any servicing on it. We are not keeping a brand-new EV though, because that's not relatable to our students. They won't be seeing them. They won't need an MOT or a service in an independent for some time. We try and find something around seven years old because that's what they're going to be getting in their workshop.”

Looking at what Premier MOT Training will be looking to achieve during 2023, Donna added: “We've really put ourselves about lately, and will continue to do so. We were at the UK Garage and Bodyshop Event at the NEC in June, we were reception drinks sponsor at the Top Technician and Top Garage Awards Evening in October, and we will be at Automechanika Birmingham in 2023. We've gone for a bigger stand, and we are going to try and bring two bikes along because we noticed there was no bikes there last year.” They will also look to grow the team: “We're going to look at taking on another trainer and another member of staff in the office. We don't have sales staff – They are Training Consultants. They are not selling a product, they are supporting garages around their trading needs.”
Donna added: “If we don't feel like it's the right course for someone, we won't book them on it. We are all about matching a candidate for the right kind of course.”

For more information, visit: www.premiermot.com

Charging into work

With VED on EVs coming, should employers look to encourage sustainable mobility via charge points for employees and visitors?
Published:  28 March, 2023

Charging at work is an advantage for employees and for the company itself. If the charging energy is obtained from renewable sources, charging at work is also an investment in the future and a significant contribution to the promotion of e-mobility.
Across Great Britain, people who usually drive to work account for around 68% of journeys among a total of 2.3 million commuters. This figure varies from region to region but gives an indication of the extent to which motorised private transport accounts for the share of greenhouse gas emissions. This fact should be enough to use electric vehicles instead of internal combustion engines, and the wide range of models available on the market, now covering almost all vehicle classes, is also helping to make electric cars increasingly attractive to a wider public. Yet the lack of charging infrastructure is still an obstacle for many users in making the final switch to battery-powered cars. Moreover, the increase in BEVs on the road will consequently require more charging options across the board: motorists will not be willing to give up their combustion engine-driven vehicles without the security of reliable infrastructure. This does not necessarily mean that they need a private home charger.
Charging stations are becoming necessary wherever people spend time, i.e. at the supermarket, the gym, and, above all, at work. The possibility of charging points at work is a key factor in the transition to e-mobility, because it allows even those who do not have the option of charging at home to easily switch to an electric car. Rapid infrastructure expansion throughout the country is therefore essential for the further development of e-mobility, but this is not just a call for politicians to take action. In fact, the economy can also make a contribution if companies are willing to install charging stations in parking areas and car parks, offering visitors and employees the option of recharging their vehicles on site.

A benefit for society as a whole
Outside the home, work is the place where a car spends the longest time parked. For the driver, it makes no difference whether recharging takes place during the day or at night. If they are able to conveniently recharge their vehicle during working hours, usually about eight per day, they no longer have to recharge at home overnight. Some commuters live in urban centres, in residential neighbourhoods where access to their own charging infrastructure is still limited. For these people, the availability of charging stations at their work means that they can avoid trips to public charging stations.
Rural areas, on the other hand, which are most affected by large industrial and commercial developments, could also benefit from expansion of the charging infrastructure. How? Through installation of modern and efficient charging management systems, vehicles can be connected daily during normal working hours. This in turn can provide impetus for additional future-oriented expansion and can thus increase flexibility and technological progress. The expansion of state-of-the-art charging infrastructure in these areas would also increase the population’s willingness to switch from internal combustion engine-driven vehicles, which are still widespread, to electric cars.

Smart stations for charging in parking areas and car parks
22 kW devices with a type 2 plug are ideal for this type of use, either permanently installed on a wall or pillar, or as portable chargers which also make conventional power sources accessible via various adapters. Regardless of which option is chosen, these stations are mostly intended for parking areas and car parks and must have certain features. First, they must be equipped with integrated fault current protection, which can detect power loss and automatically disconnect the power supply to protect users and the network. They must be safe, robust, and durable in accordance with an internationally recognised protection class, preferably IP67 and IK10. Finally, they must be intelligent and thus set up for dynamic load management, be controlled by the energy supplier, updated over the air, and should make it possible for the charging process to be activated through simple access management with RFID or Plug&Charge.
The Juice Charger me 3 from Juice Technology meets all of these requirements, as well as having an attractive design with minimalist shapes that allows the device to integrate well into all kinds of contexts. It is easy to handle and immediately ready for use since it arrives from the factory already pre configured, clear in its functionality and intuitive to operate.
The device is available in 11- or 22-kW versions and the hardware of each version is already ready for this modification at no extra cost. It is compact and the entire unit weighs only 6.5 kilos including the 5-metre cable, which guarantees flexibility of use. Being shock-resistant and completely waterproof, the device is suitable for indoor and outdoor use. In addition, it meets the requirements of the new ISO 15118 standard and is compatible with the Plug and Charge protocol, which allows charging to be activated as soon as the cable is connected to the car if the car supports the technology (otherwise, it is activated with the RFID card provided).
This wall charger is particularly suitable for charging at any public or private facility, as it can be ordered with a (calibrated) MID-certified meter and, as an additional option, with an integrated circuit breaker. The charging current is therefore accurately billed according to consumption, and the device can be easily and economically integrated into power distribution systems.
Communication with the backend system and device updates are carried out either over the air via Wi-Fi or by cable via Ethernet. Each station is ready for dynamic load management of up to 250 units.
Where does the electricity to charge vehicles come from? A question that comes up, but the energy question could also be effectively solved by charging at work using locally generated electricity. Indeed, the proportion of energy generated from renewable sources is steadily increasing and, to date, already accounts for 42.8% of the UK's total electricity production. Photovoltaic modules can generate solar power efficiently and cost-effectively when installed on the roofs of manufacturing, commercial, office and large car park buildings. Excess electricity would flow directly into car batteries. At the same time, the system would produce enough energy to supply the building and pay for itself after a few years through savings on energy purchases.
According to a study conducted by the Fraunhofer Institute on behalf of the German Association for Nature Conservation and Biodiversity, recharging at work is even the most efficient way to promote electric mobility. CO2 emissions could be reduced simply by shifting the recharging time to normal working hours, especially if the energy was generated from renewable sources.

Social benefits
From a corporate perspective, the presence of charging stations at work is increasingly appreciated as a service for employees and visitors, while it can be an essential operational tool for companies with a fleet of electric vehicles. If a company or public body provides employees with the infrastructure and power for charging free of charge, both parties will benefit. Employees will be able to charge their vehicles during working hours and, at the same time, the company will be able to present itself as an employer with a strong employer brand, able to attract new talent and retain the professionals it already employs. Companies like Juice that offer their employees the option of recharging at work not only provide employees with a practical benefit but also promote a sustainable mobility model.

Streamlining efficiency: Top 10 tips

Efficiency tips when using Autopart from MAM Software that also help protect margins
Published:  21 March, 2023

Many businesses are currently undergoing reviews to determine the best way to cut costs and maximise profitability in what is an uncertain economic landscape.  Your ERP software is the driving force behind your business and there is no better time to ensure your software has the core values of protecting margins and driving sales.
Autopart is the versatile business management solution that seamlessly integrates your sales, stock management, account and reporting processes into one easy-to-use package. As well as many processes that are fundamental to a successful business, Autopart is filled with intuitive features that can streamline, digitise and maximise productivity in an economic climate where a smart business strategy is vital to success.

1. Maximise your margins – Diving into invoices, costs and trends through in-depth reporting gives you a clear view of your margins including where they are too low. In MAM’s Autopart system, this process is simple and all reports can be automated in the day end to ensure this important information gets to the right person so it can be acted upon efficiently.

2. The right stock at the right time – Analyse your part usages to ensure you are ordering the right amount of stock.  Autopart recommends new minimum and maximum stock levels. These figures can be used to generate suggested purchase orders ensuring only the right amount of stock is ordered.

Spring Budget 2023: Automotive sector reacts

Published:  16 March, 2023

The Spring Budget offered few surprises for the motor industry, and presented a number of missed opportunities around EVs 

Six key marketing questions

This month, #1 bestselling author Dee Blick looks at the importance of getting stuck in to your marketing
Published:  16 March, 2023

I have worked with Mike Schlup, Kalimex MD for 19 years. As you would imagine, the brand started from humble beginnings. In the early years I worked in what was a glorified stationery cupboard but nevertheless we were focused on world domination, one sale at a time.
In the last 19 years Kalimex has really taken off and is now the top performing distributor of the JLM Lubricants’ product range; A position they have occupied for 10 years – pretty much from when they started selling JLM products. This is no mean feat, given JLM have 45 distributors scattered in all corners of the globe and a thriving business at their home base in the Netherlands.  
With this in mind, I thought you would find it useful if I share some of the marketing tips that have contributed to the success of Kalimex because they can be applied in your workshop. As with anything, talking about marketing and planning marketing is great, but you must move swiftly onto actually doing it.
Here are six cut-to-the-chase questions you need to answer and action:

#1: Do we have an end target for 2023 in terms of sales?
I am reminded of this quote from Seneca: “If one does not know to which port one is sailing then no wind is favourable.” Set realistic targets, ones you can reach at a stretch with some elbow grease; Tough, but within your grasp. Every month monitor how close you are to reaching them. Discuss the targets with team members so they are aware you are not standing still and they have a part to play in your success. Sales are the lifeblood of any business, whether the sales are from existing customers, new ones or as is more likely a mix of both. If you are not setting targets, you risk settling for second best, which benefits no one. Worse still, there is the risk of realising mid-way through the year that sales are not even covering your overheads, let alone making a profit.

#2: Will you sell (more) products to customers?
Aftermarket shared some fascinating research from Castrol a few issues ago, looking at the opportunities workshops have to generate additional income from repeat sales of high-quality lubricants and additives. Here are two key take outs:

Workshops are missing out on upselling opportunities. Over a third of motorists say they are ‘never’ offered a choice of consumables alongside a vehicle service; Just over a quarter say ‘sometimes;’ and only a fifth say ‘always.

A majority (51%) said they would be happy for their workshop to upsell more expensive, premium-quality consumables if the benefits were explained to them.
Barry Lawson, a member of Darren Darling’s DPF Doctor Network is a technician renowned for building a growing channel of repeat sales from selling JLM Lubricants’ products to his customers. With motorists keen to cut repair bills, the market is right for superior quality lubricants and additives. And you are in pole position to recommend them and use them.

#3: Are you willing to commit more resources – human and financial to growing your business?
For any workshop there comes a time when the next stage of growth can only be accomplished with an injection of money, and/or an additional person supporting the sales effort. Are you trying to do everything on your own? Will you reach your sales targets if you bring another person into the team? A part time person working a few days a week can be the key that unlocks the growth potential in your business.

#4: What must change for us to grow?
Be honest; Is the growth potential of your business affected by problems that need addressing now? Are you not investing enough time working on your business because you’re working in it and can’t see the wood for the trees? Are you allowing yourself to be distracted by non-income generating activities? Is your marketing scattergun rather than targeted? Only you can see what must change within your business to unlock the door to more sales.

#5: What are market conditions now and how do they affect our workshop?
We know from research conducted by the Motor Ombudsman that in a bid to save money some motorists are cutting back on servicing and repairs. It’s a false economy of course. So, make sure you keep in regular contact with customers, sharing top tips on vehicle maintenance and reminding them of the importance of booking the next service and the benefits of doing so. Customers may not have made the connection with regular vehicle servicing and fuel optimisation/long term reduced running costs. It’s your job to educate them.

#6: Do we have a marketing plan?
Far from being a document to be filed away and forgotten, look upon it as a useful plan of action that saves time, provides clarity, and focus and, that enables you to take the next steps in growing your business. Here are the key headers.

The West is (now officially) the best

Aftermarket heads down to Devon to catch up with Top Technician 2022 winner Andrew West
Published:  07 March, 2023

We last visited Erme Valley Autos in Ermington, just outside Ivybridge in deepest Devon in 2018, after Andrew West had been a semi-finalist in Top Technician that year. Fast-forward to 2022, after a few more semi-final and final appearances, and he is now the reigning champion. Perseverance pays off you see. While he has appeared in six finals overall, even he could not tell you exactly how many times he has entered Top Technician.
You might expect things to have not changed much in this rural corner of the country, and in many ways you are right. Erme Valley Autos and its small team of four, including Andrew and his son Joe and apprentice David are in the workshop, and they still see a lot of 4x4s in general, and Land Rovers in particular. Andrew’s wife Sarah is still dealing with the business side of things, and they are still on the same site, which includes their home and the garage, that they have been on since 1993.

However, there has been a slight shift. The yard outside was full on the day we dropped by, and while there was a fair amount of Land Rovers, covering original to almost-new, it was not all typical country garage fodder: “I had two EVs in today,” said Andrew, “both Nissan Leafs. There was one that was in for a service and one on the four post that had a fault, which had been to the main dealer already before being brought here. Out of 25 cars in the yard, three today are full-electric.” While three out of 25 is probably a representative ratio in the overall car parc right now, bear in mind, this is not a town centre location. The times are changing in rural Devon as much as everywhere else, and Andrew made sure he has been changing too, by keeping up with new tech, and continuing to train. Part of this process for him was participating in Top Garage.
To be the winner in Top Technician 2022, you needed to have a lot of experience working with EVs, as well as a solid grounding on the more traditional side of automotive. Luckily for him, Andrew was well-placed to win on both fronts. “We tend to be a bit delayed down here with developments,” he observed, “but with EVs it has really kept moving forward.” Ironically, country-dwellers are in many ways better set up for EV take-up than the townies: “Obviously, almost everybody here can charge at home,” noted Andrew, “so the lack of public charge points is not going to be a drawback. We are even looking at getting one for ourselves.”
While Andrew is moving with the times, his son Joe is keeping it real, by which we mean keeping it internally combusted. His current passion project is a Peugeot 205 1.8 diesel, which he is upgrading to a 2.0 litre through an engine swap-out. Back to Andrew though.

So, the business continues to develop, and we wondered if winning Top Technician has led to Andrew promoting the diagnostic side more: “We've been here for nearly 30 years now, so I already promote what we do, quite a bit on Facebook for example.” The business has a local reputation for being the garage where problems will get solved. As the best diagnostic experts and trainers will tell you, getting to the heart of an issue is often simply a matter of paying attention to the details, and following the process. Andrew had an example of that on the day we visited: “This morning, we had a vehicle in for an MOT, and Joe made an advisory note on the fact that there was play in the offside upper inner rear arm bush. It turned out that the customer had recently taken the car to three other garages in an attempt to establish where a knocking noise was coming from, but none of them could work out what the source of the noise was. After receiving the MOT, the customer then asked if the inner rear arm bush issue could be the cause of the knocking, which it was. That’s where it was coming from, and the other three garages had missed this.”
Being known as the place that will find the problem has its downsides: “We have a reputation for doing what we do, but people end up coming to us last. Some say we are expensive, but usually it's because we end up doing complex repairs when they have already spent a fortune somewhere else before they called us.” He ruefully added: “But if they brought it here first, it wouldn't cost as much.”

This reputation is partly a result of the skills Andrew has accrued over decades, that have led him to win the Top Technician trophy. One of the reasons Andrew participated in Top Technician in the first place was to test his existing skills, and to see what he could learn. This was part of an overall approach, which included undertaking training with the likes of James Dillon and Frank Massey. While winning in Top Technician rules him out from competing again, Andrew will still be looking to keep his skills up to date, but also pass them along: “I'm hoping to step back a bit and let the son take on more of the more challenging work. He doesn't get the chance to do a lot of the diagnostics, because I'm doing it all.”

Will we see another West taking on the Top Technician challenge? Only time will tell.


The future of tyre-buying?

How tyre buying and fitting is turning into a single seamless digital customer transaction
Published:  24 February, 2023

Tyre buying is now a fully digital process with tyres fitted right on the customer’s driveway at a time and place that suits their needs. How did we get here though? The answer, of course, is digital.

It's not a secret that online purchasing has become more popular than ever and even tyre buying is moving into digital world. However, unlike regular consumer goods, the buying journey for tyre purchasing requires technical expertise to fit the purchased items once they arrive on the customer’s doorstep. Here, I will chart the growth of online tyre buying and its transformation to a ‘buy and fit’ market using mobile technology that is closing the gap on this last-mile disconnect.
The UK tyre buying market will grow in the coming years on the back of rapid infrastructure growth and expanding automobile fleet sizes. To meet the growing demand by customers for tyre purchasing convenience means bringing together the customer tyre buying journey across an entire digital marketplace, but providing quick and convenient mobile fitting to customers is no small feat. There is clearly an as yet un-met need to provide an end-to-end online tyre buying experience for consumers.
During the last 20 years, the development of mobile partnerships as part of the install network of tyre businesses has been extremely prevalent. Until now though, the tyre market has predominantly operated with customers buying tyres and having them shipped to their homes, then being left to take care of the install themselves or take them to a garage for fitting. With the mobile technology and business models available today, this last-mile disconnect can be addressed so that a customer can purchase their tyre of choice, and then schedule an install almost immediately in any county, city or town across the country. There should be no online vs physical divide.

Technology takes centre-stage in tyre buying
A key factor in powering this roll-out is the availability of supporting technology. For TireBuyer, this has meant leveraging existing technology with leading-edge mobile service technology that could underpin the smooth customer journey between online purchase, tyre distribution and mobile fitting provided by any of a network of installers nationwide.
Online tyre buying and mobile service delivery is so much more nuanced than just opening the doors and expecting customers to come to you. When your installation process is on wheels, there are so many more variables than a static shop – controlling these variables requires dedicated software support.

Up-to-date data analysis
Avayler provides an extremely tight integration between TireBuyer and its thousands of installation partners to give real-time visibility into van and technician availability. This optimisation goes right down to being able to track the schedule of every van in order to dynamically schedule tasks based on existing installation plans and the proximity of new jobs. The software also lets installation partners clearly track, monitor, and analyse their mobile operations and profitability right down to a per-van basis. Ultimately the field service technology will allow TireBuyer to optimise partner time and energy to provide a better net yield for everybody involved in the tyre buying and installation process. In short, they can then do more jobs for customers. It is like putting together a full jig-saw puzzle set that fits together properly in terms of availability and scale management – especially for mobile tyres that are delivered as part of an online solution
Customers are at the centre of this new end-to-end tyre buying experience. Avayler Mobile keeps the customer in the loop throughout the service. After selecting their tyre and specifying a fitting time, the solution alerts the customer of accurate arrival times to keep them in the loop about the service they are receiving. All fitting details are digitally documented for the customer to refer back to on their preferred device.

Building a tyre ecosystem with impeccable data
Since the end of Q1 2022, all mobile teams within the TireBuyer network have been up and running on the Avayler platform. With this live, TireBuyer has been able to leverage data insights to deliver more value for both end-customers and its installation partners.
Operationally the aim is to gather insights and feedback from our customers and installation partners in real-time to help inform development going forward. This means using our practical day-to day operation as a live lab to help support and improve how the field service technology will support customers and installation partners now and into the future.

Taking the tyre buying market to the next level
The tyre buying market has moved online at pace – compare, purchase, deliver. But supporting software is required to truly optimise time and resources by seamlessly connecting vehicle owners with trained tyre technicians. With the development of technology and the change of customer needs, the last-mile disconnect in the tyre buying journey can be addressed so that a consumer can purchase their tyre of choice online and schedule an install at their convenience at a time and place that suits them.

Would you like to supersize that?

With the expiration MV-BER getting ever-closer, Neil has returned to look at whether plans for its replacement will address the changes the market is seeing
Published:  16 February, 2023

As you may have heard and as I reported in Aftermarket’s September 2022 issue, the Motor Vehicle Block Exemption (MV-BER) is up for renewal. The UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) issued a consultation in July 2022 on how any renewal may be structured, assuming that the MV-BER will be renewed when it expires on 31 May 2023.
The CMA’s final recommendations to the Secretary of State of BEIS (Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) were subsequently circulated in October 2022 and were a mixture of recommendations for good improvements, but with some concerning elements which would be detrimental to the UK aftermarket.

Direct legislative requirements
The basis of the MV-BER is in competition law and is based on direct legislative requirements in the main regulation, with additional ‘guidance’ to describe how these requirements should be met (which is a weaker legal basis).
Ultimately, the MV-BER seeks to ensure that there is non-discrimination between authorised and independent workshops in their ability to service and repair vehicles, which in turn provides motorists with the choice of where they can have their vehicles maintained. However, MV-BER has been in existence since 2002, and although it was updated in 2010, it is obvious to anyone reading this that much has changed in the last two decades in the automotive sector. Although the CMA’s recommendations needed to address some existing issues, it was even more important that they addressed new issues that have impacted the aftermarket during this period.
In effect, the CMA are proposing to ‘go supersize’ on the revisions of the MV-BER, but is this wholly beneficial to the UK aftermarket – and just what are the CMA recommending? Most importantly, the CMA recommends that the MV-BER should be retained, with no change to the existing scope, but that it would become a UK ‘Order’ in UK law – i.e. an ‘MV-BEO’ and be extended until 31 May 2029. The other key recommendations then fall into three distinct categories.

Hardcore restrictions
Firstly, there are recommendations to rectify “residual and novel issues” in the existing requirements which are not being implemented correctly.  These included the CMA’s revision in the guidance for improved clarity from the vehicle manufacturers and their authorised repairers: “...to produce additional and updated guidance to clarify that the clauses contained in all the documents proposed to consumers by OEMs/authorised dealers or repairers should clearly state the consumer's right to use the services of an independent repairer without losing the benefit of the warranty.”
The CMA also understood that the requirements of the existing “hardcore restrictions” that provide access for independent operators to OEM parts, or the ability for Tier 1 parts manufacturers to sell their parts through their Aftermarket divisions is not working as intended. Therefore, the CMA is: “...recommending that further guidance on this matter be issued in order to address residual and novel issues reported by stakeholders.”
Secondly, the CMA recognises that there is a need to address the definitions in the MV-BER.    Therefore, there is a recommendation to update the definition of ‘spare parts’ to address: “…access to software is increasingly a necessary condition to ensure providers of repair and maintenance are able to fit certain spare parts. In this context, the CMA considers that the definition of  spare parts should encompass all software, together with activation/configuration codes for replacement parts and components, which are strictly necessary to fit those parts and to replace or update components or systems of the vehicle, which are necessary for the use or operation of a motor vehicle…’
The CMA have also recognised the importance of “access to vehicle and technical information and ‘in-vehicle data” and recommend the introduction of a new definition. However, the details are not yet clear: “The CMA acknowledges that the manner in which technical and vehicle information is provided is a relevant consideration and notes that this issue is already covered in the EU Supplementary Guidelines in paragraph 67. Furthermore, the CMA is minded to issue further guidance on this subject in the context of any MVBEO Guidance. We also received comments that the legal instruments above mentioned do not cover in-vehicle generated data which may constitute an essential input for independent providers. The CMA agrees the in-vehicle data may amount to an essential input on which independent operators rely and recommends that this type of information is included in the definition of technical and vehicle information.”
Although the CMA recognises that this new definition is important, they are also recommending to include this as an ‘excluded restriction’: “...given the potential for these restrictions to distort competition, in particular, competition between authorised and independent providers, it would be appropriate to ensure that these types of restrictions are carefully self-assessed by businesses on a case-by-case basis, taking account of the specific circumstances.
This effectively states that the vehicle manufacturer will be responsible for defining what and how access to vehicle generated data is provided and be self-assessed on a ‘case-by-case’ basis.
This has partly been addressed by the CMA recognising: “...the CMA considers that this risk could be sufficiently mitigated by the issuance of revised guidance which could assist and help businesses to carry out the self- assessment and to distinguish restrictions which meet the conditions for individual exemption from those that do not.” However, for the aftermarket, this is still likely to be highly problematic, whilst also only providing a very weak legal basis for any challenge to be made by independent operators against a vehicle manufacturer.
Thirdly, the CMA recognises that they ‘should be mindful’ of what the EU is also considering in the EU’s revisions of the MV-BER: “The CMA has been mindful of the approach proposed in the EU by the European Commission. The CMA is conscious that there may be advantages in divergence from the EU in certain circumstances .....Equally, the CMA recognises that, all things being equal, there can also be benefits in consistency between the EU and the UK block exemptions...”

Distorting the market?
In both the EU and the UK, the remote access to a vehicle, its data, resources and functions is already distorting the market and should be included in the revision of the MV-BER. However, in line with what the EU is proposing, the CMA recommends a ‘wait and see’ approach: “It therefore seems likely that some parts of the motor vehicle sector will evolve rapidly over the coming years and that this will have an impact on the conditions of competition that cannot currently be quantified.”
So overall, although the CMA has recognised many of the issues that impact the UK aftermarket and which should be addressed, there are also well intended revisions that have yet to be detailed (i.e. the new wording in the guidance of the MV-BEO) and which if not handled correctly, could be very detrimental to the future of the UK aftermarket. Supersizing the MV-BEO will be good, but only if implemented correctly.

No slouch in Slough

Aftermarket heads to Slough to find out how a local VAG specialist is working to support their customers with the help of their main supplier
Published:  07 February, 2023

By Alex Wells

Blood, sweat, but no tears

Schaeffler works closely with garages to find out how part fitment works in the real world, and Aftermarket was on hand for a recent visit with the REPXPERT team
Published:  06 January, 2023

Manufacturing parts is one thing, but managing to make sure they work in the real-world conditions of a garage, when technicians need to deal with the vagaries of how the VMs actually put their cars together with little thought of them being taken apart for repairs years later? That’s something else.
With this in mind, Schaeffler routinely looks to work with garages, in order to get its kit into the hands of techs, and give them the chance to fit their parts onto cars in the real world, to see how easy it is, or otherwise. Aftermarket teamed up with Schaeffler’s FAG product specialists recently on just such an exercise. The venue was Oldfields Garage Services in Leominster, a business led by Tim Benson. The family business has been serving the area for the last three decades, and on its current site since 2010. According to Tim, they work closely with Schaeffler: “We're only about 15 miles away from them. We probably see somebody from Schaeffler on the technical side every couple of months. We keep in regular contact to see if there's anything that we're doing in the workshop that can help them with the process. It's a mutually beneficial way of doing things, as we can give them a ‘first-hand at-the-coalface’ experience and knowledge from our point of view. Conversely, we get to learn about new technologies and best practice in the way of doing things.”

Schaeffler’s FAG brand, known for its OE wheel bearing range, entered the steering and suspension market around 18 months ago, and the company is keen for garages to see its kit up close, and to find out how they work with it. Along with the necessary parts for the cars chosen for the day, a 2013 Volkswagen Polo and a 2014 Citroen Berlingo van, FAG Product Manager Mike Tomkins was on hand, along with other team members.
Two techs from Oldfields, Sam and Chris were to perform the business end of the fittings, with the former handling the Polo and the latter taking on the van. When it came to the VW, this was going to be the first time the control arm had been replaced, so it took some effort, some elbow grease, and a heat inductor to begin to remove the parts. It was during this time that Sam encountered a small hinderance.
Mike Tomkins commented: “We're a little way into the job now and suddenly we find this problem here. On the offside of the front suspension arm, when you go to remove the bolt, the bolt falls on the vehicle sump on the nearside. You can’t just pull the bolt, undo thebolt and pull it straight out. We tried to slacken off the subframe to see if the bolt will pass, and unfortunately it won’t. So, we're now having to unbolt and release the engine mounting and then jack the engine up a little bit further so the sump will not foul the bolt. When you come to replace the offside arm, you need to be aware that you have to take these extra steps.”
The only way you're going to find this out is if you go into a workshop and try and take one off and put the new one on. “Exactly,” replied Mike, “that's one of the reasons I'm here today. I can sit at my desk and think I know all the pitfalls, but coming out to a proper working garage and seeing the parts being fitted and the problems that can occur is a great help to me. We learn from them as much as they learn from us. I'm always willing to come out to garages and see the steps the mechanics are taking to be able to replace these parts safely and professionally.”
Ultimately, the Polo ended up on the ramp as far up as it will go, with Sam having to go right into the depths of his box of tricks to get the part loose. “I bet you didn’t think I had a ladder in my toolbox did you?” he laughed. The realisation of the impediment led to Chris coming away from his mainly straightforward Citroën job to help Sam get the job back on track, where he ended up with a big scratch on his nose. “Thanks for that” he said with good humour, after he had helped Sam get the subframe loose. Once that particular hurdle was overcome, Sam was able to continue with the job and fit the new part with relatively little fuss. One area where Sam was particularly pleased with the FAG offering was the fact that all the necessary fittings come with the part.
When the parts arrive, they come in a box, with a scannable QR code on the side which identifies the part, provides fitting instructions, including torque settings where necessary. Crucially, they also come with all the necessary components including any replacement bolts required. Mike observed: “It's very important, because if the vehicle is stuck on the ramp, waiting for parts affects workshop efficiency, as the technician cannot carry on with the job. If you have all the parts you need, you also have the confidence to know that, for example if a bolt is seized or damaged, you can cut it off.  It gives the technician and the garage peace of mind.”
As our readers will know, finding those bolts, if they don’t come with the part, can be complicated. “It certainly can be,” replied Mike, “and it wastes time. The vehicle is stuck on that ramp and efficiency goes down. It is absolutely key to have all the right parts. If your labour rate is £50 an hour and you have vehicles stuck on the ramp for an hour every day because of missing parts, then that's £250 a week. It's just not worth it for the sake of a few bolts.” As we mentioned, Schaeffler’s FAG steering and suspension offering is a recent addition. We wondered how it was going down with garages and technicians. Mike observed:  
“Our product here at Schaeffler is absolutely top notch and a very high standard. That sets us apart. Within the last twelve months we've really started to get more interest from garages around the steering and suspension range. They've all liked the extra components that we put in the box.”

Meanwhile, across with the Berlingo, Chris was having a relatively simpler time, although another bolt in an awkward location during the removal of the old control arm did cause a small delay. Ultimately, this was a straightforward job however.
Summing up, Tim observed: “When we're looking for suppliers, we're always looking for high quality products. One of the nice things with these suspension components, is that they come with everything in the box, which makes it a lot easier from a technician's point of view. No more worrying about whether the nut comes off or the bolt shears or whatever. Having those bits readily in the box is a big bonus.”
With Tim and the team clearly impressed by the FAG steering and suspension range, Schaeffler is keen to get the kit into “as many garages as possible.” Mike Hansford, Territory Manager at Schaeffler commented: “All of the feedback we've had from garages is very positive. They like the product and they want to use the product.”
Tim agreed: “We need it more readily available to get access to it. We're lucky, obviously, because we're very close to FAG here, but even so, it's getting that when it's on the ramp. We don't want any downtime. The finishing and the attention to detail is one of the things that sets FAG apart from some of the other suppliers. The types of boots that are used, the way that things are all put together, it all makes it easier. Obviously, price point is a factor, but our customers are more interested in what we believe is the correct part for the job.”

Back to Basics Marketing: grow your business without spending a fortune

#1 bestselling author Dee Blick is back, sharing her marketing wisdom from collaborating with technicians over the last 17 years
Published:  03 January, 2023

Before embarking on your shoestring marketing journey, it’s important to recognise the marketing mistakes you’re guilty of. And to cut them loose quickly! Here are the headline mistakes.
A business reckons their work sells itself; no marketing needed:  In a competitive market, even the best businesses must shine a spotlight on their work, so they remain top of mind when a customer or prospect is looking to buy.
They put all their eggs into one basket – usually advertising and social media:
Not every customer or prospect is waiting to see your latest social post or glancing your ads. Effective shoestring marketing is about pulling several activities together.
They believe that marketing is only for marketers: My experience working with mechanics has shown me that any workshop willing to invest some time in marketing can succeed. Being organised and committed to marketing your business week in, week is what counts.
They say they have no time for marketing: This is a big one and I get it. However, if you don’t want to hand your power to a more marketing savvy competitor then time must be found. If you can spare three hours every week to focus on marketing your business, that’s a great start. But focus is key – away from your phone and the day-to-day work. The most successful businesses I’ve worked with do this and many at some stage will bring in a part time resource for a few hours a week to pick up the phone, send letters to prospects, emails to clients etc. Start making the commitment to three hours and then decide if you need an additional resource to support you.
I understand that if you’re to commit to shoestring marketing, you have to be persuaded of the benefits of doing so. What can marketing do for your business? There’s an entire article in this but the headline benefits of being a marketing-centred business are as follows:
•    You build your customer base. More good customers are always top of the wish list, aren’t they?
•    You weather the storm when times are tough, and grow in the golden times.
•    You build awareness of your brand and all the remarkable things it stands for. This makes it easier for influencers to recommend you and for existing customers to stay with you and put a good word in with their ‘tribes’.

The decision-making process shortens: The time it takes for a potential customer to say yes reduces because a person knows, likes and to an extent trusts you before they’ve even set foot inside your workshop. Your marketing has established the groundwork.

How to start on your shoestring marketing journey
Start with a simple yet powerful plan
Your target audience: This is knowing who you want to reach. If you want more fleet business, make a list of the exact companies you want to target. More of the same customers you have now? Make a list of the customers you’re going to approach to ask for referrals and another list of the postcodes where these people are likely to live. Make a third list of local businesses where potential new customers are likely to work. This is about making your target audiences real. Doing this will take a good few hours but it’s time well spent because you’re really focussing on the people you want to introduce your business to rather than crossing your fingers that a social media post or an advert will have the same effect.
For each group make a list of their needs: Why they would come to you. This is about looking at the landscape through the eyes of potential customers.
Now construct your business DNA: List the reasons why you offer such an amazing service to each target audience. Don’t just write down ‘customer service’ and leave it at that. It says nothing about you. Is it your extended opening hours, free added value touches, clear and detailed pricing, your explanations to a customer before you begin work, the comfort of your inclusive and cheery reception area? If a local journalist asked the question: “Why should our readers choose your garage?” what would you say? This is all about capturing the unique DNA of your business so it should include the nitty gritty of your experience, your expertise, your investment in training and your customer care philosophy. Don’t assume that your customers know all of this about you. Commit your outputs from this exercise into a working document that every person in your team has contributed to and understands. Make it a focus of a team meeting. Very few businesses do this, yet it is important stock to use when approaching new customers and reconnecting with those customers you have not seen in some time. It also reminds your regulars of how good you are. You are using the power of words to paint a great picture of your garage so that you become irresistible.
I want to conclude with the WOW model which is integral to my shoestring marketing philosophy. The Plus 1 WOW model: Delight your customer. Delight = expectation plus 1:
+ 1 more contact
+ 1 moment of thoughtfulness
+ 1 extra minute of your time
+ 1 check to see all is ok

The +1 effect leads to the WOW factor:
Wow – That’s great
Wow – That’s what I call service
Wow – That was thoughtful
Wow – I didn’t expect that!

The best +1 factors meet the following criteria: They are instantly noticed and valued by customers, they are quick and easy, they cost little or nothing and they are implemented on a consistent basis not just when you are in a good mood.
Make sure that when capturing your business DNA, you reference all the small touches that are part of your WOW philosophy. Next time, I’ll look at how you translate these tips into action.

For more information visit: www.jlmlubricants.co.uk

Buy now pay later: The solution to stalling aftermarket growth?

Would the aftermarket benefit from the wider availability of buy now pay later (BNPL) payment options?
Published:  29 December, 2022

Rising inflation, spiralling prices and higher servicing costs are all combined to pose a challenge to the aftermarket sector, with a recent McKinsey report forecasting stagnating revenue growth across European auto aftermarkets of around 1.5% annual growth until 2030.  Car owners are already cutting back on spending, reviewing budgets and delaying non-essential repairs.
Considering this, retailers and distributors must adapt their businesses to better support their consumers’ needs. One route they should consider is improving the flexible payment options they offer at checkout, such as buy now pay later (BNPL), which would help ease the financial burden on their customers.

Stuck in first gear
So, why is the industry stuck in first gear on this? The UK automotive aftermarket ranks as the fourth largest industry in Europe and ninth in the world, and contributes over £12bn annually to the economy, supporting 345,600 jobs. This means that the fact that the outlook for the sector is weakening is extremely concerning. Furthermore, research consultancy IBIS World is forecasting that the average age of UK motor vehicles will start to fall this year, suggesting a dip in second-hand car sales, which typically need more aftermarket support. Compounding this negative backdrop is rising prices. In a survey conducted by the Motor Ombudsman earlier this year, some 63% of independent garages and dealerships said that because of delayed deliveries and global supply chain problems, they would be raising prices over the next six months. They also noted evidence of drivers cutting back on spending on their cars as part of their efforts to limit spending.
The impact of all these trends is likely to see a rise in buyer hesitation. Cart abandonment, across all industries, already sits at nearly 70%. The cost-of-living crisis will inevitably increase this figure further still. So, how can the aftermarket sector meet this issue of rising cart abandonment head-on?

Expanding the scope
Expanding the scope of checkout finance offers a solution. To stem the resulting revenue loss from increased cart abandonment rates and falling consumer demand, retailers should consider and evaluate flexible payment options.
Finance options such as hire purchase and personal contract purchase (PCP), which allow a buyer to spread payment over a longer time period, are largely confined to purchasing new or used cars, rather than vehicle parts and accessories. However, implementing a more flexible payment option at checkout for these products and services, such as buy now pay later (BNPL), will help alleviate the financial strain of such purchases for consumers. This is because BNPL splits large payments into smaller manageable instalments, so customers do not feel the full financial impact in one go. However, traditional BNPL products often present a one size fits all approach that fails to comprehensively meet the needs of aftermarket businesses.

Lender aggregation is the future of BNPL. Checkout finance solutions that are supported by multiple lenders are the next step in the evolution of BNPL. This is because a combination of lenders provides a broader range of risk appetite, which means that the right lender will be matched with the right consumer. For retailers, this innovative matching of lenders to customers will boost acceptance and conversion rates, and, consequently, sales. Whilst customers will benefit from having greater access to finance and more freedom to pay the way they want.
The UK’s primary multi-lender checkout finance option is Deko’s Pay Monthly product. Deko’s lender aggregation means it can cover basket sizes ranging from £25 to £25,000, with interest-free options available and instalment periods up to 60 months. This flexibility that comes with multi-lender finance products will empower your customers to service and upgrade the cars they love, building better customer relationships and lasting consumer demand.

Economic contribution
BNPL can also support the sector’s economic contribution. As the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) put it in a recent report: “The automotive aftermarket is a vital part of the UK economy … By keeping the country moving, the aftermarket delivers significant direct and indirect financial benefits to the country.” Retailers should adopt BNPL, not only because they want to boost their revenues but also to help and support their customers. Seeing BNPL being used more broadly across the sector would help it mitigate the impact of the emerging slowdown and allow the auto aftermarket industry to continue to make a significant contribution to the UK’s economic recovery.

Disarming an angry customer

Part two: Tensions can be reduced if the right steps are taken
Published:  13 December, 2022

As we saw in the last issue, the first step is to let angry customers talk uninterrupted, but rarely will a customer say everything in one go. They will seek attention, start talking, ramble, move into other areas, before coming back to the main point. The worst thing you can do is to interrupt them – it will just make them angrier. If you let the customer talk until they are done, their emotional high will subside and they will be more amendable to interactive conversation.
Be supportive with your comments and then when the customer has finally finished, take control of the situation by acknowledging that there’s an issue.

Acknowledge the problem
Before you can properly start to deal with the issue at hand, it is important to go over your understanding of what the customer is upset about, reiterating the key points and the priorities as the customer sees them. This will reassure them that you understand their problem. Again, use a gentle and calm voice and ask the customer to confirm your understanding is theirs. It is irrelevant how a problem started or where the customer sees themselves in the resolution process. All that matters is that you take ownership of the customer’s problem and see it through to the bitter end. If you do not take this course of action, you will be pouring fuel onto the fire and giving the customer very good reason to become incandescent with rage.
Your problem is that it is very tempting to deny responsibility for the issue, state that it has been caused by someone else, hoping that the customer and their problem will go away. Unfortunately, in today’s litigious and social media-based society it is not going to. The harsh reality is that even if you need to go to someone else to find out more, possibly at another of the business’s locations, you will still be the customer’s main point of contact. The customer doesn’t care for hurdles and is also not bothered how internal procedures work – they just want a resolution.

People first
While it may seem entirely logical to deal with the physical manifestation, dealing with the human side of the complaint will help satisfy the customer. One they have calmed down you will be able to move on the technical issue with them on your side. So – deal with the anger first and then progress on to fixing the problem. Interestingly, it may transpire that the technical issue behind the complaint – say an online system or a double charge made on a credit card – could be affecting more of your customers.

Fix the problem
Once the customer has been reassured, you need to move forward and deal with the reason for the complaint while also looking to ensure that long term, the problem does not reoccur. Cast-iron guarantees that the problem, or something similar, will never happen again are not always possible. However, what you can do is tell the customer that if an issue ever arises again that you will be happy to be their point of contact. That said, if you think you have fixed the problem once and for all, make a point of proving this to the customer.

Follow Up
People like to be remembered and it is good practice to revisit a complaint and contact the customer to ensure that they are happy with the resolutions, and the business. A phone call or personalised email or letter is all that it takes to make the point that the customer is valuable to the business and that their complaint was taken seriously. It’s an incredibly powerful message to show that you care. Remember if you truly do not care about a customer’s concerns, dealing with issues will only ever be a short-term problem; No more customer, simply put, means no more complaints – and that really is incompetent.

Hybrid lie?

A look at why hybrids may actually be hindering the transition to clean transport
Published:  07 December, 2022

Hybrid cars are outdated, pointless and hindering the transition to zero-emission fully electric cars and clean transport. If we truly want to build a net-zero world as soon as possible, then they should be banned.
Back in the 1990s, hybrid cars had a purpose. They demonstrated the potential of electric technology and e-vehicles, and how a future free of fossil fuel consumption truly was on the horizon. Cut to 30 years later, with the advancement of full-electric vehicle technology, hybrids have become an obstacle to the electric revolution.
Removing hybrid cars will accelerate the move to a better, completely electric-driven future. Currently, they stand as a roadblock, slowing the changes in infrastructure needed for fully electric cars and distracting consumers with the allure of an alternative type of vehicle that ultimately isn’t worthwhile. Banning hybrid vehicles, alongside combustion engines, should be a priority as part of the electric revolution we are currently on the precipice of.

The hybrid lie of helping the environment
Many people have noble intentions when it comes to wanting to do more to help lessen their impact on their environment, and when it comes to travel, the right personal vehicle is something most can control directly. There is a growing need to drive more efficient machines, and thus the appeal of the hybrid car is evident. The range is not an issue, as its internal combustion engine is available regardless of charge level, and you can drive secure in the fact that your emissions are reduced compared to a gas-guzzling alternative.    
Only these preconceptions are falsehoods. You have been coerced by the hybrid lie. Three of the most popular plug-ins in 2020 all emitted more CO2 than advertised when tested in the real world, according to research by Transport and Environment – and this matches previous research on older models.
The effects are more than negligible, and any benefits are countered by drawbacks. Even with a plug-in hybrid (PHEV), the benefits of charging a battery are countered by its limited size and range – typically less than 50 kilometres – and therefore after it is quickly used up you are straight back to petrol or diesel once more. Sure, 50 clean kilometres is better than nothing, but this quickly adds up to causing more harm than the alternative of a purely electric solution.

Placebo effect of hybrid culture
As a placebo for real impact on the market, hybrids act as an unnecessary distraction on the journey of transitioning to a fully electric future and seeing real, measurably positive impacts on carbon emissions. Are they marginally better for the environment? Arguably. Yet overall, their impact on the consumer and position within the market leaves an overall negative impact.
People want to ‘do their bit’. People want to make a difference – usually, that involves the path that of least personal effort, trusting advice from experts. Settling for hybrids as an equal alternative to going fully electric, however, is misdirection, and only delays the valuable changes they could have made from the start. Preying upon the ethical intentions of consumers is yet another distraction created by these attitudes towards hybrid vehicles.
Another common practice is the idea to try hybrid first before going full electric. This quite often comes down to irrational fear of the range of electric cars, or maybe just fearing change in general. Research conducted by Nissan showed that 97% of EV drivers found the switch "as expected" or "easier", and 89% believe ditching diesel/petrol was the right decision. Ultimately, this only means that the hybrid option once again reduces or delays the desire to go fully electric – it stands in the way of change.

The limitations of EV infrastructure
With the scarcity of EV infrastructure as it is, a hybrid car using a charge point takes reduces what limited resources EVs have available to them. There are only a limited number of charging points out there – and even fewer rapid points vital to the electrification of roads and motorways.
Building more infrastructure is critical– there is not nearly enough currently to support a complete green transition. But also ensuring that this infrastructure is used by the right type of vehicles should be a priority. If used by cars that will drain their small batteries quickly, and ultimately end up relying on a combustion engine, any positive impact on the environment is immediately lost, as well as directly reducing the operational capacity of electric infrastructure.
Congested charging points also have a greater effect on the consumer mindset. If refuelling an ICE car is always massively quicker and easier compared to queuing for a charging point, most will come to the same conclusion – “it’s not the right time to get an EV.” Ultimately, more electric infrastructure is needed, but also removing hybrid cars from these queues gives a better indication of just how accessible going fully electric can be to the average onlooker.
The promise of the hybrid may once have been true – hybrids are better for the environment, a good transition to electric cars, and a way to reduce emissions. The reality, however, is that they are now behind the times. When better alternatives exist, the hybrid lie just serves to mislead and obfuscate the path to real, meaningful change that the modern era of e-vehicles can bring.

Pointing in the right direction

With more garages signing up with Point S each year, the tyre network is changing and also looking to help its members adapt
Published:  01 December, 2022

Point S has become a familiar name since it first landed in the UK in 2011. The global network began in France, and has spread out across the world. While its initial focus was on tyre fitters, it has widened its remit and increasingly draws in more garages each year.
Explaining something of the history, Point S UK’s Network Operations Manager Wayne Daniel said: “Point S was started in 1971 as an association of French tyre dealers looking to pull together their purchasing power. The network has developed since its inception, and now covers other service items like batteries, wiper blades, and bulbs. We are on four continents and in 48 countries to defend the independence of our members and our network and support their profitability around the world.
“We have 2,950 members running 7,500 depots. Point S Auto Care Network was established in the UK in 2011, 40 years after France. So, last year, while France celebrated its 50th anniversary, we celebrated our tenth, and we have come a long way in those 10 years. We currently have 177 members with 288 depots across the country. We're fast approaching the 300 that we're looking for. We have the Business Development Managers on the road, working with the members to push as much of the portfolio products or the offers that they have to the members to make sure they got the right deal with the right quality. They are also actively out there looking for people to join, but they'll only be looking in areas where we don't have anybody.”
Considering its origins as a tyre-focused business, you won’t be surprised to learn that tyres remain absolutely central to the offering. Point S members have access to a wide range of tyre brands, including, among others, premium brands such as Bridgestone, Continental, Pirelli, Michelin and Goodyear. Members are also able to offer customers the Point S own-brand tyre. “That's manufactured by one of the premium manufacturers under license,” said Wayne.

With this sort of network, while the signage is the same, each business is independent, so the key is to get all the members going in the same direction: “Harmonisation is one of the fundamentally important parts of getting our plan out in the marketplace,” Wayne observed. This can be tricky when some sites are running as a single outlet, and others are part of a group: “For example, we have one member in Maidstone that has one site and then have others that have four sites in Birmingham. We have some that have got 10 sites.
On how they find working with this kind of spread, Wayne commented: “From our point of view, some at the smaller end of the scale needed more help than the bigger ones, but we work with them all.” How long a business has been going has an impact as well: “We have within our network that have been going over 40 years now, so they're well-established.”
Addressing the ongoing shift in the nature of the membership has been one of the main themes of Wayne’s tenure so far, and this does not look like it will change any time soon: “One of the fundamental things that has changed is that a lot of our members aren’t just doing tyres anymore. They are diversifying their businesses towards the mechanical side.
“A lot of our members now do servicing, MOTs and brakes. This means it's really important for our business model that we offered our members parts, consumables and batteries. It was also really important that we associated our members with the premium side of parts.”

It is ironic that tyre sites are moving towards the traditional garage market, because a lot of traditional garages are moving into tyres. In short, everybody is becoming someone else. According to Wayne, it’s part of a changing world: “When my father was driving, he would have gone to a tyre dealer to get his tyres, then he would have gone to a garage to get his car serviced.
“Today, if you want to keep a customer, you have to offer everything. You don't want to give the consumer the opportunity to go somewhere else. It does make you laugh because garages make a good margin in what they do, and they've gone into the tyre side, which is probably not as profitable as they thought it was going to be.  Meanwhile, tyre businesses have gone into the mechanical side and they're seeing how profitable this market can be.”
He continued: “Back in 2017, most new members were tyre outlets. Now, 50% of businesses joining our organisation now will be garages. However, the garages that we're talking to already do tyres, so they're not completely green. Maybe they need a bit of direction with what they're buying. We help with marketing to customers. We do a digital platform for them, so they can sell tyres online. We can do local advertising with them too and we give them training on the tyres.
“The key when selling tyres if you are a garage is being able to upsell to a good tyre for maybe for a customer who's just got no tread and needs tyres but don't really know anything about tyres. That's where the Point S tyre comes in. It's a mid-range product that's competitively priced.”

For a garage looking to join a network, you will be looking for that name recognition. If you are a traditional workshop, will Point S be the right fit for you? “Point S in France would be equivalent to how the general public perceive Kwik Fit in the UK. They are decades ahead of us.”
How do you push this forward in the UK then? The changing face of the car parc could provide an answer: “Nobody knows really what's going to happen with dealer networks. Look at what Elon Musk has done in this sector; Lorries that just dropped their sides in town centres and sales points with no workshop attached. Electric vehicle manufacturers may need a network to service their vehicles. It's really, really important that we recognise what's good for today, but also where our members need to be in the next three or four years. A lot of the members that we are bringing on now are coming from the mechanical side because they feel that they need to be part of something. Point S is very much playing a major part in supporting the independent sector and keeping them ahead of the game where we're going.
“It's our ambition to be the largest qualified certified European network for electric vehicle maintenance by 2026. It will enable our independents to take their businesses to the next level and future-proof their businesses.”
That’s not all though: “It's our aspiration over the coming years to have our own training centre in the UK, covering all aspects as well as EVs. My job is to look 12-18 months ahead and further, to see what’s next coming. The training school concept plays a large part in what I've been doing over the last six months because it's a large part of what our business is going to be moving forward.”
Wayne concluded: “We're working towards tomorrow, building with the members so they can have a sustainable business for the future. It's a 50/50 partnership, one that works.”

Wipe your way to efficiency

How a humble cleaning wipe can improve your business efficiency
Published:  24 November, 2022

The sharing economy is booming with more consumers using instead of owning; Think Airbnb or Zipcar. What about the business community?  What if you could hire a cleaning cloth, return it for washing when it’s dirty, and receive a clean one in its place? What if you not only had one, but as many as you needed, on-site, ready to use?

The idea of a sharing economy in which people use resources rather than own them is very current in society and commerce today, but it’s not new. Mewa has been doing it for over a hundred years and our cloths are now rented by some 190,000 companies in 21 countries.

Garages have more need than most for wipes to keep machinery, equipment and premises clean and safe. In the Mewa system, clean reusable cloths are delivered as necessary. After use, they are placed in our SaCon safety container. From there, they are collected, washed, dried and delivered back to the client clean.

Reusing products is more environmentally sustainable than throwing them away.  Companies choosing this green option can enhance their reputation, which helps in attracting and retaining customers and staff. More immediately though time is saved and costly health and safety lapses avoided.

Save on cleaning time
Because our cloths are better suited to their job and offer higher absorbency, they clean in less time. The saving compared to disposable paper roll, for example, is up to 35%. Our absorbent mats too can absorb 3 litres of fluid such as oils, solvents and other liquids, transporting the fluid from the outer fabric into its special fibre core, keeping the surface dry. This eliminates the need for drip trays or oil pans and granules or sand to soak up these liquids, all of which are time consuming to oversee. A reusable wipe service also lightens the administrative time, effort and cost involved in checking and reordering stock, using up valuable storage space and tying up capital.

Any cleaning cloths soaked with oil, and many other industrial fluids, are classified as “absolute hazardous” entries on the Waste Framework Directive’s List of Waste document.

 Therefore, to ensure that you remain compliant with legal regulations, all wastes contaminated with absolute hazardous industrial fluids, including any cloths used to mop-up spillages, must be safely stored in a suitable recipient before being disposed of by an accredited hazardous wastes contractor.

Our legally compliant SaCon safety container and washing system means you don’t have to organise special storage or disposal of contaminated wipes, saving you time, money and reducing the risk of Health & Safety fines.

Avoid worker downtime
Health & Safety Executive (HSE) figures show that slips and trips are the most common cause of major injuries at work. 95% of major slips result in broken bones and, on average, are responsible for 20% of over-three-day injuries to employees. The cost to UK employers is £512 million a year in lost production and other costs.

HSE advises that all spills should be mopped up immediately to reduce the risk of slips. Help avoid worker downtime by always having cleaning cloths to hand to mop up spillages and absorbent oil trapping mats in those high leak areas.  
The value of reusable wipes to a business is extensive, helping improve productivity, sustainability, as well as saving time and money.  

King of the hill

Aftermarket visits High Wycombe to find out what goes on at Top Garage 2021 winners Hillclimb Garage
Published:  21 November, 2022

Hillclimb Garage is based in Downley, a village on the outskirts of  High Wycombe. The garage itself is based in a former Renault dealership that later became an independent used car retailer.
As you might expect from an ex-dealership, the workshop is pretty big: “We've got seven working bays, five of which are fully operational with ramps,” said owner Mark Darvill. “Next year we are putting another ramp in.”
Mark bought Hillclimb Garage two years ago, following a career where he had worked with many of the major factor names supplying the aftermarket.
“My history is with Allparts,” said Mark. The name may be familiar to some readers. “I started there as a warehouse boy and ended up as a shareholder and Managing Director. We were a founder member of The Parts Alliance way back in 2000, with the likes of Andrew Page and Camberley Auto Factors and several of the other big names that have gone now. We sold it in 2012 to HG Capital.” After an additional two years with the company, he moved onto a series of consultancy roles and other positions across the sector, but he still had a dream that kept pushing out from the back of his head: “I always had this idea that I wanted to run a workshop and I heard on the grapevine that Hillclimb Garage was up for sale. The rest is history.”
The garage currently fields a team of nine, including two on the service desk and four technicians, three of whom are MOT testers. Rounding out the team are an apprentice, now in his second year and a general assistant who cleans cars, as well as collecting and dropping off for customers among other duties.
“We're looking for another service adviser and another technician,” he observed. “We're currently having to push people up to three weeks into the future for their bookings, and of course, not everybody can wait, so we've got to invest further in people.”

Where it had been a used car dealer running the garage side as almost a separate business, Hillclimb Garage is now entirely a service and repair operation: “We've transformed the place. We've invested heavily in the workshop, completely refitted it from top to bottom. We renewed the workstations, and we're now renewing the ramps. We've invested heavily in technical equipment and more importantly, we've invested in people.
“Tom, who's a Master Technician, is the workshop manager, and we've built the team around him in the workshop. We've also made a lot of changes out the front as well, in service, reception and just the way that we manage the whole customer experience.”

Confidence and transparency
On how they are marketing the business in the area, Mark said: “We pitch ourselves as supporting our customers and maintaining their vehicles to a high standard. That means picking cars up, washing every car and videoing every job. All advisory work is detailed to the customer with a paragraph on every recommendation. Everything is priced, everything is transparent and all of that takes time. However, what it allows us to do is give the customer confidence and trust in what we're recommending and puts them in control. Of course, they love it.”
The business is generalist, with German leanings: “We've got two VAG-trained technicians, so we tend to see quite a lot of German stuff. This means we are seeing more BMW and Mercedes-Benz, alongside the Volkswagen-Audi group vehicles. We've even got a growing number of Range Rover customers, for our sins.”
It’s not all rolling gin palaces though: “Tom is a Honda Master Tech, so we are seeing more on that side. It's about a true-cross section, looking after all different types of customers and trying to get to know them and how they want their car to be maintained. It's something we spend a lot of time on. Let’s say the car is eight or nine years old, with 60,000 or  70,000 miles on the clock. The customer can't afford a new car. They are relying on us to maintain it, to keep it going, get us through the MOT for another year. It's a cliché at the moment, but with the cost of living crisis, managing those cars carefully for our customers is so important, and they welcome that. If it doesn't need brakes for three months, we tell them we will give them a call in three months. That goes into our system, and that gives them another three paydays. When they come back, they've got it in their mind already that they're going to have that cost. That helps build trust, and again, the customers love it.”
While all this is going on, the electrification of the car parc continues: “We invested a lot of money in that last year with EV equipment and with EV training, getting the guys fully qualified. We are now starting to see more and more vehicles come to us. EV owners are savvy and are looking for independent electric vehicle garages, so that investment is really starting to pay off. Tom is our Level 4 EV technician and we have two other Level 3 qualified technicians. The high voltage work is carried out in a quarantined area. We've got a Renault Zoe in today that we're doing a DC/DC converter change on. “

Top Garage
On their experiences taking part in Top Garage 2021, and winning in the business with seven-to-nine employees’ category, Mark said: “We loved it. It did us the power of good. There were so many positives that we took from it. We were lucky enough to get the vote from the judges, and the positivity and the reinforcement that what we're doing is right across the team was fantastic. It helps with staff retention, because they know they're working for a great company. Also, when we're out there looking for people, which we are doing at the moment, we are able to say we are a winner of a national award. This gives us an edge on other companies and reinforces our professionalism and integrity. That was the one thing that I said to my people; This is Aftermarket’s Top Garage. It's got real credibility.  
“As far as our customers are concerned, it gives them confidence. We actually had a five-star review on Google a couple of weeks ago It said, ‘I saw this garage as an award winner and so thought they must be doing something right. So, it helps us to win business. It also helps us to retain customers and says we're being recognised for the work that we're doing. It's had a very positive effect on us.”

Looking to the future, we wondered if Mark had identified the next mountain to climb for the garage: “We're growing, so we're taking on two more people, we're expanding the workshop, putting another ramp in. We are also looking at how we can continue to develop our technical capabilities. We've got meetings with various different ADAS equipment suppliers already lined up. We're also continuing to meet the EV and hybrid challenge head-on. We are gold members of HEVRA, and I think that's going to be really important for us to maintain our position and ensure that our knowledge level stays high. It's only going to get busier in this segment.
“We're redeveloping the service desk area early next year. We've got a lovely glass-fronted showroom anyway, so we're going to have separate desks where customers can come in and sit down with us with a tablet there so we can show them the work that's been done and talk through what needs to be done. We are also working with a software company to introduce fully digital service records in the near future.”
He concluded: “We have so much planned. We want to keep the momentum, up, and make sure we stay ahead. It’s not just about the big stuff, it’s about making small but significant marginal gains. We're growing at a good, solid, steady pace, and we need to keep investing in people, technology, equipment and the customer experience. We are building a framework to ensure we remain fit for the future.”

The squeaky wheel gets the oil

Tina returns and is examining why the most strident customers tend to hog all the attention
Published:  17 November, 2022

Most of us will reluctantly admit that, at times, the loudest problems or customers, get our attention.
Why do we feel the need to discount or offer something to those customers who shout the loudest? All our customers come with their own needs, some may ask a lot of questions, some may complain, some are very needy and require a lot of information and support. Sometimes the ones who complain are giving voice to those that are quiet and just drift away without voicing their opinions. So why do we reward those that shout the loudest?
This can come in many forms. Here are just a couple of examples. There is the aggressor. Their body language and their manner are aggressive, and they are very demanding. Shouting the odds, blaming someone else for their problems. These customers can make us feel intimidated and scared. There is the emotive. They are upset, displaying tears and self-pity. These customers make us feel emotional and bad about the situation. In both scenarios, it is normally about the costs or the time to carry out the repair.
Often, a conversation with an explanation is enough, but remember, we are running a business, we cannot just start giving out discounts to every customer who comes in showing the above behaviour. Ultimately, it is not our problem that the customers vehicle is broken or how much it costs to repair. Finding the balance in the dichotomy here is very hard.
The biggest mistake we make, is that we do not listen, attentively listen to understand. We need to listen with our ears, eyes, and bodies. Give that customer the feeling that they and what they have to say is the most important thing. Your listening skills demonstrates dignity and respect for your customer. There will be times when you feel like interrupting as you do not agree with something that they are saying, but wait, listen. Let them talk themselves out, reiterate what has been said so they know you have taken it all on board. Do not argue, you cannot win an argument. Even if you shoot down the other parties’ point of view with evidence to prove that you are right, you have still not really won. You, will feel great, you have won, haven’t you? What about the other party? All you have done is make them feel inferior, embarrassed, downtrodden. Is this how you want to make your customer feel?
Many bad situations can be resolved by listening, taking the emotion out of the situation and being empathetic. Stay assertive, this does not mean being aggressive. Be influential rather than argumentative. After all, prevention is better than cure. Remember, in every situation, how you respond affects the outcome.
When we offer a compromise, a discount, an offer that can be used later, a car valet or some other service. All we are doing is feeding the lion.
Why don’t we offer this to our loyal customers, those that come back time and time again, no complaints just quiet happy customers? How many of us know who are real loyal customers are, not just those that spend but those that are our raving fans and recommend us to everyone they know? How many of us reward those customers?

Fast Aston Martins

Andrew remembers when Aston Martin went down the supercar route, a journey that included a supporting role for himself in the process
Published:  07 November, 2022

By Andrew Marsh, Engineering Director, Auto Industry Consulting Ltd

The Wild West of EV infrastructure

By Aidan McClean, founder and CEO of UFODRIVE
Published:  03 November, 2022

Speed and location of charge points aren’t the only issue with today’s electric vehicle infrastructure; Standardisation is also key

Feel the need

Maverick Diagnostics felt the need for more EV and hybrid training, and responded by opening its Automotive Training Academy
Published:  28 September, 2022

Maverick Diagnostics feels the need; The need, for greater training provision to help the aftermarket to get techs up to speed on EVs and hybrids. With the cross-industry staffing shortfall running into the thousands as more electric and hybrid vehicles join the roads, many organisations across the industry are hearing the call to action. With this in mind, Maverick Diagnostics has just thrown the doors open at its brand-new Automotive Training Academy.
Tucked away on an industrial estate outside Wrexham, just a few minutes from their H.Q, the centre will be offering a two-day IMI electric/hybrid vehicle system repair and replacement course, the nationally recognised IMI accredited Level 2 and Level 3(combined). The IMI-accredited centre received its official opening on Monday 11 July, with the ribbon cut by IMI Chair and OPUS IVS MD Kevin Finn. The IMI is fully backing the launch, and looking to encourage everyone that signs up to join the IMI TechSafe Register too.
Commenting on the opening, Kevin Finn said: “It's great to see that in this area where there wasn't the ability to get access to EV and hybrid training even where there's a high population of vehicles, that this has been opened.”
On the opportunity, Kevin observed: “Even I thought the entry level into servicing EVs and hybrids was really high. What I've discovered is that it's in the hundreds of pounds and the training cost itself is moderate. I believe you can actually qualify and have you garage ready for basic servicing at Level Three for electric vehicles, for probably less than £1,000 including the training. That's been, even for me, quite a surprise.”
He continued: “I think we have to really pay attention to this now because the number of vehicles that are out there that require our attention is huge, and many in the aftermarket are missing the opportunity. With the number of EVs and hybrids out there versus the small number of technicians, there seems to be quite a large opportunity for the forward-thinking garage.
Kevin added: “The aftermarket is currently missing out, and they need to take advantage of the massive EV and hybrid opportunity.”

This was part of the reasoning behind opening the centre for Maverick Diagnostics M.D Andy Brooke, who said: “Many garages still don’t understand the opportunity at all. Some people still don't believe that EV and hybrid will arrive. Well, clearly every TV ad for a car mentions EV and hybrid. It’s here now and it’s here to stay.”
He continued: “Myself and my team along with the OPUS IVS team have been looking at the EV and hybrid market for several years now. There's a huge opportunity, not only to service and maintain these vehicles once people have been correctly trained, but also with areas like refurbishment of batteries, testing of batteries, assisting customers with problems. Take for example the heating and ventilation problems that you get on these vehicles. If you have a hole in the condenser on a ICE car, all that would happen would be that your air con would stop working. However, on an EV or a hybrid, the vehicle will actually shut down. There are massive opportunities for training, massive opportunities for the future for garages to get involved with many areas and of course they need to be IMI Techsafe registered.”

According to Andy, getting qualified should not be viewed as an administrative issue for garages, they should think of it as part of the marketing armoury: “Having a certificate will pull customers to your workshop.” After that, another factor that Andy is keen to highlight is that the investment for garages for getting into EVs may be far lower than they realise. “Once they've got their qualifications at Level 3 and Level 4, how much do they actually need?
Simply put, we've got a plastic insulated tool tray that cost £44. They then need a rubber mat to stand on, awesome gloves, preferably high insulation gloves with dating. Lastly they need some insulated spanners and a multi meter. Total investment is probably going to be under £600.
“It's only when you get to removing and refitting batteries and components that you're going to need to a clear floor vehicle and  battery lifting platform, which would probably set you back another £3,000. You may already have a clear floor transmission lift. The bottom line is that it's a lot less than you think. Once they realise, garages are going to jump onto it. However, they don't see them yet as an opportunity. Unfortunately, they see them as a bit of a hindrance which they're running away from. Once a vehicle is safely isolated, there's no voltage to electrocute you.
“There's an opportunity in the future remove to batteries for refurbishing and to remove and refurbish components on the vehicle. After all, these cars are going to have a much longer lifespan than the average petrol or diesel vehicle. Not only that, they can be a few issues with hybrid vehicles where they can wear out the engines. All together there’s actually quite a bright future for the aftermarket.”
For more information on Maverick Diagnostics’ new Automotive Training Academy and the courses available, visit: www.maverickdiagnostics.com/automotive-training-academy

It's just not fair

With the MV-BER due to expire, Neil considers how the legal framework governing competition in the industry may look in the coming years
Published:  20 October, 2022

I love competition. No really, I do. Competition abounds in a wide variety of aspects of everyday life. It helps to formulate innovation or is often the basis of experience, in both good and bad ways. Competition creates choices when you have money to spend or forms the basis of just about every sport, whether you are participating or watching. Competition is at its best when there is a level playing field,  both metaphorically and literally.
There are many more examples of competition, but from the UK aftermarket’s position, it is the very foundation of its existence. The aftermarket only exists because it offers vehicle owners and operators a choice. If they choose to use the aftermarket, which they predominately do, then it remains the vibrant, innovative and service-centric sector that it is.

The aftermarket has evolved for well over more than a century, but in the 21st century the level playing field has become increasing distorted. This is due to the rapid rise in vehicle technology, particularly the vehicle’s electronically controlled systems and functions. In recognition of the corresponding reliance on the vehicle manufacturer being the sole source of the technical information needed to diagnose, service, repair or maintain the vehicle, aftermarket associations lobbied the legislator to act and create the level playing field. As I alluded to in an article earlier this year, this was done as part of the Vertical Block Exemption Regulation (V-BER) created in 2002 that exempted a variety of industry sector distribution models from the requirements of competition law that would otherwise have made these distribution models illegal. The specific needs of the automotive sector were then covered in a sub-regulation – the Motor Vehicle Block Exemption Regulation (MV-BER) that allowed main dealers to operate as a monopoly within a set geographical area. For the aftermarket, this also included the non-discrimination between workshops, so that independent operators were able to access the same repair and maintenance information (RMI), replacement parts, tools and training as the vehicle manufacturer’s main dealers. The MV-BER was updated in 2010, valid in both the EU and UK  and importantly for the aftermarket, included some new hardcore restrictions concerning the access to captive parts and the ability of Tier 1 suppliers to sell their parts into the aftermarket. Also importantly, it included supplementary guidelines that help to define many detailed aspects of the original Regulation. However, the current MV-BER will expire on 31 May 2023.
More recently, many in-vehicle ‘software driven’ aspects have evolved and created an increasing number of ways that the vehicle manufacturers themselves can now directly provide aftermarket services to the driver, vehicle owner or vehicle operator in direct competition to the independent aftermarket.
This has led to new service centric business models, especially using the remote wireless access to the vehicle when it is being driven. Monitoring of the vehicle’s functions, as well as how the driver is using the vehicle, using embedded diagnostics and predictive analysis of the vehicle’s data, as well as bespoke service and maintenance offers directly to the driver via the in-dash display are now where it is happening. The basis of competing business models now starts in the car when it is being driven. By the time it gets to a workshop, half the work has been done (the identification of the problem, what work is required, and the parts needed have been identified) so that workshop costs can be reduced by up to 50%.

As only the vehicle manufacturers have remote access to the vehicle, their own embedded applications, and the ability to bi-directionally communicate with the driver, the aftermarket is at a severe disadvantage.

So, where is the level playing field and non-discrimination unless independent operators can also have equal abilities? (I choose my words carefully).
The MV-BER is very important to retain the principles of effective competition for the aftermarket but needs to work in parallel with the vehicle type approval regulations, as these contain much more detail about both the technical and the access requirements that the vehicle manufacturers must support. Vehicle type approval legislation also allows non-compliance claims to be challenged through the type approval authority, as opposed to the more difficult and expensive route through the courts under the MV-BER.
Post-Brexit, the role of the UK legislator in the guise of the Competition and Mergers Authority (CMA) is most important. The CMA have consulted on the continued relevance of the MV-BER and plan to issue a two-stage consultation during the summer, so it seems that they plan to renew MV-BER, but it is not clear how new requirements needed to address “technical progress” would be included, if at all. This would require either change to the wording of the MV-BER itself, or an update to the wording of the supplementary guidelines, which although easier to do from the legislative viewpoint, has less direct legal basis in the event of a “non-compliance” by a vehicle manufacturer.
Aftermarket associations in the EU, but equally importantly in the UK, have submitted key proposals for updates to the MV-BER supplementary guidelines. The UK government has stated that they will also take into consideration what the European Commission propose to do. The European Commission issued its proposal in early July which explained their approach and their draft proposals.
These documents confirmed that MV-BER will be renewed until 31 May 2028, but their proposal also stated that there needed to be an update to “reflect the importance that access to vehicle-generated data was likely to have as a factor for competition.” However, although the European Commission felt that “some parts of the sector would evolve rapidly over the coming years and that this would have an impact (not yet quantifiable) on the conditions of competition,” they also stated that the extension of the MV-BER will “allow some of the currently emerging technologies to consolidate and will put the Commission in a better position to re-assess the situation under the new market reality.”
The Commission also explained that access to vehicle-generated data would be included in the revised wording of the Supplementary Guidelines, but although this seeks to establish that “withholding the item in question will have an appreciable impact on the ability of independent operators to carry out their tasks and exercise a competitive constraint on the market” as the basis, this does not clarify many other important related aspects, for example how vehicle generated data would be accessed, what can be accessed, at what cost and what registration/declaration conditions would be imposed by the vehicle manufacturers.
The UK government will need to consider what the European Commission has proposed, but for truly effective competition in the UK aftermarket where the vehicle manufacturers are now increasingly and directly competing with independent operators and where the basis of vehicle-related service offers starts remotely when the vehicle is being driven, the UK government will have to do much more. Given the time frame before the current MV-BER is set to expire, the reality is that the ‘rules of the game’ are likely to be insufficient to ensure that the playing field remains level, meaning that the next few years are likely to be increasingly challenging for the UK aftermarket to have the equal abilities needed to compete.

What is your relationship like?

Rebecca is back, and wondering how you get along with suppliers
Published:  17 October, 2022

By Rebecca Pullan, Carmaster Garage

Digital systems can take garages to the next level

By Anthony McAteer, Trading Director at LKQ Euro Car Parts
Published:  10 October, 2022

Advances in technology mean that the day-to-day jobs of technicians are evolving constantly. It is easy to see how technological skills, understanding and equipment are needed to meet the requirements of increasingly connected vehicles. However, there is a lot going on behind the scenes as well.

Technology is fundamentally changing the way garages do business, from bringing in customers, to scheduling jobs and ordering parts, and taking payment once work has been completed.

Boosting customer experience with digital tools
Digital tools like garage management systems (GMS) provide a simple and cost-effective way for garage owners to streamline their business operations and enhance the customer experience they offer. GMS have been proven to have a positive impact all the way along the value chain. They help garages deliver a service that’s slick and professional, build customer trust and loyalty, and maximise technicians’ billable time by reducing the amount of admin on their plate.
LKQ Euro Car Parts customers benefit from exclusive access to CarSys, a cloud-based GMS application. There’s no installation required and it’s available on both desktop and mobile, meaning it’s accessible anywhere, anytime, as long as there’s an internet connection. This includes a dedicated app, free to access for CarSys customers. Simple to use and available on both iOS and Android, it features mobile and digital job cards, integrated HaynesPro data, job clocking, quick quoting, parts ordering and much more. Garages benefit from an extra layer of efficiency at their fingertips, able to streamline processes and move towards becoming a truly paperless workshop.

Why CarSys?
Seamless online bookings: Garages’ online booking systems are supported by the CarSys workshop agenda. This means that whenever a driver books an appointment, it integrates with the workshop diary. The workshop schedule is automatically updated once a booking is made, and the driver receives email confirmation. This helps to reduce the number of no-shows, prevent double bookings, and make the process as seamless as possible for everyone.
Ongoing customer communications: CarSys is specifically designed to help reduce the managerial burden on garage owners and support their customer relationships. It stores customer and supplier records in an integrated customer relationship management (CRM) system, meaning that garages can easily send automatic email reminders whenever services are due – and even special birthday offers – helping to drive revenues.
Accurate scheduling: Built-in access to Haynes Pro data means technicians can quote for work confidently and accurately every time – and plan it in once they have got the go ahead. Using the Haynes Pro technical data bank, garages can view service schedules, average repair times, and key product information such as oil grades, fluid capacities and torque settings.
Professional accounting: Stay on top of your accounting with customer and supplier invoices, sales, reporting and VAT returns, all via the CarSys platform, in tandem with existing Sage, QuickBooks and Xero packages. This functionality also includes the option for the garage and the driver to view a job payment breakdown, along with a record of which payments have been taken and what is still owed, delivering all-important transparency and building trust. It might sound simple, but this is an easy way for garages to impress customers, by offering an experience that rivals the dealerships’ and that encourages drivers to come back again and again.
Inventory management and orders: CarSys can help garages manage their stock in the most efficient way, providing a real-time overview of stock levels for accurate re-ordering, meaning they only ever have essential stock on the shelf.
When it comes to ordering the parts themselves, using CarSys provides integrated access to the market-leading LKQ Euro Car Parts catalogue and online ordering platform. This gives them access to exclusive deals and promotions, as well as priority service, which ensures that all Omnipart deliveries are first on the van from the nearest branch. This functionality is more important than ever in the current economic climate.
Easy onboarding: From day one, the in-house CarSys support team will support garages with their GMS journey. With access to full, bespoke training and consultation, users can get to grips with the system and have it configured to meet the specific needs of their garage. Unlimited ongoing support is available for garages until they are totally comfortable with the platform and achieving the engagement levels they want from it. As the aftermarket evolves, it is key that technicians and garage owners change with it – and those with tools such as GMS at their fingertips are at an instant advantage.

Testimonial: Atlanta Garage
Atlanta Garage is a family-run workshop based in Portsmouth, offering a full range of MOT, diagnostic and repair services. Since April, the team has used CarSys to drive a series of efficiencies across the workshop.
Nik Buck explained: “We use CarSys for so many things day-to-day – everything from bookings, allocating and prioritising jobs, and tracking accounts. For us, it has really helped to streamline our work. Our team has expanded from two to five in the last few months, so keeping track of where everyone is up to, and what they’d be working on a particular day has helped us to stay organised as we grow. We use it for managing our finances. It helps us track profit and loss, and we use it to prepare customer invoices. This also helps to drive cost savings, as we no longer need to rely on an external bookmaker for support. Instead, all of the information we need is at our fingertips.
“Most of all, CarSys helps to support our customer experience. The ability to share booking reminders for servicing and MOTs is helping us to generate more business than ever before. When customers arrive at the garage, the process of checking them in is completely seamless. A great feature for us is the ability to leave notes on a customer file, which means that even if someone else served them on their last visit we can handle any queries up front. It also helps to support upselling. If we left an advisory message after their last service, for example, we can remind them and explain why it would be beneficial to invest in a new part.”
Nik added: “Moving forward, we’ll also be tapping into some of the additional functionality that CarSys offers, such as running reports and analysing servicing trends. We’d really encourage every garage to invest in CarSys if they can. It’s been a fantastic tool for us already, and we know it will help us make even more improvements over the coming weeks and months.”  

Riding the MOT wave
The pandemic turned the traditional MOT demand curve on its head. Nearly three quarters of MOTs due in the early months of the UK’s first national lockdown were deferred until the autumn, meaning they will once again be due in the coming weeks, on top of those that have always fallen later in the year. This means it’s critical for garages to prepare now, and this is where slick customer communications come into play. Getting ahead of the curve now lets garages manage demand effectively, while also maximising revenue.
Planning ahead: The first step must be getting in touch with customers who you know have tests coming up. This means you can plan resource in the best way, as well as get more tests booked in overall. And don’t forget that vehicles due an MOT can be serviced up to a month in advance – you can start to tick vehicles off early to avoid a glut. The benefit of systems like CarSys is that drivers will be reminded of their bookings, through either SMS or email, helping to minimise no-shows and helping garages keep on top of exactly what will be coming through their garage doors, and when.
Technology plays a key role in helping to map out demand. Tools like HaynesPro let you accurately estimate labour costs and identify the right parts, making it easier to manage capacity and cashflow during times of high demand. CarSys is fully integrated with HaynesPro, and has stock management, parts ordering and quoting and invoicing features to streamline processes throughout the garage and enhance the overall customer experience. Top-notch business management and customer service are as crucial to ensuring existing customers keep coming back as they are to bringing in new ones.
Upskilling: Keeping on top of training and skills requirements is also an easy way to win customer loyalty and trust. Sharing product knowledge and recommendations following an MOT can help customers to avoid repeat problems in the future, or stop small issues from becoming serious, and generates opportunities to upsell.
We are committed to helping technicians maintain outstanding levels of service with the IMI-approved MOT training we offer through the LKQ Academy. Garages can opt for either the full annual CPD programme, due by 31 March each year, or routine refresher courses, which can be accessed online or in our classroom-based sessions.

A warm welcome

Aftermarket recently visited The Garage Warmington, to see how the rural workshop is making its presence felt in a changing world
Published:  26 September, 2022

If you head to that green space at the edge of Oxfordshire and Warwickshire, you will find the village of Warmington. If you look a little harder, you will find what looks like a small aircraft hanger. If you have, that means you’ve found The Garage Warmington.
Including owner Adrian Smith, The Garage Warmington has three staff, and serves a largely rural customer base, seeing all sorts of vehicles of every age and type. Adrian started by explaining the unique building: “It is an army surplus shed. It came from the army camp about a mile down the road. There used to be a lot around here, but there are very few left. I was talking to a chap a few days ago who was involved in the shed being moved in the early 1960s, and he said there was four of them in the area at one point. Now, this is the only one left standing.”
Let’s consider what goes on inside the curved workshop: “We have one two-post lift. We can only get one car in at a time really, as it is quite tight. We are normally one-in-one-out, but we can work outside when the weather is reasonable.”
The business was started by Adrian’s father, with his business partner in 1974. “I started coming in on a regular basis to help out when I was about eight, in 1980 and obviously fell in love with mending motor vehicles. After school, I did an apprenticeship, but I did it at another garage, basically, because I've heard a lot of fathers and sons don't get on much in their apprenticeships.
“My father's partner passed away in 1994. My dad took on somebody else initially, but later he offered me the job. That was in 1996. I’ve been here ever since. I've had one employee who has been here almost as long as me. People sometimes want to mend their own cars, and he would come in to do that. Later I took him on, on a part-time basis. He went permanent about nine years ago. He was supposed to retire yesterday, but I've managed to persuade to do two days a week. I had to furlough him in the pandemic.”
Adrian’s other team member is his son, as you might expect from a family business, but this was not initially part of the plan: “My son was working for another company, and in March 2020 he was furloughed. He came to help out for a couple of weeks. That was March 2020 and he is still here.  He's always liked motor cars, but not working on other people’s vehicles so much. However, he came in and he really enjoyed it. I took him on as an apprentice in September. So, the good thing is that we have got three generations, which is what I like.” An accidental dynasty then.
Adrian and the guys are also taking on some of the diagnostic burden in their area: “I do like my diagnostic work. We're trying to get more into that. A couple of other garages send some of their diagnostic work to me. These are some of the older guys who do not want to get clued up on that stuff, and feel like they have done their time.” On his tools of choice, Adrian said: “I’ve got an Autel, and I recently bought one from TOPDON.”
Being a rural garage, Adrian and the guys see a lot of different stuff. “You see a real mix,” he confirmed. “Just in the yard right now, I've got two VW T25s from 1988, I've got a couple of Smart cars, I've got a Mazda MX5 and a 1983 Series 3 Land Rover. There are also a few more modern vehicles, like a 2006 Toyota Hilux.”
When you are seeing a range of vehicles that diverse, training and access to data must be absolutely vital. Adrian agreed: “We do a lot of training. We are using Our Virtual Academy through The Good Garage Scheme, which we belong to. On the hybrid and electric front, we belong to HEVRA as well and do EV training through that. However, it is still quiet on the EV and hybrid side. I'm picking up a few now and then.”
On how the garage attracts new customers, Adrian said that the old ways work the best for the business. “A lot of it is word-of-mouth. We do take adverts in the local magazines and newsletters, but this is partly to give a little back to the community.  I won a free advert in one of the big local magazines in a competition, but funnily enough we didn't get any extra work out of it.
“We get some work just by being in HEVRA and The Good Garage Scheme. People go to their site and search EVs and we come up. We have also picked up quite a lot of work because two local garages have recently shut because their owners retired. We're busy all the time at the moment actually.”
With the business benefitting from its involvement with programmes and associations as we have seen, we wondered how being a finalist in Top Garage 2021 helped: “I was really impressed by the competition,” said Adrian. “It was a bit of a shock to us that we did so well.”

Looking ahead, Adrian has plans for growth: “When my son came on board, I was hoping to expand to another premises, keeping this place, but adding another unit. That would focus on the EV side. I've put that on hold, as there is a bit of a shortage of mechanics at the moment. I'm going to start looking again and then see if I can find another mechanic later in the year.”
Adrian concluded: “Overall, we are going to keep busy. We always help customers if we can. I’ve gone around the country finding cars, I've even transported washing machines for people. We see ourselves as part of the community. I think that how any good business should view itself.”

MOT Tester training

CCM is pretty hot on MOT Tester training, as Tina points out. So hot in fact, that it became a whole separate business for the owners of the garage
Published:  16 September, 2022

By Tina Drayson, CCM

EV charging infrastructure: Watts the problem?

While EVs are generally accepted to be the future of motoring, the need for charging infrastructure is still being discussed. Why is that?
Published:  08 September, 2022

By Matthew Lumsden, CEO, Connected Energy

AFVs: Getting the digital push

Digital B2B marketplaces are supporting the rise of alternative fuel cars
Published:  31 August, 2022

By Phil Bird, Executive Director, NovaFori

Whatever next?

Will the principles of free competition be able to withstand the increasing security measures being imposed on the aftermarket?
Published:  04 August, 2022

In the February issue of this most illustrious publication, I wrote about the imminent implementation of cybersecurity in vehicle Type Approval regulations and the potential impact that this could have on the UK aftermarket.
However, the automotive world is getting ever more complicated, not just in the way that vehicles are being designed, or the use of data to support diagnostics or repair processes, but also in the way that the vehicle is becoming the basis of its own service-centric functions using vehicle generated data.
The traditional ‘we-can-work-on any-car-that-comes-through-the-door’ business model was the basis for competing workshops, with different skill sets, hourly rates and a choice of replacement parts to offer consumers the ability to choose where and how their vehicles were repaired. Unfortunately, this basic business model is increasingly difficult to maintain in the face of the rise in vehicle complexity – and with it, new ways to diagnose, service and repair vehicles.

Free competition
The principles of free competition allowed the ‘we can work on anything’ to be possible, as legislation has existed since 2002 to ensure that non-discriminatory access to the vehicle, its data, technical information, diagnostic tools – in fact almost everything the aftermarket needed to offer the consumers’ choice was enacted. However, this legislation was workshop-versus-workshop but now does not address the changes created by the remote access to data that is an integral part of almost all new vehicles.
Critically, there are wider legislative requirements that will be needed to support the aftermarket. This is not just the MVBER renewal, but the technical implementing Acts (known as secondary legislation) that need to be created and implemented for the legislation that includes the full repair and maintenance (RMI) for the aftermarket which is contained in (EU) 2018/858. This legislation is used in both the EU and the UK for vehicle Type Approval, but the details of how and what needs to be put in place as secondary legislation for the independent sector’s access to RMI have yet to be discussed – which coming from the basis of the UK government’s approach of ‘not intending to use the EU’s implementing legislation’, is very concerning.
Also in the EU, the European Commission has published its long-awaited (generic) legislative proposal on access to data – the EU Data Act – which includes the rights of the product’s owner to access that product’s data. This also includes the principles of data portability and contractual principles for business-to-business data exchange, but although the Commission opened a consultation for automotive sector requirements in March (which runs until June), there is a strong call from the aftermarket to have robust legislation to address fundamental concerns. For example, the vehicle owner may have the right of access to the vehicle (the product) and its data, but how would they access and use that data if no software (applications) have been developed to allow services, such as diagnostics, service, maintenance and repair jobs? This is an increasingly important issue when many new aftermarket services are based on remote access to the vehicle when it is being driven, such as predictive diagnostic and service functions. A key aspect would be to ensure that these service providers can access the details of a vehicle’s data and resources to allow applications to be developed which are then chosen by the vehicle owner, using the data generated by their vehicle (i.e. ensuring that the horse is before the cart). These are no longer just EU legislative developments, but also now happening in North America, Australia and South Africa, the UK has catching up to do.

Wider changes
With all this in mind, what is the UK government doing to address these wider changes in the way that vehicles, their data and functions can be accessed?
In September 2021, the Dept of Transport issued a consultation document entitled The Future of Transport Regulatory Review Consultation. This described their intended approach to a future legislative framework that included key elements for “regulating safety, security and environmental performance’, ‘tackling tampering’ and ‘improving compliance, safety and security.”
Although this included aspects particularly focused on “automated vehicles,” which may be seen as a future requirement, the reality is that automated systems already exist on today’s vehicles and the consultation document includes “approval and in-use obligations for software and cyber-security requirements” which would also apply to “suppliers of replacement parts.” The consultation document is far from clear in relation to what this would mean for any aftermarket replacement part which could then fall under the “tampering” aspect, as this could lead to only OEM replacement parts being fitted with the corresponding requirement for an independent workshop to meet the vehicle manufacturer’s criteria to enable that replacement part to be both fitted and integrated into a vehicle.
This aspect of “tampering” was challenged by the motorsport and classic vehicle sector and the consultation document was amended to explicitly exclude these sectors, but for normal repair and maintenance the original approach remained. As an example, there are currently problems with aftermarket replacement parts that have been Type Approved, but which cannot be fitted and integrated into a vehicle as they are not accepted by the vehicle manufacturer and only that vehicle manufacturer’s replacement part can be fitted and coded using that VM’s proprietary diagnostic tool.

Subsequently, even though wording had been changed, such was the concern in the motorsports and classic vehicle sector around this issue of tampering, that a Parliamentary petition was started, which was signed by over 115,000 people, automatically triggering a Parliamentary debate.
This debate took place on 25 April and these concerns were raised with the Department of Transport, who appeared to take note, not only for the motorsport and classic vehicle sector, but also for the wider aftermarket repair sector, with a particular call to ensure a much-needed clarity of tampering to avoid unintended restrictions.
However, the UK aftermarket is being increasingly threatened by changes to vehicle design and functions, the change of business aftermarket models that use remote access to dynamically generated vehicle data and the rise of cybersecurity to protect the vehicle. Currently, these are all under the control of the vehicle manufacturers, so existing legislation that supports the aftermarket needs to be urgently revised to address how innovation, competition and consumer choice can continue. How the detail of this may be included in both the primary and secondary legislation is yet to be discussed.

Global aftermarket: Top regions for next five years

Three global regions are likely to emerge as key revenue hubs for the automotive aftermarket by 2027
Published:  27 July, 2022

 By Vinisha Joshi, Content Team Lead, Global Market Insights

Block Exemption: Time to speak up...

Andy Hamilton says that, with the coming of the Block Exemption consultation, it’s time for the aftermarket to make its voice heard
Published:  18 July, 2022

 By Andy Hamilton CEO, LKQ Euro Car Parts

Stop the hacker

Part two
Published:  27 June, 2022

In part two of his look at cyber-security, Adam offers more tips on anti-hacker self-preservation for businesses

Second hand car market goes digital?

For garages that go in for car sales. disruption in the second-hand market may point towards the need for digital marketplaces
Published:  10 June, 2022

A traditionally fragmented and localised market, the UK second-hand car sector has undergone a pandemic-fuelled boom pushing up prices and, more recently, a sharp slump in actual sales, as would-be buyers get fed up paying a high premium for a used car, particularly when a new one is cheaper for those prepared to wait.
The UK car market was characterised by supply shortages for most of 2021 and that continues to be the case, thanks to an overall shortage of cars, new and old. Demand for electric cars is particularly acute, while the average cost of a second-hand car has risen by about £3,000 in the past year. In the US, it is a similar tale with second-hand car prices rising sharply. In September prices were up almost 25% on the year before. Against a backdrop of rising demand and prices, the disjointed nature of the UK market means that motorists are not purchasing vehicles in the most efficient or cost-effective way. However, the days of relative market disfunction may be numbered. Change is afoot within the industry, change that will benefit distributors, sellers and consumers.
In years gone, by the automotive industry stood out for its reluctance to embrace digitalisation, but that is no longer the case. The current market pressures are encouraging a more rapid transformation towards digital tools for pricing and purchases. This is in the form of online B2B marketplaces, which are driving the evolution of the second-hand car market, enabling greater competition and liquidity, wider distribution networks, and easier price discovery, as well as powerful data driven recommendations that benefit buyers, sellers and marketplace owners alike.
The need for change is clear. Research by AA Cars, comparing second-hand cars between 2019 and 2021, showed that demand for some models was so strong that prices are increasing in value with age. The price of a three-year-old Mini Hatch in 2021 was 57% higher, with Audi A3 models up 46% and Ford Focus prices up 43%.
The reason for the price pressures lies with a V-shaped sales recovery amid component shortages in the industry, ranging from semiconductors to steel, and because of the just-in-time nature of supply chains. Consulting firm AlixPartners forecasts that these supply chain problems will cause automakers to build 7.7 million fewer vehicles globally than they would have if they could get all the parts and raw materials they need. One consequence of the price rises in the UK is a discernible decline in sales, which have dropped to their lowest levels in six years. Many people are holding off on their next car purchase.
Buyers should not have to delay though. More efficient and transparent marketplaces can help mitigate the impact of the shortages and disruption. The onus is on operators of B2B marketplaces to provide solutions that loosen up the markets downstream that impact consumers. The benefits should cascade rather than trickle. Imagine being able to go online to one centralised digital marketplace offering transparency, speed and recommendations on alternative models if the desired one is not available.
As an example of what’s possible, take a look at CarNext, the online platform for vehicle sales and auctions. CarNext sought a solution capable of serving thousands of concurrent bidders, and hundreds of internal users across Europe, available to trade on a 24/7 basis all year round.
It now uses a digital B2B marketplace developed by NovaFori. Benefits of the marketplace include wider distribution networks, greater competition and liquidity, and easier price discovery by using various auction methodologies. Normally, buyers compete for goods by bidding incrementally rising prices in a bidding process that can be open or closed. As with auctions anywhere, the goods are normally sold to the highest bidder if the bid is greater than the reserve price set. The marketplace gives access to a pool of thousands of vehicles rather than just a handful, making it possible for professional buyers to browse and purchase vehicles that most suit their needs and offer best value for money, rather than simply having to take what is available at the garage. Data science deployed by NovaFori enables CarNext’s B2B marketplace to recommend vehicles based on previous buyer behaviour. The recommendations can be refined based on user actions on the platform, such as searches, bids, substitutions and won lots, resulting in tailored recommendations boosting trade volumes.

More profit-making opportunities
As a result, suppliers can access a wider range of buyers and trade volumes are higher, giving suppliers more profit-making opportunities. Professional traders are able to bid on a wide variety of CarNext cars in 24 languages and across multiple countries in Europe. Crucially, the marketplace can show that the highest price has been achieved across its portfolio, thanks to a combination of auction mechanisms and cross-border trade capability. NovaFori's recommendation engine contributes to the volume of vehicles sold on the platform, with a significant increase observed in average sales prices.
This technology is already driving marketplaces in other industry sectors as diversified as insurance, IPv4 address trading, derivatives trading, art and antiques. These B2B markets are able to incorporate data science in the form of machine learning in such a way that markets have the capability to make meaningful recommendations. The algorithms used are also powerful tools for a marketplace owner, because they allow for adjustments to be made to auction methodologies to get the best price for a vehicle, based on a combination of past auction performance and predictive analytics.
Creating a comprehensive online system would help ease demand for vehicles creating a centralised marketplace, thereby making it easier to provide alternatives. NovaFori designs marketplaces so that they can offer alternative options if a particular model is unavailable. So, for example, if a Toyota Auris was not available, it may suggest an alternative such as a Volkswagen Golf R or Vauxhall Astra or Hyundai Ioniq, based on key features between vehicles. But it goes beyond recommending similar alternatives to include actual car specifics, add-on features, type of engine, miles on the clock, delivery time, price and more. The algorithms offering recommendations are not just powerful tools for buyers and sellers, they help marketplace owners fine-tune sales channels to foster marketplace optimisation. Using the valuable user-activity data captured, it is possible for marketplace owners to retain and re-engage buyers to optimise the marketplace. As digitalisation mixes with the disruption caused by the pandemic and a rapidly changing dynamic in the automotive sector, there is an inevitability about the trend towards automotive marketplaces. Their efficacy and benefits are obvious, and while it may involve investment, and even a radical rethink, car sales businesses that are willing to take the plunge will position themselves well to drive the future of the industry and reap the rewards digital transformation offers.

Marketing basics: Web design

Getting marketing right is vital, so in the first in a new series, Natalia Gauth from Garage Marketers offers some tips on getting your website right
Published:  06 June, 2022

Because of the rapid advancement of technology, it is all too easy to overlook tremendous opportunities. When it comes to getting your website set up right, unless you have a professional web developer on staff, you are probably better off deferring to experience, and contracting the workout.
All you need to get a competitive advantage is working with experts who know precisely how to help the business grow and ensure that your customer has a fantastic and efficient online experience.

Time is money
Don't worry if you have loads of HD images of car parts decorating the webpage to grab customer attention. If you use a professional company, they will be able to do the magic and make sure that load time does not get affected and let the magic happen. Of course, we know a second’s delay can make busy customers flick away to your rival's website.

Smooth as butter  
Are you frustrated with page jumps and shifts, tapping somewhere and landing somewhere else? With optimized website responsiveness, the pros make sure that the user experience when exploring the site is as smooth as butter. Less intrusive and more effective.

You probably already know how frustrating digitalisation gets when you encounter bugs, spam, and hacker attacks, especially when you know your website has the personal data of your customers, including sales details. What you need is to include Google Core vitals with your website design, in order to make for a positive web experience for site visitors. Then there is security. For example, when working with our clients, we code our websites HTTPS instead of HTTP to make it hard for your rivals to make things difficult for you.

If you use a professional team to help you attract those wandering the internet looking for someone to fix or modify their cars, your business will be presented in the right way. When we are working with a garage, we see our job as to design their website so that search engines and potential customers can discover it quickly. We use our knowledge to create a webpage that's both user-friendly and search-friendly. Remember, time is money, so choose the professionals.

Apprenticeships: Full potential

Utilising apprentices could be the way to maximise your business’ full potential
Published:  19 May, 2022

Apprenticeships are still seen as a secondary route to many, which is just not the case. Not only are they integral to the growth of businesses, but they are a beneficial and effective way of learning too. Offering the added bonus of on-the-job learning, which a degree acquired from behind a desk just cannot provide, apprenticeships should not be looked at as anything other than a useful avenue into the workforce.
    By focusing on creating delivery plans for every apprentice, businesses can develop employees who have the right skills, and ultimately help them grow into new markets or expertise. Knowing how to do this, whether it be understanding funding available to them, or the best resources can be tricky, but businesses can work with training providers, such as The Skills Network to help them maximise the Apprenticeship Levy.
    There are many benefits to a successful apprenticeship scheme, but it is important to keep a few things in mind to ensure both your business and your apprentice reap the rewards.  

They bring a fresh perspective
It can be easy when you are doing a job every day, to be too busy or too used to something to think outside the box. Hiring apprentices allows for an alternative perspective, and one who has a little more time to consider things and think creatively, especially if you include this in their objectives.
Be sure to work collaboratively with your apprentices and encourage them to share any ideas they have. Not only will that help them feel valued and motivate them in their learning, but it could bring exciting new opportunities to the table or even boost efficiency and make your employee’s lives easier.

They can plug the skills gap in your business
If you have noticed the need for training in certain areas in your business, hiring an apprentice could be the perfect solution. Whether that is the need for better IT skills or HR policies and work culture, you can create a unique learning plan with your apprentice, designed to give them the skills your business is lacking.
Apprentices can then feed their learnings back and upskill your current team, or even own the area with the help of someone more senior, allowing them to bring positive change while motivating them, as they see their learning directly impacting the workplace.

Help you branch out into new expertise
Apprenticeships are now helping all sorts of business, including those beyond the garage sphere. This could be a brand agency who wants to start thinking about social media, or a household name who has the need for new website capabilities. Many in the independent garage sector will have come up through the apprenticeship route, and know what it can offer. Whatever it may be, an effective apprenticeship programme could open new doors to your business, and ultimately help you boost revenue.
Do not forget to work closely with your apprentice to find out their current skillset and build a programme which will not only help you hit business objectives, but also help them hone a craft you just do not have the staff for currently.
These benefits however, mean nothing if businesses do not provide their apprentices with all the help they need. Having an apprentice who does not have the correct training or resources is not going to give your business the benefits you want to see, through no fault of their own. Businesses have a responsibility to ensure they have effective learning resources, support and objectives to monitor their progress. Each apprentice should be provided with a tailored learning journey, including a plan which can be codesigned with the employer.
The apprenticeship process is already quite complex, but employers have access to support from learning providers such as The Skills Network, who can help them understand the skills gap each apprentice has, before helping them plug it.
While businesses need to think about the skills their company needs, it is also vital that we take lessons from the last 18 months, which has shown the need for transferable skills in order to keep the economy moving effectively. Apprenticeships should be provided with those skills too as young people enter the workforce, and, who knows, it could open the door up for new business opportunities you never even considered.
To find out more about The Skills Network’s apprenticeship programme visit: theskillsnetwork.com/funding-streams/apprenticeships

Stop the hacker

Part one:
Published:  12 May, 2022

Starting his latest two-parter, Adam looks at how to mitigate the impact of hackers on your business

Gearing up for the road ahead with a digital steer

The automotive sector can tap into tech to drive quality as well as safety
Published:  10 May, 2022

Dan Joyce is General Manager EMEA at global technology company SafetyCulture. Used by over 28,000 organizations, its flagship products, iAuditor and EdApp enable teams to perform checks, train staff, report issues, capture data and communicate fluidly. Dan led the business into the UK market in 2016 and has spearheaded growth through EMEA as well as partnering with major insurance companies globally.

Government considers MOT frequency reduction

Published:  27 April, 2022

By trying to get to grips with the cost of living crisis, will the government risk a road safety catastrophe by moving MOTs to a biennial frequency? 

March MOT madness: Making the most of it

With a shifted annual pattern and the Annual Training deadline for 2021/2022 just weeks away, garages should be making the MOT their top priority right now
Published:  29 April, 2022

MOTs should be firmly at the top of the agenda for garages this month, for two key reasons. Firstly, it’s the last normal month of MOT demand until later in the year, as a result of the extensions granted in the early days of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Secondly, the deadline for testers to complete their MOT Annual Assessment is just a few weeks away.
Here’s everything you need to know about making the most of the immediate opportunity, while ensuring you remain qualified and able to conduct MOT work from 1 April onwards.

Top tips
Use your data: Government research shows that 40% of MOT customers prefer to choose a garage they have used before, so work through your customer database to identify customers in need of an MOT.
Pick up the phone: Contact your customers by phone rather than blanket email or text. One garage owner reported a 43% uptake on bookings in a single day after switching to making phone calls to his customers.
Get social: Use your social media pages to let your customers know you are open, and to spark the reminder that their MOT could be due. Some might have forgotten that they have not been using their vehicles as frequently. Social media is also a great channel to mention the Covid safety measures you have in place, to help put customers’ minds at ease about booking with you.
Be searchable: Make sure you are listed on relevant online directories and local lists, so when potential new customers are searching for a garage, you are in the mix.
Think ahead: Use the opportunity to get ahead for next year and set up reminders for customers on their MOT deadlines. This way, you can ensure they come back to you next time.
Bolster your team: If you have created the demand, but do not have the resource to manage it because team members are off sick or on holiday, there is no need to turn work away. Use our dedicated recruitment partner, AutoTech Recruit, to bring in experienced temporary technicians at a low cost.

Prioritising the MOT tester Annual Assessment
Disruption to the MOT demand curve, not to mention disruption more broadly, with changing COVID-19 restrictions and staff absences,  means many testers have overlooked their compulsory MOT training.
The DVSA recently reported that nearly 50,000 testers were yet to complete their assessment this year. While it’s understandable that some might have been focusing on other things, failing to get assessed in time could have serious consequences, both for workshop income, and for road safety.
MOTs are a critical and reliable source of revenue for garages. Private modes of transport, i.e. passenger cars,  are the preferred choice for many at the moment, and given changes to the e-commerce landscape brought about by COVID-19, it has never been more important to keep delivery and other essential vehicles on the move.
The purpose of the MOT is to aid safety and drive quality, and each year, testing standards undergo vital changes to ensure it does exactly that. If testers are not up to date with what’s required, they might overlook key details that could put their both their customers and other drivers at risk.
This is doubly important when considering the impact of lockdown on vehicles, many of which might be in a poorer condition than typically expected, having sat idle at times in the last year.  Components such as brakes, for example, can begin to corrode when there is not sufficient motion to prevent rust from building up. Similarly, tyres can begin to lose their efficacy when lying unused.
To ensure testers are prepared and able to pass their assessment first time, we offer IMI-approved MOT training. Technicians can complete both their full annual CPD and routine refresher courses via our LKQ Academy. We also run classroom-based and online training programmes to cater for different learning preferences and styles.
Ultimately, by providing training, equipment and business support, not to mention having the largest range, fleet and branch network in the business, it is our ambition to ensure that independent garages are run successfully and profitably, and that every job is completed to the highest standard.

Leadership: Be the best version of yourself

Tina looks at the importance of good leadership
Published:  19 April, 2022

Why is it important to be a good leader? What are the consequences if we are not?
If you want to get the best from your team, being a good leader is imperative. Being a good leader is not about knowing it all, it is about building a team where individuals excel at their own strengths.
A good leader will:

Government: 300,000 EV chargepoints by 2030

Published:  25 March, 2022

The Electric Vehicle Charging Strategy puts financial backing and a roadmap in place for infrastructure roll-out, but will it be enough? 

Spring Statement 2022: Automotive sector reacts

Published:  24 March, 2022

The automotive sector offered a range of opinions following the Spring Statement from Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak 

A secure future?

Access to data, and to the vehicle itself is going to be one of the key battlegrounds for the automotive aftermarket in the 2020s
Published:  22 March, 2022

Life used to be so simple when running a repair workshop; Find suitable premises, equip the workshop with some lifts and diagnostic tools, employ some technicians and open your doors to the throng of customers who were queuing up to pay you money to have their vehicles repaired.
Of course, my description is very tongue-in-cheek, but fundamentally you were free to do what I have described above. When conducting these service and repair activities, you could also choose from a range of local parts suppliers who delivered several times a day to your door. “Perfick,” as David Jason used to say in the Darling Buds of May in those bygone days.
As time moved on and vehicles became more sophisticated, more advanced diagnostics were needed to address the more difficult-to-find faults and the work became more related to being a computer engineer who was used to finding software or communication network faults. To support the need for the aftermarket to be able to continue to offer vehicle owners and operators a competitive choice of where and how their vehicles could be serviced and repaired, the legislator introduced regulations that ensured non-discrimination between workshops (i.e. main dealer and independent workshops) to compete on level terms. These terms are contained in the Block Exemption Regulations introduced in 2002 and revised in 2010. However, this is all under Competition Law, which makes it difficult for SMEs (e.g. an independent workshop) to challenge any non-compliance with the legislation, so the legislator put detailed repair and maintenance (RMI) requirements into Vehicle Type Approval Regulations, originally in Euro 5 legislation in 2007 (and more recently when the vehicle type approval legislation was updated and simplified in 2018), where a non-compliance challenge is supported through the type approval process.
Over this period, the vehicle has increasingly become a sophisticated computer-on-wheels, with the corresponding embedded applications and remote access functions for a wide range of vehicle-related services.
Supported by these legislative requirements, the aftermarket has found a way to survive and thrive, supported by better levels of diagnostic tools, technical training and technical information.  Unfortunately, the world has now changed to reflect our love of mobile phones and the applications they support, including when in our car.

Real challenges
In automotive terms, this has led to the vehicle becoming compatible with Apple and Google operating systems and to host an increasing range of consumer-centric applications that are embedded in the vehicle, normally accessible via the in-vehicle dashboard display. This has all been made possible by the implementation of remote access using wide-area networks (mobile phone networks to you and I) and SIM cards embedded directly in the vehicle. The situation has also been further exacerbated by the mandatory introduction of eCall, the pan European system that automatically calls the emergency services in the event of an accident.
Although eCall is now a vehicle type approval requirement, it is dormant until triggered and is free to use, so vehicle manufacturers wanted to add additional remote services, not only to cover the costs of implementing eCall, but to enhance their product offer/brand value to the vehicle user and develop new business models using remote vehicle data.
This is where the real challenges for the aftermarket become such issues.

Legislative requirements
Other legislative requirements cover the general safety of a product, which requires a vehicle manufacturer to design their vehicles to be safe to use throughout their service life, while new requirements for vehicle type approval coming in July 2022 for new type approvals and from July 2024 for all vehicles already type-approved, will introduce ‘approval of vehicles with regards to cyber security and cyber security management system.’  This addresses the definition in the Regulation for cyber security which ‘means the condition in which road vehicles and their functions are protected from cyber threats to electrical or electronic components.’
Just think about that for a moment.
The vehicle manufacturers have designed vehicles that include a wide range of electronically controlled components and can connect to the vehicle remotely. They now have to ensure that this vehicle remains safe to use and cannot be compromised (i.e. attacked) by a cybersecurity hacker. The Cybersecurity Regulation (UNECE R155) requires a vehicle manufacturer to design their cybersecurity management system to address not only the design of the vehicle and its systems/components, but also to show how any threat or attack will be mitigated.
The general approach is therefore to block any access to the vehicle, its data, functions and replacement electronic parts unless authorised by the vehicle manufacturer. This also includes software updates, either in the workshop or over the air using the remote connection to the vehicle (UNECE R156). This cybersecurity activity has already started with OBD connector security gateways, with the associated security certificates, but is going to get a whole lot more challenging.
Furthermore, the vehicle manufacturers are now becoming much more active in providing aftermarket services, such as bespoke service and maintenance offers. These monitor the vehicle data generated by the driver when using the vehicle (i.e. driving style), as well as component function/replacement criteria and then a service quotation is sent to the vehicle, which is displayed on the dashboard. The driver then just has to confirm acceptance of the quotation, together with the location/date/time choices included in the offer with just a press of a button. Independent operators don’t get a look-in.

Mobility as a service
The vehicle manufacturer’s embedded diagnostics will also flag up when a fault has occurred, and again, propose a place and time for the vehicle to come to their workshop. This not only locks in the repair offer to the vehicle owner, but also reduces the cost of diagnosis and repair by up to 50%; Vitally important in not just offering a competitive repair, but also when that vehicle is part of the increasingly important mobility as a service where the cost of hiring the vehicle is influenced by its operational status and cost of service/maintenance.
All this is legitimised by the introduction of the cybersecurity regulations mentioned above. So, where does this leave the aftermarket and its continuing ability to provide competitive choices to consumers and avoid the vehicle manufacturers implementing their business plans that will divert the profit from the aftermarket across to them?
Quite simply, it leaves the automotive aftermarket increasingly reliant on the legislator to do two things. Firstly, accept that competition in the market has priority over cybersecurity. Secondly, implement legislation that is able to address complicated technical requirements that equally need to be able to address the rapidly changing demands of software and security functions. This is not going to happen unless the UK aftermarket works together to engage with the UK government, a situation not made any easier following Brexit and the need to create our own legislation.  Fortunately, an alliance of aftermarket organisations (aftermarket associations and commercial entities) are working together as UK AFCAR (the UK Alliance for Freedom of Car Repair), to do just that, but this takes significant resources and expertise. If you are not already a member of one of the UK AFCAR aftermarket association members, now is the time to become one.
The good old days have gone and the time for the aftermarket to come together is now. Without the inherent support needed by UK AFCAR, then the future of the aftermarket may be secure, but only for the vehicle manufacturers.


Imagine this parallel universe…

Rebecca asks if expecting techs to buy their own tools is causing more problems than anyone really considered
Published:  18 March, 2022

A series of beautiful Snap-on boxes (other boxes are available) filled with shiny tools, with plenty to share and they belong to your garage. A youngster comes straight from school, meets the team and is shown around the tools. Soon they will have one in their hand and will embark on their new career.
The tool man, let’s call him Tim (because guess what?) visits and chats to the team, checks to see they have all they need and then goes to the garage owner and tries to make a sale to fulfil these needs. Tim knows this isn’t an easy task, but because in this parallel universe technicians do not buy their own tools, this is what happens each week.
This is the type of universe that I think should be our reality.
Now, I know some of you reading this will say this is a stupid idea and it would cost a fortune. Yes, a fortune that the young newcomers are supposed to find in what is not an affluent trade when they are on an apprenticeship wage. Yes, that seems reasonable to me. Just in case my writing is a little weak here, I will just add that was sarcasm. I am, in fact, screaming at you.
Yes, it would cost more to start a garage and yes, some spanners would go missing. Yes, there are many other reasons why not to do it this way.  Of course, the most common reason why not is because this is how it’s done in the motor trade; It’s just the way we do it. You cannot even imagine this crazy new world, can you?
Forget the negatives for a minute, and bear with me. This is why, and this is what we need to do. This is the crux, the key point. Brace yourself for it; Garages should keep their tools overnight in those shiny locked boxes until the next day when the garage is open again. Simple.
So simple I think some of you haven’t noticed what I said. Or more significantly what I didn’t say. The end of grubby jobs! That is Yorkshire for cash-in-hand if you didn’t know. You cannot do them when you haven’t got the tools. Now, this is not said out of meanness or tightness. This is intrinsically the way our garage started up; A job for a pal, then a pal’s pal and then, you’ve guessed it, a pal’s, pal’s, pal…and I’ve lost count.
In short, you deserve, and that new kid starting tomorrow deserves a better future and to get that we need to change.

All these out-of-hours grubby jobs are the reason this trade can’t afford its own toolboxes and why many garage-folk are never far-off skint but working hard and long hours. This is why the highly skilled are just not being paid enough, and why so few stay in the trade. It is our own fault. These jobs on a night for cash, don’t get me started on it, devalue us all and hold back wages.
Who can blame that youngster though? He or she gradually became the highly qualified tech still doing the same job. They needed the tool to do our work and as soon as they had the right tool, remember now their own tool, to do with as they pleased, then they soon could do that job, or think they can, another thing not to get me started on. They needed to pay for that spanner and then pay for the next one and then…
We need to think differently to become different. Remember our aim; Professional not profession.

BMW: From back to front

In the first in a new series of wry looks at technical stories past and present, Andrew Marsh examines how BMW went FWD
Published:  14 February, 2022

BMW moves slowly, and often with a great depth of research. For years they knew a rear-wheel-drive small car was not an efficient use of space, was heavier and cost more to build than a front-wheel drive car. For years they experimented. Then, on 31 January 1994, BMW Group acquired 80% of the Rover Group from BAe.

The Rover Group only built front-wheel drive cars at that time, and were developing a car to replace the original ‘Issigonis’ Mini which had been in production since 1959. BMW now had the chance to work with engineers who knew a lot about front-wheel drive platforms, in the same way they knew about rear-wheel drive platforms. However, they did not have the cash to invest in the model to bring it to production, hence the BMW Group investment.


©DFA Media Group
Terms and Conditions