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:

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:

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:

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.

Does your paid search strategy need a MOT?

UK automotive businesses spent over £81 million on paid search advertising in 2020. Was that money wasted?
Published:  23 January, 2022

Globally, 97% of advertising professionals in the automotive industry say they are using paid search as an advertising channel. It makes sense when you consider that 97% of customers looking to buy, fix, or customise a car start their journey online.
However, many businesses are investing in this medium without properly assessing how much of their spending is delivering a return. With the UK automotive sector expected to have spent almost £2 billion in digital advertising in 2021, marketers must be asking how much of their paid search spending is truly effective, and how much is going to waste.
A deeper analysis of existing campaigns may reveal surprising insights which can trigger immediate corrective action. For instance, one study of 2,000 PPC accounts found that that the average account is producing all of its sales from just 12% of its keywords. Going further, paid search strategies should be based on a more sophisticated understanding of customers and how they are shopping, rather than treating every customer in exactly the same way, as if they are entirely new to a brand. Only then can businesses begin to identify where paid search is relevant and likely to be effective.
So how big is the problem? At Go Inspire, we conducted a series of control tests with customers between 2018 and 2020, covering the behaviours of over 500,000 consumers. The control tests were able to demonstrate typical proportional savings on paid search spend. We then used the results to estimate how much businesses in the UK automotive sector could be saving by intelligently optimising their paid search strategies. A conservative estimate is that automotive businesses could be saving £81.6 million of their paid search budget. What does this mean in practice? At Go Inspire, we’ve put together key pointers to help marketers bring their paid search strategies up to speed.

1: Build a 360o customer view
Where does paid search fit into a customer’s purchasing journey? The only way to answer this question is by having a holistic view of customer behaviour, linking both online and offline activity. This should then start to reveal the typical customer journey and triggers. It will also allow customers to be segmented by their preferences, value, loyalty and future potential. This analysis will reveal at what point paid search advertising is most effective, if at all. Though there are many tools available for companies to build this 360o customer view, they are still heavily under-used.

2: Review brand name bidding
One analysis suggests that almost half of traffic for online automotive content comes from organic searching. Without an understanding of customer behaviour and therefore intent, companies may be wastefully presenting paid search advertising to customers who are already looking for them organically. Paid search should be used to capture the attention of lapsed customers or those looking for a competitor.

3: Stop marketing to phantoms
Phantoms are mostly customers who accidentally visit a page, leave and don’t come back. Delivering marketing messages to unresponsive phantoms can lead to quality scores dropping, as these scores are based on click-through rates. This in turn increases your cost per click. However, companies should identify which phantoms have previously engaged with their brand and take the opportunity to entice them back.

4: Keep refreshing messaging
Once marketers have a holistic understand of their customer segments, they must continually revisit their strategies and optimise campaigns. As we emerge from the pandemic, behavioural segments are continually changing. Businesses must be able to flexibly adapt to any changes, to gain the best possible return from their investment, and grasp emerging opportunities.
To read Go Inspire’s report, ‘Which bit’s not working? An estimate of current wastage rates on paid search advertising’, go to:

Efficiency boost for West Sussex garage

Published:  21 January, 2022

A West Sussex garage has said that following the take-up of the TechMan GMS within the business, the admin workload is down, while communication has improved and workshop flow has been streamlined.

Trade Rates

CCM’s Tina Drayson is back and looking at trade rates, and why they cause so many issues for garages
Published:  19 January, 2022

There are so many platforms out there for our industry, to assist each other in our hour of need, from help and advice in a business sense, to help and advice in a personal way. So why when we come to work with each other, does this sense of comradeship go out the window? Why do we feel that we must undercut and devalue each other? Not everyone is guilty, but it is happening everywhere.

What are trade rates? In my opinion, trade rates apply when you are purchasing products that you are using to assemble, mend, maintain, improve, or fix an item. Typically building supplies, plumbing, fencing etc. The definition in the Cambridge Dictionary is as follows: “A price that businesses pay for goods rather than the price at which they sell those goods to the public.”
Seems clear, but why in our industry do we have trade rates we charge each other? In our industry, you could relate this to parts. We purchase parts to assemble, fix or maintain vehicles. Trade rates are typically lower than retail rates allowing us to add a profit margin to the price. This is generally applied to garages as over time, we purchase a high volume of goods compared to the retail customer who only purchase goods irregularly.

Should this apply then to the services that we offer? In my view, absolutely not. A service offered is not the same as the purchasing of a part. That is what we sell as a garage; Labour.
Imagine, if 80% of your specific skill is carried out for other garages and you are expected to offer trade rates. Take a moment to think about that. The price of a MOT is capped at £54.85, but why do we offer these at lower prices? Yes, many of us are guilty of doing this. Predominantly this is done to win that customer and have them on our database to be able to market to in the future with the hope of gaining some further work.
How does this change when you are dealing with another garage? Why do those in our industry expect, (not want but EXPECT) to be able to bring their MOTs to other garages and get them cheaper than your retail customers?
This is a conversation that I have on a regular basis. Any Testers reading this, know how hard that Annual Exam was this year. Any garage testing stations know how much work, effort, expense goes into to the monthly site audits, calibrations, costs, training to maintain DVSA expectations. Those garages that do not have their own testing stations, why do you expect to get your MOTs cheaper than retail? As MOT Testing Stations, many of which are also fully-equipped service and repair centres too, we do not win any work from you. With this in mind, why would we go out of our way to give you cheap MOTs, priority timeslots and even on occasions, collection and delivery? How many garages that outsource their MOTs are selling them at a higher price? How many that do, are adding the VAT to the service
fee element?
I recently had a phone call from a trade customer who complained that his MOT, that had been collected early morning, did not get delivered back until mid-afternoon. This had caused him untold problems with his customer as it had failed the MOT and he was unable to get the remedial work done by the end of the day. As this was a Friday, it left his customer without a car all weekend as he did not provide courtesy cars. He had not booked a slot, called up in the morning as an extra and we did our best to accommodate him. I told him from the off that we would fit it in when we could. He had the cheek to complain. He is no longer a customer of ours, trade or not.
It was natural to panic when faced with the possibility of losing that trade customer and the work that they brought in. What was proved quite quickly was that this was a typical 80/20 scenario; High volume of jobs for a small amount of turnover. It is not just MOTs, the list is endless, ADAS, wheel alignment, DPF and diagnostics; All unique skills.

At CCM, one of our niches is alloy wheel repairs. The condition of our roads has resulted in a lot of vehicles failing their MOT on buckled or cracked wheels. To carry out this repair requires a unique skill with specific tools and equipment which our technicians have mastered over time, with training and practice. You send your wheel repairs to us and others like us because you do not have the equipment or skill set to carry out that repair yourself. Why should you get that cheaper trade rate?
Head skimming and pressure testing; It’s not normal for your average customer to walk in off the street and ask for this. Generally, it is requested by other garages or technicians. The reason being, we have the equipment, tools and skill set to carry this work out. Again, why do you ask for a trade rate?
If you need to use the services of a specialist to carry out work that you cannot do yourself, do not expect it to be cheap, do not ask for a trade rate, all you are doing is undervaluing their skills. Very often these garages are on a smaller scale as they specialise in just a small area, should we not be supporting them?
Is it not time we all developed some integrity and supported all corners of our industry? We are all here to make a profit. We need to connect with each other and be supporting of each other’s strength.
When you pay for a job, you are not only paying for the parts used and the time taken. You are paying for a lifetime of experience and knowledge. You are paying for the assurance and accountability that if something goes wrong, it will be sorted. You are paying for the equipment and tools that continually need updating. Stop under-valuing our trade; We are our own worst enemy.
Or, to put it in the form of a quote: “If I do a job in 30 minutes, it’s because I spent 10 years learning how to do that in 30 minutes. You owe me for the years, not the minutes.”    In conclusion, we are in this together.


A series of unfortunate events

Last month Adam looked at the reasoning behind having a business continuity plan; This month he looks at how to write a plan
Published:  05 January, 2022

At the core of a business continuity plan is the concept of risk management. The Business Continuity Institute’s Brian Kinch observed: “Business continuity is concerned with helping with the capacity to withstand incidents and return to normal operation in an acceptable timeframe and condition, regardless of the issue.”
Of course, what is written into the plan will very much depend on each firm and the issues it faces, the needs of interested parties, key processes, identified risks and the controls that the firm subsequently introduces to cope with the threats during the interregnum. It’s critical to include an assessment of how soon it can actually recover key processes should disaster strike.
Is there a set format for a plan? Gordon Brown, senior consultant at Plan B Consulting, thinks not: “There is no right or wrong way to write a business continuity plan as each should be tailored to the organisation and not just a list taken from the latest good practice guide.” However, he recommends including contact information; contact procedures; Guidance and procedures on incident management; and recovery based on different circumstances.
It’s easy to make classic mistakes in an environment where as Gordon puts it, “an incident management team is under pressure internally and externally and is expected to make correct decisions.” The biggest problem is a plan with irrelevant information which just ticks boxes but doesn’t add value.
As to why business continuity planning is important, consider if, pre-9/11, anyone planned for a dual air strike and the collapse of what had once been the world's tallest buildings? Planning is about preparing to deal with the consequences in a people, premises, technology and process context for the unthinkable.
Just writing a business continuity document is akin to writing out a MOT test certificate for a car that hasn't been inspected. When a plan is written it is essential that members of the management team are trained and given support while the document itself must be regularly tested and updated.

Diagnostics: Our approach

Julia is back, and wants to share the Nene Jag Specialists approach to diagnostics, and managing customer expectations
Published:  01 December, 2021

With nearly 30 years’ experience on Jaguar diagnostics we have developed a structured and methodical approach to diagnostic testing. We are committed to properly diagnosing and repairing our customers Jaguar in a timely and cost-effective way. We have also become rather adept at properly diagnosing and dealing with our customers. Again, it is all about the approach. It is always worth reviewing how to approach the diagnostics process.
The three questions we always get asked first of all are; What is wrong? How much will it cost? How long will it take?  Unfortunately, these are the answers that we are unable to give at the start. We will discuss with the approach that we would like to take with the particular problem, this will be based on the information the customer provides and also try to establish a budget with which they are comfortable with for the diagnostic assessment. A realistic time/budget is usually between one and two hours. Depending on the complexity of the problem, it may take considerably less time or we may need more time. After the initial agreed time we may have a solution, or if not, then our initial assessment will have helped us to formulate a clearer plan as to how to proceed. Unfortunately, a lot of problems are intermittent and sometimes the problem may not reveal itself during the course of our testing. For us to identify the cause of a problem the symptoms need to be present during testing. This may lead to multiple appointments or keeping a Jaguar in the workshop for an extended period of time. Jaguars have complex layers of technology and sometimes multiple layers of testing and/or repairs may be required to solve the issues.
Computer says no

We are frequently asked for fault code reads or to “just plug the computer in so I know what’s wrong” or “how much for a fault code read.” Sound familiar? Yes, we can retrieve fault codes for a standard charge but unless our customer can understand what the code means then it is of very little use. What someone may be asking for and what is actually required to get to the source of the problem can be very different. We will discuss the issues with them and between us we will work together to meet expectations.
Other comments which can be associated with fixes after diagnostics are “That didn’t take you long” or “is that all it was?” The journey to get to that particular repair is not always as obvious as first thought. Many thousands of pounds are invested in equipment to enable us to trace the fault and endless hours of research, studying and data collection have taken place for us to gain the experience to diagnose the problem correctly. Equipment that may be used during the diagnostic process are Jaguar SDD, Autologic, oscilloscope, smoke machine amongst others. We also invest heavily in training.
We begin a diagnostic assessment with a calm and methodical approach. We deal with a lot of cars that have had previous attempts at fixing problems and sometimes the symptoms may be dealt with by haphazard adjustments or having random parts fitted but as no logic or method has been applied then no one is any the wiser as to how the problem has been ‘cured’. This can often work out to be a more expensive way of attempting to sort a problem as parts may have been fitted that weren’t required, time is wasted and budgets spent! We frequently see Jaguars that have been to multiple garages which are perceived to be cheaper and have a lower labour rate but unfortunately the faults have not been rectified and so money is wasted. It will prove more cost efficient to bring a Jaguar to someone who has the knowledge and experience on these systems. We have an extremely high success rate for first time fixes. This is something we try to impress on our customers.

A comprehensive talk with the customer, the Jaguar owner experiencing the fault, is our first step. It is advantageous to both parties that we have as much information as possible. Even with all the diagnostic equipment that we have invested in, the expertise of our technician is paramount. Fault codes that may have been logged are not usually very specific but gives us a starting point with our assessment. Experience and knowledge are essential to know how best to progress with the assessment.
We will then plan how to proceed from this point and carry out testing methodically and logically. We will never replace any components unless we have a reason to do so and that we can prove it is faulty. Sometimes it will be necessary to repair/replace an item before we can continue testing effectively. Problems are sometimes revealed in layers.

We will always try to contact the customer before moving onto the next stage of testing/repair. There may come a stage when you have to decide if you want us to continue pursuing the problem as all the cost of the diagnostic testing and repairs are your responsibility. We always respect our customer’s wishes if you they not wish to continue, at which point our charges will terminate and then an invoice for charges to date will be payable.
It is important to be aware that sometimes the process can become quite costly as it requires a top level of skill and expertise and other valuable resources. Sometimes to access connectors/wiring/components for testing they may be in hard to reach places which require some stripping out. If we are allowed the time and the budget we will solve the issue.
None of this will be new to anyone reading this magazine, but I think it is always worthwhile thinking about how we deal with customers and communicating the process. In some ways it is about managing expectations, but through talking to the customer, the actual diagnostic work can be aided. This is why it is so important for those on the phone and those on the tools to work in harmony, whether there is a pouncing cat on the bonnet in question or not.

Part one: A series of unfortunate events

The most unlikely of events can and do occur, to the detriment of those they impact upon
Published:  01 December, 2021

Few businesses ever plan for the unthinkable, the once in a lifetime flood, fire, terrorist outrage or at the extreme the outbreak of a pandemic such as Coronavirus. Consider the 2005 Buncefield Oil Depot explosion which caused havoc in the locality of Hemel Hempstead. Six buildings had to be demolished and 30 more needed major repairs before they could be reoccupied.
Then, in January 2019, Kwik Fit’s computer systems were taken offline following a computer virus. Appointments were cancelled and customers left angry. A few weeks later a devastating fire at Tornado Tyres in Birmingham destroyed everything bar the walls; Neighbours of the business were affected as well.
A June 2018 survey from the Federation of Small Business reckons that only 35% of small businesses and the self-employed had a plan in place to cope with potential disruption risks to their business operations or their supply chains.
Speaking for the Business Continuity Institute (BCI) Brian Kinch said that 80% of businesses generally never fully recover from a crisis where they have been insufficiently prepared. He observed: “It’s impossible to prevent disaster, but businesses can prepare for recovery through a business continuity plan.”
Business Continuity Management is based on the principle that it is the responsibility of a firm’s directors to ensure the continuation of its business operations at all times. To do this necessitates having plans, processes and practices in place to meet most possibilities.

Prepare for every eventuality?
Gordon Brown, a senior consultant at PlanB Consulting, a business continuity consultancy, thinks that it’s almost impossible to list every eventuality. He said: “The risk profile of firms can vary for a number of reasons. However, we would highlight the most pertinent risks across many firms as being the loss of data and cyber security breaches or ‘attacks’.”
Of course, physical site issues are also very relevant, including flooding or denial of access situations.
Brian believes that the business continuity process is not necessarily about planning for a specific event, “but about planning for what to do in the event of any incident impacting one or more of four key areas: people, premises, technology and processes.” For any corporate this might include power supply interruption, supplier failure, denial of access or widespread sickness amongst staff – as well as the impact of Brexit should it be implemented.
To an extent, this means that a plan should be based on the internal and external issues that are relevant to the company and interested parties and what they need and expect from the business. From there the plan should consider what needs to be done to keep the firm going, or recover from a problem during the interregnum. Of course, interested parties go beyond customers – there are many others including employees, suppliers, landlords and funders. They all still need to be paid which will necessitate payroll and bought ledger processes being critical to any recovery plan.
Gordon says that thinking ‘outside of the box’ is essential: “If you look at recent incidents, many were unforeseen or very unlikely. For example, KFC almost ground to a halt in 2018 due to a supplier change where an operational issue caused a business continuity incident and a media crisis.”
Clearly, firms shouldn’t ignore the obvious - fire, flood, client or supplier insolvency, vandalism, terrorism, equipment failure, and telecoms issues. Once identified, it’s up to the firm to decide what if anything they propose to do to address these risks.
Thinking wider, Brian says that it’s important to recognise “that each issue has a degree of uniqueness and the main risks, or the significance of impact, may differ from one event to another.” A chain of events that starts with a technology or a process failure that happens on a Friday may be relatively unremarkable. If it is on the same day that monthly payroll is run, and prevents salaries from being paid, this may have a very significant knock-on impact for employee financial well-being.
Next time: What to put in a business continuity plan.  

Bodyshop/MOT centre installs new HR system

Published:  01 November, 2021

A Herefordshire bodyshop and MOT centre has become the first business of its type to take on In-House HR, developed by 21-year-old entrepreneur John Moody.

New website prompts growth for Gateshead garage

Published:  29 October, 2021

Gateshead-based Team Valley Service & MOT Centre, which says it is the largest independent garage in the North East, saw a turnover increase by £125k in just eight months to August 2021, and attributed its success to its new website.

Autumn Budget 2021: The sector reacts

Published:  27 October, 2021

The automotive sector had a mixed reaction to the Autumn Budget.

Legion of Doom?

Employees returning to work after COVID 19 have another threat – Legionellosis...
Published:  05 August, 2021

For 27 years we have been practicing Health & Safety in the motor trade across the UK. In all this time we have not seen Legionellosis as being a call for concern as water systems would be in constant use. However, during these unprecedented times, many businesses in the motor industry have been forced to close for periods of time. This inactivity has given the legionella bacteria perfect breeding ground in pipe, tanks and showers.  Contrary to popular belief, Legionellosis can be fatal.
Legionellosis is a collective term for diseases caused by legionella bacteria including the most serious Legionnaires’ disease, as well as the similar but less serious conditions of Pontiac fever and Lochgoilhead fever. Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia and everyone is susceptible to infection. The risk increases with age but some people are at higher risk. They include people over 45 years of age, smokers and heavy drinkers, people suffering from chronic respiratory or kidney disease, people suffering from diabetes, lung and heart disease, and anyone with an impaired immune system.
The bacterium Legionella pneumophila and related bacteria are common in natural water sources such as rivers, lakes and reservoirs, but usually in low numbers. They may also be found within a company’s hot and cold water systems.

Where does it come from?
Legionella bacteria are widespread in natural water systems, e.g. rivers and ponds. However, the conditions are rarely right for people to catch the disease from these sources. Outbreaks of the illness occur from exposure to legionella growing in purpose-built systems where water is maintained at a temperature high enough to encourage growth, e.g. cooling towers, evaporative condensers, hot and cold water systems and spa pools used in all sorts of premises (work and domestic).

How do people get it?
People contract Legionnaires’ disease by inhaling small droplets of water (aerosols), suspended in the air, containing the bacteria. Certain conditions increase the risk from legionella if the water temperature in all or some parts of the system may be between 20-45°C, which is suitable for growth. It is possible for breathable water droplets to be created and dispersed e.g. aerosol-created by a cooling tower, or water outlets. There is also a risk if water is stored and/or re-circulated, and if there are deposits that can support bacterial growth providing a source of nutrients for the organism e.g. rust, sludge, scale, organic matter and biofilms.
The bacteria can multiply in water in temperatures between 20°C – 45°C. As the temperature rises above 60°C the majority of bacteria will be killed within five minutes. Maintaining water temperatures above 50°C and below 20°C is, therefore, the main method of controlling Legionella in domestic water systems as recommended by Health & Safety Authorities.

What should I do?
The incubation period is between two and 10 days so when returning back to work to a partial or unoccupied premise,  it is recommended to purge showers and water systems at the highest temperature for five minutes.

For expert Automotive Health & Safety contact us today or visit our website:

Preparing for the MOT wave

Published:  27 July, 2021

LKQ Euro Car Parts suggests how garages can adapt to the new MOT demand curve 

LKQ Euro Car Parts round-table

Published:  20 July, 2021

LKQ Europe, the parent company of LKQ Euro Car Parts recently sat down with journalists from across the continent, and Aftermarket was there

Investors in People – a recruitment tool?

Can the Investors in People standard help you find the best staff?
Published:  09 July, 2021

After running a successful repair centre for 20 years, it was clear that finding quality staff to grow and improve our business was becoming more problematic.  A respected friend who runs a communications company locally had posted on Facebook that he had recently joined the Investors in People Standard and had transformed his business through it.  After a short conversation with him, I got in touch with IIP (Investors in People), and our journey began.
The Investors in People Standard is a business improvement tool designed to advance an organisation’s performance through its employees.  It provides an expert overview of the organisation, offering valuable insight and pointing the way to improvements from an independent and objective perspective. One of the claims made by IIP is as a “benchmark for any well-run organisation, signalling to customers and employees your commitment to good business and people management excellence.”

Humbled and horrified
What difference has it made to us? Well, firstly, the biggest change has been me. As a very hands-on Managing Director and co-owner of our family-run business, I had always assumed that if the staff had a problem, they would tell me.  However, when I conducted my first staff appraisal (on the recommendation of IIP) I was both humbled and horrified when I learned of issues in the workplace and in employees private lives. It became clear that there had to be opportunities for more one-on-one conversations and also Toolbox Talks, a short meeting in the workshop to keep staff up-to-date with any changes or issues cropping up in the workplace. This keeps staff more connected with the success and progress of the business and, hopefully, more involved with the day to day concerns as well as providing opportunities to share any issues.

Aims and retention
Through working with IIP we also now have a company profile which states the following:
Overarching Aim: To build a loyal clientele and a company that will experience longevity and fane a trustworthy reputation, with client recommendations at the heart of what the business stands for.
Mission: To deliver optimum customer service at a fair price, and the promise to customers is we will Cut Costs - Not Corners.  We deliver on this promise by providing a professional service to every customer, ensuring work is completed right the first time and to budget.
Values: Loyalty to staff and customers; Good workmanship; Quality customer care; Investment in staff development (personal and professional).
Our employee contracts have been updated and we have company handbooks for each member of staff. As part of the ongoing IIP involvement each member of staff has an interview with an IIP representative who then gives anonymous feedback to me along with any recommendations for implementation.  
We began this journey with IIP in 2015 along with Investors in Young People (IYP) for our staff under 28 and became the only organisation of our type in Britain to attain both awards at the same time.
Has this helped us recruit staff? Probably not.  Has it helped us retain staff?  Absolutely!  Being in a situation where we’re about to appoint a new member of staff we find ourselves in a position of not having to advertise. The new employee about to start with us is coming because of a recommendation from another member of staff. Just as our business grows with customers recommending customers, maybe our staff will continue to grow with employees recommending other potential employees.

Graham Clark is the owner at Anderson Clark Motor Repairs, an award-winning independent garage based in Inverness.


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