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

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.

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:

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.

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.

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? 

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.

Measure your business

Tina is back, and is looking at how KPIs can help you gauge how successful your business is, and how this can help you
Published:  28 June, 2021

I often get asked what targets and KPIs I set and how often I check them. Being a bit of an analytical geek, this is something of great interest to me. First, let’s examine what KPIs actually are. The acronym is short for Key Performance Indicators, and these are are crucial measures on your business that can demonstrate how your business is performing.
Why do we measure our business?
Your KPIs will provide you with an analytical view of the current situation in your business. No made-up numbers, no hypothetical scenarios, just real historical data, bespoke to you. At CCM, they enable us to track our processes, workshop loading, efficiencies, productivity, compliance, customer quality and retention and assist with our growth and progress.
Where might you find your KPIs? It could be that you have recently carried out a marketing campaign. If so, measuring the resulting data will confirm whether the campaign has been successful, show what added value has been generated, and will assist  you in making informed decisions in the future.
Every so often we make assumptions on what we believe and not on what the data tells us. We used to offer an early bird MOT at one of our depots for £25, but it had to be at 7:30am and the customer had to wait. We offered this as we had a technician who always started at 7:15am and often would be waiting around. This early bird slot was taken every day and was booked about two weeks ahead. Our assumption was that it was because of price. This was the wrong assumption however. I picked up a little gem on one of Andy Savva’s courses that made me think outside the box and question some of what we do and why.
So, we carried out a survey on those customers that took up that offer. The results were very revealing. The majority of customers wanted that slot as it enabled them to have their MOT done and still give them time to get to work by 9:00am. So, this was nothing to do with the price. What do you think we did then?

How do we know what to measure?
Like the sub-head says, how do we know what to measure? One way of working this out is by using the SMART acronym. If it is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed, then anything can be done. Identify where you think you may have an issue that is quantifiable. This is where the fun starts.
Do not be presumptuous. For example, one that a lot of people talk about is staff productivity and efficiency. “Your results of your analytical data research have identified that you have a technician who is under-performing.”
How many people would just take that at face value and assume the technician is slacking off. Dig deep, delve around and you may be surprised. Yes, the technician could be slacking off, or very often it could be related to issues out of their control, such as wrong parts, moving vehicles around, incorrect data from front-of-house. But it could also be that they are being given tasks that they are not competent in doing and this will highlight a training issue.  It often takes time to get to the bottom of why.

When do we tackle these KPIs?
At CCM we have a dashboard spreadsheet which list all our KPIs in one place and these get updated monthly. This gives us the platform to compare each depot, not with each other but each on its own merit. It flags up any anomalies and allows us to investigate before a problem develops. Often there is a logical explanation, but it needs validating. These results are discussed as a team. If there is an issue, they normally have the solution. It educates them about what they do, how it effects the business overall and makes them accountable. It is a team effort after all.
One of my important KPIs which I like to discuss with the team is our recovery rate. Let’s say the labour rate that you charge your customers is £90 per hour. Then factor in all the scenarios where your labour rate gets discounted. Yes, we are all guilty of doing this at some point. At the end of the month, your total labour sales divided by your total hours sold gives you your true labour rate, known as recovery rate. Be aware of what will affect this. If you carry out MOTs at your garage, this will impact your recovery rate. Assuming you allow 45 minutes for a test, normal workshop labour for a 45-minute job, based on your rate of £90, will be £67.50 but your MOTs will be sold at £54.85 or even less. This is fine, we just need to have cognizant of the impact of low-cost MOTs have on our recovery rate. At CCM, we aim for 88%-90% which we often achieve.

Challenge yourself
The list of KPIs is endless. Find the balance where you have enough KPIs to give you a good overview of your business without it taking over everything you do. Focus on measuring things that are core to your business. Do not compare yourself with others, what results that one garage get will not necessary be the same for you which is why it is imperative that you look at your own data. Remember, data is powerful.
I have had an immense amount of guidance from Andy, his Financial Course is a mind-opener and the knowledge I have gained about our business from measuring is awesome.    
Be warned, it is addictive. Once you start, you will find it hard to stop.

Two years and counting

Aftermarket speaks to EAG CEO Tony Bhogal as the new incarnation of the company celebrates its second-year trading
Published:  23 June, 2021

At the end of March, Excel Automotive Group (EAG) celebrated two-years since it was purchased by Tony Bhogal with Adrian Lamb.
Since then, the company has arranged distribution deals for TRICO wiper blades, Suplex coil springs, Monroe shock absorbers and coil springs, Champion wiper blades, RYMEC clutches, Celect braking and Brembo braking, as well as its own steering and suspension, wheel bearing and transmission ranges. If that’s not enough, the company also found the time to gain approvals with several UK buying groups, including A1 Motor Stores along with joining the IAAF. All of this with a pandemic to deal with too. Here at Aftermarket, we thought this would be a good time to find out from Tony how it’s all been going.  

It’s been two years of the new incarnation of EAG? How do you think it’s going?

Since taking over the Excel Automotive Group (EAG) business two years ago, Managing Director Adrian Lamb and I have been busy getting the business back onto a solid footing. This has included significant investment in staff, stock and systems. In the first year, we relocated the business to a 30,000sqft warehouse in Leeds and thought this would be sufficient for a few years, but we are already considering additional warehousing due to the significant increase in stock, sales and customers in our second year of trading!
We have been continually investing in stock and have added some brilliant brands to our range, which now includes Suplex, Brembo, Monroe, Rymec, Marelli, TRICO and various DR1V brands, in addition to our own EAG branded steering and suspension, wheel bearings, strut top mounts, driveshafts, CV joints, calipers, etc.
We are also in detailed discussions with other brands that are keen to work with us and take advantage of our unique distribution solution for suppliers, as we can cover this both locally and nationally.
None of this could have been achieved without the fantastic team that we have at EAG. Everyone has a desire to succeed and ensure that we meet or exceed our customers’ expectations, which in itself has sometimes been a challenge as a consequence of our rate of growth. However, we have been fortunate that customers have joined us on our journey and have given us considerable support and encouragement. In the current climate, the whole EAG family should be proud of our achievements and we are looking forward to the future.

Where would you like to see the business in another two years?

In the next two years, we will be working to consolidate our position as a key supplier of parts into the automotive aftermarket. Chris Haw joined the business as UK Sales Manager and he is working hard to develop and grow our customer base. Also, Chris Burnside, ex-Livingston Autoparts, has joined us as Operations and IT Director, so we now have a very experienced team in place to continue our ambitious growth plans.

How are you finding your customers? Both in terms of their reaction, and getting them in the first place!

Due to our combined experience in the aftermarket, we had already cultivated solid relationships with many customers and businesses in the industry, which certainly helped when Adrian and I took over EAG.
Since then, we have continued to manage and grow these relationships, as well as develop new ones with businesses we may not have dealt with in the past. I believe that our customers come to us because of our reputation in the aftermarket, as well as our extensive range of product and availability. We put a lot of investment and focus into our customer service and it’s something we pride ourselves on.

What challenges and surprises have there been along the way, and what have you learnt?

I think the biggest challenge was getting the company sorted when we took it over and growing it to what it is now. Running a business is a difficult task, and Adrian and I want to make EAG one of the largest suppliers in the UK, something that we’re on our way to becoming. Luckily, we haven’t had too many surprises along the way, but one thing that Adrian and I have both learnt from our years in the market, is to hire the right people. We have an incredible team at EAG and without them, we wouldn’t be able to do the great work that we do.
We also have a desire to ensure there’s the product availability for our customers, which we still have some way to go on, but we are working on increasing both the range and availability, in addition to improving cataloguing and pushing sales through our online trade portal and through TecCom.

Does experience help? Or do you find you learn more than you already knew?

I think that experience does help a lot, but as the industry continues to evolve, we all need to adapt and understand new technology and systems that are developing and this is something that no amount of experience can help with.
Adrian and I have made sure that we hire the best people for the job, who have the experience and know the aftermarket and its products inside out, as that’s what makes a good salesperson and helps our customers the most. These are also the people that can share their knowledge with us and the rest of the company, so it’s certainly a win-win situation.

If you’d had the choice, would you have picked the pandemic as a time to be rolling into year two? What particular issues did this cause?

I don’t think there’s ever a good time for a pandemic! Having it happen so early in our business was unfortunate, but like many other companies, we had to adapt and quickly. I feel that we achieved this and went on to have a successful year despite everything, also as the industry was allowed to remain open, we found that business remained steady for us and many others during 2020.
Obviously, our main concern was for our staff and their safety, so we ensured that we implemented all of the safety precautions the government advised, which is difficult in a situation like a warehouse, but we were very stringent with it and will continue with a cautious attitude until this pandemic has eased.
Do you think COVID-19 inspired any innovations for EAG in terms of approach or anything else that have really worked out that might not have happened otherwise?
Due to growth and the reliance on delivery because of the pandemic, we invested more money into our delivery fleet and also began offering our local customers same-day delivery and national customers next working day delivery.
We have also been working very closely with MAM to improve and enhance the IT systems that we inherited. This has included the implementation of the MAM Warehouse Management System, which is already resulting in improved efficiency and accuracy of processing orders.

You knew starting up that Brexit was going to be an issue, however – any bumps on this side?
Thankfully, we have not been impacted as much as our competitors, who rely on the Far East for their products. They have suffered from supply delays and increased costs due to freight and materials. This has clearly benefitted us since we source the majority of our parts from the UK.
I think with Brexit we just had to be prepared, listen carefully to all of the information we were given by the government and decide our action plan from there. We knew that leaving the European Union was going to have an impact on every industry, especially the aftermarket, but we’re confident that we will continue to have the great relationships we have with our suppliers in Europe, as we do now.

Complaints How we deal with them

Published:  01 June, 2021

This is our belief at CCM. While every attempt is made at customer satisfaction inevitably occasionally things go wrong which leads to customer complaints. We encourage customers to give feedback, especially negative to enable us to improve our services. If you are happy, tell others. If not, tell us.
Face to face complaints
These can sometimes be the worst. It puts you on the spot and it is human nature to become defensive. As hard as it is, do not react. What happens in that moment, your emotional brain engages and you react on emotion not on rational thoughts. Stay calm. In a face-to-face situation, body language is a giveaway. How you stand, where you put your arms, your facial expression all tells its own story. You must try and remain in a neutral stance, so that you do not come across as defensive.
You need to listen, but in the right way. The biggest mistake people make is that they listen to respond and do not listen to understand. Of course, you want to defend your team but this is not the moment to do it. Listen to what the customer is complaining about, be empathetic, show some understanding and acknowledge what their complaint is about. Ask them what their ideal resolution would be. Let them know that you have taken on board what has been said, that you will investigate their issue and you will get back to them with your findings.

Written complaints
Some people find it easier to complain in writing, not having the ability to feel comfortable complaining face to face. The absolute first, is to acknowledge the complaint immediately. Again, show empathy and understanding, explain that you will investigate and respond with your findings. Do not let people put you under pressure, explain that you need time to investigate properly as you do not wish to make a rash decision. Do not get off topic, it is so easy to come back with what you have done good and not actually deal with the issue. Stay focussed on the complaint.

At CCM, one of our team values is honesty. If you find during your investigations into a complaint, that you have made a mistake or your conduct/service has not been what it should have been, be honest. Own up. Imagine how your customer feels when you own up and admit, “yes, sorry, our service was not up to scratch.” We recently had a complaint from a long-standing customer regarding our poor service and the fact that there was an error on her paperwork. Said customer went on to say how they continuously use us as our service was usually superb but was very disappointed this time.
Following my investigations, I discovered we did make a few errors with her paperwork. I responded with the following: “This is a process that we follow, to ensure that we order all the relevant parts that may be required as to not hold up the job. In this instance, it seems that we invoiced you without deleting said parts from your invoice, which was a mistake on our behalf. I am not making excuses for our team; we have been very busy doing out upmost to keep customers vehicles on the road. It is never our intention to mislead and we strive to carry out good workmanship and service. Please accept our sincere apologies for the upset that this has caused you.”
The email went on with the customer apologising for complaining and admitting that the whole COVID-19 situation had got to her and that she had overreacted. Would her response have been the same if we had got defensive, denied doing any wrong and just pushed the blame back at her?

Bad reviews
It is upsetting when someone tarnishes your reviews with a bad one, but I believe it makes them more credible. Can anyone really get five-star reviews all the time with no negative remarks at all? Anyone who looks at reviews, never just read the bad ones, you will read many. Having the odd bad one makes you human, shows you do and can make mistakes and sometimes your service does slip. How you respond is much more important that the bad review. Would one bad review stop someone using you? Absolutely not. The point is, how you react to someone, causes a reaction. What reaction do you want?
Sometimes people have genuine reasons to complain, be honest if that is the case, do what you can to rectify the situation. That is what people will remember. Firstly, that you acknowledge that you were wrong and secondly, that you did something about it. Sometimes people just need to let off steam. By being empathetic and understanding can be enough for them to rant and walk away. Sometimes people just need to complain because that is their nature. In this case, there is nothing you can do. Just do not invite or encourage them to come back.
One of the most common complaints is about costs. Do not take ownership of someone’s problem. When communicating with customers regarding their vehicle needs, do not use negative words, like “unfortunately, I’m sorry to say, sadly, I’m afraid.” It is not your fault that their vehicle is broken, failed or needs a service. So long that you have communicated to your customer throughout, any issue with costs should be avoided. Most of the time you find that you have done no wrong. It is often a misunderstanding, or someone’s expectations not being met. In all these scenarios, use them as examples to improve. Why were there misunderstandings, why was that person’s expectations not met, what can we do to make sure this does not happen again. Remember, do not be defensive, think about your body language, be empathetic and treat people how you would like to be treated. You will be pleasantly surprised.

What you can do
Have in place and on show a customer care charter detailing that you use OE quality parts, that all repairs and servicing meet or exceed the expected standards of this industry. Explain that staff are continually trained and provide the best possible standards of workmanship. This enables your staff and your customers to know that you are doing everything possible to deliver high quality work and service. Then add what the procedure is when a customer wants to make a complaint.
Have a vision and values. This is imperative as it becomes the guidelines for staff to use when dealing with any issues. Give your Front of House staff autonomy to deal with the little niggles that come in. Positive intent;  believe that your staff will look after your best interests, allow them to issue a refund or offer a discount if that is what they believe is the best resolution. Some complaints are very minor and can be dealt with immediately.  Make sure everyone is aware of the escalation route, time scale and who to escalate to. Any complaint must be acknowledged immediately, with the intent of following up/investigating in a reasonable amount of time. This must be communicated to the customer. Ask the customer what their ideal resolution is. If the customer finds the proposal unsatisfactory, then is the time to move to mediation or legal settlement. When a complaint has been resolved, follow this up again, depending on the size and nature of the complaint. Overall, effective communication is crucial. Lastly, and crucially, ensure that you act fairly and honestly.

Subs-free HaynesPro a hit with TechMan GMS users

Published:  13 May, 2021

TechMan’s integration of HaynesPro data as part of its GMS offering has been welcomed by Bedfordshire-based Jackson & Phillips Automotive Services, among others.

Quick reaction

Adapting fast to changes in the industry is key to future success according to BM Catalysts
Published:  29 April, 2021

BM Catalysts, UK manufacturer and exporter of catalytic converters, DPFs and front pipes, is no stranger to adapting rapidly to meet the ever-changing industry, consumer demand and diverse vehicle car parc. The firm believes that reacting sooner rather than later can offer more opportunities to forward-thinking aftermarket companies.
Ahead of Brexit on 1 January 2021, BM Catalysts launched an online Brexit resource to offer advice and guidance on the new rules. The company says any problems encountered as a result of Brexit will be “short term” and it can already see improvements in trade supply routes.
The brand also reverted to a short-term buying strategy of volatile raw materials like rhodium and palladium to remain competitive as the prices of precious metals remain unsettled. By reacting quickly to both Brexit and fluctuating precious metal prices, BM Catalysts has been able to create efficient processes and strategies to stay ahead of the game.

Brexit issues short-term
With the company investing considerable time and resources into preparing for Brexit, it has ensured that the necessary infrastructure is in place to help facilitate supply of its products as seamlessly as possible to customers in over 35 countries worldwide, despite the challenges.
From its UK manufacturing base, customers also continue to receive dedicated sales and technical support, alongside marketing support to help develop and grow sales of BM Catalysts’ ever-increasing product offering.
BM Catalysts has been working closely with logistics partners on new systems and additional paperwork for customs and border controls. Nearly all BM Catalysts catalogued part numbers meet the standard required to claim UK origin, meaning they are not subject to tariffs under the Free Trade Agreement between the UK and EU.
It’s been taking a little longer than usual for overseas customers to receive their orders as a result of changes to customs procedures and clearance, but we’re seeing this time shorten every day.
From when the order is placed to the point of dispatch, lead times from our end remain the same and we’re fulfilling 100% of all orders thanks to our high availability of products.
We’re confident in our process. It’s not the first time we’ve had to navigate through difficult times with changing legislation and we thrive in these situations, putting in place solutions to help ensure the best possible working partnerships for our customers.

Volatile precious metal prices
Raw materials used in the manufacturing of catalytic converters continue to fluctuate rapidly, prompting BM Catalysts to revert to a short-term buying strategy of precious metals to remain competitive and ensure that when the commodity prices reduce, these savings can be passed on to the marketplace quicker.
Over the past two years, precious metal prices have increased significantly. Rhodium, used in the manufacture of catalytic converters, is one of the most expensive precious metals. It’s also one of the rarest elements on Earth and arguably one of the most volatile pricewise, having begun 2020 with a value of just over £4,000 per t oz before increasing a huge 210% over the following 12 months. At the time of writing, it remains volatile with sudden rises now common, with the price having increased by 60% since the start of December alone. It is now trading at well over £20,000 per t oz.

What’s causing the price rises?
There are many factors influencing the sharp rise in precious metal prices, in particular rhodium, which has left the price of gold in its wake. The main use for rhodium is in catalytic converters that are designed to clean vehicle emissions. Rhodium, amongst other precious metals including palladium and platinum, act as the trigger for the chemical reaction which starts to break down harmful exhaust gases. The global drive to improve air quality, particularly in areas like China and Europe, has seen demand surge for rhodium and palladium. Furthermore, the move from diesel to petrol trend puts additional pressures on rhodium supply which is not used in diesel applications. This tightness of supply is another contributing factor to its sky-high price. More than four out of every five ounces of rhodium are mined in South Africa, extracted in minuscule quantities alongside more abundant metals such as platinum, palladium and gold.
According to a market spotlight by Heraeus Precious Metals on 1 February 2021, while rhodium availability looks set to improve: “A fundamentally imbalanced market will keep prices at historically high levels.” The report also pointed to the lengthy refining process of rhodium as an indicator of prices remaining high as demand still exceeds supply.”

Catalytic converter thefts rise
London Police are reporting a 50% increase in the theft of catalytic converters compared to the same time in 2019, as precious metal values continue to soar.
Motor insurer Admiral says it received 400 claims in one month alone in 2020 for damage caused to vehicles from the theft of catalytic converters. It also says that thieves are focusing on hybrid cars as the catalytic converters found on these vehicles contain a higher concentration of precious metals and are generally less corroded.
Police in Kent say they are “relentlessly pursuing” thieves after seeing an increase in catalytic converter crime in the area. Criminals are able to steal the catalytic converters in under a minute and are carrying out the offence in broad daylight. This flurry of crime in Kent has led to the local police offering garages in the area permanent security-marking kits for technicians to mark the catalytic converters on cars when they are brought in for a service. That way if the part is stolen, it will be harder for the thieves to sell on, and easier for police to locate, identify and return to the owners if it’s recovered.

What is the long-term outlook?
In 2008, rhodium touched £5,560 per t oz as the global financial crisis hit, which then saw the metal price crash by 90% just weeks later. This was an artificially high price and is unlike the price rises we see in the market today. The current price of rhodium has never been seen before and with that brings the risk it could crash again like in 2008. With so much uncertainty over the future of the price of this rare metal, 2021 could be another volatile year with either regular price increases or a sudden drop. BM Catalysts’ short-term buying strategy helps ensure prices remain competitive if precious metal prices drop significantly.
Although the automotive sector is the primary consumer of these precious metals, demand, and therefore cost influences, also come from buyers such as jewellery makers and commodity investors. An increased cost of the precious metals used in the making of catalytic converters has to be reflected in their sale price; it’s unavoidable. The price of the precious metals used can be up to 90% of the overall cost of producing a catalytic converter, underlining the fact that the price of parts is dictated almost entirely by the market performance of these metals.

Insight is essential
Ongoing education and insight are key, and therefore it is important to offer support and continually listen to partners and the wider aftermarket. By working collaboratively BM Catalysts is able to identify trends and potential issues and adapt accordingly to stay one step ahead.

Simplified, sustainable and sporty

Published:  20 April, 2021

Bridgestone – now recognised as a global leader in sustainable mobility and advanced solutions – has received a number of positive test results in recent times for its product range, which has been simplified and revitalised in the past two years.
Notably, the new Potenza Sport, the Turanza T005, the Weather Control A005 EVO and the Duravis All Season van tyre are recent additions to the line-up and all (bar the Potenza Sport and Duravis) benefit from Bridgestone’s unique DriveGuard run-flat technology, which allows motorists to keep on moving for 50 miles, at speeds up to 50mph, after a puncture.

In a nod to the past, Bridgestone has leant on its many years of motorsport experience to produce the Potenza Sport, which is arriving at dealers shortly having been revealed in December 2020. This next generation tyre represents a new standard in premium, high-end sports performance, providing best-in-class performance in the dry supported by a premium wet package.
Tested by TÜV SÜD, one of Europe’s most respected independent automotive testing institutes, Potenza Sport achieves the best performance in both dry braking (shortest braking distance on a dry surface) and cornering and straight-line stability (maintaining vehicle stability when travelling both in a straight line and through a curve) versus competitors in the premium segment. With an EU label A-grade in wet grip across its full line-up and deemed best performer in wet cornering and handling in further tests performed by TÜV SÜD as well, Bridgestone Potenza Sport also offers outstanding wet performance. In a huge early coup for the product, it has been selected as the exclusive original equipment tyre for the Lamborghini Huracán STO supercar, as well as long-time partner Maserati’s MC20 supercar.
For the present, and so much snow, frost and ice to negotiate in recent times, Bridgestone’s latest Duravis All Season van tyre is also being seen as a crucial piece in the overall product jigsaw, which boasts an ‘A’ rating in wet handling.
Like the Weather Control A005 EVO consumer tyre, the Duravis All Season has been designed to deliver year-round control, safety, and convenience, using Bridgestone’s advanced, high silica NanoPro-tech compound technology. Bridgestone has combined the compound with a new mixing technology that improves its silica dispersion to give the A005 EVO excellent fuel efficiency and enhance its overall snow potential.

When looking to the future, Bridgestone’s commitment to providing sustainable mobility and advanced solutions can be seen in the fact that around 30% of all new OE fitments developed by Bridgestone EMIA in 2020 were created specifically for EVs. From its ologic technology, created specifically for BMW’s all-electric i3, to the pioneering ENLITEN Technology, Bridgestone has always supported the development of EVs through groundbreaking tyre technologies. As well as shaping a sustainable future of mobility in its product output, Bridgestone is showing equal commitment to investing in greener practices in the development of those products, as 2020 proved.
Virtual Tyre Modelling represents the future of tyre development at Bridgestone, and its already in use today. The technology enables Bridgestone to create a digital twin of the tyre at its development stage, reducing the volume of physical prototype tyres, and subsequently raw materials, needed, and cutting the product development time by up to 50%. Thanks to Bridgestone’s continued advancement and application of the technology in 2020, 20% fewer experimental tyres were used in the development phase of OE tyres in EMIA from 2019. Furthermore, thanks again to the use of Virtual Tyre Modelling and the rise of indoor testing, Bridgestone EMIA reduced the distance of its fleet tests for OE by 25% from 2019 to 2020.
We’re pushing the boundaries of what is possible in engineering to deliver new cutting-edge products that are developed in more advanced and sustainable ways to offer a superior performance. In our Turanza T005, Weather Control A005 EVO, Duravis All Season and Potenza Sport we do believe we have one of the most impressive consumer product portfolios in the marketplace today. It’s also great that we’ve been able to work in partnership with the world’s leading car manufacturers to meet our collective environmental goals and shape a more sustainable future of mobility, via our ENLITEN technology.

Tomorrow never knows: TechMan eases GMS switchover for multi-site garage owner

Published:  13 April, 2021

The owner of a midlands-based fleet servicing specialist who felt that business development was being held back by its previous garage management system said fear of change held him back from switching to TechMan for two years, and now he has done it he is advising other garages in a similar situation to make the switch now.

I love it when a plan comes together

Payment plans may have found their moment; What are the options for garages looking to help their customers spread repair costs?
Published:  06 April, 2021

Payment plans are not a new idea. Washing machine? Boiler? There’s a service plan for that. If you buy a new car, or even a used car, from a franchised dealer, many will have a plan set up to keep the customers costs down, and keep them coming into the service department. The one area where it has not really gained traction in a major way is within the garage sector.     
Will the unique circumstances of 2020 and 2021, change that though? With many people still on furlough on 80% of their usual income, and many more wracked by seemingly endless financial uncertainty, looking to control spending on vehicle repairs could look like an attractive option.
A number of established organisations in the sector have already set up schemes that you could take up, effectively an off-the-peg solution. We spoke to some of them to see what is on offer.

Footing the bill
“35% of consumers say their income has taken a hit as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak,” said Colin Cottrell, Marketing and Central Operations Director at LKQ Euro Car Parts. “Many might find it difficult to cover the cost of repairs to their vehicles as a result, but when access to a car is vital to the livelihoods of a lot of people, they need to find a way of footing the bill.
“Giving customers the option to take advantage of short-term financial support is critical to ensuring business continues to come through the workshop doors – and so that cost doesn’t become a barrier to drivers accessing the services they need to stay safe and mobile.
“That’s why we’ve partnered with Payment Assist, which provides plans for drivers to spread the cost of a one-off bill or purchase over four equal instalments, with no fees attached. This is something we proactively promote to garages, so they can offer interest-free loans and help to relieve the financial burden their customers may be under, while ensuring they can still get the job done. There’s no credit check required for any jobs under £1,000, and only 25% of the total bill needs to be paid upfront.”
Explaining how if works, Colin added: “Garages just need to visit and enter their unique business details, before setting up their agreement with the customer. If the application is successful, the garage will receive confirmation that the customer has been billed for their first payment, as well as confirmation of future payment dates, helping them to carefully manage their own cashflow.”

Three ways
According to Andy Robson, Parts Operations Director at PSA Group, Eurorepar Car Service is committed to offering customers three ways to pay: “It’s good to see that the motor trade is moving with the times and keeping up with the consumer trends that are shaping other sectors. A good example is the growth of flexible payment options to meet the growing expectation that a customer should have a choice of payment methods to suit their financial situation.
“Our national network of Eurorepar Car Service (ERCS) centres, for instance, is offering customers the ability to pay the old-fashioned way when the work is completed, or pay in more manageable, regular instalments as part of the Drive Now Pay Later initiative. Later in 2021, we will also be giving customers a third way to pay: by signing up to a service plan. Having three ways to pay means that customers will not be left battling an unaffordable one-off payment, even if the work itself has been carried out to a high standard.
“ERCS centres have so far reported an overwhelmingly positive reaction to the Drive Now Pay Later initiative. Essentially, the idea is that customers can spread service and repair bills of more than £50 across four equal payments. This flexibility means that vital repair work, which might otherwise have been delayed or cancelled, can be carried out at the right time.”
Andy added: “What it boils down to is adopting a customer-centric approach to the way you do business and taking pride in offering customers something that is truly of value to them. With Drive Now Pay Later, we are giving people the peace of mind that their vehicle is in a safe state of repair, while affording them the flexibility to pay their bill over a manageable period. That’s exactly what people need in these uncertain times.”

Commenting on their experience with Drive Now Pay Later, Craig Williamson, a Director at Cheshire-based ERCS centre Ignition Autos said: “The initiative has proved very popular with our customers so far. It’s been essential for many this year, but we have also seen a lot of people use it as their preferred method of payment regardless of whether they could afford the up-front cost. It makes a lot of sense really. It’s interest-free and people are used to paying things like credit card bills and subscriptions on a monthly basis. It’s been a great addition to our offering.”
ERCS has partnered with EMaC to deliver the Drive Now Pay Later initiative.
Liam Finney, Director of Commercial Partnerships at EMaC, said: “Our Drive Now, Pay Later+ product is a flexible, interest-free monthly payment option that allows consumers to spread the cost of unexpected vehicle repairs. It not only enhances business revenue and profitability, but also builds lasting relationships and increases consumer satisfaction.  
“As the UK’s leading Service Plan provider, we immediately noticed the similarities with our core Service Plan product and welcomed the opportunity to add a complimentary solution to our portfolio.”
Liam added: “Our network love being able to offer consumers the option to spread the cost of vehicle repair work – so much so that many now use DNPL+ as their primary payment option for red/amber work, service, accessory and value-added product purchases.”

There is more than one shape for plans. For example, Servicesure offers its 554-strong network of member garages the option to sign up to Auto Service Finance (ASF), an interest-free credit payment facility.
The nationwide garage programme, run by The Parts Alliance, launched its partnership with ASF in 2018 and since then has financed more than £1.2m in repair costs.
ASF enables customers to cover the expense of vehicle repairs by spreading payments over six months and is available to customers making transactions between £60 and £3,000.
Commenting on the offering, Servicesure Head of Garage Programmes Paul Dineen said: “We know many people in the UK are suffering financial hardship after being impacted by the pandemic, so 2020 was a very timely and significant year for us to have the partnership with ASF in place.
“It allows our garage members to offer what could be a crucial lifeline to customers who may struggle to pay for essential repairs in one go. Safety is the most important aspect of any vehicle and we don’t want people putting off necessary work because of inflexible payment options.
“Offering people the opportunity to spread the cost of repairs through interest-free credit could be the difference between keeping their vehicle on or off the road, so it’s a tremendously beneficial scheme for our Servicesure members to able to offer customers.”
Paul continued: “Those whose economic situation has been negatively impacted by the pandemic are most likely to benefit from this option of interest-free credit in the short term. In addition, it represents an important step forward in the industry.
“With most transactions in our lives, we’re now accustomed to having the flexibility to choose how we pay for them. Furniture, cars, holidays, mobile phones, boiler servicing; these are all common outgoings that we associate more with flexible instalments than rigid lump-sum payments.
“This level of flexibility isn’t currently part of the culture in the automotive aftermarket. However, we expect these kinds of payment solutions and interest-free credit to become far more common in our industry in the years ahead. Why would people shell out big payments for vehicle repairs in one go when they could approach the transaction the same way they’re used to in every other element of life?”

The average invoice value of an ASF transaction with a Servicesure garage is currently £639 and 62% of its transactions are for vehicles over nine years old.
“From a garage’s point of view,” observed Paul, “there’s no disruption to cash flow because ASF pays them in full within seven days. The main challenge for a garage comes in a customer not necessarily expecting to have this option of flexibility, but reservations around trust are typically easy to overcome in conversation.
“Any customer driving away from a garage is doing so with total faith that their vehicle is safe to drive. That’s a tremendous amount of trust placed in the professionals in our industry and it’s a strong foundation for a garage to build on when it comes to the payment options they offer.”
Paul concluded: “The number of new vehicle registrations dropped significantly in 2020 and we know the UK car parc is only getting older, so the automotive aftermarket has a strong future. What’s important is for independent garage owners to put themselves in the best possible position to win this work, so offering flexible payment solutions can only benefit them in that respect.”


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