Watch a film about Mark’s inspirational story

Published:  15 August, 2017

This is Mark’s story about his recovery from a sudden life-threatening illness. Watch how Ben supported him after he suffered life-changing injuries as a result of this serious illness.

 

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  • Head for the Brexit 

    We've been talking about Brexit for a while now. At least once in every issue there will be a story about the process of leaving the European Union, and the potential impact on the automotive sector.  
        
    While progress is hard to gauge, with every issue there is some new angle. It's difficult to keep up, so that handy phrase "as we went to press" gets used a lot. Using it yet again, as we went to press for the October issue, a deal with the EU seemed more likely. Reports were surfacing of Germany and the UK dropping certain demands that would enable an agreement. A positive development then.
        
    Have we been giving a balanced view through the process though, and are we asking the right people what they think? Maybe, and maybe not.

    Positive aspects
    David Dawson, co-owner at Preston's Car Doctor contacted Aftermarket to express frustration regarding the coverage of Brexit in the magazine. He had this to say:  
        
    "You’re becoming as biased as the BBC. this is Project Fear all over again. Try balancing your reporting with some positive aspects and opportunities that Brexit may provide us with. BAE Systems has won a £20bn contract to build frigates that will form the backbone of the Australian navy, beating off rival proposals from Italian and Spanish groups for the biggest naval defense deal of the past decade.
        
    "I know it’s not automotive news but there will be many opportunities like this for the automotive industry outside of the EU post Brexit. The Germans French and Italians will still want to sell cars to the UK. It just annoys me that the media constantly go on about how bad it will be when we leave the single market. There will be many opportunities and upsides out of the EU even on WTO tariffs."
        
    David added: "I read Aftermarket magazine, both online and the printed version and have done for many years. However in recent times many of your articles paint a dim picture for the industry outside the EU would be nice to read something positive for
    a change."
        
    Now, as a publication we stand by our reporting, and will cover positive and negative views on key issues as they arise. We do listen to our readers though, and David's argument did make us think. It also raised another issue – one of representation.
        
    Having heard from David in the north of England, we thought we might take views from other businesses around the UK, to see what they think the impact of Brexit will be on their business.

    Access
    Turning our attentions south, we asked Kevin Pearce from 2018 Top Garage winners Cedar Garage in Worthing his views on whether Brexit will have a positive or negative impact on the aftermarket. "I think it could go either way," mused Kevin. "I don't see any positives it can necessarily bring. On the negative side, I think we could struggle to get hold of technical data and manufacturer-specific information." According to Kevin, UK consumer buying choices have built up a car parc that could swing things 'our' way: "Considering the number of vehicles we actually import, especially the German stuff, we should actually be in a very strong position to dictate terms. If they want to continue to sell cars to us, whoever is negotiating for the UK should be able to dictate terms on that. Going forward, in terms of telematics we need to make sure the aftermarket stays on the right side of the manufacturers to make sure we continue to get access."
        
    Cedar Garage recently opened a German marques-only outlet, so we wondered if he thought Brexit might have a specific impact on the business's ongoing endeavours: "If it does, not for a long time," replied Kevin. "I think generally it will all come down to how well the negotiations go. We have good access to all the data we need for the German brands. So long as Brexit does not get in the way of that, I can't see how it could cause a problem.
        
    "Obviously a lot of the parts that we buy come from Europe. Hopefully the prices won't increase too much. At the end of the day, we import so much, that if these people then do not want to sell to us, they are surely going to be the ones that lose out."
        
    We went onto ask if Cedar Garage's customers had displayed any noticeable Brexit jitters: "So far it does not look like that at all. We have not seen anything like that. All of our customers are carrying on as normal. If any of them say, ‘I can't afford this or that’ I don't think it affects our trade that much. Maybe if it was car sales, but definitely not in terms of the repair market."
        
    While garages on the south coast might be closer to the continent than most of the other businesses in the market, it's not like Cedar Garage customers are likely to head over the channel to France for their car servicing is it? Shaking his head, Kevin replied: "Of course not." As far as Kevin was concerned, the market is changing and this should mean the supposed consumer confidence hit that might result from Brexit could be over-stated: "What we are finding is that people are looking more and more for a professional service, and are prepared to pay for that. People are becoming more conscious of what goes into a car and are prepared to pay. They would rather pay a professional to pay to repair their car, rather than someone they met down the pub who does it in the car park."

    Uncertainty
    How you feel about the relative opportunities and threats of Brexit can largely depend on where you are sitting. For businesses in Northern Ireland however, Brexit has its own special issues. Starting with the more general concerns,  Colm Higgins from CH Autoservices  in Magherafelt, Northern Ireland said: "I think the biggest issue for most garages, with the position we are in, particularly the go-ahead guys who are into diagnostics, is access to data. This is the issue we would want to address first and foremost. We rely on the access to manufacturer data that is assured through European regulations like Euro 5, so obviously we are concerned. With Brexit nobody really knows what is going to happen.
        
    "Some of the manufacturers, like Mercedes-Benz, had a very good scheme where you could lease a diagnostic tool, but they removed that recently, and I think it is tied to Brexit.
        
    "Obviously the price of parts and access to parts, is something to be concerned about as well. MOTs too, as well as emissions. Are we going to establish our own standards? Are we going to be governed by European rules? Or are they going to be similar to the European rules? Is it a chance for the UK to make its own emissions standards. If so will they be similar, or less?  
        
    Colm continued: "Also, what affect will it have on the car parc? What cars will we be working on? Are we going to see a change in consumer activity as well? What the good guys seem to do is look at what people are buying and how the market is going and see the trends. Obviously electric vehicles is something we have invested in here. Is that going to be impacted by that? Is it going to be more or less. It is important to get an idea of where things are going to go. The biggest problem is that nobody knows.
        
    "Almost everybody has a German or French car in the UK, or at least a European car. What is going to  happen? Are they going to be taxed more? In the second hand car market we are still seeing the effects of years of uncertainty over diesel."
        
    "The key thing for any business is to be ahead of the curve or at least be aware of where it is going before it gets there. For any business you would be absolutely crazy to  bury your head in the sand. It gives you a very good reason to read the latest industry news so you know what is going on."
        
    One problem that most businesses in the UK don't have to worry about is a land border with the EU. For businesses in Northern Ireland  that is a real concern. Will Northern Ireland motorists head for the Republic for servicing and repairs if prices rise as a result of Brexit?
        
    "There is already a lot of that happening in Northern Ireland" said Colm. "We are about an hour's drive from the border. Some of my customers in trade sales, they sell a lot of cars to the south because the Pound is weak. We can make the most of that depending on the situation, as we can buy stuff from down there and sell it up here, or vice versa. I am optimistic, and we can make the most of that kind of situation. Because we are so close to the border,
    we can be flexible. Northern Ireland is unique that way, and more flexible if we have to adapt. If Brexit becomes
    a complete nightmare there are options in terms of suppliers."
        
    Then there's the threat of a hard border: "That's a big issue," opined Colm, "and a complete minefield. We have enjoyed this border-free situation for a long time now, and no one wants to go back to having a hard border. The flexibility would be gone. No one wants to go back to the old days here."
        
    Despite these concerns, Colm remained confident: "Anyone who is in the higher end of this business is ready to adapt to change. In the next few years you won't see an engine or a piston as it is all going to electric motors. It is change or get out really. Brexit is another factor in the motor trade, albeit one that is going to affect your life in a big way."

    Double meaning
    Next, we looked to Scotland, where the issue of exiting a bloc has a double meaning. Pier Garage is based in Ardrishaig, Mid Argyll. Owner Kris Gordon's first concern, like his counterparts in other parts of the UK, is access to data: "My biggest concern is definitely access to information. You can't get all the information from all car manufacturers. Even with the situation we have at the moment, we still struggle. With someone like Ford, they make it quite difficult to get it, and they do charge you for everything, so whether it works worse or better is my
    main concern.
        
    "I voted to leave at the time, for other reasons. There was so much stuff being put out there that you didn't know who to believe. You just had to pick a side and go with it I think. Nobody knew what chaos would happen as a result of it all. I suppose if you had thought about it, it was obvious what was going to happen. Now we are in a situation where nothing has been answered. It is worrying, because it has been a hard enough few years since the banking crisis in 2008, and now it looks like it is all going to get worse. We will have to ride it out and see what happens."
        
    Kris believes Brexit could be leading Scotland into a period of greater uncertainty than the rest of the UK: "I think it will cause a lot of distraction rather than getting people focused on getting the economy in a better place. Political parties will be thinking 'do we have to have another independence referendum and then rejoin the EU?'  Again, I voted for an independent Scotland, but now it has been decided, everyone has made their choice and is getting on with it. Despite this, the SNP is still focused on a second referendum, rather than just accepting the result and getting on with things. If we have another referendum and it goes the other way, where will it end? It could go back and forth, and the same with Brexit, there is always going to be someone who is unhappy. I think they need to accept it and do the best they can."

    Your views
    We found a mixture of views from business owners on both sides of the argument. Do these views on Brexit chime with your own? Or do you have an opinion not expressed here? We would love to hear from you. Get in touch with us via alex@aftermarket.co.uk to tell us what you think.

  • THIS TIME NEXT YEAR? 

    The start and the end of a year enable us to ask where we have been, and where we are going. It’s an arbitrary cut-off, but it does provide some punctuation to the stream-of-consciousness that life in the sector can seem like.  

    2017 saw wave after wave of big issues battering the aftermarket, from ongoing concerns over diesel emissions, to the challenges represented by the connected car. All these issues were with us a year ago, and they are still with us now. Where should we be in 2019 though, and can we expect any progress on these topics?

    Clarity
    Commenting on the prospects for the year, Independent Automotive Aftermarket Federation (IAAF) chief executive Wendy Williamson saw cause for optimism: “After the seismic changes that were proposed for the industry in 2017, the IAAF remains cautiously optimistic for 2018. I for one would like to see us build on the progress we’ve started to make, in order to secure a brighter future for the aftermarket. The general consensus is, while there’s still a long way to go in many aspects, by the end of the year we shall see more clarity. Speaking of optimism, Wendy observed that some cold hard reality could be handy for those looking to see some technologies hit maturity far earlier than is likely: “I still believe that, whilst autonomous cars have received a huge amount of press coverage in 2017, they are still a long way off mass market appeal and I can’t see that changing dramatically in 2018. Whilst the vehicle technology has developed at a rapid rate over the last couple of years, the infrastructure required to support a network of autonomous vehicles is still some distance away.”

    That isn’t to say the future has been forever delayed: “However, all areas of the aftermarket do need to continue to invest for the future. Whilst this is currently evident in traditional vehicles, newer technologies such as hybrids and EVs still tend to be very much in the domain of the franchised network. With last year’s announcement by the government, that ‘pure’ diesel and petrol engine cars will be banned by 2040, the sector needs to keep pushing to ensure that the relevant parts and technical information are available, so that new vehicle technologies can be repaired by the independent aftermarket.

    “FIGIEFA’s call on the European Commission to swiftly implement the ‘interoperable in-vehicle telematics platform,’ following the conclusions of the TRL Report on ‘Access to in-vehicle data and resources’ were fervently applauded by the IAAF. We are hopeful now for swift progress to be made and that 2018 will move us closer to giving the independent aftermarket direct access to in-vehicle data.”

    “I’d also like to see more support for new technology and development, so it can reach the aftermarket more quickly,” said Wendy. “The introduction of hybrids and electric vehicles also presents opportunities as well as challenges for independent workshops to invest in the changing vehicle parc. The technology is already there for them to take advantage, but the progression and success of this shift depends heavily on the infrastructure in place. So while we’re on the subject of clarity, in 2018 I’d like to see a clearer strategy on who would pay for this.”

    Then there’s Brexit: “We need to establish a bit of sense in the UK/Europe relationship going forward, as we continue to fight the aftermarket’s corner on a number of post-Brexit threats affecting the trade.

    “One thing that won’t change, however, and will remain a constant, is IAAF’s continuation of playing a major role in championing the UK automotive aftermarket interests both in Europe and in the UK.”

    Top priority
    Common sense is clearly shared across the sector, as for Garage Equipment Association (GEA) chief executive, Dave Garratt the MOT is top priority: “I would also like to see the UK MOT brought up-to-date over the next year especially when it comes to headlamp beam testing. Today we are testing using old visual/manual headlamp beam setters in the MOT, which are great on halogen headlamps, but suffer when testing HID and LED systems. Vehicle manufacturers have been insisting that their main dealers use video camera based beam setters for many years and these lighting systems are very difficult if not impossible to
    set-up using an aiming screen.”

    On the subject of technology, Dave also said he hoped to see some progress on how we deal with connectivity: “It would be great to get some clarity on exactly how the independent aftermarket is going to remain competitive when dealing with the connected car. During 2017 the Automotive Aftermarket Liaison Group (AALG) lobbied the DfT and asked for their support in keeping an open platform on vehicles so independents can have the same access as a main dealer. With Brexit going-on, it’s difficult to focus the attention of the UK government to our concerns. However, the European Commission seems to be sympathetic in maintaining an open and fair aftermarket and our associations in Europe have gained ground when convincing them of this.

    Dave added: “Let’s hope that 2018 sees clear regulation on the connected car and that the UK adopts the same as Brexit moves closer.”

    Challenging
    “As we look ahead into 2018,” observed Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) chief executive Steve  Nash, “It looks like it’ll be another fairly challenging year for the automotive industry from a sales perspective, although the sales successes of recent years should continue to carry through strongly into the aftersales area of the business.

    Emissions concerns loom large in Steve’s mind: “Despite the well-presented case from the SMMT on behalf of the industry, the government have so far done little to address the ambiguity in their policies surrounding Euro 6 diesel vehicles, including those that will have been subjected to the new and more stringent ‘real world’ emissions tests. Therefore the decline in diesel sales we have witnessed in 2017 is likely to continue unchecked in 2018. To compensate manufacturers will put all their efforts behind their petrol, EV and hybrid offers, with plenty of new EV and hybrid models due to hit the market next year.”

    Europe is less of a concern than ongoing investment in the sector: “Though Brexit’s deal-or-no-deal will continue to dominate the headlines as we move towards the EU deadline, I doubt the motoring sector will see any drastic changes to the way it currently operates as a consequence; certainly not in 2018. With the developments of new technology advancing at record pace, independent businesses across the sector will need to be considering how they can adapt, by investing in new technology and the necessary training that will allow them to safely service vehicles that have automated, electric and hybrid tech.”

    EVs and hybrids
    The real-world practicalities of working on EVs and hybrids is something that everyone needs to think about: “Following a busy period in 2017, the IMI has been campaigning for a Licence to Practise for technicians working on the high-voltage systems of electric and hybrid vehicles, as well as potentially on autonomous systems going forward. This campaign made great progress this year by gaining support from cross-party MPs, as well as government ministers. The IMI will be working alongside government to help shape the possible licencing scheme with the support of the sector. Without regulation and a minimum training standard, there are clear and significant safety risks for technicians who don’t have any form of training or aren’t properly equipped if they are coming into contact with the high voltage systems of electric and hybrid vehicles.”

    The skills shortage is likely to still be with us at the end of 2018. Considering the alternatives out there for young people, you have to wonder why sometimes: “Recruitment has been a well-documented struggle for many employers throughout 2017,” observed Steve. “The IMI published research that showed many young people wanted to avoid university debt, however they felt it was their only option after leaving school since they’d never received any form of effective careers advice to tell them otherwise. It’s essential that 2018 sees employers become proactive in raising the awareness of the excellent career opportunities available to young people. The advances in technology mean the industry has a real and genuine chance to sell itself as a high-tech sector, attracting talented young people that can bring new ideas and skills but who might not previously have considered automotive as a career choice.”

    Ending on a positive note, Terry Gibson, head of member services at the Independent Garage Association (IGA) said: “Despite the doom mongers out there, the IGA is certain that there has never been a better time to own an independent garage. The opportunities for the future are open to those who continue to invest in training, tools and technology. That’s not to say that 2018 won’t be hard. An increasingly complex technical and regulatory landscape means that the new opportunities will be matched by new and evolving challenges.“

    Not all changes to the MOT are bad, as Terry commented: “Changes to the MOT as a result of the EU Roadworthiness Directive 2014/45 which come into force on 20 May next year will bring lower emissions standards which will require an update to the Diesel Smoke Meter (DSM), as well as introducing the ‘categorisation of defects’. These changes are likely to feature in the DVSA’s syllabus for the 2018/19 Annual Training year starting on 1 April providing a very small window for testers to get to grips with new concepts.” Some challenges may seem daunting, but are not insurmountable: “Closely following the MOT changes, the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) come into full force on 25 May 2018 and all businesses will need to ensure that they are compliant. Whilst the new regulations do not fundamentally change the core principles of data protection and privacy, they do add some significant new responsibilities and requirements for anyone that collects, stores and uses customer data as well as new rights for individuals. This is a subject that garages cannot afford to ignore or treat lightly.”

    Then there’s technology: “The increasing proliferation of ‘demand aggregation’ websites – online booking platforms, garage comparison sites and all the other apparently tempting marketing propositions that simply serve to place a third party between a garage and its customers continue to confuse consumers and cost garages money. We must stand behind proper Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) approved consumer codes such as Trust My Garage which allows garage businesses demonstrate their quality and value directly to customers without the need for middle-men. As well as the issues created by the subjects above, the direct relationship between the vehicle manufacturer and the driver of the car created by the connected and extended vehicle is a game changer for the entire motor industry. The IGA will continue to fight for access to the vehicle and its data to ensure that independent garages can continues to provide the quality and service for which they are renowned.”

    Summing  up
    These are all vital topics that have the potential to change the landscape of the industry. Will we still be discussing some or all of these issues in early 2019? Only time will tell, but Aftermarket expects to keep the files on a few of these subjects open for some time to come…


  • Snap-on sign up as 2018 Top Technician/Top Garage sponsor 

    Snap-on has put its full weight behind Top Technician and Top Garage, signing up again to sponsor the twin competitions for their 2018 run.

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