TRUTH APPROVAL

Will the rights guaranteed to the aftermarket in European legislation survive Brexit?

By Neil Pattermore | Published:  07 September, 2017

As you will be only too familiar with, the Brexit talks have begun – albeit after some delay. Now there will be a lot of discussion, some of which will be made public in the media, some of which will stay behind closed doors and some will be just plain media hype. As Mark Twain once said; “never let the truth get in the way of a good story.”

In search of the truth, what is likely to happen as part of the Brexit talks which may impact on the aftermarket? How much of this will have a positive effect, and how much will create a negative impact? Equally, how much will remain conjecture until well after all the official talks have finished, but the negotiations continue? It is useful to start at the beginning of how European legislation has supported the aftermarket.


Cause and effect
First, there was the Block Exemption Regulation (BER) which was based on competition law. BER ensured independent operators would have access to the same data, tools and information as an authorised repairer. In reality this had limited success. If a vehicle manufacturer decided not to play ball, then it was effectively impossible for a small business to take legal action against them under competition law. This was recognised by the European legislator. It decided that the ability to compete in a non-discriminatory manner needed to be anchored in a more robust legislation, so included the access to full repair and maintenance information (RMI) into the Euro 5 type approval legislation – drafted in 2007.

Type approval legislation changes the fundamental approach to a cause and effect issue. By testing the vehicle manufacturer’s compliance as part of type approval, it starts on the premise that if the vehicle manufacturer’s provision of the RMI does not meet the requirements, then the vehicle does not get type approved.

Euro 5 was therefore a more robust piece of legislation, but as ‘rules are for the guidance of wise men’ states, not all the practical implementation requirements were met. This was highlighted to the European Commission by the Ricardo report, which identified a number of key areas where some vehicle manufacturers were not compliant. The principles of access to vehicle RMI for independent operators contained in Euro 5 have subsequently been transposed into the heavy-duty vehicle legislation (Euro V/VI), powered two wheelers (L category vehicles) and agricultural and forestry vehicles (T category). However, European vehicle type approval requirements are increasingly being discussed and agreed in the United Nations WP29 group in Geneva (previously known as UNECE). In these regulations, very limited if any, provisions exist to provide access to RMI for independent operators.


Prioritise
Against this background of European regulation, what is the UK government able to do and what are they likely to do? Firstly, it is important to understand that although I have mentioned some of the automotive legislation that impacts the aftermarket, these are just one or two of the (reportedly) 19,000 plus pieces of European legislation that the UK is subject to and there are apparently 759 treaties that the UK Government may need to renegotiate as a priority.

The UK government’s initial stance is to continue with all European legislation and then to prioritise what legislation needs changing. This may be either on the basis of wanting to create an alternative to the European legislation if this benefits the UK economy, or it may be to replace European legislation if it no longer applies. You can bet every man and his dog will be trying to get the Government’s attention to highlight their particular case of why legislation affecting their sector should be a
top priority.

Can the aftermarket fit into this category? Probably not if the government’s stated intention of prioritising and supporting manufacturing industry is to be believed. The aftermarket is a service industry. Should the alternative be to ‘keep calm and carry on’ with the existing legislation, then can the aftermarket consider that it will continue to be business as usual? This may depend on the specific legislation concerned.


Serious threat
The UK is a signatory to the UNECE regulations on type approval, so no change, but no advantage either as these do not address aftermarket needs. BER is likely to remain with no change, but is difficult to enforce, especially for some of the key emerging challenges facing the aftermarket, such as remote communication with the vehicle for predictive maintenance, remote diagnostics etc. The most critical legislation for the aftermarket – Euro 5, is currently under revision to streamline many of the previously complicated requirements and amalgamate both the car and truck legislation into a single regulation.

UK vehicle manufacturers will continue to use this legislation to ensure that they can sell vehicles into Europe, but there is a very worrying new paragraph in the draft proposal that explicitly excludes the UK from this legislation. This would exempt vehicle manufacturers from having to provide all of the vehicle diagnostic, repair and maintenance information to the UK aftermarket – a serious threat. This is still a draft and may yet be part of the behind the scenes pre-discussions from both sides, but there is no guarantee that it is on the UK government’s priority list.


Emerging challenges
The UK government has famously ‘let market forces rule’ rather than legislate, but the very reason that the Euro 5 legislation was created was to address non-discriminatory access to the repair and maintenance information. This needs to be urgently brought to the attention of the government, as the alternatives are insufficient for fair competition.

The proposal to trade with other countries around the world may help the UK economy, although setting up some of these may also be a challenge. The issue of legislation for the UK aftermarket is a national issue that is, and should remain, linked to the European type approval legislation. I have stated many times before, supporting the UK aftermarket trade associations is increasingly important, but there has never been a better example of when this is going to be so critical. Your country really needs you.
xenconsultancy.com

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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.

  • Vehicle Type Approval revisions: Threat or opportunity? 

    Following last month’s article concerning the evolution of the whole aftermarket value chain, based on remote access to a vehicle, the importance of the recently revised Vehicle Type Approval legislation should not be underestimated – and nor should the efforts involved in achieving some of these changes be taken for granted.  

    This is important on several levels – firstly on the technical requirements that this new legislation contains, secondly on what this means for both today’s and tomorrow’s aftermarket and thirdly why the UK government needs to be committed to continuing that these new legislative requirements are in place after Brexit.

    Vibrant, innovative and competitive
    The aftermarket represents over two thirds of the vehicle repair and maintenance sector in the UK and the UK government must ensure that this vibrant, innovative and competitive sector can not only continue how it operates today. The sector must also be able to develop future business models as evolving vehicle technology impacts the different ways of accessing the vehicle, its data and the customer.

    The existing (Euro 5) legislation contains important rights of access to repair and maintenance information (RMI). These rights have been (mainly) transferred over into the new EU whole vehicle Type Approval that will come into force in Sept 2020 for new models entering the market. This revised Type Approval legislation (it has not yet been allocated a document number) is based on the existing Type Approval requirements, but also introduces some important new requirements that help the aftermarket. This new legislation will considerably improve the system of access to repair and maintenance information (RMI), for example:

    The continued possibility to communicate with the vehicle’s technical information/data via the standardised on-board diagnostic connector, which is now better clarified and which makes clear that third party service providers should not be barred from accessing vitally important vehicle data when the vehicle is in motion (for read-only functions). This is a good first-step towards the adaptation of our sector with the digital economy and the connected vehicle: “For the purpose of vehicle OBD, diagnostics, repair and maintenance, the direct vehicle data stream shall be made available through the serial data port on the standardised data link connector... When the vehicle is in motion, the data shall only be made available for read-only functions.”

    The information needed for preparation or repair of vehicles for roadworthiness testing has been included into the RMI definition, as this information was not available via the Roadworthiness Directive 2014/45/EU and new test methods that will use the ‘electronic vehicle interface’ will require more technical information;

    An adaptation of the format of the RMI to the state-of-the-art, which means the technical repair information can also be obtained in an electronically processable form – especially useful for technical data publishers and replacement parts catalogue producers;

    A new paragraph that recognises the fast-pace of change of vehicle technologies: Technical progress introducing new methods or echniques for vehicle diagnostics and repair, such as remote access to vehicle information and software, should not weaken the objective of this Regulation with respect to access to vehicle repair and maintenance information for independent operators.

    A new definition of ‘non-discrimination’ that not only includes authorised repairers, but also now the vehicle manufacturers themselves if they also provide repair and maintenance services, “...so as to ensure that the independent vehicle repair and maintenance market as a whole can compete with authorised dealers, regardless of whether the vehicle manufacturer gives such information to authorised dealers and repairers or uses such information for the repair and maintenance purposes itself, it is necessary to set out the details of the information to be provided for the purposes of access to vehicle repair and maintenance information.”

    Empowered
    The revised Type Approval legislation will also introduce increased market surveillance requirements that is aimed at not only checking vehicle emissions compliance following the Dieselgate scandal, but also for the Type Approval of replacement components related to both emission and safety related systems.
        
    The European Commission will also be empowered to consider the remote connection to a vehicle; “...to take account of technical and regulatory developments or prevent misuse by updating the requirements concerning the access to vehicle OBD information and vehicle repair and maintenance information, including the repair and maintenance activities supported by wireless wide area networks,” (this is using the mobile ‘phone operator networks, as already used for today’s ‘connected car’).
        
    So, the EU aftermarket associations – ably assisted by their UK members, have fought to get some important elements in the new legislation. This is good but – and there is always a ‘but’ – this legislative text provides a good basis to address some of the key issues facing the aftermarket today, but there is still work to be done – both in Brussels and here in the UK concerning the government’s position to ensure that the requirements of this European legislation remain applicable in the UK after Brexit.
        
    As is often the case, the ‘devil is in the detail’ and in the case of the new Type Approval legislation, this will become part of the ‘technical requirements’ that will be developed and defined in the ‘Delegated Acts and Technical Annexes’ which will be discussed as part of the implementation of this new legislation. This will include important topics, such as using security certificates to access data via the OBD port, which must also include a legislative process to avoid vehicle manufacturers implementing difficult, restrictive, anti-competitive or costly schemes, or simply mandating that you register your customers with your competitor (the VM) before you can offer your services.

    There will also be other legislation which may impact the technical requirements of this Type Approval revision, such as GDPR (much vehicle generated data is considered personal data), the digital single market, B2B platforms – all of which will also become familiar aspects of your new business models in the future. [ends]

    Clearly, much new EU legislation is on the way and it is vital that the UK Government ensures that these important RMI provisions are ‘carried over’ in the vehicle Type Approval, as well as in other related legislative requirements, after Brexit.

    The future of the aftermarket is rapidly moving into being part of the wider digital economy – and the aftermarket cannot survive in this ‘shark infested’ sector without legislative support – so support the aftermarket associations – they have done good work so far, but there is still much work yet to be done.

    xenconsultancy.com

  • UK automotive industry urges Brexit rethink 

    The SMMT today (Tuesday 26 June)  called for swifter progress on Brexit and a deal that, as a minimum, maintains customs union membership and delivers single market benefits.

  • SO FAR... so good 

    You may have read about some of the challenges that the aftermarket has faced over the last year or two as part of the vehicle Type Approval revisions – with their inherent ‘rights of access to repair and maintenance information’ and the associated fight to maintain access to the vehicle data via the ever-so-not-so-humble 16 pin OBD connector.

    The draft vehicle Type Approval document has been agreed by the European Commission and the Council (Member States), but has now to be approved by the European Parliament before becoming the final version which in turn, will become new legislation. However, as many of the key aftermarket amendments were tabled by the Parliament, it seems unlikely that these will be changed, but there is always an uncertainty until the final plenary vote is done.
        
    So once agreed, that will be that, as they say. Unfortunately not, as the devil is in the detail.

    Legal reference
    Firstly, there is the additional problem of existing Block Exemption and Euro 5 Regulations which do not provide the critical legal reference to enable access to in-vehicle data beyond just emissions. The standardisation requirements are included, but not the data and information for the wider diagnostic, repair and maintenance data. This means that vehicle manufacturers can claim that access to the vehicle and the corresponding ‘wider data’ does not have to be provided. This is currently being challenged by the Aftermarket Associations in Brussels, but no solution has yet been agreed for those contentious claims and there will be many vehicles on the roads with restricted access before a workable solution can be agreed and implemented.

    As vehicle manufacturers are likely to be in contradiction with these existing Type Approval requirements, it is also likely that they will have to provide access, but this may well be through the use of electronic certificates. As each vehicle manufacturer has their own certificate strategy (process, access criteria, data available etc.), this is still a significant problem and in some cases could mean multiple certificates are needed to work on the different vehicle systems on specific models. It is also important that certificates can be used without the necessity of having to use the vehicle manufacturer’s dedicated diagnostic tool and an online connection to their server to generate the required certificate when using the 16 pin connector.

    However, the new vehicle Type Approval legislation should now provide the legal reference for the physical connector and critically, also contain a reference to the data needed for diagnostics, OBD, repair and maintenance, but beyond these important requirements there are still other elements which have yet to be discussed or agreed.

    Logical cascade     
    These other issues revolve around the secure access for independent operators, together with the exact data that will be made available once access has been granted. This may sound strange, but the 16 pin OBD port is increasingly seen as a high security risk access point into the in-vehicle networks. Consequently, some form of controlled access is highly likely to be implemented, even for such seemingly mundane tasks as checking safety system trouble codes when conducting an MOT test. This is also likely to be a ‘certificate based’ system and this introduces a whole range of new challenges!

    To understand these various issues more clearly, there is a logical cascade which starts with the legal requirement for a connector to be fitted to a vehicle. This is covered as part of vehicle Type Approval legislation, and this legislation also includes the need for the connector to be standardised from both the aspect of the physical shape and connector pin layout, but also what data or information is needed for emission systems, as well as the communication protocols that must be used. All these legislative elements have been in place for more than two decades, but the wider use of the 16 pin connector for diagnostic, repair and maintenance requirements had until the current revision of the vehicle Type Approval legislation, not been legally referenced. Now that this has (hopefully) been addressed, the next key discussions will be about who can access the vehicle via this connector, how this can be authenticated and once access is provided, what data, information and functions will be supported.

    As mentioned earlier, this is likely to require electronic certificates, but to avoid the ‘wild west’ of different processes, access conditions and data availability, a standardised process should be considered by the legislator which also uses a single and independent point of access for certificates from all vehicle manufacturers. It should also be possible to access in-vehicle data without a certificate when the vehicle is in the workshop, although software updates may require certificates. When the vehicle is being driven, ‘read-only’ data should still be available and a certificate should only be needed if some form of ‘functional’ testing is required, but this should be considered as the exception. As there is an increasing use of ‘plug-in’ devices being used to allow remote communication with the vehicle when it is being driven for services such as insurance, or remote monitoring for prognostics and predictive maintenance, arguably, the importance of the OBD connector is increasing for these telematics services – even if the data it can provide is restricted in relation to what is available via the vehicle manufacturers’ embedded
    telematics systems.

    Further requirements
    Once data is accessed, the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into force in May this year, will impose further requirements for the use and handling of personal data.  A fundamental issue will be that much of the data contained in the vehicle can also be considered personal data and is subject to data protection legislation. Critically, the customer must give their consent to the use of this data by a positive action or statement – it cannot be assumed.    

    As you can see, it may be ‘so far, so good’, but the simple task of continuing to plug into the 16 pin connector and diagnosing or repairing the vehicle is going to be far from simple, with many hurdles and challenges yet to be addressed, but the aftermarket associations, both in the UK and with their pan-European partners, are continuing to fight for the ability to do so.


    xenconsultancy.com

  • Facing a new Brexit world  

    Facing a new Brexit world in the automotive aftermarket was the overarching theme of the IAAF Conference 2017, held just before Christmas.

    There is nothing particularly festive, or easy, about reversing out of the world’s largest free-trade area without mirrors, so keeping a clear head is vital.

    IAAF CEO Wendy Williamson’s opening remarks were as clear headed as you could wish for. They had a Yuletide feel, themed around the 12 days of Christmas. Among the issues covered were Brexit, emissions, the proposed MOT changes, automotive technology, consumer lifestyle changes.. On tech, Wendy observed: “Automotive technology is moving at a rapid pace, and this is yet another challenge we have to face.” Talking about lifestyle changes, she said: “Consumer expectations are changing, ownership patterns are changing, and there are new entrants to the sector like Google and Apple, along with changes to the distribution structure.

    "With reference to impact of Brexit, Wendy said: “What a journey we have ahead of us. I don’t think anyone thought it was going to be easy, but now we know how difficult the process will be.” On emissions, Wendy commented: “Yes, older vehicles emit NOx, and yes some manufacturers were less than honest, but we were encouraged to buy them. Cars with newer Euro 6 engines are much cleaner, and yet diesels are demonised in the press. Meanwhile ships, planes, wood-burning stoves are all far worse for the environment. We need a concerted effort to confront this.”

    “The UK’s infrastructure cannot support a  major move away from the internal combustion engine,” she added.

    On industry as a whole, Wendy highlighted the resilience of the aftermarket: “We must continue to invest in equipment and training to stay ahead.  All we ask for is a level playing field and the ability to continue to access information. There is a role for our industry in the future, and that future is bright despite the challenges we face.”

    Economy
    Following the introduction to the morning session by F1 legend Johnny Herbert, the first presentation of the day provided an opportunity to re-examine the impact the aftermarket has on the overall economy. Dr Julia Saini, vice president consulting at Frost & Sullivan looked at the importance of the UK aftermarket to the UK economy and the impact of Brexit on the sector.
    On the economy, citing the SMMT figures launched earlier this year at Automechanika Birmingham, Dr Saini said: “2016 was another year of growth, up 2.4% to 21.6bn, delivering £12.5bn to the economy and an extra 1,400 jobs.”

    On Brexit, she commented: “The impact of the decision could be manifold. Consumer impact could be higher prices for parts and decreased spending on car maintenance. Introduction of WTO trade rules and tariffs of between 2% and 4.5% on imported components would have an impact.

    “The current lack of clarity between the UK and EU is another area of concern to us. The aftermarket is suffering from a considerable trade imbalance – it imports twice as much as it exports.” It was not all bad news however: “Although we are running a trade imbalance, the UK is delivering a wide variety of parts and components into Europe and other markets like Asia.
    If UK companies could compete on price there are opportunities for the sector in emerging markets.”

    "Moving onto e-retailing trends, Dr Saini commented: “It is likely even more consumers will buy parts online.”

    On the evolution in personal mobility, Dr Saini said: “The way we are using cars is changing. Car sharing and e-hailing could remove up to 460,000 cars from UK roads by 2025.  Businesses should capitalise on this and target car sharing and e-hailing operators as potential new customers for the aftermarket. Also, working with fleet companies enables businesses to service more vehicles, and also offer some fleet operators who in-source servicing significant savings. It is worth looking into which companies have in-sourced capacity that cannot meet the demand and make an offer.”

    In conclusion, looking ahead at the need for the renewal of the workforce and the entry of new talent to the sector, Dr Saini added: “The industry  must work with schools and government to attract more young people to the industry.”

    Next up was Quentin Le Hetet, general manager at GIPA, who was examining the impact of global influences on the UK aftermarket.

    Looking at global sales trends, Quentin compared the 137.9% growth in car registrations in China between 2011 and 2017 with the situation in Europe. “Every year, 25m new cars are registered in China. That’s almost the equivalent of the entire UK car parc, every year.”

    In the same period, the whole of Europe saw a 3.7% increase. “The car market we are in is not going to greatly increase in future.”
    On Britain, Quentin said: “UK registrations are dropping. This is the only G5 country seeing a decrease. This means the UK car parc is not going to grow as fast as it used to. It’s not a threat, but it means the average age of cars is going to increase from 7.6 years upwards.

    “The attraction of the franchised sector is going to decrease, and this is good news for the aftermarket.”

    Consolidation
    Quentin’s next topic was the wave of ownership changes still washing across the parts supply sector. Looking at the major factor chains in Britain, he commented: “It is interesting to note that three of them are owned by North American parents, and that two of those have been bought out in the last year. They are part of a consolidation trend that is going on at a European level.”
    Looking for a reason behind the Atlantic crossing taking place, Quentin mused: “In North America, a lot is done by the driver, where in Europe it is done by professionals. This is why there is a lot of interest – more margin. Britain is a gateway to Europe as well, as English is spoken.”

    Quentin then covered the growth of garage schemes and soft franchises. While Britain is still some way behind the continent in this area, Quentin thought they offered some advantages: “I think the benefit of the schemes is that they make the garage more professional.”

    Labour rates were up next, and Quentin pointed out that while franchised dealers, Autocentres and fast-fits had all seen labour rates rise since 2012, independent rates had actually dropped. “Many independents gauge their labour rate by seeing what their local competition is charging, and then charging £2 less per hour. This shows the kind of support businesses need.”
    This is a challenge for the wider industry too: “How can we sustain
    the sector and provide support and training to help the sector stay in business?”

    Online service providers
    The challenges didn’t stop in the next session, as Alistair Preston, co-founder at whocanfixmycar.com contextualised the rise of online service providers and showed how garages can increase their customer base by taking the leap.

    “The UK consumer is a big car of aggregators, and we have the insurance sector to thank for that. There is an ongoing willingness
    by UK consumers to embrace these platforms.”

    Commenting on the success of their offering, Alistair observed: “If the garage is paying us money, then their workshops are full of
    our customers.”

    Alistair went on to point out how garages are making the most of the site, along with industry partners like  parts suppliers. In some cases they are working with garages to promote specialists in certain areas: “This evolution of independent garages getting smarter and more organised is only going to increase.”

    Right2Choose
    The IAAF’s Mike Smallbone followed, and he provided information on Right2Choose, and highlighted how the campaign will be kicking up a gear in 2018. “The issue is who has the right to service and repair the vehicle in the warranty period, and is also about who has the right to receive data. Right2Choose is all about choice,” Mike added. “If the consumer wants to go to the dealer, then they will. We want to make sure they know they have the choice.”
     
    Clearly we will be hearing more about this. Watch this space.

    Developments
    After lunch, a change of lane as Olaf Henning, corporate executive vice president at Mahle, showed how F1 technology is being used to drive parts developments in the aftermarket.

    “What is important is how we use motorsport as a laboratory,” said Olaf. He cited the steel piston the company developed in 2008, that was used in a Le Mans car in 2009 and by 2015 was in series production. “This was in less than a decade. It does not always go this way but shows what can happen.”

    Looking at the drivetrain, Olaf cited Mahle’s dual strategy on the issue of EVs and the internal combustion engine: “Do we need EVs that can drive 500kms? I don’t think so. I think we will see drivetrains being more diverse rather than either-or.”

    Future technology
    Staying with technology, IMI chief executive Steve Nash was up next. Commenting on the proposed phasing out of conventional petrol and diesel systems by 2040 at home and abroad, Steve tended towards cautious scepticism. On the potential impact  on garages, he said: “There will undoubtedly be a change in the market. I do believe there will be more call for people to specialise. If you are a small garage then there will be an advantage to be part of a larger network.”

    On the government’s attitude to the EV challenge, Steve said: “They are looking at infrastructure, but the one thing they are not looking at is skills.”

    Looking at possible threats ahead Steve said: “There is very little money in selling new cars. The margins are razor thin. All the money is in used cars and aftersales. It is a very important part of the business.”

    He then went on to examine how different ownership models for vehicles could put manufacturers firmly in the driving seat: “The future sales model would give them a lot of power over the aftermarket if they kept ownership of the vehicles.”

    The last speaker of the day prior to summing up by IAAF president Lawrence Bleasdale was Figiefa technical director and long-term Aftermarket contributor Neil Pattemore. He looked at the latest technical threats emerging from the UK and Europe. Access to the OBD port, the wider issue of access to technical information, the machinations of Type Approval and many other issues were covered.

    “It has been one of the most challenging and most difficult of the seven years I have been in Brussels” said Neil, who went on to discuss the gains the organisation has made on behalf of the sector during the year, and where the sector was winning back some ground.”

    With that closing statement from Lawrence Bleasdale, the conference ended on a positive note.




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