Autofirst and RAC team up for new garage network

Published:  12 February, 2019

Autofirst Network has joined forces with the RAC in a bid to create the biggest independent garage network in the country.

Formed from existing RAC Approved Garages and Autofirst Network members, along with new sign ups, the newly created ‘RAC Approved Garages powered by Autofirst Network’ already has 500 garages on board.

By subscribing, garages will also be offered repair work via the RAC Warranty scheme, as well as repairs referred to them by RAC patrols from breakdowns through the company’s Accredited Repairer scheme. Garages can also benefit from access to a suite of products including a garage management system, technical training, technical hotline, technician recruitment and support from a dedicated account manager. They will be further supported by a listing on the WhoCanFixMyCar.com website, opening even more opportunities for repair work through its national database.

Andy Hamilton, Chief Executive of Euro Car Parts which is supporting the partnership, said: “We believe the brands are an excellent fit and have the potential to become a first choice for consumers wanting the trust of big brands but with local service and convenience.”

RAC Chief Executive Dave Hobday added: “We know from market research that customers really value the friendly, local and reliable service provided by independent garages and have a very high level of trust in the RAC so this is the perfect recipe for garages looking to stand out from the crowd in a busy marketplace.”

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    Autofirst Network has agreed a deal with WhoCanFixMyCar.com that offers every member the opportunity to have its own profile on the platform for 12 months.

  • Ring: Bulb wall chart 

    Ring has issued a quick-reference wall chart for 6V and 12V bulbs. The chart features images, ECE references, dimensions, technical drawings and part numbers for over 600 replacement bulbs.  
        
    The chart also includes information about Ring’s xenon HID range, which features well-established references as well as the newer D5 bulb that is now being fitted on a growing number of vehicles. Research from Ring suggests that xenon HIDs should be replaced every three years, to prevent a drop in light output and maintain visibility for drivers.
        
    Ring’s Vehicle Lighting Product Manager Matthew Flaherty said: “The chart gives a quick reference guide for a wide range of bulb references. We’ve included some of the newest bulbs now being fitted to vehicles, including up to date HID references and the latest in performance upgrades. Our aim is to help technicians identify the correct replacement and offer potential upgrades, so that they can give their customers the best bulb for their vehicle with up to date information and options.”

    To order the chart, call Ring’s UK Customer Service Team on 0113 213 7389 quoting part number CAT1248

  • Future-proofed: Training technicians for the long-term  

    While experience in the day-to-day activities of a workshop is vital in building a technician’s knowledge and skills, it is only one piece of the puzzle. For example, a technician who has been servicing solely petrol and diesel vehicles for the past 15 years will unlikely be able to help a customer with a hybrid or electric vehicle. What’s more, given the safety concerns involved, it would be dangerous for them to try. What about servicing the latest safety-critical systems, like ADAS? Certainly not a worthwhile risk without the appropriate knowledge or equipment.

    Systematic training in new technologies is, therefore, the best way to ensure a workshop will continue to successfully serve aftermarket customers, even in times of rapid change.

    “The Auto Education Academy portal from Euro Car Parts brings IMI-approved online and practical courses together with a database of over 500,000 resolved technical queries, with an average of 600 new repairs added daily,” observed Adam White, Workshop Solutions Director at Euro Car Parts. “It provides technicians with one of the largest technical training and knowledge resources in the independent aftermarket.”

    “Training is an integral part of ongoing success in this industry,” continued Adam. “It allows technicians to further their career and workshop owners to develop a highly-skilled team of professionals.”

    While many would agree to education’s importance in principle, it can be difficult to carry out a training plan and accept lost revenue in the short-term. Online learning can provide the flexibility to bridge that gap.

    “Repairers can login to their own skills portal to view the content of more than 75 different courses, registering and booking their place on training workshops all over the country at the click of a button,” said Adam. “They can also assess their strengths and identify weaknesses in nine key areas: Petrol engines, diesel engines, engine management and emissions, vehicle electronics, hybrid and electric cars, brakes, powertrain, tyres, steering and suspension, as well as air-conditioning.

    “Results are automatically added to an interactive skills diagram, illustrating a repairer’s current skillset and enabling them to set their own training and development targets. Where gaps exist, the learner management system intuitively recommends Auto Education courses that can help increase knowledge in those areas.”

    Invaluable
    “The platform has been designed so that anybody can complete a skills overview,” pointed out Adam. “This makes the tool invaluable to workshop managers looking to monitor staff skillsets or test potential hires. Our new learning portal represents a significant investment by Euro Car Parts in helping to nurture the knowledge and skills of technicians across the country.
    “As with any profession, it is important for technicians to continue professional development throughout their career. It is also the role of managers to identify gaps in their team and commit staff to training that will address shortcomings in the workshop’s capabilities. For more immediate solutions, the programme features a technical helpline that provides fast responses to troubleshooting, repair, diagnostics and technical information queries on any vehicle, from any manufacturer.”
    Adam concluded: “For those with an eagerness to learn and evolve, it is an exciting era for the independent aftermarket. “We consider the success of technicians and independent workshops as the foundation of our industry and believe nothing plays a greater role, or makes more of an impact, than education.”

  • The secret behind Top Technician: Process 

    I guess it’s just human nature to want to take a peek behind the door that says ‘Private, Members Only’. What could be so special, and what are we missing out on? It’s with that in mind that I’m writing this article. In the next four minutes I’ll reveal what goes on behind the scenes in the Top Technician technical tests, and what it takes to diagnose a vehicle in 20 minutes. You’re going to love it!

    I first became involved with Top Technician as a judge in 2008, I was hooked from the start as it epitomised everything I loved about the industry. Watching dedicated technicians work progressively through each technical test was a thing of beauty. Not knowing who would win, as so few points separate most entrants, would keep me on a knife edge throughout the day.

    Here’s the deal though; While this is a competition, the skills used to win are exactly the same skills that need to be displayed in your workshop every day. These skills ensure your diagnosis happens in a timely manner, and you can bill all of your diagnostic time. Not only that; Anyone considering taking a Diagnostic Technician or Master Technician assessment needs to display the same skillset. There’s a blueprint for diagnostic success, and if your follow it then you’ll progress in leaps and bounds.

    What’s in a technical task?
    There are a few core skills that a technician should possess, so each technical task is designed so that a competitor can display the following:

  • Attitudes to training: Autoinform-ed  

    I have had a few weeks to reflect on an incredible Autoinform Live technical weekend in Cork Ireland. This took place at the premises of J&S Automotive on Saturday 27 and Sunday 28 April. My first thoughts, thanks, and appreciation must go to our hosts, the guest presenters, delegates, and contributing organisations which made this event possible.
    Specifically focusing on our hosts, J&S Automotive were so accommodating, words alone would not do their contribution justice. To dismantle their warehouse, provide catering and the most impressive quality support and welcome was really going above and beyond.

    Sharing knowledge
    Following the two days, I have become reflective about the way technicians approach training worldwide. I have been involved in the motor I industry for well over 50 years, with around 35 years providing training. I have and still travel the globe meeting and sharing knowledge. Please note the sharing expression, as I feel privileged to have met so many dedicated technicians from a variety of backgrounds. I have witnessed over the years great change in attitude and commitment from independent technicians and garage owners.

    I also have noted a big discrepancy in commitment from some UK I dependants which contrast with overseas counterparts.
    There is I believe a complacency in attitude to the future challenges. One recent illustration comes to mind. While in Australia last October, an individual from Perth heard on the kangaroo vine that a series of seminars was taking place in Sydney. So he could attend, he closed his business on Wednesday night with 24 hours notice, booked a eight hour flight and joined the event for the Saturday and Sunday.

    Meanwhile, a little near home, I have had cancellations from delegates unwilling to travel 10-15 miles due to unforeseen last-minute changes. I hope they are reading this!

    Threats and challenges
    So where does this leave our industry and what are the immediate threats and challenges? In my view, these can be summed up as ignorance, arrogance, complacency, and the biggest of all; technical and political evolution.

    I don’t share the euphoria of hybrid, battery, or autonomous vehicles, however I do accept the impact these will have in the short-lived near-future. In my opinion two evolutionary changes will have a long lasting influence. These are hydrogen cell technology, and cradle-to-grave vehicle utilisation. Why own a vehicle when for a relatively small affordable rental you could use and return the vehicle in exchange for a new model after two years. No depreciation, no maintenance, no trade in. As for the other aforementioned technologies, less wear, less maintenance, less reliance on the independent garage sector.

    Back to boots on the ground: The technical evolution has quite literally been breath-taking. This has in the short term presented incredible opportunities for aggressive technical minded business owners and technicians. With opportunity comes challenge, investment and training. Complex vehicle systems require a comprehensive sound knowledge and infrastructure to provide a competitive service against the dealership network. Many garages out there are currently servicing and repairing systems without adequate knowledge or technical hardware to comply with original build spec requirements. Please do not take that comment as a cheap swipe without redress but a genuine helpful comment in realisation by how much this industry has changed. In comparison with other less technical trades, controlled by rigorous legislation we have been left to our own devices so far.

    Confident system diagnosis
    I was among the presenters at Autoinform Live. Obviously what I have just gone through is a very broad analysis, so for my segment I concentrated on more specific area. With this in mind, my presentation at the event focused on using available technology to combat the ever increasing difficulties in confident systems diagnosis. In particular, I focused on engine efficiency, pumping losses, and very accurate assent of valve piston relationship using a pressure transducer while the engine is running. I then expanded on cylinder balance using g vibration analysis.

    Succeeding
    If you are running a business, you will doubtlessly be interested in getting into the next era, but this may require some adaptation on your part. You also need to put yourself in the correct area. Like the dinosaurs before us, there is an extinction zone out there and the asteroid will hit our I industry sooner than you might like or think. If you are in the 10 mile radius training mindset then you really do need to lift you focus on the horizon or possibly to those businesses you resent or admire who are succeeding in your area. If you are one of those success stories then you already know me and are attending Autoinform events or something similar.

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