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How to survive and thrive – post Brexit

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The Independent Automotive Aftermarket Federation (IAAF) conference held each December is a useful event for the independent aftermarket, it provides discussion on topical issues and advice on how to overcome imminent threats, and this year considered ‘How to survive and thrive – post Brexit’
IAAF chief executive, Wendy Williamson, opened the proceedings. She summarised the turbulent political events of 2016, citing the vote for Brexit and Trump’s US election win, in addition to our own industry threats. For example, further developments of the ‘connected car’ and the possibility of losing all unmonitored access to vehicle information, while being solely reliant on vehicle manufacturers for this data. Wendy also presented a promotional video from Ford, which announced they will have an autonomous, or driverless, car in production within the next five years – a significant challenge for both parts suppliers and repairers, with certain parts no longer required. VMs may insist on repairing these cars because of their duty of care.
Vehicle technology is evolving at breakneck speed in response to the motorists’ demand for increased services within the car and also from the urgent need to reduce our environmental impact. We have moved from low emission zones to diesel cars banned from cities entirely, to improve air quality. The UN Climate Change Summit in Paris in 2015 resulted in a global agreement to phase out the use of fossil fuels over the next 30 years. Last October, members of the German
government passed a resolution to ban the sale of internal combustion engines in the European Union by 2030, stating that only zero-emissions vehicles would be allowed on the market after that time.
The IAAF confirmed its commitment to continue its work with the independent aftermarket to support the industry in gearing up to service the changing vehicle parc of electric, hybrid and autonomous vehicles, with Wendy declaring:
“As an industry we still face a number of threats with technological advances
continuing to enter the market, as well as challenges of the changing economic climate and therefore it is more important than ever that we continue to work alongside FIGIEFA in Europe post Brexit. However, despite this year full of change, we are making progress
and will face all threats head on while continuing to search for solutions.”
The event was not focussed on just the challenges ahead. A report on the importance of the UK aftermarket by Frost & Sullivan provided some good news for the independent repair sector. The study showed the UK’s aftermarket was the 4th largest in Europe with 64% accounted for by the
independent sector and we are heading to become the 3rd largest in the next 5 years. Of the 42,544 repairers, 35,000 of these are reported to be independent, working on a UK vehicle parc of 30 million cars, which have an average age of 7.8 years. Statistics show that the average hourly rate of an independent workshop stands at £63.74, compared to £92.37 for an authorised dealer. The report concluded that, as cars become more complicated, this presents a real opportunity
for the growth of independent repairers. It recommended that we must embrace the digitalisation of vehicles, continue to lobby for the right to access vehicle data and ensure we have the skills to work on changing technology.

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