Silver lining for switched on workshops

The pandemic and consequences of Brexit have significantly affected the entire automotive aftermarket but savvy workshops can use record-low new vehicle registrations and their ability to adapt more quickly to their advantage when dealers focus their attention on aftermarket servicing and repairs.

The Independent Automotive Aftermarket Federation (IAAF) urged the entire industry to gear up for change in its virtual conference at the end of 2021, as it presented the opportunities and challenges the trade is set to face and a panel of experts provided advice on how parts suppliers, service providers and workshops can futureproof businesses in the years to come.

Here, we look at how Quentin Le Hetet from market analysts GIPA set the future landscape for the aftermarket after analysing key data and trends that will affect the industry in the short and longer term.

Decimated new car registrations – play to your strengths…
He stressed that first and foremost, the car sales dynamic is having a significant impact: “The car parc is not growing as it should be and is not being renewed as it should be”. The impact of (poor) new car sales is an aging car parc, which gives the independent aftermarket an advantage – the number of cars aged 0-3 years, which typically end up at the dealers, is shrinking – a car’s average age has increased to over 14 years in the UK, presenting an opportunity for independent workshops to take on more technical and profitable jobs as major parts deteriorate and require replacement. Quentin stated in the UK, with a strong emphasis on the word ‘currently’, that many franchise dealers are not geared, and do not have the right strategy in place, to attract work on cars within the 5-9 years old segment. It follows that vehicle manufacturers suffering from poor vehicles sales will want to claw some of this aftersales work back.

VMs gang together – promote your independent status…
One major shift in recent years to extend the VMs influence and consumer reach is the consolidation of vehicle manufacturers. The PSA and FCA group merged in 2021 forming the Stellantis Group – the world’s 4th largest car manufacturer incorporating 18 vehicle brands, representing over 20% of the UK car parc. “Consolidated together, their power is much bigger. This is very important to have in mind because they will use this to invest in the independent aftermarket in the UK. The Volkswagen Group’s aftermarket strategy involves increasing parts sales to the independent workshop, using its TPS factor network to supply genuine parts via its 100+ branches. 

The Stellantis group have Distrigo providing genuine parts, Tier 1 OE manufacturers and aftermarket all-makes Euro repar brand. “On top of this, they are developing a garage network Euro Repar Service, aiming to service all makes using their Distrigo distribution.”

The rise of electric vehicles & subscription models – prepare for fleet work…
“The disruption of the market is coming from plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles, which are really going to make a huge difference to the workshop”. Quentin uses the term disruption because of the change in ratio between labour and parts turnover when repairing Battery Electric Vehicles compared to ICE vehicles, around 65% labour, 35% parts with BEVs. As parts revenue decreases, VMs are adapting their business models. Quentin states that it is still too early to understand the disruption entirely but VMs, such as Volvo, are testing the water with vehicle subscription models, which obviously tie motorists into the dealer network. “I think more and more, independent garages need to think more about fleets, consolidation of the car parc owned by companies… Fleet managers want to stretch their assets to the minimum running cost… Garages will need to adapt and have a commercial discussion directly with them because there’s going to be much more of this in the future.”

The importance of training and preparing to take on EV repairs and maintenance was stressed. “We are still relatively far from the mass adoption of Electric Vehicles so there is still time to get ready, but I think it’s good not to leave it until the last minute. We are already seeing more and more independent workshops seeing electric vehicles… it is very important to be aware of all these trends, to have a plan to be ready for all these vehicles.”

IAAF Campaigns for fair access to in-vehicle data

The Independent Automotive Aftermarket Federation, IAAF, has added its voice to a large coalition representing the automotive aftermarket in Europe, including FIGIEFA, which is calling on the European Union to take on board a proposal for a Secure On-board Telematics Platform (S-OTP) – which will allow access for independent service providers.

Following the UK’s withdrawal of the EU, the IAAF is working alongside other federations in bringing the campaign to the attention of the UK government.

The intention of the S-OTP is to ensure that motorists can still choose their service providers, many of them SMEs, to benefit from innovative, competitive and affordable services and products. To do so, service providers have to be able to compete with all stakeholders, some of whom might be tempted to act as “gatekeepers” through proprietary access methods to in-vehicle data.

FIGIEFA said it is the only solution guaranteeing true consumer choice, effective competition and independent entrepreneurship in a secure and technology-neutral manner.

In the detailed document, publishers of technical information, body repairers, dealers and workshops, garage equipment suppliers, tyre manufacturers, recovery companies, parts distributors and leasing companies, as well as consumers, provide technical and commercial arguments supporting their recommendation.

With the advent of the connected car, competition now starts in the vehicle where the ability to safely and securely access car data, functions and resources determines the quality of the service.

Wendy Williamson, IAAF Chief Executive, said: “For many years now, it has been proven that a standardised interoperable telematics platform can be safe, robust and secure. IAAF
will continue to campaign and lobby the UK government, highlighting that the current in-vehicle access platforms – controlled and operated by the vehicle manufacturers – restricts businesses from embracing digital opportunities, and jeopardises consumer choice, innovation and a growing economy.”

Preparing for the digital revolution

Wendy Williamson, chief executive of the IAAF (Independent Automotive Aftermarket Federation), detailed the challenges faced by the aftermarket in the digital era at Automechanika Birmingham last month. Autotechnician spoke to Wendy about the ongoing battles in Brussels to support free access to vital vehicle data in a digital age and opportunities that evolving technologies present.

All modern vehicles have telematic capabilities in varying degrees; cars of today are basically computers on wheels. IAAF’s Wendy Williamson tells us: “We are living in a world today where a black box knows where you are going, what speed you are driving… it’s very much a case of ‘Big Brother is watching you’ already. We are going to see those levels of connectivity increase even further, which will have an implication for the aftermarket. So, we need to make sure we are geared up for the future.” 

On the technological front – everyone’s familiar with the demise of the internal combustion engine and the growing popularity of alternatively-fuelled vehicles and we need to be prepared for this. “The Jaguar i-Pace is a game changer, with a range of 300+miles,” Wendy believes, “although there’s a huge amount that needs to be done with infrastructure.”We talk about the advancement in charging and Wendy cites an Australian company who are driving the technology forward by enabling a fast charge in just ten minutes. “The advance of vehicle techology in the past 20 or so years is breathtaking when you look back. When I had my dear old Mini years ago, I would never have dreamt we’d have power steering, ABS braking, cruise control…now we have drowsiness sensors! Also, the EU have just introduced an alcohol test so that if you get in the car and put your hands on the steering wheel and you’ve had one too many the car won’t start!” 

“All of these are great safety features but we need to make sure we continue to be able to repair vehicles and the VMs see the Extended Vehicle as the fairest route to repair vehicles in the future but it relies on their servers, their interfaces, their tools and permissions… If we allowed that to happen, we would totally lose unmonitored access to the vehicle.” I ask Wendy where we are in terms of challenging the VMs on this and she explains how FIGIEFA were asked by the EU commission to conduct testing, as part of the investigation of the VMs Extended Vehicle (ExVe) concept using the EGR valve as a working example. The objective was to test how independent operators can receive relevant real-time data related to the valve, perform a remote diagnostic test routine, and also carry out a remote temporary repair. The results are now with the commission and should expose the technical limits of the concept and bias towards the VM networks. Wendy praises FIGIEFA, “I cannot underestimate how important FIGIEFA is and the work it does in Brussels. They’re a small team but they do a great job of representing us throughout Europe and we’ll continue to be involved post-Brexit. It’s the only way we’ll have the UK represented.” 

CLOSURE OF OBD PORTS

“Some of the VMS have already closed the OBD port on current production models… that’s clearly in breach of the Type Approval legislation. Workshops would need to get a certificate from the vehicle manufacturer, which would then give you a code to get you into the vehicle. But then of course, it’s up to them and they’ll know who they have given security clearance to, where and on what vehicle. It’s all about [having] unmonitored access.” 

“We have changing vehicles and technological challenges, so we need legislation, we need Type-Approval and we need to have an alternative to the Extended Vehicle and the on-board telematics platform is still our goal. The most relative alternative is a neutral server to provide unmonitored access.” 

“Block exemption ends in 2023 [legislation that enables independent garages to service cars within the warranty period, as long as OE quality parts are used and VM service schedules adhered to]. We’ve already submitted a roadmap to the commission – we’re really pushing for the same rights we enjoy under existing Block Exemption. If the VMs can remotely repair vehicles, you as a driver should have the ability to say that you want your independent garage to do it.”The IAAF has been keen to promote its ‘Your Car, Your Choice campaign’ this year to inform motorists that they can take their vehicle, from day one, anywhere for servicing without invalidating
the vehicle manufacturer’s warranty. Find out more at www.yourcaryourchoice.co.uk. 

It’s not just technology that is changing the way we repair vehicles, we’re also facing lifestyle changes, where future mobility is likely to involve cars becoming a service rather than a commodity, as people move away from the ownership of cars, and their associated maintenance and repair, towards subscription services. 

On my travels, I have had many discussions with garage owners and technicians about trade bodies – many of which directly benefit from memberships, but a handful have begun the conversation by saying ‘What do they actually do for me?’ Our trade associations are full of passionate people who have been involved in the industry for decades, many of which started out on the tools themselves. Much of their work goes on behind the scenes to promote an level playing field with the vehicle manufacturers and dealer networks, that frameworks are put in place so technicians are kept safe working on the latest technologies and relevant accredited training is created to ensure independents remain competitive. I urge you to research the industry’s trade bodies to understand how they could benefit you. 

IAAF Conference – The ongoing battle to save the OBD Port

The IAAF Annual Conference addressed some of the major issues predicted to impact our industry in 2018 and beyond, including global influences, technical threats, rapidly evolving technology and Brexit. The emergence of the ‘Connected Vehicle’ raises the issue of data ownership, and lifestyle changes leading to car rental/sharing and the increasing use of e-hailing with the likes of Uber, are changing the automotive aftermarket landscape significantly. The trend towards autonomous vehicles is gaining momentum, and the latest car registration stats show a steady rise in hybrid and electric vehicle sales.
The lacking EV infrastructure is something the UK needs to address and, critically, training in the repair of these vehicles. Our industry may be on the verge of a major shift – the likes of which we have not seen before – with technology driving many changes directly affecting the way in which vehicles can be diagnosed and repaired. We’ll look at each of these areas in detail in the coming issues. Here’s a taster of what was discussed at the IAAF Conference in December…

Wendy Williamson, IAAF Chief Executive, noted the ongoing discussions in Brussels regarding Type Approval legislation. To understand the gravity of the situation, she reminded the conference that the Vehicle Manufacturers have 134 dedicated lobbyists at the EU promoting their interests, against a handful of dedicated aftermarket groups and representatives. Technicians are fully aware of the importance of an accessible OBD port but, if the radical changes proposed by Type Approval legislation go ahead, independent garages will no longer have unmonitored access to the OBD connector; it could be controlled entirely by the VM through remote diagnostics performed with the use of their servers. Wendy warned, “The OBD port on the new Fiat 500 has been closed off and the next generation of Golfs and BMWs are going the same way.” The aftermarket has had its work cut out in Brussels to protect the OBD port and ensure repair information remains available and in an electronic format, see page 4 for news of the latest victory.

Wendy reiterated the ongoing struggle the aftermarket faces with reference to the ‘Connected Car’, warning, “The VMs have a vision that all access to the vehicle will be through their servers, using their tools and, I guess the logical conclusion eventually will be, using their parts – threatening the livelihood of the independent aftermarket, as we could lose all unmonitored access to the vehicle, receiving the information in a format and timeframe which is down to them. We could be left in a world where the VMs know what we do, to which vehicle, when and even where”.

This would restrict consumer choice as to where a motorist can professionally get their vehicle maintained and repaired, an issue the IAAF has challenged for some time now with its Right2Choose campaign. This aims to educate motorists of their right to choose either a franchised dealer, autocentre or independent workshop to undertake repair and maintenance work with a vehicle under warranty. Providing parts and fluids of Original Equipment quality have been used in accordance with the manufacturer’s service schedule, a warranty will not be invalidated – how many of your customers know this?

“As an industry, we will continue to face many challenges on different fronts, and we will encounter more complex threats. However, we are prepared, and the future is bright despite the challenges we face. What we do know is that IAAF will continue to work tirelessly on behalf of its members to secure that future.”

Wendy Williamson, IAAF Chief Executive

The battle for keeping the OBD connector continues

The Independent Automotive Aftermarket Federation (IAAF) has welcomed many of the amendments approved by the European Parliament’s Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee, as part of the forthcoming type approval legislation.

These relate to the diagnostics, repair and maintenance of vehicles and are an important step towards improving the legislative framework for independent operators. Over 184 amendments were approved and included several major revisions, the most important of which is keeping the OBD port to the vehicle open and accessible.

This is just the beginning of a lengthy battle to preserve the small, but very important, OBD connector, which enables technicians to efficiently diagnose vehicle faults.

The radical changes proposed by type approval legislation will
have severe consequences on consumer choice. If it goes ahead, independent garages will no longer have unmonitored access to the OBD connector as it could be controlled entirely by the VM through remote diagnostics performed with the use of their servers.

Clearly these alternatives create the risk that some VMs may utilise a legislative loophole and gain a monopoly on access to technical vehicle data, controlling the cost of information and potentially shutting out independent workshops entirely.

If the IAAF and the other trade organisations fighting against the type approval proposals are successful then under legislation, VMs would have to continue to fit the OBD connector in new models of cars and consumer choice would remain protected.

Wendy Williamson, IAAF chief executive, said:

“The IAAF continues to play a very active role in these discussions, as our aim is to improve the legal framework conditions for competitive RMI throughout the life of a vehicle. We are at a critical stage and we will work alongside other Federations and FIGIEFA in Europe to ensure the automotive aftermarket’s voice is heard.”

Industry bodies come together

Automotive Aftermarket liaison group joins forces as independent aftermarket faces threat of losing diagnostic connectivity via the OBD port – by Nicola St Clair.

For those of you who don’t have any dealings with trade associations, you may wonder what benefit they are to workshops and the industry in general. Having worked in the aftermarket for 15 years, I have seen first-hand the practical experience each brings to the table and the hard work that goes on behind the scenes to promote a level-playing field, best practice and to represent the interests and issues of workshops and suppliers with the vehicle manufacturers and those involved in creating legislation here in the UK and in Brussels.
THE ASSOCIATIONS THAT FORM THE AALG ARE:
  • Garage Equipment Association (GEA) – Dave Garratt, CEO
  • Scottish Motor Trade Association (SMTA) – Sandy Burgess, CEO
  • Independent Automotive Aftermarket Federation (IAAF) – Wendy Williamson, CEO
  • Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) – Steve Nash, CEO
  • Independent Garage Association (IGA) – Stuart James, CEO
  • British Battery Industry Federation (BBIF)
  • National Tyre Distributors Association (NTDA) – Stefan Hay, CEO
  • Federation of Engine Re-manufacturers (FER)
On a daily basis, each association is delving into its membership’s own areas of concern but they regularly join forces when the going gets tough, in the form of the Automotive Aftermarket Liaison Group (AALG), see side panel to meet the team. They strengthen the lobbying power of the UK aftermarket by discussing matters of common interest between its members and share resources to address issues. The AALG has successfully lobbied against several government proposals that would have negatively impacted the retail automotive industry, and are now raising awareness of several new consultations.
They recently met at Silverstone to discuss its new lobbying position on European issues that affect the aftermarket in a post-Brexit Britain. Here are the concerns raised by each member of the panel.
Dave Garratt, GEA CEO:
“The aftermarket is often overlooked, but it plays a significant role in the UK’s economy. The AALG’s job is to bring our industries associations, societies and institutes together to work for the
interests of all businesses associated with the aftermarket. Furthermore, in the event of Brexit, the development of the connected car and the trend towards electric and eventually autonomous vehicles, we believe there has never been a more important time to work together.
“Garage equipment manufacturers need to provide the aftermarket with the tools required to service, inspect and diagnose tomorrow’s vehicles. The introduction of the connected car brings forward a real threat of losing diagnostic connectivity for the independent sector. As I said earlier, there has never been a more important time for our organisations to work together to protect consumer choice”.
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Stuart James, IGA CEO:
“One of the biggest issues affecting the independent sector is the ability to access vehicle manufacturers technical information, standing united with other aftermarket associations to lobby in the UK and on a European front will heighten the chances of a robust and time efficient solution”.
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Wendy Williamson, IAAF CEO:
“We are currently striving towards overcoming a number of potential industry threats and have begun to promote the Your Car – Your Choice campaign to a wider audience. Protecting the aftermarket’s rights during the development of the connected car and Type Approval legislation is of paramount importance to the Federation, with the aim of ensuring the independent aftermarket
has a level playing field when it comes to access to technical, parts, repair and maintenance information. The IAAF strongly opposes extending the first MOT test from three years to four for
new vehicles and we are playing an active role in AALG to combat this.”
Sandy Burgess, SMTA CEO:
“As we progress towards the Brexit date, the landscape for our industry will change, no doubt creating any number of situations which will generate the need for significant, and potentially
costly, change. Acting as a strong united body, the AALG will be able to use the pooled resource of the members to ensure a clear interpretation of the impacts of these changes and provide clarity of understanding to assist those within the industry to take sensible action to mitigate these impacts”.
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Steve Nash, IMI CEO:
“The AALG is a great example of the industry working together for the common good. With such a sophisticated and multi-faceted business as automotive is, it is not surprising that we have a large, diverse mix of representative bodies, all of which have important roles to play in looking after the interests of their respective members.
“But when there are important issues of mutual interest, such as the proposed changes to the first MOT test, it makes absolute sense to work together to form a larger and more powerful lobbying group with a common goal and a single voice. The Automotive Aftermarket Lobbying Group (AALG) was formed to do exactly that.”
Stefan Hay, NTDA CEO:
“Tyres are a crucial safety component and a major contributor to MOT failure. As a result, vast technological advances have been made to improve their performance in recent times, yet many
motorists still have a very laissez-faire attitude to basic tyre checks, with some still choosing to buy dangerous part- worn tyres. We welcome the support of our fellow AALG members in raising
consumer awareness of the importance of regular tyre maintenance”.
www.AALG.org.uk
An extended article is available on www.autotechnician.co.ukthis includes the panel’s views
on technician licensing, the small number of independent workshops taking up hybrid training & more. We will be discussing major concerns with each association as they continue to develop across the next few issues. If you would like to address your industry concerns with a trade body or come along with Autotechnician to meet them in person to find out how their work affects yours, email Editor Nicola@Autotechnician.co.uk