The Motor Ombudsman expects surge in Garage Finder searches

With nearly 1.3 million more MOTs set to expire in September and October than what would ordinarily be seen during these two months (pre-pandemic), The Motor Ombudsman is expecting a significant rise in searches on its online Garage Finder, as motorists look to book their vehicle’s annual test

The Motor Ombudsman is expecting a significant increase in searches by consumers on its online Garage Finder tool during the coming weeks, as millions of motorists look to secure a booking for their vehicle’s annual test. According to the latest figures released by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), nearly seven million MOTs are due to expire across England, Scotland and Wales during September and October, which is around 1.3 million more, or a 22% overall rise, compared to what would ordinarily be seen during these two months in a typical year.

With 9.58 million drivers choosing to take advantage of the six-month MOT extension last year, the peaks and troughs in testing volumes that would normally be witnessed across a calendar year have changed significantly.

The Garage Finder on The Motor Ombudsman’s website lists thousands of independent garages, body repair centres and franchise dealer workshops across the UK, that are following the Ombudsman’s Motor Industry Code of Practice for Service and Repair. The tool allows motorists to search for their nearest accredited business by location and make of car, amongst other criteria, submit booking enquiries, and read the latest ratings and reviews left by other consumers.

During the first six months of the 2021, more than 160,000 searches were conducted on the Garage Finder, a 60% increase versus the same period last year.

Bill Fennell, Chief Ombudsman and Managing Director of the Motor Ombudsman, said: “After a small uptick in the number of MOTs forecast to expire during August, there is a notable acceleration in the volume of MOT certificates due to come to an end in September and October. This means that it’s going to be an extremely busy period for MOT stations up and down the country during the next few weeks.”

www.TheMotorOmbudsman.org

Poll results: MOTs remain front of mind for drivers

A YouGov poll commissioned by The Motor Ombudsman has found that despite nearly 10 million MOT exemptions being issued, the majority (89%) of drivers said that they knew the expiry date of their vehicle’s annual certificate, an unexpected positive result from the extension. Conversely, the study highlighted that only around one in ten drivers (11%) were unable to recall the expiry date of their car’s MOT, thereby putting them at greater risk of incurring a £1,000 fine and invalidating their insurance.

Furthermore, when survey participants were asked about whether they were aware that the current rules regarding MOTs allow cars to be tested up to a month (minus a day) earlier than the deadline, nine in ten UK drivers polled stated that they already knew that this was a possibility.

With MOT volumes forecast to be much lower in April and May compared to the same months in 2020, according to the Driver Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), because of the knock-on effect of last year’s extension, this will serve as welcome news for service and repair businesses looking to drive footfall, if customers are “in the know” that they have an element of flexibility as to when they have their vehicle tested.

Another positive to be drawn from the findings of the latest Motor Ombudsman poll study is that over three quarters (81%) of UK drivers would feel comfortable taking their car to a garage for its MOT in person, thanks to the peace of mind provided by the extensive COVID-19 safety measures that workshops have been put in place since the start of the pandemic. The results also showed that male drivers (85%) are seemingly more at ease than female car owners (76%) about the prospect of visiting a garage, whilst only 12% of drivers overall explained that they would feel nervous if they were to take their vehicle to the test station themselves. Similarly, just 4% of respondents would opt to use a garage’s collection and delivery service, with this being a slightly more popular alternative for those who are retired (7%) or aged over 55 years (6%).

Commenting on the findings of the study, Bill Fennell, Managing Director of The Motor Ombudsman, said: “With the six-month extension changing the natural rhythm of when people would have traditionally got their MOT done, it is encouraging to see that such an important annual assessment remains at the forefront of people’s minds and a key date in the diary for so many. Nevertheless, when our lives do return to some degree of normality in the coming months as lockdown restrictions are lifted, it’s still advisable for motorists to sign up for free MOT reminders and have the car’s documentation readily available to jog their memory if needed, so that they can make a booking ahead of time. The annual test is such a critical part of vehicle maintenance and staying safe and legal when at the wheel, so it really is a date that can’t be left to chance.”

www.TheMotorOmbudsman.org

Ensure customers know there’s no MOT exemption

Workshops are being advised to communicate recent confirmation that vehicle repair and MOT services are permitted to remain open during the latest lockdown restrictions amid concerns that motorists may inadvertently delay or even miss servicing schedules and MOTs.

Leo Freebairn, of garage management software supplier TechMan, said: “It’s pleasing to see that garage services have once again been permitted to continue operating and we welcome the DVSA’s confirmation that MOT testing will also continue.

“As with everything during this pandemic though, there’s still a lot of confusion and it’s down to garages to proactively communicate what the latest restrictions mean to their customers.

“The message is simple; workshops are permitted to remain open and the DVSA has indicated that there will not be another MOT extension at this time, so motorists must ensure their vehicle is roadworthy with a valid MOT.”

The TechMan garage management system features tools to seamlessly send customised text messages and emails to customers, ideal for notifying them of your business’s response to new lockdown restrictions as well as booking reminders, quotes and job information.

Other features include Electronic Vehicle Health Checks, Real-Time Technician Efficiency, PDQ Integration, LKQ Euro Car Parts Catalogue with electronic ordering, Tech Data and Web bookings direct to diary.

Leo concludes: “We all know that communication is key to building a strong customer rapport but there’s never been a more important time to go the extra mile by offering your professional expertise and advice during the ongoing pandemic.”

For more information about the TechMan Garage Management System or to arrange a demonstration, call 01604 666 720 or visit www.techmangms.com.

Don’t miss out on Class 7 testing opportunity

With the DVSA announcing that van drivers and delivery fleets across the UK are struggling to book Class 7 MOT slots, LKQ Euro Car Parts is urging garages to do what they can to help.

The challenge has stemmed from the backlog created by the MOT extension earlier this year, with demand remaining high across every vehicle class.

Anthony McAteer, Trading Director at LKQ Euro Car Parts, said: “Christmas is always the busiest time of the year for deliveries – this year more so than ever, as people choose to shop from the comfort of their own homes. We and our workshop customers have an important part to play in keeping vans moving safely over the next few weeks – and so their drivers can keep doing their jobs when it matters most.

“As well as prioritising inbound Class 7 requests – even if just a few per day – garages can work through their databases to identify where there are Class 7 tests due (or overdue) and proactively encourage drivers to bring their vehicles in. Available slots can also be advertised on social media. Demonstrating awareness of the urgent Class 7 testing need and an understanding of the business-critical roles many vans play will also help to encourage loyalty from new and existing customers.

“We’re advising garages to take advantage of high demand for tests over the next few weeks, before things quieten down. Bringing in business between now and Christmas will help to offset the impact of what’s been a challenging year. Being proactive is the best way to manage demand and plan resource effectively – even bringing temporary team members on board if there’s capacity in the workshop to do so safely.”

https://omnipart.eurocarparts.com/

MOT extension update

The government plans to stop issuing extensions to car and light commercial vehicles from the 1st August 2020.

All vehicles will now require its normal scheduled MOT from this date, MOT testing up to that date remains optional, as any extensions applied will still be valid.

https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/driver-and-vehicle-standards-agency

Stuart James, IGA Chief Executive, comments: “We thank the Government for listening to our views. The news will give clarity to garages and allow them to plan for the busy period ahead.

“This is a welcome retraction of a policy doubtless designed to provide relief to motorists. However, this additional month will allow at least 1 million unroadworthy cars to remain on the road for an additional six months, as well as the 1.6 million dangerous vehicles that have already had their MOT extended.

“With road traffic increasing, people being encouraged to use their cars rather than public transport, and further lockdown measures easing on 4 July, we believe this additional month will leave a number of motorists with an accumulation of faults and repair costs when they are least able to afford them. Even though this scheme has only been in place for four months, it has detrimented the roadworthiness of many cars, taken away the bread and butter of the independent garage sector and left a great number of consumers confused.

“We will continue to work with Government departments and support independent garages to ensure that all safety measures are upheld, playing our part to prevent further coronavirus cases across the UK.”

IMI campaign for motorists to get their vehicles serviced and MOT’d

New data from the ONS for the period 20 April to 9 May 2020 shows that 20% of automotive businesses temporarily closed or paused trading; approximately 19,000 businesses and 124,000 jobs. And 37% of automotive businesses that continued to trade reported that turnover had decreased by more than 50%. Whilst the numbers are significant, they actually show a small turn-around in the fortunes of the sector. For the previous period, 24% of automotive retail businesses had reported they were closed – so the new figures suggest that approximately 9,000 businesses had reopened late April/early May.

Steve Nash, CEO of the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) believes that whilst this is a good sign for the automotive retail sector, motorists will still need encouragement to get back to their garages. The IMI is therefore planning a consumer campaign to raise awareness of the importance of getting vehicles MOT’d and serviced before they go back to regular use.

“The news that car showrooms can open from 1st June – as long as appropriate hygiene and social distancing measures are in place – will be a relief for the sector as a whole, but especially for the 7% of automotive businesses that said that they either had no cash reserves or less than a month of cash reserves, potentially putting 5,600 businesses at risk”, said Steve Nash. “But there is still a concern that motorists will be putting off getting their vehicle serviced or MOT’d, especially while government holds back on scrapping the MOT extension.

“The IMI will, therefore, be campaigning during June to raise awareness amongst motorists that if they are using their vehicles more regularly they are legally required to ensure they are completely roadworthy. The government has always been clear that while the MOT extension is in place vehicles on the roads must be safe. And we know that MOT stations and garages are ready and able to provide an effective service – supported by industry bodies such as ours in making sure their workplaces are able to abide by the hygiene and social distancing guidelines. Indeed the take up of the recently published COVID-19 Best Practice Guide proves that the sector is absolutely prepared for the task.

“We will also continue to lobby government to scrap the MOT extension, working alongside a number of the industry’s Trade Associations.”

The IMI campaign will target national and regional radio stations to get the message out to drivers that they should get their vehicle MOT’d and serviced, using the IMI Professional Register to identify the local garages that are appropriately accredited.

Government clarifies MOT extension and how to undertake MOT’s safely

The government has confirmed that garages can still carry out MOT tests. Vehicles that had an MOT due to expire from 30 March 2020 were automatically given a 6-month extension but the MOT extension will no longer apply if a customer takes a vehicle for its MOT and it fails. The vehicle will need to be fixed and pass its MOT before it can be used again.

What to do if someone becomes unwell in your MOT centre

The government advise that if anyone has coronavirus symptoms, they should be sent home and advised to follow the stay at home guidance.

Refuse to carry out a test if the customer has symptoms and should be in self-isolation.

Limiting the spread of coronavirus at your centre

You should:

MOT certificates

Do not print MOT certificates unless the customer needs it for a specific reason. Tell customers they can download and print the certificate when they get home and check their MOT history.

Taking payments

Avoid handling cash and use contactless card payments where possible. The contactless payment limit in UK increased from £30 to £45.

You can be fined up to £2,500, be banned from driving, and get 3 penalty points for driving a vehicle in a dangerous condition.

Get the latest updates here: www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-mot-centre-and-tester-guidance

IAAF praises sector as it fights to overhaul MOT extension

The IAAF is continuing to call for the MOT extension to be scrapped and has written to government to get the decision overturned.

In various communications with DVSA and Department for Transport, IAAF chief executive, Wendy Williamson said the decision to extend the MOT “will inevitably have a serious impact on road safety as road worthiness can alter greatly during this period. There is also the obvious concern that due to this postponement there could be thousands of vehicles on the road that are dangerous and unroadworthy.”

Williamson has also written to the NI Assembly challenging the Northern Ireland infrastructure minister’s decision to extend MOT’s there for twelve months.

The IAAF continues to highlight to government some of the incredible work done by suppliers, motor factors and garages in taking all necessary precautions to limit and, in some cases, remove completely any interaction with customers. Williamson also praised automotive aftermarket businesses for their actions in protecting the health and wellbeing of employees during this period.

The latest UK Government advice is to minimise the use of public transport. Essential journeys, such as for food shopping, family support and travel for all workers, will therefore be increasingly entirely reliant on a private car.

“Use of private vehicles, where there is no fear of direct infection from other members of the community, is increasingly the preferred option,” said Williamson. “There is more need than ever to keep cars on the road. Therefore, the MOT is an essential requirement to keep vehicles on the move.”

“The UK Automotive Aftermarket – and our workforce of over 300,000 colleagues – stands ready to provide essential support to UK citizens and businesses during this crisis. In practice, this means the urgent delivery of millions of replacement parts to businesses maintaining and repairing the UK vehicle fleet, both private and public.

Previously, the IAAF has said the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency’s (DVSA) decision to extend MOTs for a six-month period causes “huge challenges” for the sector, arguing that the industry needs to ensure vehicles continue to be kept safe in these challenging times.

The federation argues that the industry needs to ensure vehicles are running safely in these challenging times and the extension will result in a worrying number of vehicles ‘un-roadworthy’ but in operation.

Our industry is already diligently following Government and NHS Guidelines to minimise the spread of the virus and protect our colleagues and our customers.

The Independent Automotive Aftermarket Federation (IAAF) is the UK trade body for independent companies in the UK motor trade. Members include parts suppliers, distributors, workshops and service companies. As a sector the independent automotive aftermarket is worth £21.6 billion, supporting over 300,000 jobs representing 40,000 outlets across the UK.

IGA Support Hub: COVID-19 Guidance for Independent Garages

The Independent Garage Association remains open with phone and email support available to members as usual and is continuously updating its advice hub, which has a wealth of letter templates, clarification on MOT extensions, furloughing staff and information on how to protect staff and garage businesses. Click here for the IGA’s COVID-19 Guidance hub.

You can also sign up to receive email alerts when the government publishes or changes any COVID-19 guidance by clicking here.

Members can call the IGA on the direct member helpline, 0845 305 4230, or email enquiries@RMIF.co.uk for support, in line with government advice.