Aftermarket suppliers and guests gathered at the ICC Birmingham in December to bring a selection of experts together to discuss how the aftermarket can survive and thrive, now and into the future.
The battle in Brussels for a level playing field for independent workshops is an ongoing hard slog, with the rise of telematics and the ‘connected car’ creating unfair advantage for vehicle manufacturers: “We are facing a potential lock out from all new cars… technology is outpacing the legislators,” warned Chief Executive Wendy Williamson. The VW scandal has dented their credibility but the vehicle manufacturers now have 140 dedicated lobbyists between them with a budget running into many millions – a formidable force which is challenged by Figiefa’s much respected team of four and 10 other European aftermarket lobbyists.
The fossil fuel legislation which came into play at the recent Paris climate talks will also bring huge changes within the industry: “We are coming to the beginning of the end of the internal combustion engine – the manufacturers have goals to have 40% of models using hybrid technology by 2020,” said Steve Carter of training organisation eXponentia. A situation workshops need to prepare for now, or fear being unable to undertake work on a group of vehicles which are doubling in number each year.
Educate customers on warranties…
A presentation from Quentin Le Hetet of data provider GIPA, highlighted the ignorance of motorists where block exemption is concerned, with 46% of 3,000 motorists in the UK believing they would lose the benefits of their vehicle’s warranty if they had their car serviced outside of the dealer network. Our European peers fare better with 40% understanding they have the choice and this is due to independent chains of garages pushing the ‘Warranty preserved’ campaign in advertising and on their websites, notifying customers that as long as the log book is followed and quality parts are used, the warranty remains intact. Independent networks and VMs can even be seen battling it out on prime-time TV. 43% of the motorists surveyed said they would consider getting their car serviced outside of the dealer network within the warranty period. Sports presenter and IAAF conference host John Inverdale was astonished to find out that he could take his new Kia with its 7-year warranty down to the local independent who already services the family’s older vehicles. He’d much rather take it to him but believed he had to take it to the main dealer – a lost opportunity for business from a loyal customer I’m sure you’ll agree!
Quentin also voiced his support of FIGIEFA’s important work in Brussels as the future of access to data for the independent sector hangs in the balance. New BMW models alert drivers of the need for an oil change and will provide information on local dealerships and even book them in via the dashboard, taking consumer choice away. The next big question is who owns this vehicle data – the consumer? The vehicle manufacturers argue that they do.
The hybrid vehicle parc in Europe is doubling each year, with this in mind, it was now 800 franchised dealers and independent workshops who were asked if they have the ability to service electric and hybrid vehicles. A surprising 51% of franchise dealers said ‘No’, with 82% of independents confirming that they currently did not have this in place and that they could not see the benefit.
The debate is over…
Which brings us on nicely to Steve Carter’s presentation on gearing up for the future of hybrids. The eXponentia trainer said that on the whole, workshops have not taken training in this area and invested in the few bits of kit needed because they see no urgency in doing so but the statistics, and Steve, believe otherwise, saying: “The change is going to be rapid and relentless – workshops need to step up to the mark pretty sharpish.” There are already more than 1,500 charging points throughout the UK and the numbers are growing rapidly with many more ‘fast charge’ points providing an 80% charge in just 30 minutes. So the infrastructure is growing apace, the vehicle parc is doubling each year so motorists are buying them, and the VMs aim to have 40% of their ranges hybrid models by 2020 – so who’s going to service them? According to the IMI there are only 1,000 certified workshops with technicians who have completed a level 3 qualification in hybrid maintenance. Currently, over 90% of hybrids return to the dealer but the vast majority of the technology is the same. Steve puts fear down as the main reason why workshops are apprehensive, with technicians nervous of the voltage involved. A healthy fear to have – they can be dangerous vehicles to work on if you have a pacemaker fitted or you don’t know what you are doing with a 650-850 AC three phrase voltage involved. However, invest a few hundred pounds in some training and insulated gloves and you are set to take on what is set to become a lucrative revenue stream for prepared workshops.
The fight for the continued right to repair…
Neil Pattemore, Technical Director of FIGIEFA, briefed delegates on the emerging technical threats in Europe and the formidable implications for independent repairers. FIGIEFA works alongside other aftermarket groups in Brussels to fight for fair and equal access to vehicle repair and maintenance information, supported by EU legislation which aims to maintain free and effective competition in the market for vehicle replacement parts, servicing and repair. FIGIEFA promotes a level playing field for the independent automotive aftermarket, providing competitive choices for motorist consumers.
So where we do currently stand? As we know, we can currently plug in to the standardised OBD port and freely access vehicle data and additionally at a ‘reasonable charge’ we can access service and repair information from manufacturer websites. However, this is set to change with the introduction of the ‘connected car’, where in-vehicle data is relayed to and from the vehicle via the VM’s server, giving them complete control over remote access to the vehicle and its data. Legislators are struggling to keep up with this fast-changing technology and the outcome will have a major impact on our industry.
The connected car…
“We need data to be available from a standardised telematics platform, in the same way as we have today via the 16-pin [it seems that VMs intend to restrict the standardised OBD port to emissions-testing information only]. If we don’t have a standardised platform for telematics we’re into writing software for very vehicle on the road – an absolutely uneconomical thing to do,” says Neil. The connected car has reams of data flowing to and from the vehicle and armed with this, the VMs have a monopoly on the services that can be directly offered to drivers. The manufacturers also want to monitor independents working on these vehicles, arguing they need to see who is accessing the data and what they have done to the vehicle, for liability reasons.
So what are the practical implications of telematics? Well, here’s an example of how this is being unfairly used right now. Connected cars send data to the manufacturer after a collision or breakdown occurs, instructing their own repair organisation to collect it; this distorts the market sector and takes away choice from the motorist. Equally, if the dashboard alerts a driver to the need for an oil change or service, they’re not going to go online and weigh up their options, so the services offered automatically need to provide a true representation of who can assist. Neil says, “We need to be able to present services on the dashboard, not on the mobile phone, otherwise we’re not in the same position for the driver to make a choice. If the VM says ‘do you want to use our breakdown service, or monitor your tyre pressure, oil level etc?’ they’re going to say OK.”
We won’t have real-time access to real-time data and the VMs have up until now disagreed to this, citing safety and security reasons. They also refuse to consider a standardised interface and the ability to present independent aftermarket services on the dashboard. However, the standardised platform is included in the new e-Call legislation, so the European Commission are currently discussing with various stakeholders how a framework could be achieved. This may involve an interim solution based on a shared platform via a neutral server which receives all vehicle data and which would be accessible to dealers and independents, providing an open telematics platform where all parties can offer their services to drivers. Furthermore, the Commission is issuing a tender for an external consultancy to investigate this proposal to achieve this platform and FIGIEFA will be actively involved concerning the technical framework needed during the coming months.
Watch FIGIEFA’s short video (3mins 57) on the Connected Car https://vimeo.com/106258145 – one for the reception area perhaps?
Educate customers about their right to choose…
To ensure motorists continue to receive a competitive and high quality customer service experience from independent garages, you should:
– Always use parts and fluids of matching quality to those used by the car maker.
– Promote the Right2Choose message to your customers and potential customers in your area. Display a Right2Choose poster in your premises and give customers Right2Choose leaflets.
– Make sure you keep your technicians training records updated and make them available for customer assurance. Ask your motor factor for training or enquire at your local college. Under Block Exemption Regulations, you can now access the vehicle producers’ training programmes and they can’t charge you more than they charge their own dealers.
– Review your equipment – does it need changing? Most garage equipment suppliers will be able to offer you equipment at affordable monthly payments. Are your tools and equipment regularly checked and calibrated, and do you have records to prove that?
– Be open and transparent with customers – keeping them informed at every stage of the repair, servicing and MOT process.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to request Right2Choose marketing material for your workshop.
autotechnician is committed to supporting independent workshops who want to educate their customers about their right to choose when their car under is under warranty. We can offer AT readers a subsidised design service for all workshop branding including signage, posters, counter top displays etc to help promote this message. Email email@example.com for further information.