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Photo: Sue Robinson – Director NFDA
An RAC survey into consumer attitudes to used car dealers has been accused of being “misleading”.
The survey found that 39% of motorists would not return to a used car dealer again under any circumstances because of their bad experience.
The study into the car-buying habits of 1,500 motorists also found that 40% of people said they have had a problem with a vehicle bought from a used car dealer and almost a third (29%) said the dealer did not do well in putting the problem right.
The RAC used the survey findings to help publicise its RAC Buysure scheme.
Director of the NFDA, Sue Robinson, said the survey did not treat franchised dealers fairly.
“The RAC findings imply a level playing field when it comes to customer service within the motor industry but this just isn’t the case.
“We know from information provided to us by the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) that our members rank highly in terms of customer satisfaction.
“According to the most recent CAB report, although franchised dealers are responsible for the vast majority of used car sales in the UK, they are responsible for just 14 per cent of complaints both to the CAB and the NCS.
Dale Woodley, sales director at JudgeService also criticised the RAC research as “misleading”.
“Whilst the RAC’s research into customer service from used car dealers is interesting, it is misleading in presenting the UK’s motor industry as one homogenous group.
“We proactively gather customer feedback from over 800 dealers across the country and from this a staggering 92 per cent are completely or very satisfied with their service and 94 per cent would recommend to friend or family – a fact which isn’t evidenced in these findings.
“It’s very easy to tar dealers with the ‘Swiss Tony’ brush when in reality many deliver extremely sophisticated customer service programmes, aligning staff training and development with the customer experience.
Almost 40% of initial bids on vehicles come ‘out-of-hours’ – after 5pm and before 8am the next morning – says Cars Direct of its online auction operation. And some users have logged on to place a bid at 1am.
With the rise of unpaid overtime and the rise of out-of-hours emails more managers are effectively working an extra day every week and this research bears out that staff in dealerships are doing the same, it says.
Stats released by Ofcom show that over 90% of adults in the UK own a mobile-phone, with the average smart phone user checking their emails by 7.30am – while still in bed.
On top of this, Auto Trader said recently that two thirds of its site’s traffic comes from smartphones or tablets.
Andy Brown, managing director of Cars Direct, said: “The research demonstrates how busy dealers are during the day as well as the convenience of the online format of our auctions, which means that bidders can reach us at all times of the day. Cars Direct have all the lots closing online at the same time, allowing buyers to place their bid at a time to suit them and then get on with the rest of their day.
“Trade buyers, like the rest of us, are busy people.
“They don’t want or have the time to spend a whole day watching a physical auction either in the hall or online just waiting for the right car to come through and Cars Direct recognises this.”
Cars Direct’s website has been updated to be smart-phone and tablet compatible.
Cars Direct is a subsidiary of CD Auction Group.
According to research on the last 12 months by digital marketing agency Inside Online, Arnold Clark has the second highest search volume for companies in the sector per month – and is the seventh most influential company on social media.
In search volume terms the Scottish-based dealer comes behind Auto Trader for total brand searches per month.
It comes ahead of WeBuyAnyCar, Motors, Auto Express and other dealers Evans Halshaw, Stoneacre, Lookers and Sytner.
And in terms of the number of organic searches, Arnold Clark again scored highest of any franchised group, coming seventh in this measure also, with organic search volume up 40%.
“The increase in social media influence, content marketing campaigns, brand ambassadors and fierce competition within the industry means it is more important now more than ever for companies to cement their positions within the search engines,” said Inside Online.
The Office for Low Emission Vehicles will continue to honour the plug-in car grant on orders with longer lead times, until an end date for the current scheme.
It has confirmed that the current version of the grant, worth up to £5,000, will end this year, at a date yet to be confirmed. Until that date, OLEV has said that it will honour any deal placed on its system for a qualifying car, provided that the vehicle has been allocated to a customer and is delivered and registered within nine months.
The BVRLA had sought the confirmation from OLEV to combat growing uncertainty within the leasing sector, which had led a number of companies to remove the £5,000 grant from their quotation systems.
“We are delighted that OLEV was able to provide this speedy and common-sense response to our members’ concerns. Losing the £5000 subsidy would have a major impact on a monthly lease rental, so leasing companies need to know that their quoted price won’t be hit because the vehicle lead time extends beyond the plug-in grant’s cut-off date,” said BVRLA chief executive Gerry Keaney.
“Registrations of ultra-low emission vehicles have taken-off in recent months and the rental and leasing industry has been leading this charge. The uncertainty surrounding the grant was threatening to hike lease prices for ULEVs and reduce their appeal to prospective customers.”
The Plug-In Car Grant was originally launched in 2011 to increase the take-up of ultra-low emission vehicles. Under the scheme, motorists can receive a 35% discount off the basic price of an eligible car, worth up to £5,000.
In April 2015, OLEV announced that the grant would be reviewed, and qualifying vehicles would be classed in three separate categories, based on CO2 emissions and zero emission range. Category 1 vehicles must have CO2 emissions of less than 50g/km and a zero emission range of at least 70 miles, while Category 2 is for vehicles which emit less than 50g/km CO2 but can only travel between 10 and 69 miles on electricity alone. Meanwhile, Category 3 vehicles are classed as those which have CO2 emissions of 50-75g/km and a zero emission range of at least 20 miles.
For now, each of these three categories is eligible for the full 35% discount, but the BVRLA believes this is likely to change in the coming months. Around £200m has been set aside to continue the grant scheme from 2015 to 2020, but the grant amounts made available to cars in each of the three categories may need to differentiate, in order to prevent money for the scheme running out before 2020.
OLEV will also be reviewing the van grant in due course, but this is to remain at 20% up to £8,000 until further notice, as there have been 1,500 van claims to date, compared to over 25,000 car claims.
One in three vans on UK roads is now at least 10 years old, as businesses continue to put off investment in their commercial vehicles fleets, says finance provider LDF.
Sustained economic uncertainty and reduced availability of traditional lending have led many businesses to retain ageing vehicles for much longer than originally intended, with these ageing vehicles now accounting for 31% of all vans on the road, up from just 22% in 2007 (see table below), according to LDF.
This means that, for the first time, there are now more than one million vans aged at least 10 years old on the road in the UK, up from 690,000 prior to the credit crunch.
The concern is that businesses that push their vehicle assets beyond their reliable lifespans risk making false economies as reliability and efficiency problems occur more frequently.
SMEs in particular are still finding it difficult to commit to significant capital investment in commercial vehicles, due to lingering doubts about the strength of the economic recovery, and the difficulty of securing funding from traditional sources, according to LDF.
Peter Alderson, managing director at LDF said: “A lot of small businesses are pushing their vans and other parts of their commercial vehicle fleet to the absolute limit, with many often well beyond their useful economic life.
“It is not just the repair costs and efficiency of these older vans that create problems – there’s also the very substantial negative impact on a business’s brand of using tired, dated vehicles and additionally, the potential environmental factors to consider.
“A lot of businesses have been pushing their commercial vehicle assets through the period of recession, but many will soon find that the vans they bought in 2006 and 2007 are no longer viable to run, and they will need to invest again.
“A growing number have started to invest in electric vehicles as replacements for ageing vans in their fleets, but many SMEs may still not be confident enough to make large up-front capital investments.
“SMEs with smaller fleets cannot afford to get to the point where their vehicles let them down, but while they may be unable or reluctant to find the cost of replacements upfront, seeking finance through a specialist provider can be a much simpler solution for a smaller business.”
LDF suggests that finance can be a cost-effective consideration for businesses who rely heavily on business transport, as it provides for immediate use of the vehicles, while the cost can be spread over a typical three to five year period.
Alderson said: “Commercial vehicle finance means that retail businesses can avoid having to make substantial lump-sum investments that impact on cash flow, while still accessing the vehicles their businesses need to grow as the economy recovers.”
Delivering a public refuelling infrastructure that is necessary for the UK to meet its carbon emission reduction targets for transport will require investment of more than £10 billion by 2050, a report commissioned by the LowCVP says.
The finding formed part of a new series of reports for the LowCVP which also found the UK can develop the infrastructure necessary to deliver the low carbon fuels of the future, but that strong coordination is needed between key actors.
Initial public support will also often be needed to enable investment in the necessary infrastructure to be kick-started.
The research, by consultants Element Energy, says the development of a fuelling infrastructure also require long-term policy clarity and consistent government and regulatory support.
Online classified giant Auto Trader turned in a strong performance in the year to 31 March 2015 generating profits before tax and discontinued operation of £10.9m compared to £3.7m last time.
Operating profit rose 35% to £133.1m on turnover up 8% to £255.9 million.
The group saw retailer revenue rise by 9% to £202.1m in its first results since it listed on the London Stock Exchange in March this year. The average revenue per retailer forecourt rose 6% to £1,252 per month.
During the year over 13,450 retailers advertised on the website, an increase of 2.5% on 2014. The website also saw an average of 423,000 cars advertised
Trevor Mather, chief executive of Auto Trader Group, said: “The market is moving increasingly online and every year more consumers spend more time researching using the internet.
“As the UK’s largest digital automotive marketplace, we work hard to continually develop our site so consumers get a great experience when they are looking to buy or sell a vehicle.
“We are equally focused on developing innovative products that add value to our retailer customers, to help them win in the digital marketplace.
It is this dual focus that has enabled us to grow both our consumer audience and our retailer customer base, which in turn has helped us to achieve overall revenue growth.
“The new financial year has started well and in line with the board’s expectations. Based upon healthy customer numbers, further revenue improvement from increased product penetration; combined with only modest cost base increases, the board is confident of growth in the coming year.”
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched a probe into online review sites for consumer purchases.
It estimates that more than half of UK adults (54%) use online reviews, and that 6% use blogs or vlogs before making purchases.
The CMA is concerned that fake reviews are being posted onto review sites, negative reviews are not being published and that businesses are paying for endorsements in blogs and other online articles without this being made clear to consumers.
It has opened an investigation into a number of unnamed companies in connection with the potential non-disclosure of paid endorsements.
The CMA has also produced information for businesses explaining what they need to do to help them comply with the law, alongside a comprehensive report on its findings.
Highways England is pressing ahead with turning the M1 into a smart motorway with variable speed limits and an all lane running scheme between junction 19 and 16.
The idea to turn the stretch of the M1 into an all lane motorway is due to high levels of congestion between the M2 and the M6 at Catthrope Interchange.
The agency ran a nine-week consultation period between 8 December, 2014 and 30 January, 2015 and has revealed responses.
The Road Haulage Association (RHA) supported the introduction of a smart motorway.
It’s responses to the consultation said: “The RHA is happy to support the current scheme to introduce a smart motorway on the M1 between junctions 19 and 16.
“Our members have already experienced the advantages of driving on the smart motorway already operating, with hauliers reporting improved driving conditions of these routes.”
While, the RHA agrees there is a place for hard-shoulder running in peak flow periods, it believes widening the M1 would be a better permanent solution.
A statement from Highways England said: “The consultation has shown that while stakeholders have concerns about the smart motorway all lane running design concept, they are generally supportive of VMSL specifically.
“Concerns are associated with the conversion of the hard shoulder to a permanent running lane, the 24/7 nature of the operation and the risk of removing the lighting and vehicles stopping in live lanes, especially off peak. Highways England is continuing to work with stakeholders to address these concerns.”
Knee-jerk reactions to studies showing negative impacts of diesel air quality could be counterproductive and affect vehicle sales, Glass’s has warned.
According to the valuations experts, central Government and local authorities should think hard and look at facts before making major changes in the name of achieving green environmental improvements.
Rupert Pontin, head of valuations said that while some older vehicles emit more nitrogen oxide, those that meet the latest emissions standards are nearly as clean as petrol vehicles.
“We have no argument against the findings of the various reports on air quality that are pointing the finger at diesel. The science appears to be very robust,” said Pontin. “However, they are reporting an historic picture. The latest diesel emissions standards are very stringent and newer vehicles are unlikely to have the same kind of impact on the air that we breathe.”
The warning follows a recent Trading Standards sting in Halton, Cheshire which found that 40 per cent of part-worn tyres on sale were not up to scratch.
Four in ten tyres were withdrawn from sale and seized during the investigation last week.
TyreSafe, the UK’s leading tyre safety group, has voiced concerns about the number of dangerous and illegal part-worn tyres being sold to motorists across the UK.
TyreSafe Chairman, Stuart Jackson said: “Your safety on the road is reliant on the condition of your tyres so it’s essential that retailers only offer for sale either brand new tyres, or those used ones that have been carefully and thoroughly inspected to ensure they meet the various requirements laid down by law.”
Following its own undercover investigation which sourced 50 part-worn tyres from online and high street retailers, TyreSafe found that more than a third of part-worns sold had illegal repairs, tears or punctures that had been botched or ignored.
Independent tyre expert Ted Foreman, who carried out the inspections, said: “In many cases, these tyres look great. They have loads of tread and could fool you into thinking they’re a bargain.
“But when you buy them, you inherit their dodgy history – every time they ran up a kerb, every accident, every time the owner drove on them under-inflated.”
IMI (Institute for the Motor Industry) has written to the first minister Nicola Sturgeon, asking the Scottish Parliament to support a License to Practice for car mechanics and for the SNP to take up the issue in Westminster.
Prior to the General Election – IMI asked the Scottish parliament to consider legislation independently but since the publication of the Scotland Act it is clear this cannot happen. IMI is now seeking support from the First Minister for support to persuade David Cameron to protect consumers and promote responsible businesses.
In his letter to the First Minister IMI CEO Steve Nash said, ‘The Prime Minister has acknowledged a problem of consumer trust exists in the unregulated retail motor industry, but he has admitted it would be difficult for the Government to support a licence to practice for technicians on the grounds of Conservative ideological opposition to what they call ‘red tape’.
‘Unfortunately the Scotland Act withholds the right for the Scottish Parliament to enact the necessary legislation, but it would still be significant for drivers in Scotland and across the UK if you could lend the support of the Parliament and the support of your Party in Westminster to the campaign for a licence for automotive technicians.’
The view of Scottish drivers mirrors those in the rest of the UK. Seventy per cent say they can’t confidently choose a garage or mechanic because there is insufficient information available for them to verify the competence or integrity of service providers. A spate of Trading Standards prosecutions of failing garages, including one against Halfords – recently covered in the national media, only confirms the suspicions of the driving public, 75% of who support the introduction of a licence for mechanics.
A majority of businesses in the sector are also in favour of licensing, that would involve technicians holding a recognised qualification and require them undergo a regular independent assessment of their skills. There are currently 140,000 mechanics operating in the UK, 13,000 in Scotland, roughly 80% of the workforce, whose skills and current competence IMI cannot verify.
Global Automotive Industry Outlook identifies connectivity, security and women as notable trends within the car industry.
Car sales are expected to peak in 2015, as the average age of the car parc crosses 13 years in the US and 10 years in Europe. Global sales are projected to grow by more than 5 per cent to reach 91.5 million vehicles, of which the US market will account for 17 million units and China, more than 26 million units. The most important trends influencing the market in 2015 will be ridesharing, intelligent mobility, and big data analytics.
New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, Outlook of the Global Automotive Industry in 2015, finds that the vitality of the US and European markets is expected to offset the slowdown in the emerging markets.
As technology continues to evolve at an astonishing rate, over-the-air updates are becoming critical to enhance the value of the vehicle and provide a seamless experience to the user. The trend also highlights the importance of security. The focus of automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) is not just protecting the vehicle from malwares, viruses, and remote hacking into crucial vehicle control systems but also protecting the back end of all the connected services.
‘The value of electronics is set to soar well over 70 percent of the vehicle’s value due to vehicle automation and connected car features,’ said Frost & Sullivan Automotive & Transportation Program Manager Shwetha Surender. ‘Protecting the car and its back end is a priority for OEMs to prevent any brand dilution.’
Another notable trend is the rise of women as a vital target market. OEMs such as Fiat, Renault, Jaguar and Porsche are aiming key vehicle models at women. Smaller city cars had already adopted this strategy but now, traditionally ‘male’ categories such as luxury vehicles and SUVs are following suit. The top 10 OEMs are forecast to launch four to five vehicle models specifically for women by the end of 2015.
BENFIELD, the north-east’s largest independent motor group, has launched a new leasing and contract hire business, Rosedale Leasing.
It says the business will provide retail customers and small company owners with more competitive and low-cost leasing rental prices.
Benfield, which supplies more than 12,000 cars to businesses locally and nationally through its fleet division, is taking advantage of its buying power through global manufacturer partnerships, to launch the new premium service – and has taken on an additional five members of staff at new offices on the Team Valley Business Park, Gateshead.
Jason Smith, the general manager of Rosedale Leasing, said: ‘We are absolutely delighted to launch this new competitive service which has been tailored to meet the growing demand of individuals and small businesses who value a source of flexible payment options and choice of any make, any model.
‘Our new service will offer fully-interactive multi-manufacturer brand lease quotes, without filling in forms and waiting for a call-back. Customers can explore, compare and get access to vehicle information relevant to their requirements directly from their computer, tablet or mobile device.
‘Business users may be relatively experienced in their understanding of vehicle leasing, some personal users may need to explore the option for the first time and there is lots of help and information for those considering leasing for the first time.
‘By using this new service, individual customers are protecting themselves from unforeseen drops in used-car values and also have the added option of including full servicing and maintenance in a guaranteed fixed monthly payment.’
Rosedale Leasing is part of the Benfield Motor Group. Benfield has 30 dealerships across the north-east of England, Yorkshire, Cumbria and south-west Scotland, representing 14 car retail brands and are in the top 20 UK dealer groups.
MORE than £15,000 was raised for the Prince’s Trust charity at an exclusive driving challenge held by car dealership Lookers.
The event, which took place at the historic Croft Circuit in Yorkshire, gave Lookers clients the chance to get behind the wheel of some of the world’s fastest cars.
Guests had the opportunity to drive in four different adrenalin-pumping zones, in some of the world’s most iconic vehicles including Ferrari, Maserati and Aston Martin. There were also track and off-road vehicles and guests could even try their hand at stunts with world record holder and seven-times British motorsport champion Paul Swift.
The event was in memory of John Walls, a leading businessman in the north east and member of the Prince’s Trust Committee.
Speaking about his legacy, Lookers managing director Nigel McMinn said Walls was ‘a great influencer who never took no for an answer’.
He added: ‘The Lookers Supercar event was a chance for us to remember John and the amazing work he undertook for the Prince’s Trust to give young people a better start in life. We are thrilled to have raised funds in his memory and hope this will ensure continuation of the work he did with the Prince’s Trust.
‘John was a total professional in everything he did, and combined that with having great fun along the way. We wanted this event to be a fitting tribute to him, combining as it does his love of cars and the charity he worked so hard for during his life.’
Following the driving experiences, guest speakers included former Top Gear Stig and James Bond stunt double Ben Collins and Johnny Mowlem, a professional British racing driver who is considered to be among the world’s elite sports car drivers.