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Daily News Round UpBack

Beating the fast-fit competition


20 per cent drop in franchised dealer market since 2003 allows for independent and fast-fit growth

Figures released earlier this year by WhoCanFixMyCar reveal that 72 per cent of car owners now shop around before settling on a garage, suggesting that it’s never been more important to know your competition.

Trend Tracker data shows that the retail value of service, maintenance and repair (SMR) costs have risen by £1 billion since the 2008 recession.

With latest studies showing that independents are holding up well against the main dealers, we turn attention to the fast-fits that are taking a cut from that billion.

Kwik Fit

There are over 600 Kwik Fit centres across the UK.

The household name undertakes a wide range of work including tyres, exhausts, brakes, MOT testing, car servicing, air-con servicing and windscreen repair.

Recent investments include the installation of Hunter laser wheel-alignment equipment and customer waiting area improvements, which now offer free Wi-Fi.

The brand has a strong local and national media presence and has an interactive website, which allows customers to book services online.

ATS Euromaster

In addition to its core business of tyre-fitting, services at ATS Euromaster include batteries, brakes, exhausts, suspension, servicing and Class 4 and 7 MOTs.

Its 340 centres and 820 mobile service vans employ around 2,600 technicians.

ATS has recently updated it branding and is planning to build up to 20 new centres in the next five years.

Just last year, the company opened its new £350k flagship service centre in Wrexham.

Halfords Autocentres

Halfords Autocentres has more than 300 UK centres offering MOTs, servicing, brakes, tyres and general repairs for more than 850,000 customers each year.

A price match service proves popular in attracting custom, as does a guarantee on all of its work for 12 months or 12,000 miles.

National Tyres and Autocare

National has 233 branches across the UK and operates a network of mobile tyre-fitting vehicles for fleets.

The brand boasts a ‘while you wait’ service on tyres, exhausts, batteries, steering, suspension, servicing and also carries out MOTs.

National has recently invested in MOT expansion programme, which has seen the company open more than 70 new sites in the past couple of years.


There are 125 HiQ Franchise Centres and 195 HiQ Fleet Service partners in the UK, offering tyres, MOTs, servicing, air-conditioning maintenance, exhaust work, batteries, oil and filter change, and fleet checks.

The brand also offers a contracted mobile service with pre-booked appointments and rapid response.

Personal touch

It’s no secret that the big-chain fast-fits have been attracting the attention of some motorists with bold signs, bright lights and cut-price deals but it’s the personal touch of the independent sector that cannot be replicated, notes Stuart James, IGA Director.

James told GW: “These people [independents] are always good technicians, that’s why they set up their own businesses.

“They talk to the customers, are a part of the community and offer superb value for money.”


Deadline nears for dealers’ alternative dispute resolution registration

Motor Codes, the consumer watchdog for the motor industry, warns the October 1 deadline to register with Alternative Dispute Resolution provider is nearing.

Recently implemented ADR legislation requires all UK businesses to have in place ADR mechanisms to recommend fair conclusions to ongoing disputes between businesses and dissatisfied customers. UK businesses must comply by 1 October 2015.

The warning comes after an operator in the communications industry, which has been bound by ADR regulation since 2011, was fined £1 million by Ofcom, the UK’s independent regulator and competition authority for the sector, for failing to provide the correct information and guidance to consumers.

Motor Codes was recently appointed as one of the automotive sector’s first ADR providers, and is ready to advise businesses on how to meet the challenges of the legislation.

More than 99% of car manufacturers are already signed up to the Motor Codes service, which serves consumers through a network of 7,500 garages across the UK.

Existing subscribers to Motor Codes can already access ADR training, which will help make their businesses and employees compliant.

Mark Terry, interim managing director of Motor Codes, said: “This legislation seeks to reduce the time it takes businesses to resolve customer complaints, to ensure less time is spent in the courts resolving disputes and to improve consumers’ confidence in the companies that serve them. It’s an opportunity for businesses to enhance customer satisfaction and trust in an already highly performing industry.”

ADR has been called the ‘quiet legislation’ because, until recently, little was known of the act, which has potentially far reaching implications for the UK automotive industry. It is overseen by the newly named, government-appointed Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI).

The legislation tops a busy year in consumer legislation, which has seen the UK’s Consumer Rights Bill consolidate eight existing laws, including the Sale of Goods Act 1979 and the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999. The law was given assent in March 2015 but will be implemented on 1 October 2015.

Terry said: “ADR marks a new chapter in consumer satisfaction and will ensure a more transparent marketplace, raising the benchmark in business practices and empowering the industry to generate trust so that consumers can make confident purchases.”


FCA launches probe into finance sales incentives and remuneration

The Financial Conduct Authority has begun a thematic review of staff remuneration and incentives at firms offering consumer finance, such as car dealers.

The FCA said the review will cover a “broad range of consumer credit sectors and firms where consumer credit is secondary to their main business”.

“The purpose of our review is to understand the nature of staff incentives, remuneration and performance management arrangements in the consumer credit market. We will focus on the risks that can arise and how firms control and mitigate those risks. We will seek to examine good and poor practices,” said the FCA.

“Supervisory work that we have carried out on other issues suggested many consumer credit firms may be operating high-risk incentive schemes, which can often lead to poor consumer outcomes if not managed effectively.”

Between 2012 and 2014 the FCA and its predecessor, the FSA, found a number of high street banks and insurers had incentive schemes likely to drive mis-selling, and few had fully considered those risks or implemented controls to manage those risks.

Managers’ bonuses

In some cases, the FCA identified a possible conflict of interest where managers were paid a bonus based on the sales made by staff they supervised.

“We will seek to understand if similar or new issues are also present across the consumer credit sector.”

Currently the FCA is taking a desk-based review of firms’ incentive policies, remuneration arrangements and controls, however from the fourth quarter of 2015 through to early 2016 it plans to conduct on-site visits and more detailed testing on a selection of firms.

The results of the FCA thematic review are likely to be published in spring 2016.


Supermini values up nearly 10% in July used fleet market

Average de-fleeted supermini values were up 9.4% (£455) in July compared to the previous month, with ex-fleet MPV values also performing strongly with a 5.9% month-on-month rise – the latter helped by average mileage falling by 11.7% (7,536 miles).

Compared to July 2014, average ex-fleet superminis selling prices were 14.5% up and MPV values increased by 15.4%. Mini MPV values were also up, 11.5% year-on-year. Manheim recorded a slightly dip in overall ex-fleet values in July of 3.4% (£257), as the average age of de-fleeted stock increased by two months compared to June, to 49 months.

Average age was up for all segments except MPVs, which were an average of 4 months younger than those sold in June.

Days in stock fell by 4.8%, highlighting improved conversion rates and first-time sales.

Average mileage for fleet vehicles going through Manheim’s auctions was down 1.3% from June, to 57,231, which represented a 4.6% drop from July 2014.

Year-on-year values were relatively static, with average selling prices less than 1% lower than the same month last year.

“Superminis remain popular – indeed, the UK’s best-selling new car has been one for many years,” said Daren Wiseman, valuation services manager at Manheim.

“The increasing demand for MPVs could be coming from the private hire market, which has witnessed substantial growth in recent months, largely due to the rise of Uber.

“We are still seeing good quality, lower mileage de-fleeted stock attracting high levels of interest in the used market.

“While supermini and MPV stock was particularly strong in July, we saw small reductions in values across the small hatchback, medium family and large family segments, which make up the majority of our de-fleeted volume.”


New Government report aims to dispel electric vehicle ownership myths

A new Government report is aiming to dispel long-held beliefs about electric car ownership and usage patterns.

The Department for Transport (DfT) report, entitled ‘Uptake of Ultra Low Emission Vehicles in the UK’, draws on the research from almost 50 UK and international sources, and points to a significant change in the way motorists use and own plug-in vehicles.

Contrary to popular perceptions, evidence from the report shows that 82% of Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (ULEV)-owning households in the UK use their electric car as their main vehicle, while for 20% of owners an electric vehicle is the only car.

The report also found that ULEV usage is not restricted to short-distance journeys, as per previous predictions.

In fact, plug-ins are being driven for comparable mileages to petrol and diesel cars.

Where an ULEV is used as the main car in the household, the average annual mileage is approximately 8,850 miles. This is greater than with the estimated UK average for all cars of 8,430 miles, according to National Travel Survey data.

Importantly, the report demonstrates that the vast majority of ULEV owners in the UK are highly satisfied with their ownership experience.

In a UK trial, 90% said they would recommend an electric vehicle to others. Furthermore, the evidence shows that most ULEV owners are positive about buying another plug-in vehicle in the future.

Transport minister Andrew Jones said: “As this report shows, plug-in vehicles are cheap to run, can be used every day and owner satisfaction is incredibly high.

“More and more families and businesses are choosing plug-in cars and vans to help them get on in life.

“The Government is investing £500 million over the next five years in ultra low emission vehicles, innovative technology and charging infrastructure to support jobs and growth and keep Britain as a global leader for ULEVs.”

Hetal Shah, head of Go Ultra Low, said: “This new government report goes a long way to challenge the misconceptions many people still have when it comes to plug-in vehicles and reflects what is happening in the market place – demand is increasing rapidly, up 256% year on year in the UK.

“Brits are really starting to wake up to benefits of electric motoring. With driving costs from as little as 2p a mile, coupled with the wide range of cars now available, from city run-arounds and family hatchbacks to 4x4s and sports cars, there’s an electric car to suit almost every lifestyle.”

As well as looking at usage and experience of ULEVs, the 60-page report delves into other factors influencing ULEV uptake such as public incentives and the growing charging infrastructure.


Williams buys Manchester Jaguar dealership from Pendragon

Williams Motor Holdings has bought Stratstone Jaguar Manchester from Pendragon for an undisclosed sum. It is now trading as Williams Jaguar Manchester.

The deal leaves Pendragon’s premium Stratstone division with 12 Jaguar dealerships in the UK and four in California.

Nick Cook, Williams managing director said: “This acquisition is key to strengthening our already substantial presence within the North West.

“Williams Jaguar Manchester will be a valuable asset to our expanding business.

“The Jaguar franchise is a premium player in the market, and given our current relationship with Jaguar Land Rover, will prove a perfect fit for the Williams Group.”

Williams is based in the North West of England, with dealerships in Bolton, Liverpool, Manchester, Rochdale and Stockport.

It represents BMW, Mini, Land Rover and Jaguar and also sells BMW motorcycles.

Williams is rated 34 in the Motor Trader Top 200 dealer groups with annual turnover of £320.7m.


AA urges Government U-turn over VED change

The AA is calling for the Government to rethink the new Vehicle Excise Duty system announced in last month’s summer Budget, claiming it could discourage motorists from opting for more eco-friendly vehicles and branding the new system as “premature”.

Head of roads policy, Paul Watters told BusinessCar “we are going to continue to highlight the new system’s weakness and advise car buyers to get low emissions models before 2017”, so that they can continue to benefit from the £0 tax band for sub-100g/km models.

The motoring body has been working with other automotive organisations including the DVLA and the BVRLA to encourage the Government to reassess how it taxes cars, following on from the success of the current VED system, which it claimed has led to a marked drop in average emissions figures.

While the current system sees drivers with cars emitting less than 100g/km of CO2 paying nothing for their annual car tax, graduated up to those with vehicles emitting more than 255g/km having to stump up £505 every year, the new system, which is set to come into effect on 1 April 2017 will see all except drivers of zero-emissions vehicles paying £140 per year.

Cars costing more than £40,000 will also be charged an annual £310 supplement for the

first five years.

It is only in the first year of registration that the lowest emitting vehicles will benefit from lower tax with rates varying from £10 for hybrids that emit less than 50g/km to £2000 for those that currently fall into the highest tax band.

As a result, the AA is concerned that the new system discourages motorists from opting for greener vehicles.

The AA claimed that the number of vehicles currently on sale that would fall into the lowest tax band will drop from 445 to just 13 models under the revised system, leading Watters to describe it as “premature”.


VUHL 05 on sale in the UK after new dealer is appointed

THE VUHL 05 street-legal lightweight supercar is now on sale in the UK, following the appointment of the marque’s first European dealer – Bespoke Performance of Ware, Hertfordshire.

Well-known to generations of TVR and Noble enthusiasts, Bespoke Performance has a long and varied history dating back to the days of John Britten Garages and the ensuing TVR Centre.

The rebranding and move from Barnet to Ware was completed in 2011 and the company now boasts 10,000 sq ft of smart sales and service premises.

VUHL co-founder Iker Echeverria said: ‘We naturally researched many options for our first dealer. A number of outlets met our criteria for technical ability, but Bespoke Performance won us over with its unique level of passion, and its commitment to the discerning area of the market at which our product is aimed.’

Dr Mark Kent, Bespoke’s sales director, said: ‘We have long since searched for a niche product to complement our established relationships with the TVR and Noble brands, and the VUHL is the first to match all our criteria.

‘We have been bowled over by both the level of professionalism exhibited by this new manufacturer and the build quality of its first model.’

The first opportunity to see the VUHL in competition will be at the Brighton Speed Trials on Saturday, September 5. Designed as a road-going track day car, it should be more than at home on this, the oldest of all straight-line sprint courses.

A little later, the much-vaunted Kop Hill Climb being held at Princes Risborough over the weekend of September 19/20 will be the public’s first opportunity to get up close and personal with the 05 in full street-legal form.


UK lobbying for even weaker EU air pollution laws, leaked papers show

Leaked documents show the UK is pushing for watered-down EU air pollution laws to be weakened further, arguing they would cause pit closures leading to substantial job losses and the need to import coal.

The EU rules could help curb toxic nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions, although campaigners criticised them following revelations that they were partly drafted by the same companies they were meant to regulate.

But a confidential government submission to Brussels, seen by the Guardian, says that the UK would have to import coal from Russia, Colombia and South Africa to meet the new standards, because British coal has such a high sulphur content.

This “would therefore lead to the loss of the principal market for UK coal and the closure of the UK’s coal mines,” the paper says. “The mine closures would also lead to substantial job losses – directly and indirectly within the supply chain – in areas of the UK with significant levels of unemployment and socio-economic deprivation.”

However, studies suggest that air pollution hits poor people in urban areas and ethnic minorities hardest, and its true early death toll could be even higher than the statistics suggest.

The new pollution rules would also be costly, risk energy security, and prevent indigenous coal being used in new power plants fitted with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, the UK warns.

The only leading British politician to publicly make such a strong case for coal has been Jeremy Corbyn, the leftwing frontrunner in the Labour leadership contest, who foresees CCS potentially enabling a return to mining in South Wales, and benefiting working class communities. Last week a Welsh council rejected plans for a new opencast coal mine.

Greenpeace argued that because two-thirds of fossil fuel reserves must be left underground to avoid climate breakdown, the government should offer retraining and financial support to miners, instead of a lifeline to their bosses.

“To protect the profits of a few coal-burning energy firms the ‘greenest government ever’ is lobbying to water down air pollution rules that could save hundreds of lives and millions in NHS costs,” said Greenpeace’s head of energy, Daisy Sands. “Not content with locking consumers into higher bills by undermining the cheapest clean energy sources and home efficiency, ministers are now putting their health at risk by letting big polluters off the hook.”

The new EU rules are expected to be agreed early next year, before coming into force in 2020.

In April, the supreme court gave the government until the end of the year to present a plan for cleaning up the country’s polluted air, which is responsible for 29,000 early deaths every year. The government is expected to announce its plan for bringing the UK into line with the EU’s existing air quality directive next month.

The UK has been in breach of the EU’s nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution limits since 2010 and will not meet them until 2030 on current trends, according to government figures, raising the spectre of fines of up to £300m (€420) a year.

Alan Andrews, a lawyer for ClientEarth, which brought the supreme court case against the government, expressed dismay at the pro-coal stance in the leaked papers.

“It suggests that they are not taking the supreme court decision seriously and are not making a genuine attempt to achieve the emissions reductions as soon as possible,” he told the Guardian. “We would seriously consider further legal action if that is the case, after we have analysed the new plan.”


Posted by Lois Hardy on 13/08/2015