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Daily News RoundupBack

Multi-franchised service centres ‘will multiply as manufacturers need fewer sales points’


There will be an increase in large multi-franchised service centres within the decade, as vehicle manufacturers need fewer sales points, Steve Young, the International Car Distribution Programme’s managing director, told this year’s AM Aftersales Conference.

Young said: “If we talk about the franchised networks celebrating for a moment, the rest of Europe is still feeling the pain in terms of sales – we shouldn’t live in our little UK bubble and think networks are ok and stable.”

The aftersales market is in decline in general, Young said, caused by lower driving distances and better cars.

“There will be a reduction in the number of dealerships and changes to the format of dealerships – the way you build your business back up again in aftersales is to rely on multi-brand coverage.

“Arnold Clark, in particular, has done an amazing job of building up its tyre business, rather than letting it go to the fast-fits/independents.”

One of the things Young said dealers could expect in the aftersales market is manufacturer-sponsored insurance: “we haven’t seen the full impact of it yet, but manufacturers will become the bill payer for a lot more of the franchised dealer’s work, and that’s something which I think dealers need to approach with some caution”.

Another coming trend is telematics, said Young, and dealers shouldn’t wait for manufacturer partners to do it.

“An Italian dealer group is putting a telematics module in every car they sell. Customers then choose to pay for an upgraded version to help their insurance costs. Over half of drivers we spoke to, with cars up to eight years old, would value having remote diagnostics on their car.

“For a £100 initial outlay and £15 a year after that, they’re expecting payback on servicing across three years,” Young added.

A 2014 ICDP survey showed 52% of consumers would be interested in a remote monitoring system to enable dealers to identify a fault.



Volvo’s Retail Experience takes on the Germans with a warm, Swedish welcome

Volvo car showrooms in the UK are being transformed into customer-focused, Scandinavian- inspired spaces that are “cool on the outside, warm on the inside”.

The car manufacturer wants to change how consumers engage with the Swedish brand, and emphasise it as a welcoming alternative to the German brands dominating the premium car market.

Three UK locations in the network of 103 dealerships and 20 authorised repairers have already adopted the new corporate identity, labelled Volvo Retail Experience (VRE).

VRE sees 40% of the showroom transformed into a ‘living room’ – with Scandinavian-designed furniture for customers to relax on, free Wi-Fi and Swedish cakes and coffee – and 60% dedicated to a contrasting ‘street’ area displaying Volvo’s new car range.

To help the dealership stand out from heavily glazed German brand showrooms, Volvo is opting for showrooms clad in an opaque glass that features “shop windows” of clear glazing displaying the latest cars. A wooden entrance feature also conveys the Scandinavian style. Customers park directly in front of the entrance, unlike the traditional dealership style which prioritises stock display above the customer. Instead, the Selekt approved used cars will be displayed to the side.

The emphasis on customer comfort is due in part to Volvo’s desire for aftersales customers to wait while their car is serviced. Although Volvo car dealers may still offer courtesy cars and collection and delivery, a new ‘lean’ method of working by teams of two technicians on each car will mean a service should be completed in less than an hour.

Interior glazing ensures the waiting customer can see exactly what is going on in the workshop. Their assigned Volvo Personal Service (VPS) technician will deal with them directly in the ‘living room’ and can escort them into the workshop to see first hand if any further repairs or maintenance needs have been spotted on their car.


Skoda announces new Rapid Spaceback savings

Skoda has announced a new pricing structure for its revised Rapid Spaceback model, with customer savings of up to £1,905.

All three trim levels (S, SE Tech and SE Sport) benefit from price reductions, with no change to previous equipment levels.

The new price structure applies to all new orders for 2016 model year cars.

The price list for the new Rapid Spaceback range is:

Model On-the-road price Customer saving
S 1.2 TSI 90PS £13,500 £1,300
S 1.4 TDI 90PS £15,300 £1,290
SE Tech 1.2 TSI 90PS £14,650 £1,315
SE Tech 1.2 TSI 90PS DSG £15,810 £1,315
SE Tech 1.2 TSI 110PS £15,350 £1,355
SE Tech 1.4 TSI 125PS DSG £16,390 £1,905
SE Tech 1.4 TDI 90PS £16,300 £1,455
SE Tech 1.4 TDI 90PS DSG £17,460 £1,455
SE Tech 1.6 TDI 115PS £17,100 £1,635
SE Sport 1.2 TSI 110PS £16,550 £1,355
SE Sport 1.4 TSI 125PS DSG £17,590 £1,905
SE Sport 1.4 TDI 90PS £17,500 £1,455
SE Sport 1.4 TDI 90PS DSG £18,660 £1,455
SE Sport 1.6 TDI 115PS £18,300 £1,635


Milton Keynes Audi evacuated following roof collapse

Jardine Motors Audi in Milton Keynes has been evacuated following part of its roof collapsing, at midday today.

According to a statement the group released on its website, it is currently investigating the cause and the extent of damage to the roof area covering the workshop. No one was injured in the collapse.

Its Business Continuity Plan has been enacted to help provide a suitable service level to customers as soon as possible, alongside the support of the Audi dealership team.

All customers directly affected by this incident are being contacted.


Strong values at BCA’s largest ever LCV sale event

BCA’s largest ever light commercial vehicle sale at BCA Blackbushe attracted more than 600 vehicles – selling 85% of the entry for above CAP values.

The sale at BCA Blackbushe attracted a crowd of over 300 buyers and, with every vehicle available to Live Online bidders, a further 200 buyers logged on to bid digitally during the sale. Many vehicles were catalogued using BCA’s award winning Video Appraisal and BCA Assured package which enables corporate vendors to demonstrate the quality of their stock and build buyer confidence.

The event marked the launch sale at Blackbushe for Arval who offered and sold a superb selection of three to four year old contact hire vans. The new fortnightly sale section made a strong start selling nearly every vehicle on offer and attracting plenty of new buyers to Blackbushe.

There were also strong sale performances from ALD Automotive, Alphabet, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Inchcape Fleet Solutions, Leasedrive, LeasePlan, Lex Autolease, Lombard, Volkswagen Financial Services and UKCGR Commercial.

BCA’s head of commercial vehicle sales, Duncan Ward, said: “This was a fabulous result with a record-breaking entry of commercial vehicles at BCA Blackbushe and a massive turnout of buyers who bid strongly across the range of stock on offer. BCA offered well over 1,500 light commercials nationwide during the week, with big events also staged at Belle Vue and Measham making it one of the biggest weeks on record for LCV sales.”


Government to consider salary sacrifice car schemes for teachers

Teachers in England and Wales could be eligible for cars though salary sacrifice schemes from early next year, after the Government pledged to consider the employee benefit.

David Hosking, chief executive of salary sacrifice car scheme provider Tusker, has been campaigning for teachers to have the same access as colleagues working elsewhere in the public sector. He is now hoping to meet the secretary of state for education, Nicky Morgan.

Hosking told Fleet News: “If we are going to retain the very best teachers for our children, we shouldn’t be excluding them from one of the most popular employee benefits – especially one that will not cost the Government anything over time.

“We hear from teachers in our customer areas every day about how unfair it is that they are not able to access our schemes, but any other profession can – this needs to change.”

Tusker’s campaign to allow state school teachers to be eligible for salary sacrifice car schemes has included an online petition, which has now been signed by more than 1,400 people, an early day motion in the House of Commons and lobbying by MPs sympathetic to the cause, most notably Conservative MPs David Davies and Richard Harrington, Tusker’s local MP.

Responding to a pre-election letter from Davies requesting that salary sacrifice car schemes should be included within the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD) – the Department for Education’s guidance on general teachers’ pay – Morgan said: “The Government will consider whether the issue should be included in future referrals to the School Teachers’ Review Body.”


‘E-diesel’ could offer alternative to fossil fuel

Fleets have given a warm welcome to a breakthrough development in fuel research that is promising to give every diesel vehicle a clean bill of health within the next decade.

Harmful tailpipe emissions could soon be banished by e-diesel, a remarkable synthetic liquid just starting to flow from an experimental production facility in Germany set up by Audi and Joule, the US biotech company.

So far, only a small amount of the fuel has been created at the special Dresden unit for evaluation, but the new development coincides with growing criticism of diesel transport.

The fossil fuel faces potential tough new penalties as legislators begin to attempt to cut the amount of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) from exhausts in a bid to improve air quality in cities and built-up areas.

As the first batch of the environmentally-friendly alternative to the traditional fossil-based fuel was being tested by German Government officials, Graham Telfer, fleet manager at Gateshead Council welcomed the development.

Telfer, who operates a fleet of 500 vehicles and more than 1,000 items of plant and machinery, said: “Any effort to reduce carbon emissions and demand on fossil fuels is very welcome indeed. Our authority uses more than 250,000 gallons of diesel per year and I totally support this development.”

Telfer’s support was echoed by ACFO chairman John Pryor, who added: “We’re always interested in advances that assist in reducing emissions.

“We don’t know enough about this new fuel to fully understand its implications for the fleet market, but we look forward to learning more about its potential benefits as soon as possible.”

Scientists at Dresden are using a patented process to harness energy from the sun to turn industrial waste CO2 and salt water into liquid fuel with the help of an army of microorganisms, each measuring just three-thousands of a millimeter.

After being adapted to prevent them following the normal course of growing more cells, the tiny microorganisms produce a continuous stream of the paraffin alkanes that are important components in diesel. The process begins with turning water into steam and then separating it into hydrogen and oxygen via electrolysis at high temperature.

Under high pressure, the hydrogen then reacts with CO2 to produce ‘blue crude’ – a liquid similar to regular crude but free from sulphur or aromatic hydrocarbons when it is refined to create e-diesel.

“The CO2-neutral mobility we are striving to attain is only feasible with new sustainable forms of energy that can replace fossil fuels over the long term,” explained a company spokesman.

“Conventional fuels, based on petroleum, release CO2 into the atmosphere and diesel from renewable raw materials like corn and rapeseed achieve a better environmental balance because the plants have previously absorbed the CO2 released in combustion.

“However, these fuel sources require costly processing and compete with food agriculture so they can’t be a long term solution.

“We are using renewable ‘feedstock’ for e-diesel – it is a fuel that has no need for agricultural land or fresh water.”

According to experts, vehicles running on e-diesel are as eco-friendly as pure electric vehicles that operate on ‘green’ electricity.

Because it is free of sulphur and aromatics, the new fuel also boasts the advantage of high purity compared with petroleum-derived diesel, which uses a mixture of hydrocarbon compounds.

In addition, it is claimed to offer excellent ignition performances as a result of its high cetane number and is said to permit unlimited blending with fossil fuel diesel.

Significantly, e-diesel calls for no modifications to the millions of TDI motors that have been built by Audi and it is expected to be ready for the commercial market early in the next decade.

Head of Audi UK fleet sales James Douglas told Fleet News: “This is a genuinely exciting development. The potential benefits for fleets are evident; we’re pleased Audi is spearheading pioneering development work of this kind.”


Strength of new car market is depressing RVs

An increase in the number of cars going to auction – thanks to the strength of the new car market over the past four years – is casting a shadow over residual values.

Almost two-thirds of delegates, surveyed at last week’s Vehicle Remarketing Association’s (VRA) conference, said they were either ‘pessimistic’ or ‘slightly pessimistic’ about the outlook for the used car market over the next year.

Not surprising, when pricing experts at CAP expect a 15% fall in ‘book’ values by the end of 2015.

However, Dylan Setterfield, senior editor for future residual values (RVs) at CAP Automotive, told delegates that, when the performance of the used car market is taken into account over the past couple of years, depreciation is actually in-line with the long-term average.

“It’s not that this year is particularly bad,” he said. “It’s that everybody’s been doing really well over the past three years when the market’s been relatively benign.”

Setterfield says there are some significant downward pressures on values, with an increasing number of vehicles coming to auction and new car deals affecting nearly new pricing trends.

“Nobody’s going to pay more for a used car than they can get a new car for and that filters through to the different [car] ages,” he said.

He also expects forced registrations – the practice of pre-registering cars by dealers to meet new car sales targets – to continue before easing off towards the end of the year. “That will lead to more depreciation than we’ve seen in recent years,” Setterfield said.

But he added: “Retail demand is still quite healthy, the economy is continuing to improve and a 15% [fall] for 2015 is actually in-line with the long-term average. It’s not something we should be particularly concerned about, although we should recognise it could get worse in 2016.”


First official pictures: Vauxhall Astra 2015

Vauxhall has revealed the first official images of its new Astra, the brand’s most popular fleet model in the UK.

Vauxhall sent BusinessCar official pictures ahead of more specific details on pricing, engines and specification, which have not been officially confirmed.

It is expected that the new Astra will feature a reduced entry-level price below £14,000 and the brand will likely be targeting CO2 emissions below 94g/km.

Vauxhall has confirmed there will be new engines with the Astra and it is 200kg lighter than the outgoing model. It will also be the first new Vauxhall with the brand’s Onstar in-car connectivity technology and it will be available on all models as standard.

The car will also feature mirroring technology that is compatible with smartphones and will run Google’s Android Auto and Apple’s Carplay operating systems.

The Astra was Vauxhall’s biggest fleet player and the fourth most popular company car in the UK last year, but volumes fell by 17.1% to 40,812 units in the run up to this new model going on sale towards the end of this year.

The Astra is a massively important vehicle for Vauxhall in the UK and the new model is expected to boost its fleet volumes by 30%. This would put the Astra into a fight with the Ford Focus to be the top-selling fleet model in the UK.

Vauxhall needs the new addition to increase volumes by around 10,000 units to become market leader.

Vauxhall will be using the same fleet strategy it introduced for the Insignia and new Corsa on the new Astra. The manufacturer reduced the pricing on both to position them ahead of the pack in terms of whole-life costs.

It means that when fleets are looking at a basket of vehicles on choice lists, the Vauxhalls will be at the top.

Like with the Insignia and Corsa, Vauxhall is also engaging with residual value setters early to improve the Astra’s RV position, and reducing the model’s exposure to short-cycle business will be key.


Bodyshop elearning gets industry backing

The IMI have launched a suite of eLearning resources to support body repair and paint apprenticeships at five road show events around the UK.

The IMI’s new eLearning resources for students studying Body Repair, Paint and MET received a strong vote of confidence from over 100 training providers, who attended the events. The platform uses a blend of multimedia learning styles, such as video, voiceover and photographs to enhance study opportunities for students and make the classroom learning experience more interactive.

The IMI visited five locations around the UK to demonstrate the new system, receiving feedback suggesting the resources are set to make a significant contribution to body repair and paint related apprenticeship training. Comments received included:

‘The resources open the door to good teaching ideas – making our job much easier and more effective.’

‘Extremely informative and ideal for future eLearning in my industry as a remote/field technician.’

‘Help at last and very learner led – I would love to get onboard.’

Explaining the resources, IMI eLearning development manager Tom Denton commented, ‘The new resources are designed to support students through the majority of their apprenticeship, including functional skills requirements. The technical learning materials cover accident repair topics such as chassis alignment, metal work, surface preparation and trim. Paint topics include equipment, preparation and paint application. Additional modules are set to be added over time until all areas of the curriculum are covered from Entry Level 1 to Level 3.

‘Nothing like this has been available to students until now. We believe these resources will go a long way to ensuring current training in vehicle body repair and paint related professions is up-to-date and fit for purpose in the modern industry. The body repair sector has been through a tough time recently. Ensuring that fresh talent entering the industry has received the best possible training is a vital ingredient in creating a successful and profitable future.’


80 year old test needs updating

On the 80th anniversary of the driving test, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) is urging the Government to start the long overdue process of modernising the way young people learn to drive to bring the UK in line with other major nations like the USA, Australia and New Zealand.

Since the driving test became compulsory on June 1st 1935 it has evolved to recognise the end of hand signals, the arrival of automatic gear boxes and to include a separate written theory test. The ABI says the time has now come to introduce a compulsory learning period and additional restrictions for new, young drivers in an effort to cut deaths and injuries on the road.

James Dalton, the ABI’s director of general insurance policy, said, ‘Car crashes remain the biggest cause of accidental death among young people, and more than 20 per cent of all road deaths can be traced back to young drivers. Evidence from overseas indicates these numbers could be drastically improved with the introduction of graduated driving licences.

‘Passing your driving test is only the start of becoming a safe driver. We want to see a minimum one year learning period for under 25s and then an initial period of 6 months when there would be limits on the number of passengers which could be carried. Better driver training would reduce collisions, bring down motor premiums and, most importantly, save hundreds of lives.’

The ABI’s Safe Young Drivers Campaign is calling for:
• A one-year minimum learning period, starting from 16 and a half
• Limits on the number of passengers allowed in a car with a new young driver
• zero tolerance on alcohol
• Limits on young people driving overnight, eg between 11.00pm and 4.00am

Experiences overseas show how effective these additional restrictions can be at reducing accidents involving young drivers. These can be introduced in ways which don’t restrict travel to work or education.
• In Ontario, Canada, a study found a graduated driver licensing programme brought about an immediate 31% reduction in vehicle crashes for drivers aged 16-19, and a 42% reduction for those aged 20-24.
• Two years after a graduated drivers’ licensing system was introduced in New Zealand there was an 8% reduction in the number of accidents involving under 19s.
• In Australia It was found drivers aged 18-20 who learnt to drive with graduated licensing were 23% less likely to be involved in crashes in which someone was injured compared with a control group of full license holders aged 26-38.


Posted by Lois Hardy on 01/06/2015