Industry standards need to be higher for all motorists, and our government needs to lead the way by introducing regulation in terms of car service and repair work, above all, in garages.
In an industry where VW seems to be getting away with selling us cars they’ve fiddled re mileage claims, where Vauxhall tries to deny responsibility for serious Zafira fires and Kwik Fit is exposed by Watchdog again for charging motorists for services we didn’t need (and in some cases not even providing them…) is it any surprise that so many of us feel we can’t even trust the BIG names in the motor industry?
What a shame for the genuinely good businesses, being tarnished by the same brush.
If unethical car manufacturers, garages and/or car dealers were banks in Iceland their top executives would go to jail. If mis-selling us cars and garage services was considered as serious as PPI was, the fines would reach £ millions. And quite rightly so say I.
So how come the silence seems deafening from our government?
Whilst a ‘no nannying’ governmental strategy sounds good for business this doesn’t work in the unregulated motor industry. If you allow unlicensed mechanics to repair our cars (our various Governments have let this happen for some 70 years now) the consequences of neglected cars can be fatal or very serious. This is not rocket science.
Other than MOT stations, any Tom, Dick or Arthur Daley can sell us unroadworthy cars, part worn tyres or garage services, attempting to repair our cars without the latest diagnostic equipment or manufacturer recommended car parts.
Why can’t the likes of the government, insurers and giant motoring organisations address the fact that badly and rarely maintained/serviced cars are more dangerous and expensive to repair in the end.
Motorists who don’t trust garages go there less often than they should do, hence their neglected cars, and yet the annual MOT is about to move from 3 years to 4 years regardless of the number of cars that fail their first MOT after just 3 years. Don’t get me started here – that’s simply the daftest example of the wrong governmental attitude to car and tyre safety that I can think of.
Our government and other influential consumer bodies don’t seem to be taking garage safety issues seriously enough. Other than our current economic woes, there must be other reasons or vested interests why nobody has bitten the road safety bullet here to help mediocre garages and used car dealers do a better job as well as putting the unscrupulous cowboys out of business.
Maybe this is because
1/ the automotive industry is such a big employer/economic multiplier that nobody is prepared to tell it what to do? And we seem to do what the EU dictates?
2/ the BIG motoring associations that exist to represent motorists (I’m talking about the AA and RAC) both earn out of comparison garage websites that are more price than quality driven?
3/ the (recently Chartered) Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) can earn out of ALL the me-too self-regulation schemes that competitive trade associations run (Bosch Car Service, the SMMT’s Motor Codes and the RMI’s new Trust My Garage scheme) rather than just one central scheme that REGULATION would bring?
NB: None of which require licensed individuals to work on our cars.
When visiting garages I always ask staff ‘are you qualified?’ Many say yes because they once were… but it’s fairly obvious they haven’t invested in training or learning new skills since despite massive changes in the industry. And knowing that these are often business owners and employers in their 50s and 60s, you’d expect them to want to keep their skills up to date and to be licensed to operate. As electricians and gas fitters need to. Knowing how complex and valuable our cars are…
Where are the motor industry professionals?
To find out who and where the licensed professionals are in the UK motor industry you need to visit the Professional Register operated by the IMI (Institute of the Motor Industry). But there are some 140,000+ mechanics yet to sign up here. In an ideal world I’d want this to be a compulsory business register with disciplinary teeth as well, to reprimand the likes of VW and KwikFit by charging any transgressor for fraudulent business behaviour.
These fines would be used tonfund the development of the register and so on…
Get regulation right however and the UK motor industry would be a lot richer from a reputational point of view. It really is time for regulation as the ONLY independent means to reward the really good businesses and ‘out’ the second rate cowboys who let us all down.
How to choose a measurably better local garage
The ongoing challenge for motorists as is, is how to spot the measurable difference between the good and the bad garages & dealers.
Here’s what we say about this… and whilst this situation isn’t as good as it should be, the Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) schemes mentioned above are as good as it gets in 2015.
But please bear in mind that garages promoting themselves as ‘good’ (but which are not members of a CTSI approved code scheme) may not have had to prove any minimum quality standards to be listed under a good garage scheme. Why not ask them about this before you use them?
Because as important as customer feedback is, this is often more about the customer service than the quality workmanship. Yes both are important but the MOST important factor bar none is the ability of a mechanic to make cars safer after their work not do a cheap job.