Swindon’s Manathome Garage becomes A1 Autos for the day

We weren’t at all surprised to hear that Manathome Garage had been selected as the most photogenic garage in Swindon for a promotional film commissioned by a nationwide engine oil distributor.

Photo caption:
Owner Gemma McCracken and technician John Horgan.

A film producer’s ideal garage choice

From a producer’s perspective, you’d want a garage that was measurably better than others, impressively clean and with good looking staff where possible. Not as easy to find in the UK motor industry as some might think.

So last week Noha Agency homed in on Manathome Garage in Sheppard Street to meet Gemma McCracken and husband Gavin before filming the video in the workshop.

Gemma said: “There were lots of actors, cameramen and lights. It wasn’t what I was expecting but it’s great to think that a top agency like this was happy to use a local independent garage, even if we did have to pretend to be A1 Autos for the day.”

Sadly the DVD calls the garage A1 Autos, a made up name in this instance. But now we all know it’s Manathome Garage in Swindon…

And the perfect female friendly garage choice…

The garage, which is the only female friendly approved service and repair garage in Swindon regularly holds workshops for women drivers to learn more about how their cars work. Manathome Garage holds FOXY Lady Approved status because of these garage evenings coupled with Gemma’s presence, the evident cleanliness of this garage and that it operates to a Trading Standards Institute approved Code of Practice.

What a shame they can’t be promoted in their real name in this DVD – hence this blog of course, so more women (and men) in Swindon know where their best female garage choice is and what it’s really called…

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Top Gear causes offence at Xmas

Photo ack: JuiceFM

Photo ack: JuiceFM

I’m not a petrol head but I love Top Gear on TV. Here are three big boys behaving very badly and if ever there was proof that men and women are very different, they are this…

And they usually make me laugh out loud.

Top Gear is also one of the most profitable franchises for the BBC of all times and can sometimes challenge the BBC values of conservatism and fairness (as they did with Sir Cliff Richard in my opinion…).

Yet household name Jeremy Clarkson is all about provocative journalism because he knows this PR works best for Top Gear on a global scale.

So what went wrong in Argentina?

When news that a car with an offensive registration H982FKL (982 as in the 1982 war and FKL as in Falklands) was used in Argentina I instantly put this down to Jezza taking yet another PR risk too far. The thought that this could be a coincidence never entered my head.

Yet my husband instantly sided with Jeremy and was convinced this was an unfortunate accident whilst agreeing with me that this episode would command massive TV ratings at Christmas. Which it did of course.

Spectacular Tierra del Fuego

Spectacular Tierra del Fuego

Certainly Jeremy said a lot of unusually nice things about Argentina, and Tierra del Fuego in particular, all likely to boost their tourism receipts from the British brave. But we all know that this sounded out of character and would have been recorded after the event. I presume he/they had the consequences of not trying to make amends here writ large.

Well below BBC values?

I now read that Argentine’s Ambassador to the UK, Alicia Castro, has complained to the BBC saying that Clarkson’s behaviour in the country fell ‘well below’ BBC editorial values, accusing them of ‘covering up.’ Presumably she felt that the treatment of the BBC TV crew was ‘above reasonable’ by Argentinians in the circumstances?

Not in my book.

Yes I think someone at the BBC was particularly stupid (lax or out to be provocative) to allow the registration to be used but I also think that the treatment the film crew were subjected to was equally as stupid (scary and provocative). This could easily have escalated into a major Falklands-esque incident.

Does one dollop of stupidity justify another? I don’t think so but then perhaps I would say that…

On reflection, I’d say this was yet another perfect example of boys behaving badly, in keeping with the Top Gear identity and ethos. It made for sensational TV at Xmas of course but best put behind us in January.

Better BBC scrutiny is surely needed in future and, of course, one of these days Jeremy will move on, the programme will die a natural death without him and we’ll all be sad and glad to have had the fun we’ve had.

How has he/they got away with this for so long I wonder?

FOXY Steph

PS: And how soon can I visit Argentina to see that beautiful country for myself?

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A new insurance service for women

I am delighted to announce that FOXY Lady Insurance has appointed Cornmarket Insurance Services to provide car, classic car, home, motorcycle and travel insurance for members of FOXY Lady Drivers Club.

cornmarket_logoCornmarket is a specialist broker that looks after the IAM and Bank of Ireland customers as well as teachers, motorbikers and truck drivers. They know all about affinity groups like ours and recognise that FOXY is doing all it can to help women drivers be safer drivers in future.

This is the ideal opportunity to reward Club members who are safer drivers.


As a special launch offer, subject to confirmation, we are also making this service available to non member females who will each receive a gift membership of FOXY Lady Drivers Club, qualifying for preferential insurance rates in this way.

Previously FOXY worked with individual brokers who committed to our FOXY Lady Approved standards but today’s central scheme is more beneficial as the likely volume will result in better rates for Club members.

In fact Cornmarket’s experience is that they can cut the cost of car insurance for 9 out of 10 Club members*.


*based on new car insurance quotations provided by Cornmarket Insurance Services to the Institute of Advanced Motorists’ members from 2008 to now.

And let’s face it, it’s price that matters first followed by knowledgeable customer service where you can speak to an individual and ask those important questions that apply to you, your car and your family alone.


shangri_la_shard_londonAnd anyone who registers for a FOXY Lady Insurance quote by 30 April 2015 will automatically be entered into a luxury hotel competition at the iconic London Shard Hotel.

The London Shard is perfectly located within walking distance of bustling Borough market, West End theatres and shops as well as the Tower of London, Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey.

The Shangri-La hotel is on its 34th to 52nd floors and, as you can imagine, all rooms have unrivalled city views with floor to ceiling windows!

This prize is worth £1500 including £500 spending money, terms apply and the winner will be announced in May 2015.



NB: FOXY Lady Drivers Club is an Introducer Appointed Representative (IAR) for Cornmarket Insurance Services.

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Treating men and women differently

genderWhen you touch on or even mention any gender related subject, such as running a motoring club for women as I do, I accept I won’t please everyone.

Maybe it’s the competitive or tribal nature of our society or inadequacies in our education system but we seem to be increasingly ruled by a politically correct agenda. One that makes judgements for us, regardless of our freedom of choice, based on often emotional and limiting views to do with equality and feminism.

I am not sure why this lobby should trump our freedom of choice as genders but anecdotal research tells me that many think equality means treating boys and girls/men and women the same.

It also seems that the word feminism has a very bad (and unfair) reputation in some male and female minds.

I now detect a new undercurrent, thought by men and women alike it seems, that women should ‘man’ up and stop (being portrayed in the media perhaps) whining and be exposed to the same criticism as men. My context here is motoring of course, where the irony of this is profound after women drivers have been the source of criticism for years…

But fair or not, it’s simply wrong to lump an entire gender into one for convenience, as age, marital status and many other factors affect our lives. To label us all as bad drivers when patently some are and most aren’t is clearly wrong. And, needless to say, despite the PC wish to treat us us all the same, women are not the same as men so this will NEVER work.

Women, families and careers

Just over 20 years ago I was a Director in a corporate world who knew she needed to be better than most men to get on in her career. So she did what it took to get to the Board and it cost her a marriage. Then came the family years, when she tried to balance a full time job, a new relationship, studying for an Executive MBA whilst looking after a step-teenager and toddler. Unsurprisingly she couldn’t do it all, her health finally suffered and one way or another this led her ie me to working for myself.

The story is much more complicated than that of course but my abiding memory is of a man who I wanted to impress at work in the early days. When he finally complimented me on some work I’d done he concluded by saying I could consider myself ‘an honorary male’. That’s when loud warning bells started to ring. Was this what I really wanted to hear? It wasn’t of course but many females seem to think they need to outbloke the guys to scale the corporate ladder.

Equal rights, equality and feminism

I never wanted to be a Queen Bee in any boardroom, I just wanted to demonstrate and flex my ability to good effect and have this recognised. But it isn’t easy being female in a male world where men set the agenda and we’re expected to follow it. This is more evident than ever in the masculine motor industry and if you don’t work in it or have experience of this, trust me, it’s different from any other environment I have known. Question the male status quo and you can be seen as tricky…

One thing my ‘honorary male’ experience instilled in me from that day onwards was a love of equal rights, equality and feminism – each of them relevant and supportive in different situations.

Let’s start with the easiest one of these. I imagine that most reasonable individuals, regardless of gender, believe in equal rights when it comes to pay, jobs, education, training, opportunities and parenting responsibilities. Now, reread this previous sentence using the word ‘feminism’ instead of ‘equal rights.’ and you have my definition of feminism. And if you think about this, it benefits men as much as women, particularly in the area of parental responsibilities. So why is feminism so maligned?

And whilst it is tempting to venture down the route that suggests equality is good for all this ignores the fact that boys and girls are as different as men and women remain in later life. Thank goodness for that! And because girls, boys, men and women aren’t the same as each other either we mustn’t try to pigeon-hole each other into ‘pink and frilly’ or ‘distinguished and mechanical’ stereotypes either.

Let us be who we are, not what others think we should be…

The PC lobby

I was reminded about all this when I posted some Government stats about women being the safer motoring gender (ratio of young men:women drivers causing death or serious accidents 2:1 in 2013) in this comments section. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-health/11317822/Government-drink-driving-ads-must-show-women-behind-the-wheel.html

It appears to some that if you stick up for your gender, you are to be dismissed as suffering from misandry or mysogeny. And that if you don’t stick up for your gender, this is being called balanced? What utter nonsense.

What a shame it is that some men and women earnestly believe that we should all be treated the same regardless of our differences. Especially knowing the educational outcomes of teaching boys and girls separately – where the boys blossom as a result. Or where girls might choose to play with dolls not fire engines? Or boys with cars not dolls?

In short, why not let girls be girls and boys be boys or vice versa if that’s what THEY want? I don’t see the fuss here.

Gender and motoring

I was interested to read an article about this that Erin Baker wrote this weekend in The Telegraph’s Cars supplement. She acknowledges having taken an overly harsh view of ‘weak’ women drivers in a previous Womens Hour interview but now admits to having some off days herself in this respect.

Welcome to the female motoring world Erin where honesty is what women usually do best. I’m not saying that women have weaknesses thrust upon them that men don’t but it’s my experience that being a new mum, bereaved, divorced, or involved in an accident or road rage incident undoubtedly affects confidence levels when driving. And if this isn’t a gender issue, then women seem more likely to admit to this than men.

Wasn’t it just recently that a women was killed in a car park in this country because a male motorist literally fought her for a car park space?

I’d much prefer us to take the heat out of gender-based debates to do with motoring and have a truce based on facts and some degree of mutual compassion even.

Let’s start by admitting that some women are better drivers than men and vice versa… That’s fair and balanced isn’t it?

Then let’s get this in proportion. Yes an increasing number of women are committing offences, causing accidents and drinking and driving but there are still more men than women doing this (and the numbers/mileage covered is getting ever closer…).

Why not name and shame the bad motorists in future? Our local police told our local newspaper about a lady that was prosecuted for drink driving, for example?

FOXY will even offer a website page for this listing purpose, if asked…

But let’s remember that the motor industry is one of the last male bastions in many female minds, deterring women from being the regular customers and employees garages and car dealers need.

It’s simply wrong that so many females still feel the need to take a man with them to haggle a deal for a new car. Or that so many of us still feel the need to ask a man to test drive a car for us or take it to the garage instead of us?

Yes you could tell women to ‘man’ up but the industry as as much to blame for not being more female friendly here..

And with the number of women drivers about to exceed the number of men on UK roads (in 2-3 years), this is surely a wake up call for this industry to respond to the female business case?

After all, we’re increasingly wealthy, independent and demanding ie it isn’t just me that expects higher standards in terms of quality, value, cleanliness and customer services (than many garages and car dealers offer).

Making a female motoring choice

“By walking the female [business] path you end up making things better for women AND men.” Paco Underhill, author of ‘What Women Want’ 2010

If some women want to save money, be better informed about their motoring choices and enjoy access to friendly support services (which FOXY Lady Drivers Club offer in terms of driver training, ongoing practical advice and women’s garage evenings) surely they should be able to enjoy this without being made to feel weak or inferior in any way…

But if this approach doesn’t appeal to you (maybe you think that better rates and a helping hand for women drivers are patronising gestures in some way) rest assured you don’t have to join FOXY Lady Drivers Club! Although if you did, you could help me do a better job for other females by sharing/contributing your know how to mutual female benefit*.

In short, please have a heart when it comes to women drivers in 2015. We’re doing our best to make things better in motoring circles for females – as I see it male motorists will then benefit from our raising the quality and services bar for all!

FOXY Steph

*Providing you NEVER take a stance that rubbishes women drivers un-specifically (yes some deserve reprimanding as do some men but let’s be specific not emotional) or unfairly. That is my unspoken rule – to encourage women towards being better drivers by using the carrot not the stick approach.

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Why you must compare used car warranties

car_warrantyWhen you read that the average price of a used car is £9000 you’d probably expect it to be in good condition for that much money.

Surely it’s only when buying cars that are much cheaper ie c£1000 or less that the customer runs the risk of buying a lemon; especially if they don’t do their mechanical homework in advance?

Not necessarily it seems, according to the thousands of used car complaints referred to Citizens Advice every year.

Clearly something isn’t quite right in terms of minimum industry standards or quality control processes when it comes to used car shopping?

Advice re buying a used car

There are ways we can minimise the risk of buying a used car lemon.

1/ We should make sure that used cars are HPI-checked so we know they are financially sound, haven’t been stolen or written off and haven’t been involved in a bodged accident repair. Where in doubt, we should pay for that check ourselves…

2/ We can now check the car’s last MOT online to see what work needs doing, even when the car has passed its MOT.

3/ We should check the car handbook to see when the last car servicing was done and what this entailed. Cars should be serviced once a year as a minimum. If mileage is very low (under 5000m pa) this probably means nothing more expensive than an oil and filter change.

4/ We should always check the condition of tyres on a used car. Tyre tread should be no less than 1.6mm ie the depth of a 20p coin rim. If less than 3mm they need changing and good tyres are expensive to replace.

But when you pay c£9000 or more for a used car it’s surely reasonable to expect a long check list to have been carried out by the dealer before putting a car on sale? Adding a used car warranty to give us peace of mind?

A warranty that reflected the rigour of the dealer’s checklist I’d have thought.

Used car warranty standards

The used car industry standard seems to be a minimum three month warranty in the UK but some dealers do a lot better.

For example, a Ford Approved used car comes with a 12-24 month warranty.

And an Approved BMW comes with a 12 month warranty.

And when it comes to independent used car dealers Safe and Sound ones include a minimum 6 month warranty.

Yet if you buy a used car from RAC Cars, including a ‘used car guarantee’, you may only get a one month warranty?

So obviously you must always compare used car warranties in terms of their length and cover; even when buying from a motoring brand we think we know well, like the RAC.

What happens if the warranty doesn’t cover your claim?

Few motorists know that there is a new Trading Standards Code of Practice for Vehicle Warranty Products, run by Motor Codes. This means that, assuming the warranty provider/product subscribes to this scheme, you can then use Motor Codes’ free conciliation service to check your options if you are unhappy with a decision to turn down a seemingly reasonable claim.

Other information about car warranties…

a/ The Sale of Goods Act is valid for six months after car purchase and may provide cover should you need this, in addition to any shorter dealer warranty.

b/ You have few rights (other than transferable warranties in some cases) when buying from an individual seller rather than a known car dealer.

c/ If you choose a FOXY Lady Approved ie female friendly car dealer you can be sure of a minimum three month warranty. Some offer more.

d/ You could offer to pay extra to upgrade to a 6 or 12 month warranty depending on the value of the car. If the dealer won’t quote reasonable terms to do this, be suspicious!

Clearly no car dealer is going to include a longer warranty than he needs to, but to sell a used car with as little as a one month warranty suggests that the dealer has little faith in the longer term viability of that vehicle!

And where that may be the case, can I please suggest that you look elsewhere and buy on the basis of a well documented ‘approved used car check’ and one of the best dealer warranty products?

FOXY Steph

PS: By all means email me, steph@foxyladydrivers.com, with your experience of used car warranties. We are compiling a FOXY feedback file to identify/recognise those warranty providers that are getting service levels right for Club members. And not all are it seems!

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