Why is our government ignoring motor industry regulation?

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.

raising-the-bar1In 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.

Foxy-under-car-blue-102When 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.

FOXY Steph

Women drivers and classic cars

classicmotorshowThe ‘She’s a Beauty’ theme has been given to this year’s Lancaster Insurance Classic Motor Show at Birmingham’s NEC from 13-15 November.

Whilst mostly about the cars, it also celebrates the motoring achievements of women drivers and their prized classics.

The Bentley Belles

The Bentley 4.5-litre entered into the Benjafield 24 by the Bentley Belles (in the photograph) will take pride of place on the feature display stand, along with Bentley Belle Katarina Kyvalova. The team, which also included Gillian Carr, Georgina Riley and Georgie Brewster, only met for the first time the day before the endurance event, and entered the record books as the only all-female team to run a Bentley in a 24hr endurance race, ever.

Since then, they have added the same accolade to their list for the Spa Six Hour Race. Katarina also competed in the Flying Scotsman Rally and at Spa, as well as finishing third in a Cooper Jaguar at Goodwood Revival.

Jessica Harvey

Jessica Harvey will be bringing her MGB GT, built for hillclimbing. A ‘Café racer GT’, it’s driven hard, but is also a show-scene classic, to the point where it’s received paint rectification for showing three times this year.

She won “Best modified MG” with the car at MG Live in June, a testament to the uprated 2.0 B-series producing 150bhp, the race cam, the fully adjustable suspension and the uprated brakes.

The Whyte Sisters

whytesistersThe Whyte sisters are the world’s youngest all female endurance historic rally team, and compete in HERO’s Austin Seven.

Seren, 23, and Elise, 25, have been competing in historic endurance rallies since their first Le Jog (Lands End to John O’Groats rally) in 2012, and show no signs of letting up.

They’ve used a variety of cars from the HERO fleet, including a BMW 1602 and a Triumph TR4 as well as this Austin Seven.

Other special classic cars

Needless to say, women aren’t all about motorsport. Sandra Britton has gone the opposite way with her Mini, taking it to concours-winning condition. Between her and husband Colin, the 1968 MK2 Super De Luxe has been fully restored on a suburban driveway over the course of four years.

Sixty ‘first in class’ awards and scores of ‘best in show’ awards later, Sandra’s proud of the car. But not so proud as to trailer it – this car is driven to every show it attends.

Needless to say, many cars have female names but are driven by a man!

Wanda the Chevrolet Impala is a good example of a motoring beauty that embodies everything that its name suggests. This ten-year restoration project has seen a number of house moves, family illnesses and more interruptions to progress… but it’s now a credit to the restorers Vince and Andy Cooper.

You’ll find information about this Classic Motor Show as well as ticket prices and booking details aka the 2015 Lancaster Insurance Classic Motor Show from 13-15 November at Birmingham’s NEC.

Ladies evening in Dunstable

Changing Wheel_thurlownunnWe’re often asked about courses for women who want to know how to DIY re car maintenance so here’s a good one for ladies in Dunstable this time. These are not sales occasions, more community evenings with women’s road safety at the top of the agenda.

We’ve all felt uneasy at times, hearing about others being approached by a stranger in a deserted car park late at night or breaking down by the side of the road and having another car pull up alongside…

Fortunately these situations are few and far between, but they do happen and we all need to know what to do to avoid becoming a victim should it ever be our turn.

Vauxhall retailer Thurlow Nunn in High Street South, Dunstable, in Bedfordshire, is organising a free ‘Women in the Driving Seat’ evening on Wednesday, November 18.

Practical instruction on personal awareness and self-protection, basic car care and maintenance for beginners and self-help will be top of the agenda. Advice will also be given on reducing the risks women face when driving for work or socially, including dealing with so-called ‘road rage’ in other drivers.

Personal safety

The increase in road traffic in the UK – up by 50 per cent in the last two decades – is an important factor and this is set to rise by an alarming 100 per cent in the next 20 years, predict motoring experts. In a survey of more than 3,000 UK motorists by YouGov for an insurance company, it was revealed that nearly 1 in 10 (9%) have been threatened with physical violence and over half (56%) of drivers questioned agreed that road users are generally less courteous than five years ago.

Even more alarming was the revelation that over a fifth (21%) of road rage sufferers have argued with another motorist because of road rage, while 36% admitted it makes them drive more aggressively. Almost one in ten (8%) said they’ve followed another driver as a result.

“Personal safety and security are imperative for everyone, particularly women, today. The menace of aggressive, inconsiderate driving on our roads seems to be increasing at the moment and we believe that all it takes is a little care and consideration to avoid situations which can escalate into the kinds of tragic incidents we have all heard about recently,” said Ivan Pletersky, general manager of Thurlow Nunn Dunstable.

“We want everybody to enjoy their independence and freedom and be able to travel safely and confidently on our roads. We hope that by highlighting the risks facing women drivers, it will provide them with a wealth of information and practical advice,” he added.

Tackling road rage

In addition to car safety, the psychology behind car confidence will be explored by ex-Police Chief Inspector and human behaviour specialist Vic Botterill, with practical advice on safe driving and combating the hazards of modern driving, including so-called ‘road rage’, which members of the audience can join in with. Advice will also be given about the frequent causes of aggressive, dangerous driving and ‘motorway madness’, with the audience encouraged to share their own experiences and how they could have been avoided.

But the course is not designed to encourage motorists to take the law into their own hands emphasised Ivan: “Our Women in the Driving Seat evening is free to anyone who wishes to steer clear of trouble or be able to deal with their own, personal ‘road rage’.” he explained.

Self defence role play

During the event, volunteers from the audience will be invited to take part in self defence role-play by self protection specialist and head of the Realistic Self Defence Organisation, Andy Williams. They will be shown how to beat the bullies behind the wheel and, if diplomacy fails, how everyday objects to hand such as car keys, pens and possibly deodorant sprays can come in very handy.

Representatives from the Dunstable branch of the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) will also be there to discuss their organisation’s various advanced driving courses with interested visitors. And there will be a representative from FOXY too.

Few vehicles come equipped with full tool-kits nowadays, so Thurlow Nunn’s service technicians will also offer visitors practical hands-on instruction on dealing with roadside emergencies, routine car maintenance and car safety checks. The evening is free and all will be encouraged to roll up their sleeves and ‘have a go’ themselves under the guidance of expert motor technicians, promises the dealership. Gloves will be provided for hygiene purposes.

Anybody interested in attending the free Women in the Driving Seat event at Thurlow Nunn on Wednesday, November 18 can telephone Ivan Pletersky on 01582 575944 or e-mail: ivanpletersky@thurlownunn.co.uk to reserve places.

Female Executive Directors Preferred

boardroom heelsWhen it comes to organisational health, judged by financial and efficiency metrics, the more women at the top, the better the financial returns says McKinsey & Company.

Put another way, it’s not just what you say and do but how well you do it.

Yes a male CEO can justifiably say ‘we want to employ more female car sales staff’ but the reason there are so few might be because the business isn’t perceived to be a female friendly employer from the Boardroom down.

Certainly that’s true of the UK motor industry, which is the big picture in too many female minds – and I’m talking about women in a broad context; seen as Board member recruits, staff AND customers.

So whilst it’s encouraging to hear that Lord Davies is being listened to in UK Boardrooms we’re a long way short of making the impact we need to en route to a new target of 33% of women board members at FTSE 350 firms by 2020.

That’s too far away and well short of the 50% I want to see in my working lifetime.

The Executive Gender Elastoplast

All too often however, a female Non Executive Director (NED) is the ‘tick the box must have’ Elastoplast solution. This is because an unconvinced CEO can turn to an executive recruitment agency, say ‘we need one or more female NEDs’ and they’ll supply them. This is when a CEO can also think (to himself) – ‘if she doesn’t work out/fit in, we’ve only got her for three years then I can line up another one.’

Now I’m making a female NED appointment sound easy but I’m assuming NEDs, regardless of gender, with the requisite corporate skills, such as HR, governance, legal or secretarial. Fortunately there are plenty of serial NEDs (male and female) who offer such skills and whilst they might be experts at reading Board Minutes and Balance Sheets they are not the best judges of the culture of a business. That can only truly be felt from working on a full time basis within it. And for some time within it, to hear and be trusted with honest staff opinion.

So my point here is that whilst female NEDs will tick the diversity box (and are to be welcomed in the absence of others at the top) they are not as valuable, as I see it, as Executive Directors. Female Executive Directors need to be sponsored and groomed from within, then given a mandate to change a business from a mainly masculine to a female friendly employer (where appropriate – I am writing with the motor industry in mind).

Corporate nirvana, as I see it, is when a female takes a strategic position within the Board, usually as CEO. This is when a female business leader steers a naturally female friendly business using her personal perspective and experience, influencing all aspects of the business whilst accurately predicting and addressing women’s needs and expectations.

Of course many male-led businesses do this already, such as fashion and beauty businesses where the Boards are often full of female, but businesses in my industry, the UK motor industry, seem woefully slow to understand why they might need ANY let alone MORE female Directors.

So here are some good reasons guys – and you really need female Executive Directors to transform overly masculine cultures from within.

More female Executive Board Members needed

Female Board Directors are needed in the UK motor industry because…

+ They are missing from most motor industry Boardrooms
+ They show aspiring female employees a career path
+ They act as role models for ambitious graduate/apprentice recruits
+ Women are half the executive talent out there (but need encouraging to apply)
+ They represent the gender that influences the majority of purchases (80% of cars/aftersales)
+ Women bring consensus and a more collaborative style of working
+ Women add ethical and environmental values (that may well have made a REAL difference in VW’s 100% male Boardroom)

windscreenviewSome time ago, working in a consultant capacity, in my own right, I set out to measure the UK automotive industry in terms of the numbers of female Board members and executive positions.

My intention was not to name and shame but to publish a useful benchmark to influence behaviour and raise gender matters in this area.

Sadly I was unable to obtain the Board composition details I needed re: automotive manufacturers and/or dealership groups operating in the UK so I look forward to this previously ‘secret’ information becoming public when we can all see gender composition re Executive and NED Board appointments in this industry.

Needless to say, if our FTSE goals are now to achieve 35% women on Boards by 2020, it’d be a lot quicker to simply introduce female quotas. Which is my preferred strategy now Lord Davies – one I never thought I’d EVER support but do now after waiting for too long for gender and diversity to reach the top of big businesses in the automotive industry.

FOXY Steph

@FOXY Steph

Steph Savill Limited

Let’s have summer time all year round

summer timeOur clocks go forward an hour in the Spring and an hour back in the Autumn. I remember this with simple ‘spring forward’ and ‘fall backward’ activity images in my mind, consoling myself when the evenings draw in with that extra hour in bed on a cosy Sunday morning in October.

Whichever way you see it, the better the daylight, the more visibility for drivers and the safer our roads.

So the fact that our clocks move forward by an hour from GMT to GMT+1 (aka British Summer Time) during summer months surely cheers us all up.

But why move back to GMT in the winter when we need daylight more? When we could stay at BST? Bearing in mind that the majority of EU countries use GMT+1 as well which would make more sense for travellers or those of us working in tandem with Europe?

So when the road safety charity Brake suggests that winter time should be GMT+1 we’ll gladly add our motoring voice to theirs.

But Brake then suggests that British Summer Time (when the living is easy and nights are well lit until c10pm) should become GMT+2 aka BST+ 1 which I find harder to agree with. In short, I can’t understand why we’d want to move our clocks forward another hour during the summer over and above BST as is?

After all, if farmers want to farm early they get up earlier. Round here they all have lights on their hay-bearing tractors in case they need to work VERY late at night.

When they have to, all children get up for school in the daylight during British summer months and if it can get dark at 10pm as is, how will we ever get them to bed before 11pm to get the sleep they need and some quiet time without them?

Yes there are more traffic accidents when roads are busiest, including school and commuting times but how would an extra hour’s late light in summer evenings help here? Maybe I’m missing something but I can see no reasons during the summer for moving the clocks further forward because light is not an issue as is.

I’d just like it to be summer time all year round! And if anyone tells me they need later school hours in the morning, can I suggest they tweak school hours to suit them best and not expect the rest of us to be involved?

FOXY Steph

A blog for women about motoring