Women and UK garage services

A recent survey carried out by Experian looked at the perceived differences to do with garages and dealerships carrying out car servicing on new and used cars.

Whilst the survey didn’t say whether the sample included women drivers, the two most important concerns recorded were quality of workmanship and price/value for money which ties in with FOXY findings.

Sixty four per cent of used car owners would go to a local garage to get their car serviced, compared to just 23% of new car owners.

Meanwhile, just over half (51%) of new car owners would prefer to use the dealer they bought their car from, compared to 13% of used car owners.

Understandably the older the car the more budget conscious the motorist and perhaps some still question whether they can use an independent garage whilst their nearly new car is still under manufacturer warranty.

However a cheap price will be a false economy if corners have been cut although, at the opposite end of the perceived price scale, the new Motor Industry Service and Repair Code is actively albeit inadvertently promoting franchised dealers because so few independents have signed up to the minimum standard.

The perception is that franchised dealers are always more expensive than independents; most are but some aren’t depending on the job in hand.

On reflection the industry should do more to help motorists understand their garage choices because a recession is when women, in particular, are more likely to shop around for big ticket expenses like garage services. They are looking for a value for money formula calculating the likes of price, quality of workmanship, cleanliness, welcome and customer services.

In future years I imagine that women will factor in female friendly garages to their decision making, knowing that FOXY-listed businesses observe the female friendly FOXY Promise.


Confused women drivers? Me too.

I am not surprised that comparison websites are struggling in today’s economy. Apparently there are some 130 me-too websites, like Confused.com and Moneysupermarket.com, all competing to earn commission from services including insurance (motor, home and travel) and finance deals.

Just think about it. Car insurance comparison websites depend on commissions from insurers to pay to market their service (think big TV ads at peak viewing hours…) and the insurers are now haggling over how much they’ll pay for their listings –  such is their buying power in this competitive arena.

But it’s a strategic mess in my opinion and no good can come from the constant and relentless consumer drive towards cheaper and cheaper service.  Buy motor and we’ll discount household; buy this year and we won’t charge more next year; buy buildings and we’ll give you free contents – my head is dizzy and I’m still suspicious.

Moneysupermarket.com now needs to pare its costs to stay competitive and ahead of the rest… Then the rest tighten their belts and they’re all off again – it isn’t a sustainable model without a significant differentiator.

It used to be the case that a woman driver checking out a couple of comparison websites would get a great deal to reward her being the better gender risk.  This is no longer the case as a recent Which? report revealed. Just one example quoted was of a specifically named policy which could be bought for £204 via one search website but only £170 from another (presumably to do with the commission ingredient?). Bad luck foxy lady driver if you chose the wrong comparison site.

Then, with the emphasis on finding the cheapest policy out there, many consumers are risking travelling without holiday insurance or driving without motor insurance cover. More than ever I imagine in today’s economy.  If there was a proper deterrent there wouldn’t be so many getting away with it (10% admitted to driving uninsured at some stage in one survey I read) and the rest of us wouldn’t find ourselves out of pocket when we meet one of these idiots head on.

I find the insurance industry very confusing. Insurers get away with making preposterous claims stating ‘x percentage  of motorists will save more than c£100 by transferring to us’ when this can’t possibly be true of them all.

And those of us that buy cheap, cheap, cheap then find out what we bought when we need it most, when we come to claim. Inconsiderate customer service, policy terms that change (but the motorist can’t see what they are without re-reading the policy), inflexible garage options, poor pay outs and excesses that mean the customer underwrites the lionshare of the claim, not the insurer (who has had the premium up front).

Yes, insurance is a form of gambling whether you are a motorist or an insurer but to see who can win the most business and spend the least on it is undoubtedly what is  happening today with so many insurers in the red.

Why doesn’t the industry measure the quality of the services provided and make this information available? Ask Which? or FOXY to do it for them.  Not just the policy wording but customer satisfaction levels at all stages of their dealings.

And why don’t insurers work harder to keep their customers in the first place? The foxy ones should surely reward their customers to stay with them, before the renewal notice arrives, rather than having to spend more money attracting new business to replace the customers they allowed to jump ship…

I am sure there is a better way to deliver better customer value for money, even in a recession.


Wherever I lay my hat…

A recent sample of some 1100 visitors to the Honest John website found that 28% of new car buyers and 32% of used car buyers rated their experience as poor. More were critical of the after sales contact.

If you don’t know Honest John (HJ), he writes a Letters page for the Sunday Telegraph and markets himself as an Arthur Daley car dealer type, with ethics and more knowledge. Definitely a stereotypical male image of motor (said with a cockney accent) traders as his photo would suggest.

HJ has singled out five independent businesses that meet his Highly Approved Trader (HAT) standard; BCA (British Car Auctions), Cargiant, Motorpoint, drivethedeal.com and Warranty Direct.

No franchised dealers or garages there yet…

To keep this status they all need to maintain a 97% ratio of good feedback and be judged as delivering excellent value.

I am not sure how he plans to measure excellent value or encourage customers to keep up such a high positive feedback ratio. Speaking personally I can’t think of one business I have written to to say thank you to where the service has been OK but not exceptional. I expect it to be fit for purpose in the first place.

And when it isn’t, even just mildly less than I would have hoped for, if there’s nothing to be achieved by complaining, I don’t bother; I just take my business elsewhere.

I’ll be interested to see how HJ manages this and whether the HATs stay on if the % ever drops.

So look out for HJ’s (racing pundit?) hat in future.

Let’s hope it makes it easier for motorists to identify genuine quality in the new and used car buying sector in future.


Foxy new car deals for women

How many of us are waiting to buy a new car on 1 March?

The answer is lots of us, even if numbers are well down on 2008.

It’s a great time to get a good deal (amazingly Vauxhall and Ford plan to add 5% to their model prices because of the poor euro exchange rate) and whilst the sensible money is usually best buying a nearly new car (under 1 year – with a 2 year warranty to run) that isn’t always the best financial case when you factor in realistic discounts on new cars in current economic conditions.

I can strongly recommend the Which? Car Spring 2009 guide (get it in Sainsbury’s) to see what their suggested target discounts are.

In summary, for those of us that don’t do haggling by nature, you should be looking at the equivalent of some 5% off list price for the likes of the Mini, Mitsubishi Colt, Honda Jazz, Suzuki Splash or the Ford Ka.

Add a further 10% and you should be looking for something like 15-20% off the Peugeot 207, Renault Clio, Skoda Fabia, Toyota’s Yaris and Vauxhall’s Corsa.

To save between 20-25% try the Fiat Panda and Punto and Citroen’s C1, C2 or C3.

I am a fan of foxy cars like these; small, green, economic to run and with a good resale value.

Don’t be fobbed off by 0% interest deals (do they think we’re daft?) and watch the extras that the salesman might try to talk you into.

Finally if you are at all fearful about making a deposit payment for any car in this range, use your credit card just in case any manufacturer or dealer ceases trading between receiving your order and delivery. Your money will then be safe.

FOXY garage services in Taunton

Our Head of Sales, Claire Boundy, lives near Taunton so it seemed like a good place to start our FOXY Lady Drivers Club foray into the West Country providing female friendly garage and motoring support services for women.

We now have a really friendly BSI Kitemark licensed garage in Taunton to provide women driver members with car checks plus a range of FOXY approved local garages offering MOT, servicing and repair discounts so that’s a good start. Lots of national offers and our accident assistance and helpdesk of course!

The disappointing bit here is that despite contacting all the dealerships in the area, none have taken the plunge to sign the FOXY Promise and become a FOXY Choice subscriber.

Now clearly dealerships are in the doldrums and perhaps they are sitting on the fence for the moment but with a unique female friendly business proposition to promote themselves online to new customers and as a female friendly business ahead of others I am surprised and disappointed not to have more takers with a view to when the good times return. Very short-sighted I think.

Maybe when they pick up on our local PR and Musgrove Park hospital promotion we’ll have some new recruits – let’s hope they haven’t left it too late to compete with the independents for valuable aftersales business that can lead into the showroom.

Unless, of course, they aren’t female friendly businesses (and I’ve spoken to many UK dealership staff that clearly aren’t) and know that the FOXY Promise will out them as such.

So far I have been surprised by a couple of leading national garage organisations that have blanched at FOXY’s service and ethical commitment (see PS). Very telling but not a surprise if our Helpdesk call log is anything typical!!


PS: The FOXY Promise states “We strive to be a female friendly business and will never knowingly overcharge, patronise or sell our customers services they do not need or want.”
Sounds fairly basic to me but businesses that fail the female friendly FOXY Promise test know we spread the word in the Club…

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