Tag Archives: fastfits

When is a fixed price not a fixed price?

The ASA upheld a complaint about a recent Toyota advert which claimed that its fixed price car servicing offer meant what it said, whereas some garages were more likely to add extras to theirs.

We knew what Toyota meant and I definitely sympathise with their sales tactic. The problem is that we are talking about an unregulated garage industry with quality workmanship and occasionally ethical problems so nothing is as straightforward as it seems…

For example, in this industry there is no agreed definition of car servicing types or tasks and there is no requirement that the staff carrying out these services should be qualified. Yes, we are told that garages subscribing to The Good Garage Scheme follow an industry standard service but their checklist isn’t the same as the one supplied by Halfords Autocentres or Toyota’s, for example.

So how is a foxy lady going to compare long lists using different jargon before she knows which one is best value for her and her car? She probably won’t; this is a such minefield for motorists.

For example, here are some variations on a type of servicing called an ‘interim service.’
* Buy one from a Good Garage Scheme (GGS) subscriber and it includes 28 items/checks.
* Buy one from Toyota (it’s called an intermediate service) and it includes 30 items/checks which don’t seem to be the same as the GGS…
* Buy one from Halfords Autocentres and it includes 35 items/checks…

And so on… with similar discrepancies when it comes to servicing options such as ‘oil servicing’ ‘full servicing’ and ‘major servicing’…

One thing is for certain – no FOXY Lady has the time to compare and contrast different servicing lists that contain items/checks she isn’t used to and may not understand.

Car servicing differences…

But there are other important differences too, for example…

1 Toyota’s servicing prices (from £99) include manufacturer qualified staff (mostly to Automotive Technician Accreditation ATA standards which means they have demonstrated that they can repair all makes) and car collection/delivery service in addition to dealership standards in terms of waiting areas and washrooms.

2 Halfords Autocentres servicing prices (from £119) are also carried out by ATA accredited staff with the Halfords brand to live up to; but they don’t collect or deliver your car.

3 Good Garage Scheme members are all individual garages who can set their own prices, which may or may not be fixed and who may or may not follow the industry standard service schedule supplied by the scheme owner Forte Lubricants. More importantly, Good Garage Scheme members don’t need to demonstrate any minimum quality standards to join the network – all they have to do is promise to use their so called industry standard checklist and sell Forte Lubricant products to order.

And then there’s the question of the best (not just cheapest) car parts…

NB: Some garages/dealerships discount the cost of an MOT that is done at the same time as a car servicing and others don’t. FOXY advice – always ask for and expect a discount when buying car servicing and an MOT together.

Garage brokers…

And if this isn’t complicated enough you then have schemes run by third party garage brokers like NSN, servicingstop.co.uk and service4service.co.uk where the motorist deals direct with these brokers but doesn’t know which garage will be servicing their car or what their credentials are. Needless to say (but this is a significant factor) if a garage is paying a broker commission and is expected to perform to keen car servicing prices as well, this suggests that the garage will be looking to shave its costs to turn a small profit at the end of the day.

But back to the title of this blog…

Q: When is a fixed price (car servicing) not a fixed price?

FOXY answer: When the work reveals a problem that could not have been predicted. Which is fair enough providing the customer is told or shown the problem and given a quotation for the new work.

Fortunately this exercise has taught us a few important lessons…

1 Car servicing is a very competitive arena with franchised dealers, independent garages and fastfits jostling for position. So shop around for price AND measurable evidence of quality.

2 Dealerships aren’t always the most expensive car servicing solution but at least their work is carried out by manufacturer approved/trained staff and will normally include a car collection service.

3 The same old quality concerns arise because this is an industry that isn’t regulated.

What other industries treat a ‘straightforward, swift complaints procedure’ as a selling point?

And what is the point in any quality garage initiative if it’s a voluntary standard that only the good guys belong to and the rest don’t have to join?

Finally, if I struggle to get my head around all this (and garage quality is supposed to be my specialist subject) how will Joanna Public fare, thinking that all garages and car servicing options are the same?

No wonder so few women enjoy their garage visits… This is all far too confusing.


Garages that pay commission are rarely female friendly

Whilst it’s easy for UK garages to claim to be good and/or female friendly without having to prove it, surely there should be some substance behind these claims as well as a means to monitor the situation if things go wrong.

No matter her age, most females today are shrewd, canny and astute when it comes to shopping – which is what the brand FOXY is all about of course. They are looking for evidence of quality, value for money (not necessarily the cheapest price), ethical behaviour and female friendliness.

And whilst you might think that all businesses should be able to sign the female friendly FOXY Promise, sadly many national garage groups can’t because they pay their staff commission as part of their income. This means that the likes of the big garage names we see on TV can’t promise that their staff won’t sell us tyres we don’t need, for example, simply to top up their wage. Whereas if they were earning a decent flat rate salary, they’d be operating to female friendly FOXY Promise standards like you’d expect them to be doing.

So, when it’s to do with national or regional garage chains, selling tyres and fastfit services in particular, you need to have your wits about you and to take a second opinion if you think you might be being ripped off here.

But at least you can choose a FOXY Choice listed female friendly garage because it will have signed the FOXY Promise to ‘never knowingly overcharge, patronise or sell customers anything they don’t need or want’. And if any listed garage doesn’t get this right, you can tell FOXY Choice and we’ll help you sort it out.

Ultimately we reserve the right to expel any garage subscriber that clearly isn’t good enough AND we’ll help spread the word to members of FOXY Lady Drivers Club.

Keep us posted please.