And mine has landed on the ‘imperfect but with many good bits’ motor industry that I believe can be helped towards a brighter future with a thorough makeover… for those that deserve to succeed that is.
For example, let’s say a management consultant is called in to review a struggling business’s performance and recommends that the culture of that organisation needs to be changed. You’d start at the top wouldn’t you? You’d decide where you want to be, look at the way forward, some heads would roll and chances are the consultant would be employed to facilitate the journey. Sounds familiar anyone?
Now let’s see how a struggling industry like the UK motor industry would attempt to do this. Needless to say I am not being paid to do that consultancy job and it wouldn’t be a quick job if I was, but I am happy to start off the ‘Where We Are At’ bit at least and would welcome contributions from those better qualified in the industry…
1 In 2010 the industry is in the doldrums with some notable pockets of exceptions, such as car parts for DIYers…
2 Fewer new cars are being sold; private motorists make do and even the rich realise that it isn’t good for their image to be seen driving flashy cars when others are really struggling.
3 Manufacturers have to plan ahead so they can’t be as flexible as they’d like – their stocks and lines for 2011 were decided ages ago. So they compete for perceived unique selling points or price advantage – some bravely attempting to repositioning their brands up or down market. The electric bandwagon rolls forward quietly 😉 with the all-knowing Chinese on the brink of entering the volume market but for a few known quality issues to resolve…
4 Fleets are now contracting cars for 4 years not 3 wanting low running costs throughout.
5 Those that want a nearly new car are finding them few and far between as a consequence of recent new car supplies.
6 Because they don’t have to, cash strapped motorists are postponing garage servicing so their cars aren’t as safe as they should be and garages without a location or brand advantage are struggling to be seen as good or different.
7 Even worse, cars aren’t being maintained well, especially the new ones otherwise why would so many fail their first MOT?
8 Just as worrying, motorists who don’t know any better choose
- the cheapest used car not realising the salesman knows why it’s cheap
- DIY repairs to save money but might not buy the best parts
- garages that follow a basic motor industry code and/or are good garage scheme members not realising that neither scheme requires them to employ qualified/trained or accredited mechanics
- MOT and car servicing deals from businesses they don’t know, running the gauntlet of rip off dealers, shoddy workmanship and unscrupulous dealers.
9 Complaints are seen as the norm and caveat emptor still applies in many areas. In 2010 a Which? undercover mystery garage shopping reports that nearly 90% of sampled garages (including dealerships) missed or ignored at least one potentially dangerous fault on the cars that had been doctored in advance. Much the same as in 2007’s survey by the way. And the relentless pace of used cars and garage complaints keeps the Office of Fair Trade’s (OFT) Consumer Direct staff employed having seemingly backed away from the recent Super Complaint opportunity that might have led to regulation and quality control.
10 Shoppers are using the internet to save time and money but also to avoid stressful garage and dealership visits – including many women who account for some 50% of customers and seem to be the least happy with the male dominated ‘too blokey’ culture that doesn’t seem to understand their different shopping needs and demands…
Got the picture? So where does the motor industry want to be in future – from 2011 onwards?
Here’s my contribution but as I am not being paid for this ;-), I’ll be brief.
The UK motor industry needs a better image, more ambitious quality standards, a more ethical regard for the safety of motorists and more female recruits because women matter and need a voice.
This all demonstrates the need for joined up motor industry thinking in all these areas with higher level, better, specialist and totally independent public communications for all motorists. This needs to include unbiased, whole picture and down to earth information and advice about cars, garage services, insurance and finance products so better shopping choices can be made.
A good example of unhelpful in-fighting in the industry is the looming ‘Trust My Garage’ launch in 2011. Looking at this from the motorists perspective (which a trade body is not best placed to do), like it or not, we already have the still fairly new Motor Industry Service and Repair Code and the imaginatively titled Good Garage Scheme so what good will a third one be, run by another trade body and reserved for their members, when none of the three equate to or promote qualified or accredited staff.
Which is what FOXY Choice does, by the way, and why an independent organisation like FOXY will always be a more trustworthy arbiter than one funded by interested parties.
What the UK motor industry needs to do instead is
- explain this and a lot more to the motorist who deserves this knowledge
- identify the genuinely better than the rest schemes and
- empower her/him to make the right buying decisions based on quality, value for money and informed feedback. Yes feedback is important in many instances but when I am told a garage is friendly based on their sunny receptionist, how do I know that their mechanic isn’t selling me new tyres/brakes/engine flush washes I don’t need for pecuniary advantage? Or not even doing the job I’ve paid for?
Happy New Year to all the good businesses we work with and may 2011 be the year for positive thinking and debate; so you get your just rewards without being confused with second-rate others.