Tag Archives: motor industry

The motor industry and sexual harassment

How very depressing all this sleaze is but please don’t think I’m surprised.

Not just about dreadful sexual behaviour at the BBC and Hollywood – now we’re reading about serious bullying and rapists at Westminster, in schools and in sport.

Take the time to talk to females in other business areas and you’ll find that female harassment and worse comes in all shapes and sizes. In short it is alive and well in places near us all. Just scratch the surface and, given time, you’ll find a lack of gender respect and worse.

It’s all very worrying.

Will we find sexual misconduct specifically within the motor industry I wonder? As a male dominated industry that is a long way short of being squeaky clean in other areas, I’d be very surprised if this wasn’t the case here but where would we go to check and see? For example, where would motor industry ‘victims’ go (other than to the Police or media) and what are the lessons we could learn here?

Inappropriate sexual harassment, bullying and assault

Nobody will have sympathy for men like Dustin Hoffman, Michael Fallon, Kevin Spacey or Harvey Weinstein. Not the only offenders by a long chalk we know, but let them be the celebrity fall guys, ahead of many more I feel sure – reminding the rest of us how to behave. And let any legal force pursue them and take its full course.

But I do feel sorry for the good guys who know this sort of predatory sexual behaviour goes on around them. Disgusted sons, husbands and dads that despair of unacceptable peer behaviour, knowing the devastating effects this can have on vulnerable women.

So where are the problems likely to be found in the UK motor industry and what’s to be done?

Behaviour in the Automotive Industry

Let’s start with the role of ‘Driving Instructor’ as an example of individuals who are mostly men, in positions of power, and often dealing with young pupils. Instructor selection is an area for concern among parents and daughters but there are few female instructors as yet.

For example, I know of one recent incident where a male instructor asked to use a pupil’s bathroom after a driving lesson – he then seriously assaulted her. The police were informed but they weren’t as supportive as I’d expect them to be. This is another area that needs to be addressed.

There probably is a lot of ‘inappropriate behaviour’ in the motor industry but I’m not saying sexual assaults because I don’t have this information. All I can be sure of is that when the workshop banter gets going (which many women put up with because they have no choice) women are often the target.

So it’s good to see the sexual harassment advice and guidance that ACAS gives employers at their website.

I often wonder how a male in a customer service role can serve a female customer with respect after an earlier lewd conversation behind the scenes? I don’t think he can.

And then there are the not uncommon reports of Swiss Toni-like car salesmen interested in single female car buyers. This is worrying when the business has that customer’s home address.

When the MD of a Top Ten automotive group suggested I talk to two senior women employees to be reassured that his business was a ‘female friendly’ employer, they both told me, in strict confidence, that neither would describe the business as this. I wish I’d asked more about the business’ equality policy at the time and was able to tell the CEO what they said…

I’m also intrigued why the whistle-blower route doesn’t seem to work more effectively. Are individuals worried about personal repercussions? Or perhaps this is because there’s no one independent organisation or specialist individual within the motor industry to take action here?

For example, what happens in a business when a complaint is made (about internal harassment or assault?) to the HR Department? Especially when the ‘accused’ claims consensual justification or that the claimant has made a false allegation?

Heaven forbid we end up with support services per membership association (there are 43 I’m told), each with a vested interest in hushing such behaviour up within their community?

Gender equality lessons to learn

I hope some important lessons might be learned by the motor industry from Hollywood and Westminster events.

1) That this sort of behaviour and misogynistic attitudes are commonplace, not just evident in headline news. And that there can be no room for complacency.

2) That sexual sleaze is likely alive and well in a place near you.

3) Whilst it remains mostly a male activity, women can also harass, bully and abuse men.

4) That sexual harassment, depending on the circumstances may amount to both an employment rights matter and a criminal matter, such as in sexual assault allegations. In addition, harassment under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 can be a criminal offence. And employers as well as staff can be held liable for this.

What I’d like to see happening is that…

5) Women stop saying ‘boys will be boys’ or ‘it was only a knee/a joke’ or ‘it’s just male banter.’ No matter the instance, this is never acceptable behaviour.

6) Unaccompanied women of all ages must say NO when it’s suggested they go to someone’s flat or hotel room, late at night. Or when it comes to working late at night, alongside a man they don’t know or trust.

7) Employers look at and review all business occasions where social events and activities involve alcohol.

8) Women start to realise “It was not my fault. He took advantage of me.” rather than imagining they were responsible for any form of sexual assault.

9) Women decide NOT to join the boys club as their means of climbing the career ladder. Nobody should have to learn golf to be taken seriously for promotion.

10) The industry identifies and outlaws companies that use sexual images/innuendo to sell calendars and/or in advertising PLUS those that employ scantily or provocatively clad ‘promotional girls’ to gratify men. Men who’d hate their wives or girlfriends to be these calendar models or promotional girls of course…

A Note To Vulnerable Women In The Motor Industry

I’d like to finish with some advice for ambitious and talented women of all ages who might worry about being harassed or worse within the automotive industry.

It’s perfectly alright for women to behave like women even if they are working in a mainly male world. How else will we change this macho culture if we try to be like men, knowing that the dominant customer gender is female?

It’s pointless pretending this anyway. Men who encourage you to act like them, don’t respect you when you do. And most men are scared by the women who talk and act unnaturally tough and aggressive.

But perhaps the most important thing for women today is, how can you be proud about yourself if you feel you need to be someone you aren’t?

So don’t do this ladies.

Instead, be yourself, be proud, be a good female role model and win recognition for being a popular and talented team player, not a Queen Bee.

If you are an employer and you need to review your HR processes in the light of recent events, may I introduce Charlotte Allfrey from Metro HR consultants, as an excellent sounding board, following up with the level of professional and practical advice and guidance you may need.


PS: Feel free to contact me about any aspect of this to do with the motor industry by emailing me at info@foxyladydrivers.com

No More Motoring Nightmares This Halloween

It’s that time of year when we beg your forgiveness for taking a suitably seasonal but lighthearted look at the many tricks and treats to be found, all year round, somewhere in the motor industry.

So here are some FOXY things to consider this Halloween…

Spooky – how motorists in the know can often pay SO MUCH LESS for new cars than others who trust their car salesman to be fair by them.

Eerie – how we sometimes get sold things we don’t actually need or want, especially when we don’t know the right questions to ask or what homework to do first.

Ghostly – the shortage of women throughout the motor industry (from the Boardroom to the showroom floor) and, in fact, in management roles in business generally in the UK.

Witches – high flyers all of course, we couldn’t possibly criticise our own gender but suspect others might have their own description to suggest here…

Ghouls – those politicians, business owners and companies who don’t appreciate that women are equal BUT DIFFERENT – and need to be treated accordingly.

Things that go bump in the night – the sound of our jaws on the floor when we see our ‘female friendly’ message is gradually getting through in the motor trade!

Whatever you get up to on the night, we hope you enjoy your Halloween.

And please remember, being a FOXY Lady Drivers Club member means you never have to have motoring nightmares again!


It’s time to talk up the UK economy

I’m fed up with the negativity and pessimism we’re forever reading, whether it’s in the media or from self-appointed thought leaders.

With so much uncertainty about Brexit I’d rather see more of us talking up the UK economy and for each of us in business to do what we can to identify good news and steady the ship.

Instead of majoring on a scenario of doom and gloom despite knowing the exit die is cast.

Personally I relish a good challenge and I think we have the talent to respond well to this in future. I’m confident that if we all pull together (which we aren’t doing at present) and see pluses rather than minuses, we can make things better, sooner.

I want us to imagine and create a better future that puts the UK first. It can be done assuming a positive mindset. Looking on the bright side for starters, I was relieved to know we won’t be part of the EU when it ramps up its plans for more and more financial and taxation integration in future…

Brexit Fears

As I see it, those that are so negative about Brexit are acting like ostriches. They have their heads in the sand, are fans of the status quo (despite this not being nearly good enough) and blind to bright lights on the horizon.

Worst of all, many clearly feel superior to the majority of UK voters that opted for Brexit and change.

How can they (the ostriches) be wrong, they ask themselves, expecting to get their way like spoilt children crying in a sweetshop?

They seem frightened to take a step into the unknown, have depressingly little confidence in our country’s ability to succeed on our own, and don’t appear to appreciate that all our family futures depend on us all doing something positive towards the future, not wasting the UK’s collective time, resource and talent through moaning and a daily diet of scepticism.

We are where we are…

If those who don’t like where we are, instead of moaning about it, were to commit to making sure that the UK laws we inherit from now on are correctly interpreted and more robust, wouldn’t that be a more positive agenda to pursue? To lobby local MPs to make things better than they are, regardless of who’s at Number 10 Downing Street. Left, green, centre ground or right wing regardless, we all need to do the best we can for our country remembering we ARE leaving the EU in March 2019 and we’re still carrying a substantial national debt that we MUST pay back, not carry forward to our children.

There are no Brexit ‘experts’ just those masquerading as such. We are EU Exit Pioneers, going where no man (or woman) has gone before – we need to pull together, not apart and forge a new script that works. We’re also making it easier for others to follow us later of course – which is another reason the EU fear, castigate and plan to penalise us in equal measure. How dare we?…

The Good News About Brexit

There is good news for the EU, of course, in that we’ll remain close. Europe is our neighbour and we’ll happily choose to spend our holidays there as before. We’ll also contribute towards whatever agenda is in our shared best interests, maximising our comparative talents. And pay our fair share of any exit bill (whatever that might be) and for future alliances.

We’d like to carry on doing business of course but we don’t want to pay for EU bureaucracy any more. And we want to be free to trade with the rest of the world. Therein lies the challenge and opportunity!

Trading within the EU might be easy as is and future tariffs are undoubtedly a shared concern but they work both ways and there are clear deals yet to be done.

In addition there are huge new markets for us to trade with, just over the EU horizon. So let’s get to know these markets better NOW so we are prepared for when the EU’s comfort blanket is removed…

Falling off any cliff isn’t an attractive option but it has to remain on David Davis’ negotiating table until we know whether we can seriously afford to trade within the EU or we need to shop elsewhere. For now, we have EU handcuffs stopping us from doing trade deals elsewhere. But they can’t stop us from doing this for much longer.

If we can’t afford EU food or EU cars (as if France and Germany will let that happen?) we’ll need the time to source and buy these products elsewhere, address job implications and ramp up our own production of course. So let’s be sure we have Plan Bs for all industries, just in case.

This is potentially an exciting time for young entrepreneurs to add new talents to UK plc. They aren’t used to having this freedom of course but the ones we need’ll find it liberating. Yes there will be those we must support who may be adversely affected by Brexit and we’ll want to welcome those from overseas, bringing the skills and talents to help us build a new future together.

Most importantly, threats can create considerable opportunities as anyone who has done a thorough strategic TOWS analysis of their business or industry sector will appreciate.

Good News About Brexit Invited

So if anyone in the motor industry has an uplifting or optimistic Plan B/business story in this vein or wants to share good financial news with me, to benefit the UK economy through reality and perceptions, I’d be happy to help them spread the word to UK women drivers ie FOXY’s audience.

I want to put the spotlight on positivity pre and post Brexit – so no negativity, bad or fake news please.

To misquote Buzz Lightyear here’s to ‘Reality and beyond…’ in like-minded and determined company I hope.



Twitter: @FOXYtweets

Making a motor complaint – what you need to know

A recent press release confirms that The Motor Ombudsman has dealt with some 9700 contacts, presumably enquiring about making a complaint between April and June 2017.

Just imagine dealing with this sort of angry volume!

That’s presumably including many who are considering complaining about businesses that are signed up to a Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) Code Of Practice scheme covering new cars, used car sales, service and repair garage work and car warranties.

Whilst this Ombudsman has quite a lot of dealers, garages and warranty providers signed up to their scheme I wondered where motorists with problems at non member dealers or garages go? So I googled and found the Consumer Ombudsman website but again, if the business you want to complain about isn’t part of either of these schemes you’re on your own it seems.

And never was this as evidently dysfunctional a process as illustrated by comments made below the AutoTrader article that introduced me to the Consumer Ombudsman. I imagine these may well be from individuals who bought a car from an AutoTrader advertiser? Too many for AutoTrader to handle one presumes from the absence of any acknowledgements.

So, keeping this blog short and to the point, if you didn’t know that car sales, servicing and repairs are largely unregulated areas within the motor industry and you accidentally chose a garage, a dealer or a warranty product that isn’t part of a Chartered Trading Standards Institute Code of Practice scheme you might be interested to read what happens when things go wrong?

Well, by and large, the answer is ‘not a lot’. You’re mostly on your own and because of this too few motorists take matters further, fobbed off by inadequate warranties or not realising their rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015. Which is a great shame and probably why the industry maintains its lacklustre image tarnishing the many good car dealers in the process.

Coping With a Motor Complaint

So, what should you do if you have a complaint about a car, a dealer or a garage? Here’s some advice.

1) Stay calm. Nice people stand a much better chance of getting a solution than difficult ones. Know who you speak to and when. Document your conversations. If you’re a member of FOXY Lady Drivers Club make sure we know… and that they know we’re watching the outcome with interest.

2) If you’re dealing with a manufacturer approved or franchised dealer or garage you ultimately have the car manufacturer to escalate your complaint to but you’ll still need to demonstrate that you gave their annointed garage or dealer the chance to rectify this before they failed.

3) Don’t imagine that you can simply go to another garage to get things put right or that garage number one will pay your bills if you do. They don’t have to. You should give garage number one the chance to put it right – even if you’re simply going through the motions.

4) Even if you’re unhappy with a business bill, you are usually required to pay it but you should write on the invoice ‘Paid Under Duress’ to show you didn’t want to, it wasn’t good value and/or the problem wasn’t rectified.

5) Remember that under the Consumer Rights Act 2015

i) Goods shouldn’t be faulty or damaged when you get them, subject to a price reality check of course ie the greater the discount the lower the standard of expectation.

ii) Goods should be fit for the purpose they are supplied for, as well as any specific purpose you made known to the retailer before you agreed to buy the goods.

iii) Goods supplied must match any description given to you*, or any models or samples shown to you at the time of purchase.

* _as in any privately sold vehicle advertisement_

How to Resolve a Faulty Product

Here’s how to get a faulty motor product replaced or repaired within The Consumer Rights Act 2015.

a) If the vehicle in question is of unsatisfactory quality, unfit for purpose or not as described you can claim/get a full refund within 30 days. Don’t hang about.

b) If you are outside the 30-day ‘right to reject’ you have to give the dealer or garage one opportunity to repair or replace any goods which are of unsatisfactory quality, unfit for purpose or not as described.

You can state your preference, but the retailer can normally choose whichever would be cheapest or easier for it to do. If the attempt at a repair or replacement is unsuccessful, you can then claim a refund or a price reduction if you wish to keep the product.

c) Check if the business concerned is part of a Trading Standards Institute scheme as in

New cars The Motor Ombudsman
Car Sales The Motor Ombudsman
RAC Used Vehicle*
Car Servicing & Repairs The Motor Ombudsman
Car Servicing & Repairs Trust My Garage*
Car Servicing & Repairs Bosch Car Service*

*they handle any complaints about their members.

And take your complaint to them once you’ve had a final/unacceptable offer from the offending business.

Don’t forget that you might have recourse from a credit card company if you used one to pay here.

Flaws Within Motor Industry Complaint Processes

I don’t know how many motorists contact the general Consumer Ombudsman or The Motor Ombudsman with a complaint about a motor business that isn’t one of their subscribers. I’d imagine quite a few are then bitterly disappointed to discover that their rogue dealer or garage isn’t covered here.

I don’t know another industry that makes such a selling point out of their complaints processes! I’d much rather the whole industry was subject to Government regulation to ‘out’ the bad guys.

If I knew nothing about the motor and automotive industry I’d not realise that both these Ombudsmen services are closed shops because they are only handling complaints concerning THEIR subscribers.

Stating the fairly obvious, bad car dealers and garages are the ones least likely to join a quality scheme yet this is where most of the complaints will come from. Regardless of the feedback they all somehow manage to produce for Google.

As things stand, motorists who make the ‘wrong’ garage or car dealer choice are stranded all too often and it costs them too much to further their cause, deterring many from using the courts or identifying offenders this way.

As I see it, the best idea is to have ONE Motor Ombudsman to cover the whole of the motor industry – regardless of whether a business subscribes to a CTSI scheme or not.

Of course ONE Motor Ombudsman scheme covering all car dealers and garages would be the equivalent of regulation (like MOTs are regulated by the DVSA) – this would be my preference.

We’d then be able to ‘out’ the (too many) bad guys and help the (too many) mediocre ones do a better job to benefit motorists and their business alike.

Sadly this would starve the Chartered Trading Standards Institute from earning out of as many competitive schemes as they can sell to, per Code Of Practice scheme. And whilst I can see a significant business case for one scheme rather than many, our current Government is no fan of regulation they tell us.

Even when the detriment is as great as it is in this area and the implications are as far reaching re car safety.

Finally it just might be significant that The Motor Ombudsman is part of The SMMT (Society Of Motor Manufacturers And Traders) and that Trust My Garage is part of the Retail Motor Industry’s Independent Garage Association. Of course they both try to be 100% impartial when it comes to customer complaints and the CTSI Code dictates how the process is managed, but I can’t help thinking about turkeys and Christmas. Like it or not, both organisations have a vested interest in shareholders and stakeholders ahead of Joanna Public.


The purpose of this blog is to alert women drivers that, if all else fails, FOXY will have a look at their complaint and possibly share their experience within The Club to benefit other female motorists. We’ll consider naming and shaming evident cowboys in our Red Card rogue gallery. By all means email info@foxyladydrivers.com and better still join The Club to support our hard work here.

Is your garage good enough?

The UK garage industry isn’t regulated which means that anyone can open a garage, set up a used car showroom and service or repair our cars without the latest know-how.

I have a statistic on my wall to remind me why this matters. It is that 93000 of us complain to Citizens Advice centres each year, about a combination of used cars and garage services. That’s a lot, bearing in mind that many of us never take it any further than the garage.

When I first uncovered this unsavoury fact, some 15 years ago now, I was quite shocked. Like most motorists I expected anyone who carried out repairs that could affect my personal safety to be licensed to do their job. As gas fitters and electricians are for example.

Types of Garages

Businesses and individuals who do garage work fit into several different categories in my experience. There are very good ones, ones who hide their light under a bushel, those that can do better and those that’ll never be good enough.

Fortunately the best ones are usually licensed to do their job and do it well or at least adequately. Sadly this doesn’t always make them best at customer service but at least your car should be safe.

Then there are others who are good enough and caring enough to be licensed, but aren’t because they don’t have to be and can’t see the cost benefit. Some of these businesses are among the most friendly I’ve spoken to on the phone and often have excellent customer feedback. But without evidently-qualified ie licensed ie ethical staff in their workshop I couldn’t sleep at night recommending them to female motorists. Just in case their work wasn’t good enough.

But the ones that aren’t good enough to be licensed and couldn’t care less about being so are the ones that really wind me up. This is because they can earn a decent living doing a mediocre or worse job, getting off scot-free because too many poorly informed motorists think it’s a good idea to buy cheap MOTs, car parts, servicing and repairs – not realising what good garages need to pay for licensed staff, the latest diagnostic equipment, car parts and the cost of premises and customer services.

It’s just commonsense that the cheapest prices are unlikely to be the best value for money in today’s unlicensed garage industry.

Minimum Garage Standards

So how do you find out who your best local garages are based on signs of measurable quality. Here are a few clues.

Franchised dealers

To begin with, if you use a franchised dealer you can be sure that their technicians have been trained to provide repair services that are approved by the car manufacturer. And whilst you might pay a tad over the odds compared to a good independent garage, you need to decide if their (typically superior) facilities, customer services and specialist training justifies this. Certainly most motorists driving new cars within their warranty period favour franchised dealers, in case they need to make a claim.

Independent garages

There are two main schemes to check if your local garage is as good as it gets. The first one is the IMI Professional Register where you can check for a licensed garage and/or mechanic near you.

The second is to see if the garage is a subscriber to a Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) Approved Code of Practice scheme.

Incidentally if you have a run in with a Motor Codes approved subscriber you can apply to the new Motor Ombudsman to review your case. With that name you might expect them to look after all motor industry complaints but they don’t. Perhaps that’s what they’re hoping to do in time?

It’s a shame that the motor industry feels the need to brag about complaints handling processes but with 93,000 complaints on the horizon and dysfunctional businesses allowed to trade, maybe it’s better to be prepared than let it happen to you.

We hope it’s not you, but if you do get fleeced at any stage, we help Club members sort things out. And if need be (this rarely arises because this is a genuine deterrent), we share the experience with local Club members.

If you’d like to contact me about any of this please email info@foxyladydrivers.com or get in touch via the Club’s Twitter account @FOXYtweets.