Tag Archives: motor industry

Bring on a BIG GENDER DEBATE in the motor industry

The Women in the Motor Industry session at Silverstone #CDX16
The Women in the Motor Industry session at Silverstone #CDX16

I attended Car Dealer Expo (CDX16) at Silverstone last month and decided to write up about the Women in the Motor Industry session based on progress made.

The 2016 panel included professional stunt driver and event manager Annalese Ferrari; founder of the UK Automotive 30% Club Julia Muir; Head of Sales at GardX Amanda Massey and freelance motorsport journalist Georgie Shaw.

Great speakers all, this session was professionally and sympathetically hosted by Miriam Gonzalez Durantez who didn’t seem at all hampered by her self-declared lack of knowledge about the behind the scenes workings of the macho car industry!

The Women In The Motor Industry session was the first of its kind in 2015 when that female panel of four talked about their careers in garages, dealerships, finance and motor sports. But for me the really interesting part was the Question Time that followed.

The ongoing promotional girls divide

Of particular note in 2015 was the shared disapproval of the use of pretty promotional girls employed by Gardx in skin tight clothing. I recall one individual describing how totally offended she’d been by them on arrival at Silverstone that she nearly didn’t attend the conference. Just imagine this issue offending female customers who did walk away and took their business elsewhere?

A senior representative of that business (GardX) was at the 2015 session and stuck up for the rights of these women to wear what they had to, ie what GardX provided, to earn a crust. And of course we must assume that GardX does this for the gratification of men – albeit a decreasing fan club in today’s business arena.

I fall into the uncomfortable camp here, preferring a more feminine and less overtly sexy uniform (I suggested retro-style Goodwood-like frocks to GardX afterwards in an email exchange) as more elegant and less likely to offend influential female customers in future. So I was interested to see and hear whether this topic had been addressed by GardX or would be mentioned again in 2016.

GardX promotional girls at Silverstone #CDX16
GardX promotional girls at Silverstone #CDX16

Not just mentioned but top of the bill, with Amanda Massey from GardX on the 2016 Women in the Motor Industry panel, quick to defend the company’s promotional females on the day, as in the photograph.

And whilst I am sure the majority of the female audience felt as uncomfortable as I did about this, clearly the audience thought it would have been rude to challenge a role model speaker on this occasion – and what good might this have done anyway after raising this at #CDX15?

Gender differences in the automotive industry

Other issues discussed in the Women In The Motor Industry session at #CDX16 included

* The image of the motor industry in female minds and who/which industry body should be responsible for the defence/protection of this much maligned image? This matter was also discussed by the guys on a central stage session during the day – shame these discussions couldn’t be joined up?

* The critical influence of parents (especially Mums’) re: female careers. Few of whom see the motor industry as either female friendly or a professional career destination compared to many others…

* The tendency for women to lack confidence (or be too honest?) when applying for new job roles. Compared to overly confident males with less ability who apply and succeed because stronger female candidates didn’t challenge them.

* The reality that not all females who work in the motor industry are petrolheads or mechanically inclined (or should be expected to be).

Of particular note was an inspirational contribution from an upbeat Lucy Burnford who, like me wasn’t a motor industry person, but whose innovative car passport idea has been acquired, adopted and enhanced by The AA. Good on her.

I should also mention Julia Muir’s good work to encourage more females into key leadership roles.

The other contribution I particularly liked was from a female whose name I missed again but with whom I totally identified. She wanted to be known for her professional skills (she was a marketer/communicator like me) and not just for being a woman in the motor industry.

A BIG GENDER DEBATE

I’ll now leave you with a further observation that I believe is relevant based on my gender studies in this marvellous, mysterious and murky motor industry. It’s simply that the main gender difference I find is that most men think the motor industry is about cars and engines. Whereas most females, including me, think it’s about the people.

And we’re both right of course, but the industry has yet to get this balance right in business.

So what I suggest is a BIG GENDER DEBATE to get all these issues aired, addressed and sorted in future.

* One where we all LISTEN to each other, LEARN and CHANGE where necessary.

* One where both genders can express their honest views and experiences, be heard and feel appreciated for their equal contribution within this industry.

Not one where the men are seen to tolerate token gender equality by letting little women have their say in a sideroom, before continuing with the status quo, because certain CEOs think ‘it ain’t broke…’

* One where we all understand and accept that equality doesn’t mean men and women think the same or want to be treated the same – either as staff or customers.

* One that recognises that women are now the dominant car and garage services’ shoppers and we say ‘the motor industry IS broke for us…’

* One that has the strategic objective to attract more of the most talented women into the car industry, for otherwise we are recruiting from just 50% of the talent pool, whilst other industries cherry-pick this female talent ahead of us.

* One where we learn respect for each other from the Boardroom to the workshop floor, in showrooms, parts departments and independent garages. Sadly mutual respect isn’t always there; we also need to instil that respect for our industry in all motorists. But that’s a different story…

In the absence of a BIG GENDER DEBATE as yet (which I’m happy to organise, subject to a suitable sponsor), engagement initiatives like #CDX16, organised in the main by Car Dealer Features Editor Sophie Williamson-Stothert, are each in their way such an important step forward with a view to a healthier and more diverse automotive industry in future.

So let me end by thanking the many insightful men and women here who are helping the retail motor industry move from its shameful 2% of female employees stance, towards a healthier business future, one step at a time…

We are all determined to get there and the industry will thank us when we do!

FOXY

PS: Please see my Steph Savill website stephsavill.co.uk for details of my consultancy services in this area, including public speaking.

A Professional Licence to Skills in the motor industry

dash

I wish I wasn’t surprised to read that “Car dashboard warning lights are beyond the grasp of 98% of British drivers” but I’m not.

It’s another reminder of the realities of life.

Car manuals that aren’t easy to navigate, read or understand. And instead of our asking professionals for advice here, many of us don’t do this, for fear of being sold things we don’t need.

Presumably they either Google for the warning light, simply drive on regardless, or find out what this means at MOT/car service time or when their car lets them down?

Heaven forbid it’s a safety-related warning light.

The perception of women drivers

Perceptions are very powerful influencers of behaviour. When it comes to the motor industry few women (and probably men too) perceive garages or car showrooms to be trustworthy or welcoming places to visit.

For example, last month I spoke at a WI event in Sussex about motoring matters in general, and tyre safety in particular.

Once again I heard that all too familiar intake of breath when I tell females that the UK motor industry isn’t regulated when it comes to car servicing, mechanical repairs and used car sales. Few realise or want to consider that anyone could be fixing their brakes, selling them tyres they don’t need or shiny cars that aren’t safe or reliable. Yet most women ‘perceive’ this to be true from the tales they share about bad garage, car and tyre sales experiences either they or their friends have had…

As I see it there is a clear parallel between the absence of minimum quality standards (as in industry regulation or compulsory licensing of all staff) and the subsequent level of complaints about shoddy garage services and used cars, leading to an unacceptable number of unsafe cars on our roads today.

So I then talk to women about ways to find out who the measurably better guys (and a very few gals) are and how to find them locally…

Motor industry regulation

“9 out of 10 motorists prefer to deal with an accredited professional” IMI-conducted/independent survey 2014

IMIPR

Thankfully MOT’s are regulated by the DVSA so we can be as sure as we reasonably can be that they are conducted to strict rules and regulations.

Of course when you visit franchised dealerships, you know that any garage service work has been carried out to car manufacturer standards. That’s not entirely true in all cases of course because many are expected to repair non franchised makes but aren’t trained here. That’s what the ATA (Automotive Training Accreditation) scheme is all about…

Sadly none of this training means that mistakes aren’t made, but if you aren’t happy at least you have a clear chain of complaint, taking you through the business and then involving the manufacturer during the new Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process operated by Motor Codes.

But if you want to find an accredited professional in an independent garage, bodyshop, car showroom or fast fit repair centre in your area, you need to know where to look, as things stand. And that means looking for more than just membership of unfamiliar trade association names (unfamiliar for motorists that is) or testimonials about garages having friendly staff. Important yes, I think it’s more important to check that the workmanship is being done professionally as well.

So, this is how you can check who’s licensed as more professional than the rest. Oh that there were more individuals and businesses on the list.

Best practice motor industry schemes

FOXY is the only business to look for measurable signs of quality workmanship before awarding our FOXY Lady Approved status. Our minimum measurable quality standards include Chartered Trading Standards Code of Practice schemes (there are three competing service & repair schemes, one new car code and a warranty products scheme), Publicly Available Standards (PAS) for accident repairs alongside ISO and leading tyre auditing schemes.

But the problem with all industry self-regulation schemes like the CTSI ones is that the cowboys don’t have to join them, and clearly don’t. And the other criticism I have of them is that they don’t require staff to be licensed, which is a huge disappointment.

So the one standard that sits above them all, as I see it, is the industry’s Professional Register, operated by the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI). And which could so easily become the minimum industry standard aka regulation by any other name.

And in case you haven’t heard of it before, the IMI is THE professional association for all individuals working within it, whether in technical-related, management, customer facing, car sales and consultancy roles. The IMI Professional Register is therefore the only one where listed professionals have committed to ethical standards and undergo a process of accreditation akin to licensing.

Sadly not all IMI members are on the Register. Those that choose to, apply to go through a vetting process, commit to topping up their skills and knowledge through the collection of customary CPD (Continuous Professional Development) points and their registration is reviewed every three years.

But because this process isn’t compulsory, many individuals choose not to bother. But they would have to if their license to earn depended on it…

I think this is the direction this industry needs to be heading in. Especially now we’re driving electric cars and whatever the future brings…

How to search the IMI Professional Register

register

The IMI Professional Register allows motorists to search for the best local specialist, based on their car sales, garage services or accident repair needs at the time.

Rather than lumping all car services into the category of ‘garage’ it makes good sense to check who, nearest to our postcode, has gone that extra mile to be one of the very best choices in the following technical and mechanical categories.

1/ Accident/bodywork repairs
2/ Air conditioning
3/ Brakes
4/ Car servicing
5/ Diagnostics
6/ Digital/in car technology
7/ Electric cars
8/ Exhausts
9/ Mechanical repairs
10/ MOT’s
11/ Tyres
12/ Windscreen/glass work

There is also a section in the Register showing individuals that are licensed in Car Sales (we need more in this category please…) and there are specialists for Breakdown, HGV, Motorcycles & Electric vehicle services.

NB: Where you come across a Master Technician, he/she is one of the very best in their discipline.

Motor Industry Professional Pride

I am a Fellow of the IMI (FIMI) and proud to be on the IMI Register to demonstrate my superior experience and qualifications within the trade. I am listed as a motor industry marketing consultant (not a mechanic) by the way. This puts me on a par with others at the top of the marketing profession and I an required to top up my skills with CPD points to have this status renewed after three years. As I have to do to retain my Chartered Marketer status too.

So I cannot understand why other seemingly career-oriented individuals do not seem to share this pride or want to be seen at the pinnacle of their career? Maybe this is a question of cost and their time? Or could it be the knowledge that they might not look as good as others on paper? Well, isn’t that the point of the Register and future training? To show a willingness to improve standards and our individual professional competence?

More information

This is how to search the IMI Professional Register
a/ Decide which job you need an expert for.
b/ Enter your postcode.
c/ Compare your choices.

The IMI blog includes automotive tips to help you care for your vehicle and to give you confidence when visiting garages.

For details of all signs of measurable quality in UK garages.

FOXY

Join FOXY Lady Drivers Club to be sure of FOXY Lady Approved businesses and standards in future!

Female friendly approved UK garages and car dealers

Steph-garage-250I am often asked if our network is different from others that sound impressive but that any Tom, Dick or Harry garage can join. I can honestly answer ‘yes we’re different’.

We have to be different because a bad garage, or one that pretends to be good but is, at best, mediocre, can compromise our motoring safety. Not just for women but also for men I hasten to add which is why we have many male fans and followers because they realise that our standards are higher than most others….

So, when you choose a FOXY Lady Approved female friendly garage you can be sure that it’s been vetted and endorsed by regular female feedback even if we approve a range of garages. As I see it, there’s no point in sending an out of warranty car and its owner into a franchised dealership and paying over the odds if there’s an approved good independent garage alternative. Unless the dealer is competing with them of course…

Our network is run by FOXY Lady Drivers Club’s sister organisation, FOXY Choice. Approved garages pay us an annual subscription to be identified, promoted and monitored as a female friendly garage or car dealer. I am comfortable with this relationship because it’s their money that funds our not for profit club and if the motor industry was as good as it should be, there’d be no need for the Club or for the good guys to have to be seen to out-perform the cowboys.

But there is a need, because, other than MOT’s, this isn’t a licensed industry. One where anyone can tinker with our cars because service and repair mechanics don’t have to be licensed or trained re the latest technology. An industry where she who knows when, where and how much to haggle will usually pay less for a new car than a more trusting neighbour who might venure into a showroom on her innocent own. Where used cars glint as does the salesman’s eye when he sees a gullible prospect to sell a used car to that he knows is about to blow a metaphorical gasket, just outside a mythical warranty he’s sold you. And where you can buy part worn (aka part safe) tyres or buy a car with part worn tyres without your knowledge. Or get your car repaired using cheap and not authentically original car parts. And so on. You get my drift – scratch any surface in this industry and you’ll find standards that aren’t good enough and that let the genuinely good garages and dealers down.

Clearly Rome wasn’t built in a day but FOXY has always started with minimum quality standards. We like to see businesses (garages and dealers) that have invested in training staff, listed on the IMI Professional Register. We also like to see manufacturer approved businesses because, if things go wrong, you can at least escalate problems through the dealer to the manufacturer…

A second standard is the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) schemes run by Motor Codes (backed by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders ie SMMT hence the emphasis of franchised dealerships), another me-too scheme run by Trust My Garage (backed by the Retail Motor Industry Federation ie RMIF hence the emphasis on independents more than franchised dealers) or the identical code-scheme operated by the Bosch Car Service network – mainly independents at the high end of the quality spectrum. Amazingly none of these Code of Practice schemes require staff to be licensed but Motor Codes is an Alternative Dispute Resolution services so at least you have somewhere to go if any of their members (and non members) behave badly.

We also expect businesses to sign the FOXY Promise to ‘never overcharge, patronise or sell women services they don’t need’ which is sadly the image that too many women have in their heads. A huge number of women dread the garage experience meaning they don’t go as often as they should for this reason and, in too many cases, delegate the actual MOT, car servicing and often new car test drive to their (male) partner.

Shame on this industry for making us feel intimidated and without a means to fight back. We who are about to outnumber male drivers and who want more for our money. Those who are members of FOXY, can fight back of course, as we will always support them, assuming they’re in the right of course.

My personal bete noir is cleanliness and toilets in garages. These are mainly areas run by men so perhaps cleanliness isn’t as important to them as it would be to us. So where loos are pristine and impressive I heave a huge sigh of relief and want to shout this from the rooftops when inspecting washrooms as customer facilities.

Finally, even garages and dealers with all the quality ratings can be rude. In fact I have encountered some of the rudest men and women in customer facing business roles ever when phoning garages and/or dealers who are clearly oblivious to the way potential customers are treated.

So that’s about it really. A commitment to the FOXY Promise, minimum quality standards, any indication of investment in being better than others in the industry, value for money (I don’t mean cheap here), cleanliness and a warm welcome is what we look for before we award FOXY Lady Approved status. Then minimum supplies of female feedback to make sure they’re keeping their side of the bargain.

PROVISO – Not all FOXY Lady Approved garages tick all these boxes because this has to include a FOXY (as in female) Choice and clearly the more you expect (vehicle collection/courtesy car/italian coffee, WiFi etc) the more the business overheads are but at least you’ll know the garages are doing a good job for women. And that if they get this wrong, they have us to answer to, as per our Terms and Conditions.

My final advice is, don’t buy garage services on price alone. Make sure you know if they are good enough to do the job. Just like a cheap used car, there’ll be a reason for this and it won’t be because the business wants to do you a personal favour.

Trust me – this is the motor industry and it just isn’t good enough yet.

Here’s where to find our FOXY Lady Approved female friendly garages and dealers

Please tell us about your latest garage experiences here

Finally for just £24 you can join FOXY Lady Drivers Club and get a lifetime subscription in 2016 opening the door to cheap car insurance, car deals and VIP garage services we’ve vetted so women (and men in many cases) can trust too.

If you’re a member please tell your friends and help spread the word that women drivers have a female choice.

FOXY
@FOXYTweets

More women needed in the motor industry

car dealer influencers 1000In its otherwise brilliant trade magazine for the automotive industry, my attention was halted by this all male photograph in the February issue of Car Dealer.

Apparently these are the 14 white men who are the Automotive Influencers otherwise described as ‘the people who shape the car market’ with a view to 2016.

Let’s be clear about this. These are said to be the guys who are the ultimate influencers of last year’s car sales of approximately 2.5 million brand new cars and 7 million used cars?

Of which 80% of these sales are said to be ‘influenced’ by women ie 2 million brand new cars alone…

But who clearly aren’t represented at the top of the industry? So there you have it – visual evidence of the gender divide.

The men who tell women what they can have and should buy. Versus the women who are telling the industry, time and time again, that they aren’t as happy as they could be with the cars on offer (in terms of the shopping experience as in cars, manufacturer communications, dealer service levels and so on).

Now why is it that the women aren’t happy enough? I know because they tell me and I read surveys about this of course. But could it be that the men at the top aren’t listening or understanding that men and women are different at car shopping time and that many women want MORE than is on offer? Don’t their wives tell them this?

And why is it that too many ambitious women and talented young females are choosing other industries for their careers, not ours? It’s because they can’t see ANY place in our future, looking at photographs like this one. Not one out of 14… why should they be expected to battle against these odds when they don’t have to in other industries?

Help make the car industry more female friendly

Come on Car Dealer. Let’s have women on your strategic agenda with a view to the future. You are a powerful influencer within the industry after all. Yes it’s good to see Sophie back in Editorial but you also need a Female SUIT. Let’s have tomorrow’s female role models in next year’s Influencers and a regular feature in between so we’re not forgotten. Not just women as a token sideshow at your next dealer event? That isn’t good enough.

Let’s listen to more of what needs to be an ongoing business debate about WHO the customer is and WHAT they want rather than who of the Top White Men drinks what brand of coffee or listens to what sort of music in their private life.

The Female Business Case

Having said all this, there are many inspiring male leaders in genuinely female friendly automotive Groups who are actively advancing the Female Business Case, with role models in their Board waiting rooms as part of their strategic agenda. For this has to start at the top, not the bottom of an organisation where most of the women work.

It would be SO good to see more of this inevitable and desirable gender change, to influence other businesses with a view to a better and more profitable future. To encourage aspirational women to speak their mind, unshackled by corporate cultures that equate equality to treating men and women the same as customers.

Yes, of course men and women are equal when it comes to employment issues but this is the MOST important bit, we are not the same when it comes to getting things right for us as customers or when it comes to attracting us as employees for that matter.

FOXY

Steph Savill Limited

Happy to share all comments via @FOXYSteph

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