The Case for Regulation in the Motor Industry

The Case for Regulation in the Motor Industry

When you buy a car or have it serviced or repaired most motorists assume the person doing this for us is licensed. But few are.

When I first walked into car dealers and garages in September 2008 wearing my FOXY hat, I thought I could tell at a glance which ones were the genuinely female friendly ones.

My initial judgement was influenced by the look of the place and I then confirmed my instinct with a finger test of the counter top. If it was dirty (as it so often was in garages) and evidently disorganised then I wasn’t as impressed as I was in clean, smart and tidy businesses. Don’t get me started about the disgraceful customer loos I was allowed to visit then.

That was a very shallow criteria I soon realised, especially when so many nice sounding gentlemen contacted me by telephone, promising a warm welcome for FOXY Lady Drivers at their garage or car showroom.

Oh dear, I quickly realised that I needed to check if their business was properly licensed to do its job before introducing our members. Because this is an industry where automotive businesses aren’t regulated to do this (other than MOTs) and where mechanics and sales staff don’t have to be licensed to do their service and repair job either.

So I then started to set my own minimum standards, looking for qualification and training course certificates as well as evidence of businesses joining Trading Standards Institute Code of Practice schemes and/or having staff on the IMI’s Professional Register. Having added manufacturer approved businesses to FOXY’s wishlist, because I could ultimately rely on the manufacturer if need be, I was then able to recruit and promote FOXY Lady Approved businesses to women drivers AND sleep at night.

Motor Industry Regulation

After 10 years of identifying, approving, monitoring and promoting garages that met my (FOXY Lady) standards, I still can’t understand why there needs to be so many competing Code of Practice schemes rather than one basic form of motoring industry regulation for all. I’d like to see everyone who sells and repairs cars carrying a current licence to operate and not being allowed to tout for business otherwise.

As things stand, there are too many trade and membership bodies each representing their members’ best interests, ahead of those of the motorist and the motor industry’s reputation at large.

Sadly many motorists don’t know the risks they run by buying cheap cars or garage services. Then they rue the day having learned why that new car bargain or cheap car servicing wasn’t the special deal they thought it was. And that their car might have been dangerous as a result.

It’s unfair that some of the very best automotive businesses feel they need to join so many of these schemes (at punitive cost) simply because they want to stand out as being measurably better than lesser others.

It’s also unfair that garages without impressive credentials can join the likes of Good Garage Schemes after agreeing to buy product from the scheme organiser. No motorists realise what happens behind closed doors here.

Of course it’s not just about quality standards. Some of the rudest staff I’ve ever dealt with worked for businesses with the most qualification certificates and awards. Were I a wary woman driver, I’d quickly have had my fears confirmed and either put the phone down or walked out, if treated the way I have been.

I see this from the motorists’ point of view of course, where garage and car showrooms expect us to know their acronyms and be reassured by the presence of a complaints handling service – that simply reinforces the fear we feel that we’re going to need to use one soon.

The Benefits of Motor Industry Regulation

As a motoring campaigner for women, top of my list is the need for regulation in the masculine motor industry. Where we have manufacturer approved standards in franchised dealerships, motorists complain that car sales and garage services cost more there, despite this quality reassurance.

I know this isn’t perfect and that many dealerships are often at fault too, but why not have one minimum quality benchmark across the industry, based on customer safety standards? This would be run by a high level and entirely independent body? Then competition could rule in terms of customer services, amenities, cleanliness and value for money, without the fear of motorists buying and driving dangerous cars in future.

Masterminded correctly one big picture regulation scheme could do away with dodgy garages, incompetent mechanics, unethical sales people, bodged accident repairs, part worn tyres and unsafe car parts in one fell swoop. Wouldn’t that be wonderful.

It’s a big ask but, given the will, it can be done.

All it needs is a political party or government to share my vision and help this on its way.

Steph Savill
Motoring Campaigner For Women
t: 07816 898369
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