Manufacturers have reacted angrily to the allegations, highlighting the millions of pounds they and their dealers invest each year in training and diagnostic equipment, but FMS claims it has seen no improvement since it first raised the problem seven years ago. The Shrewsbury-based company, part of Abbey National-owned First National Vehicle Holdings, attributed the lack of dealer progress to cost-conscious garages' reluctance to send staff on essential training courses.
This is leading to bills of more than £800 to resolve problems which should cost no more than a few pounds to fix, according to Derick Perkins, FMS director - fleet services. He cited the worst offenders as Audi, BMW, Citroen, Fiat, Ford, Mazda, Nissan, Peugeot, Renault, Rover, Saab, Vauxhall, Volkswagen and Volvo, claiming their technicians had regularly tried to replace items such as engine control units costing up to £800, rather than repair them.
But Tim Goss, BMW's corporate aftersales manager, said: 'We incentivise our dealers to send staff on courses, and our minimum training standards are very severe. We encourage dealers to ensure their technicians are fully trained in using diagnostic equipment.' Rover's director of corporate sales Steve Harris rejected the notion that incorrect fault diagnosis was a universal problem throughout Rover's dealer network, and promised action on any cases which FMS exposed.
Peugeot and Vauxhall highlighted the millions of pounds they invest in dealer training and developing technicians. Spokesmen for the two companies said they took FMS's concerns seriously, but wanted specific details of misdiagnosis before they could comment fully.
A Volvo spokesman pointed out that by offering a three-year warranty on its cars, Volvo rather than its customers paid the price for any lack of lack of training, while a Renault spokesman said any dealer found to have replaced an expensive item under warranty when a simpler fix would have sufficed would bear the cost of the replacement part. Ford has launched a new skills initiative for its dealer technicians to ensure they can fix faults 'first time, on time, every time,' and specifically to train them to maintain, diagnose and repair computer-controlled motor vehicles.