The Which? report savaged car servicing and repairs, a Top Gear survey was heavily critical about standards of service at car showrooms – interestingly Mercedes-Benz, which completely reorganised its network just a couple of years back, was singled out for particular attack – while a What Car? investigation claimed thousands of motorists were being ripped off when they get their cars serviced.
All this comes just a month after the Trade and Industry Select Committee blasted the industry for the high cost of franchised servicing and recommended the Office of Fair Trading should investigate.
For an industry striving to improve its public image, these sort of column inches are extremely damaging and leave a long-lasting impression that dealers and garages are not to be trusted.
Take a closer look at the Which? and What Car? reports, however, and it’s clear the sample sizes are tiny – in What Car?’s case less than 0.01% of the market (30 operations).
That’s hardly enough to even justify the term ‘snapshot’ in an industry of more than 30,000 repair businesses.
But whether justified or not, the motor industry needs to guard against complacency – the more reports published which criticise the standards of service, the more likely Government will take action.
Repairers are not deliberately setting out to rip off customers (apart from a small handful of rogue operators).
The big issue concerns training and skills shortages. Manufacturers, dealers and independent garages need to accept the fact that some of their staff currently aren’t up to scratch.
One solution is continuing professional development – with every new car launch comes a raft of new technologies – to keep them abreast of the latest innovations and methods of repair.
The problem is cost. But regular staff training will not cost as much as membership of a mandatory licensing scheme – and that will include training requirements, anyway.
So what about the simple mistakes, such as failing to check tyres or fluid levels? Mechanics should complete a task list for every car, with the garage carrying out its own spot checks to ensure the work is carried out.
The Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMI) – much criticised of late by repairers – also has a key role to play and needs to raise its awareness with the public, encouraging their grievances against members. That way standards can be addressed and relevant action taken. And not just taken but followed up by the RMI to eradicate hollow promises.