UK’s independent service and repair sector “in good shape” despite challenges

Stuart James speaks exclusively at Garage of the Year evening about work provider websites and VM data access

UK’s independent service and repair sector “in good shape” despite challenges
Stuart James, director of the IGA speaking at the Garage of the Year awards evening this week.

Despite the increasing use of advanced technology in today’s vehicles and the increasing regulatory burden on UK businesses with the likes of GDPR and MOT changes, independent garages are thriving according to the Independent Garage Association (IGA).

Speaking at the Garage of the Year awards evening held at Aston Villa on Tuesday evening, Stuart James, director of the IGA, explained that “the UK’s independent service and repair sector is in good shape” because independent garages “cannot be beaten on customer service”.

During his speech, Stuart said: “It’s a fact customers choose independent garages because they cannot be beaten on customer service.

“It’s another fact that customers choose independent garages because they offer real value for money.

“An independent delivers real customer service, not tick-box customer service.

“This is what differentiates the independents from the rest.”

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders predict that the independent’s share of the UK aftermarket will increase by one per cent every year, up to 2022 when the aftermarket will be worth 28 billion a year with independents contributing 71 per cent of that.

“Real threat”

Stuart added: “It’s commonly perceived that the real threat to the independent sector is accessing the information to repair a car.

“Certainly it’s a challenge but it’s not a threat.

“The biggest threat is not being able to access the customer.

“If the customer doesn’t get to deal with the garage directly they don’t get to see what makes independents special.”

Referencing the IGA’s recent investigation into garage work provider websites, Stuart James said independents “need to retain their own identity”.

“They don’t need middle men,” he added.

Related: AA Garage Guide endorses ‘garage work provider’ report findings 

Access to data

Moving on, Stuart added: “This year has seen a big win for the independent sector, with the news that the OBD port is safe.

“This change to Type Approval regulations brings with it another, less publicised benefit for independent garages, in that it specifically permits a legal challenge where vehicle manufacturers fail to comply with the regulations.

“This is a challenge that, if needed, the IGA will take up.

“With some manufacturers choosing to licence access to the OBD port, we understand the security implications of accessing this information.

“The IGA is committed to providing manufacturers the information they need to validate the integrity of independent garages.

“A good garage should have no difficulty in obtaining this level of access.”

Concluding his speech, Stuart said “the future won’t be bright for all garages” and warned that those which fail to respond to the changing needs of today’s consumers “may well fall by the wayside”.

“For those garages that do engage, garages that care about the future and invest in tools, training and equipment, the future is very bright.”

The IGA was the headline sponsor for this year’s Garage of the Year awards which was held by Automechanika Birmingham in partnership with Garage Wire.

Call the IGA on 0845 305 4230 to find out more or select ‘more details’ below for further information about the IGA.

Share your comments and opinions on the future of the independent sector below.

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