Technicians of tomorrow to fight for UK’s independent aftermarket

Industry author, lecturer and GW columnist Graham Stoakes looks at the future of independent garages

Technicians of tomorrow to fight for UK’s independent aftermarket
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Graham Stoakes: Industry author, lecturer and GW columnist.

There are some who speculate on the future of independent garages, especially with advances in vehicle technology and manufacturers making it even more difficult to access services in the aftermarket.

As an author, I am fully aware of the reasons behind efforts to try and limit access to information and retain the ability to maintain an exclusivity on their customer base.

When a considerable amount of time and effort has been committed to producing a product, you want to retain a large proportion of the ownership.

Intellectual property (IP) is how many organisations or individuals make a living.

Copyright, trademarks and patents go some way to protecting IP in law, however, there are also justifiable reasons that should allow an element of freedom and competition.

The Block Exemption Regulation (BER) was designed to create competition within member states of the European Union by debarring organisations in industry from some activities in-order to create competition.

The regulation is well known in the automotive aftermarket due to the freedom it has created, allowing owners the choice where to have their vehicles serviced or repaired.

Block exemption came into effect in October 2003, and has gone a long way in allowing competition and supporting independent aftermarket for many years, but how this will be affected when the UK leaves the European Union in 2019 is yet to be seen.

Graham Stoakes

With a long history working in an independent garage, Graham now teaches motor vehicle technology at Chichester College.

He’s a renowned author too, with ten books and three CD ROMS to his name so far, covering a range of vehicle technology topics from levels one to four.

To find out more about Graham Stoakes and his automotive books, visit his website.

Technicians of tomorrow

As a college tutor, I thought it would be a good question to raise with my students, as they are the ones who potentially have a stake in the future jobs market.

I have my own opinions, however, I didn’t want to cloud or colour their thought process with my outlook on the subject, so I simply posed the question “is there a future for the independent garage“.

As many still have limited knowledge of the motor industry, and certain students can be notorious for not wanting to verbally express an opinion, I asked for a show of hands for ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

The initial response was about 70 per cent yes and 30 per cent no.

I then proceeded to gently probe those who had answered ‘no’, asking some to explain their reasoning.

Overall, my students felt that due to advances in technology and the supporting technical information and equipment required, it will be difficult for independent garages to keep pace, especially with regard to hybrid and electric vehicles – a topic that seems to be a more common area of discussion within my lessons, regardless of the subject being taught.

Without any prompting from me, the ‘yes’ camp immediately chimed-in with the counter argument.

Consumer choice

Although most had not heard of block exemption they quickly took on board the need for competition in the marketplace; stating that if the customer choice was reduced to a point where they could only use the manufacturer approved network, those that could only afford to buy their vehicle second-hand would be priced out of the market by any subsequent maintenance requirements.

I was very pleased that they had spotted this so early.

A healthy debate then ensued, with the ‘no’ camp quickly succumbing to a counter argument with every point they raised.

It soon became obvious to me that opinion on this matter held stronger feelings than those about ‘Brexit’; speaking of which I then threw the subject of Brexit into the mix and this is where the debate fell into disarray.

In conclusion, although nothing was fully resolved, it did show a strength of feeling on the subject from those with a potential interest in the future of the industry, and how they wanted to be prepared to fight for an independent aftermarket.

It seems clear that in order to maintain a thriving independent aftermarket, investment in training, information sources and specialist equipment will be obligatory; and those who are prepared for this will be at the front of the queue when it comes to reaping the rewards and benefits of a forward-looking business.

Do think independent garages have a promising future ahead? Share your comments below.

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Viewing 8 posts - 1 through 8 (of 8 total)
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  • #167655 Reply

    There are some who speculate on the future of independent garages, especially with advances in vehicle technology and manufacturers making it even mor
    [See the full post at: Technicians of tomorrow to fight for UK’s independent aftermarket]

    #168896 Reply
    Garry Foster

    The big problem effecting us all is lack of qualifed staff and the loose of so many customers to private lease deals.

    #168899 Reply
    Steven Paterson

    Access to information and tooling has never been easier than it is now and I don’t think Brexit will change that, the biggest problem is the financial outlay, many garages are trying to compete with fred in the shed type garages, ones with no insurance, dealing in cash only and paying workers on the side, make life as hard as possible for them, then you will start to see investment by garage owners in there future plans

    #168905 Reply

    Independent’s have lost most of there young vehicle work, with service costs buried in the purchase price and then offered free. The lease company demanding dealer servicing and the cartel dealers are creating.
    Without the new vehicle work it becomes difficult to pay well enough to recruit and retain the skill level required, and investment has to be less. Unless the playing field is levelled the future of competent independents is likely to be short.

    #168903 Reply
    Barry Parker

    I consider BTE Automotive to be one if the most forwardvthinkibg Independent Fanily operates Automotive garages in the UK.

    We all know the fundamental technologies in friction, steering, suspension and engine design are pretty much the same as they have always been – and that won’t change too much (exclusions accepted). The fundamental issue I foresee is the COST of training. BOSCH charging some £200+ per day (min two day course). Plus the loss of a technician for those two days. It is not sustainable to compete the required training to adhere to the new technologies.

    As mentioned above the money grabbing intermediates AND cash taking driveway repairs are destroying the industry.

    We need regulation and support ASAP!!!

    #169045 Reply
    Andy Reynolds

    Hi Barry,my thoughts exactly, you are a man in the real world.

    #169753 Reply
    Alex sharp

    Exactly my same opinion.
    Some form of licence to trade which is enforced would help. Also regarding parts supply, if the same trade licence details were required on record for parts suppliers before they could issue parts, that may help?.
    Trade only suppliers still selling to anyone and their dog and the E-bay specials on parts make the situation worse. If workshops would refuse to fit customer supplied parts and with “Fred in the Shed” not forking out for his appropriate licence we could maybe make more headway.

    #169888 Reply

    Not sure I can see that working, nobody will pay to police it.

Viewing 8 posts - 1 through 8 (of 8 total)


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