The UK’s independent garage sector is thriving despite increasing costs and the complexities of new vehicle technology, the Independent Garage Association (IGA) has said but warns that garages must continue investing in tools, training and equipment for a chance to succeed.
Speaking at the Garage of the Year awards evening held at the National Motorcycle Museum last week, Stuart James, director of the IGA said: “Nobody can form the relationships with their customers in the way independents do and nobody can repair such a wide variety of vehicles the way an independent does on a daily basis.”
“Not to say independents are having an easy time”
Independents account for 83 per cent of all garage businesses in the UK, according to the IGA, but “that’s not to say independents are having an easy time of it”, Stuart added during his speech.
Among the challenges faced by garage owners, according to the IGA, is a rise in the number of online work provider websites.
Stuart said: “We consider these disruptors a significant threat to the identity, and in some cases, the reputation of good independent garages and we will continue to monitor and report on their activity.
“The long-term threat to the independent sector is not in accessing the information to service and repair a car, as is commonly perceived.
“Certainly, it’s a challenge but not a threat.
Access to customers
“The threat is in not being able to access the customer.
“This is about vehicle manufacturers exploiting their privileged position in order to influence and limit consumer choice, and also, perhaps closer to home for independents, the disruptors exploiting their internet presence to take money from both consumers and garages, once again by influencing consumer choice.”
In a bid to “turn the tide”, the IGA recently launched a national TV campaign for Trust My Garage.
Garage staffing issues
A recent IGA member survey found that the biggest issue face by garages is sourcing and retaining skilled, competent staff.
Stuart said: “Such a chronic shortage of skilled, competent, technicians is indicative of years of ignorance in political and educational circles; ignorance that encouraged, and even drove, generations of young adults down a route to further education, to the detriment of the vital craft skills that this great country of ours was built on.
“The inevitability of Brexit has seen the numbers of migrant workers decrease, as many are leaving the UK for more secure environments.
“So, I urge you, now is the time to consider growing your own; breathing new life into the industry by taking on an apprentice.
“The new three-year apprenticeship standard is now settled in and apprentices will not achieve the qualification until they are proven to be competent.
“To ensure the long-term future, it is beholden on all of us that have earned a living in this industry to change the public’s perceptions of the sector.
“We need to highlight the high-tech nature of the modern motor vehicle, and show that we can provide a clear path to those looking to advance their career; those future technicians that have a passion for fixing things, because that’s what brought most of us into this sector in the first place.
“The future won’t be bright for all garages, but for those garages that choose to engage, garages that care about the future and invest in tools, training and equipment, garages like the ones that we are recognising here today, there is a very bright future ahead.”
The Automechanika Garage of the Year Awards took place on Wednesday 5th June 2019 at the National Motorcycle museum.
To learn more about the IGA, follow the ‘more details’ link.