Independent garages throughout the UK are being made aware of the potential impact of eCall on their business by the Independent Garage Association (IGA), which is lobbying to future proof the independent garage sector in light of new EU proposals.
The European Parliament has introduced mandatory adoption of eCall systems on all new approved models of cars and light vehicles which will come into force from October 2015. And while the Independent Garage Association welcomes the safety benefits this will bring, it is fighting to secure the same access to technical information for independent garages that will be provided to vehicle manufacturers.
eCall is an in-vehicle system which automatically dials the emergency services and sends them vehicle details and location information in the event of a serious accident. It operates through telematics hardware installed in the vehicle itself and utilises software apps and an active mobile contract to help the vehicle manufacturer gain privileged contact with a vehicle owner. While the introduction of eCall will ultimately shorten accident response times and save lives, it also allows the vehicle manufacturer to gain knowledge of any potential maintenance issue with a vehicle and provide a solution to the driver before they have to take their vehicle to a garage. This threatens to take independent garages completely out of the maintenance and repair loop, and limit choices available to a vehicle owner.
Stuart James, IGA Director who is providing a voice for the independent garage sector both in the UK and at a European level, explained the issue further. “eCall is a welcome system for improving road safety, but the potential impact it will have on independent garages by pushing them out of the servicing loop is huge.
“The EU has stated that the eCall in-vehicle system should be based on an interoperable, open-access, secured and standardised platform for possible future in-vehicle applications or services and it will be our job to ensure that this actually happens.
“Without this, vehicle manufacturers will be the only people with access to this new in-vehicle telematics technology. This means they will be able to offer additional services to European customers that independent operators will potentially have the opportunity to provide. This would hamper free and fair competition in the aftermarket and impose a limited choice for consumers.”
The Independent Garage Association is currently also playing an instrumental role in fighting for independent garages to be allowed equal access to vehicle manufacturer technical information, which has already resulted in the European Commission launching a review into the real world issues of access to vehicle repair and maintenance information.
Stuart James added: “We are working very hard to future proof the independent garage sector and make sure that the voices of independent garages are heard. We will not rest until independent garages have the same access to information, and the same support as the vehicle manufacturers’ franchised operations. It is only right that the consumer should be allowed the freedom of choice when it comes to where to take their vehicle for an MOT, service or repair, and not be forced into choosing one option over another.”
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