Unipart Car Care Centres left to play waiting game

Unipart Car Care Centres left to play waiting game

As the fall-out from the recent collapse of Unipart Automotive continues, many Unipart Car Care Centres (UCCCs) are now left considering the best way forward too.

The independently owned member garages are understood to number around 700, making it the largest network of its kind. UCCC was the UK’s first independent garage network, having launched in the 1990’s. In recent years, other garage programmes have emerged; these include GROUPAUTO’s AutoCare, The Parts Alliance’s Servicesure, Bosch’s Service Agent network and most recently, Autocrew from Euro Car Parts.

The programmes generally offer a structured package of benefits covering areas like IT, signage, marketing, training and technical back-up supported, supported through a supplying motor factor branch. Such concepts have become more popular, promising the ‘ best of both worlds’ as garages maintain independence whilst gaining rights for local use of a national brand identity and well resourced centralised support structure.

Press statements have mentioned ‘Unipart Car Care Centres will continue to operate as normal’ but it’s clear UCCCs have been left facing both immediate difficulty and longer term uncertainty. Members of UCCC’s council of garages told Garage Wire that though the KIS workshop management IT system continued to operate – with instructions on how to keep paying quickly circulated, the data feed from head office had been turned off so parts prices to quote, or generate accurate invoices, are blank whilst the online ordering system allowing UCCCs to check stock and order from their local branch are now obsolete too.

Unipart Group are believed to have acquired rights to both the Unipart parts and UCCC brands with the intention of getting to a position a being able to offer continuity of service through Andrew Page but with some UCCCs now sited further away from branches there will be issues to overcome in the weeks ahead.

It seems most UCCCs will wait for now before taking down the signs or flocking to join other garage networks but the lack of communication is thought to be an aggravating factor. Clearly, the Unipart brand retains consumer recognition and therefore value. At a practical level, it’s also part of the fabric of many UCCC business but this alone will not sustain a network without the viable support structure it needs to function effectively.

The position on critical issues like honouring parts warranties, including a ‘Unipart Car Care Centre Lifetime Guarantee on Unipart Brake Pads’ and the whereabouts of UCCC marketing funds, which is theory belong to the garages, is also still to be communicated.

For now, UCCCs must be hoping the matter is getting the attention it deserves as receivers KPMG, Andrew Page, Unipart Group and others seek to untangle things. UCCCs report having been chased for Unipart Automotive account payments without outstanding credits, warranties or overcharges being deducted so care is sensible.

You can share your experiences in confidence using the comments below, or to Garage Wire by email using the ‘More Details’ button, your email will not be shared or visible.

8 Comments

  1. Hi
    The worst thing about this fiasco is the not knowing I would sudjest that we all move on as there is no good information coming from Unipart there seems to be more information from other factors than from Unipart Management.

    Reply
  2. well as a unipart car care centre dont tell me that Tim Ferris Ex Chairman Unipart did not know what was going on in the company
    We new something was up a year ago when they could not out source parts
    and started to merge outlets and close them
    A good company lost in the motor trade to over paid directors creaming off the top
    what one is next to go ?

    Reply
  3. Gary, I was only Chairman of the UCCC panel of garage but I was in the same situation as all other UCCC’s, we all knew things were not that good and we had heard rumours of a buyout, so were as shocked as everyone else when they collapsed . I feel more sorry for the staff that have lost their jobs and most who were not paid for the final month, we on the other hand can buy our parts anywhere.

    Reply
    • Ha ha, can’t believe someone thought you were chairman of Unipart Tim!!

      Reply
  4. Having been Unipart Bristol’s biggest independent customer as a UCCC,i have been totally dismayed by the actions of Unipart Automotive and Unipart Group,We have head nothing of any worth to date “06/08/2014.
    Apart from asking us to part with money to Unipart Group to use a greatly reduced Kiss System.
    I have had every motor factor in town wanting my business,However even after all the uncertainty i am waiting on a response from Uni part Group after emailing them some two weeks ago.’no response as yet’
    The company has not been run correctly in my opinion for over three years,stock availability and range have been a major problem.
    It seems the board have creamed of the profits that the branches were making a sad state of affairs.
    Personally i am waiting until the month end, if nothing has come forward, i will be looking at the Bosch Service Centre program.
    I hope Unipart Group come forward with a credible program,however the Andrew Page group will need to improve vastly, to gain our six figure yearly business that was being put through Unipart Bristol.carried

    Reply
  5. The longer the uncertainty continues the less chance there is of retaining a coherent and unified network of garages. I expect most Unipart customers will choose to buy from Andrew Page anyway, given the concerns many have about the warranty and product quality from ECP, so UCCC would be a natural fit with AP, but business goes on in the IMTs across the UK and they need to secure their business going forward.

    I hope the programme survives, as it’s a great network of garages and a lot of work has gone into developing it over the last few years but the uncertainty is helping nobody.

    Reply
  6. We were on our third stint as a UCCC after once leaving because unipart was left without a supplier in our locality when an express factor shut down over night and once when we felt down by a regional manager. We rejoined earlier this year because of the honesty and integrity of the people at branch level. Tim as the chairperson of the council has and even now is still trying to do his best for a scheme he cared about and the members there in.
    I have tried others schemes and have traditionally ran 2 and split my spend. What all of them lack is being garage lead, they say they are but they are factor lead. Unipart tried the hardest to be garage lead this with the national council but apart from Tim (and Rob Harris) no one
    tried to communicate and if they did they we’re hampered by the secretive nature of UA.
    my choices are limited I will not join purchase from any factor group that is not UK registered and pay corp tax to Her Majesty, I am very reserved about UGs plainly capitalist attitude towards th UCCC network, as they expects us just to turn up like a dairy herd for a daily milking.

    What we need is a network of garages that stand together on our own terms and can take advntage of national deals on pricing to enable us to compete in an ever more complex world.

    Reply
  7. As a uccc or x uccc , I can only comment how poor the whole situation has been dealt with,
    The main information seems to come from other factors which we have no idea is accurate or fiction . I still can’t not grasp how Unipart group can say it’s not their business when they had 49% share in the automotive side, and want the standing order for kis paid to them.
    Andrew page intend to run the program , but I’m not sure that’s possible . As far as finalising my account with the administrators goes it is going to pose many problems, credits,warrantys ,etc . I’m am also finding it very time consuming and tiring dealing with factors after the Unipart business . The immediate future looks very daunting but as most garages are resilient we will get through it wiser , and may be realise no factor is invincible .

    Reply

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