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.
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