Cash-strapped motorists fed up with overpriced servicing are
deserting main dealers and getting their cars fixed at cheaper independent
garages and nationwide chains expanding from their traditional tyres and exhaust
fitting into general servicing and MOTs.
A story on Motortrader.com today reveals that franchised main
dealers account for just a quarter of servicing, while independent garages and
so-called ‘fast-fit’ chains make up nearly half of the market.
10 years ago they accounted for just a third of all servicing
business, the change in so-called ‘block exemption’ rules that mean warranty
approved work can be carried out outside of the dealer network meaning drivers
can shop around more than before.
For newer cars and owners keen to maximise resale value a main
dealer stamp in the service book is still a valuable asset come trade-in or sale
time. But for many drivers the prices charged – over £100 per hour in some cases
– are just too high.
The Car Works in the Hertfordshire town of Berkhamsted is
typical of a growing network of independents thriving in the new, cost conscious
atmosphere. Opened two years ago business is booming and he now has five
“It’s all word of mouth too,” says owner John O’Sullivan. “We
don’t do any advertising – everyone that works here is local and we just survive
on personal recommendations. We’ve had no quiet days since we opened.”
So why are people deserting main dealers? “It’s the costs, the
hourly rates and the lack of personal service,” says John. “You go to the front
desk of a main dealer and you can’t talk to the mechanics directly either.”
Fixed price servicing packages like the Mini TLC programme and
other incentives are part of the main dealer fightback but ultimately consumers
are the winners as competition for business forces prices down.