IGA News

Major factors affecting the independent sector: Call for licensing of vehicle repair businesses

Major factors affecting the independent sector: Call for licensing of vehicle repair businesses

30 August 2019

The IGA is releasing a series of bulletin articles detailing factors affecting the independent motor industry in today’s modern age. This time, we’re discussing the unlicensed nature of the independent automotive aftermarket sector, and how this can affect business both positively and negatively.

The independent automotive aftermarket sector operates in a largely unimpeded marketplace, which can be both good and bad.

With minimal investment, any individual is able to offer vehicle repair, service and maintenance solutions, which clearly gives the consumer choice.

By and large, the independent garage sector is self-regulating, with businesses of varying size and scale offering exceptional service and value to UK motorists. However, other than personal experience or local recommendation, the motoring public have no definitive way of knowing if the business or individual undertaking work on their vehicle has the necessary knowledge, skills or equipment has to carry out that work safely and competently.

As the complexity of vehicles increases, so does the investment required to operate a professional independent garage business. This introduces its own checks and balances the sector.

There has long been a cyclical call for licensing of both the automotive repair sector and of the technicians working within it. Whilst licensing has the potential to give consumers peace of mind, the additional cost of licensing would likely result in increased repair costs to those same consumers. In uncertain times, the cost-conscious motorist may well avoid the costs of maintaining their vehicle, thus increasing the potential risk for those vehicles to be used on the roads in an unsafe condition. This in turn could open up a potential black market of poor quality service and repair establishments, or risk leading consumers to undertaking repairs themselves that they neither have the skills, knowledge or equipment to undertake safely.

For the garages, licensing would provide a way to show their customers that they have met a set of given criteria and that they do possess the skills, knowledge and equipment to carry the work they undertake safely. However, as mentioned above this would come at a cost, which inevitably would have to be passed on in the way of higher labor rates, which is still likely be less than those of the franchised sector.

In a sector already short of experienced technicians, the added challenge of having to prove the abilities of an ever-maturing work force may result in more competent, experienced staff choosing to exit the industry, rather than placing themselves in the unfamiliar territory of academic testing.

Thus, licensing has the potential to be a double-edged sword for both the sector and the consumer.

The IGA offers a customer assurance scheme for garages called Trust My Garage, backed by the CTSI, as a benefit of membership. For more information about the scheme, visit TrustMyGarage.co.uk, or call our friendly member helpline team on 0845 305 4230.