The market for franchised dealer aftersales has dropped by 20% since 2003, while independents and fast-fit chains have grown their share. Much of this is due to fast-fits winning over the owners of older cars.
It has been an easy fight. Poor aftersales retention of used car buyers, and consumer preference to use fast-fits for MoT tests and tyres, is costing dealers millions of pounds in lost opportunities.
Trend Tracker research shows 60% of UK licensed cars are now at least six years old. Longer average length of ownership (3.4 years in 2014, compared with 2.9 years in 2004) means motorists have more liability for SMR spend, and Trend Tracker calculates the retail SMR market’s worth has risen by almost £1 billion since the 2008 recession.
Here we look at the major chains, which are snatching your share of that billion out of your hands.
How big is the network? There are more than 600 Kwik fit centres situated across the UK.
What does it do? Kwik Fit prides itself on the investment it makes into its sites and technology to make for a better customer experience and service.
It has recently made significant investment into the look and technology of its network of centres; for example with the installation of Hunter laser wheel-alignment equipment to improve the efficiency and accuracy of the wheel-alignment service. Reception areas have also been completely redesigned, offering individual desk areas, comfortable seating, free Wi-Fi, and coffee machines.
Services offered include the supply and replacement of tyres, exhausts, brakes, MoT testing, car servicing, air-con servicing, and windscreen repair.
What are its marketing/branding strengths? Kwik Fit’s brand has been built on its interaction with individual customers, and through marketing strategies and investment. It continues to support centres through national and local advertising and has a strong web presence, which provides advice and the ability to book services online.
Has it recently expanded its network, does it plan to in the future? The company continues to invest – not only in its centre network, but also in its people. It has its own training and development programme, and recognises that this investment in people is crucial in maintaining its high levels of customer service.
How big is the network? Halfords operates 300 Autocentres across the UK, at which it carries out more than a million jobs a year.
What does it do? It claims a strong performance in MoTs, car servicing, repairs, tyre sales, free brake checks, car care and air con services and checks for more than 850,000 customers a year. It says more than nine out of 10 customers are happy to recommend the brand to their friends.
Halfords says being an independent means it can more effectively deliver dealership-quality work at more affordable prices across any make or model of car.
It maintains a price match guarantee for customers who have had a better quote elsewhere. It also guarantees all work carried out for 12 months, or 12,000 miles.
What are its marketing/branding strengths? The brand has an ongoing national television campaign and conducts continuous work on SEO and social media platforms.
It maintains that one of its best sources of awareness is its website.
How big is the network? ATS Euromaster employs about 2,600 technicians across 340 centres nationwide and 820 mobile service vans.
What does it do? Automotive services offered range from its core business of tyre-fitting, to general fast-fit work involving batteries, brakes, exhausts and shocks, plus scheduled maintenance servicing and Class 4 and 7 MoTs. It also provides free wheel-alignment checks.
ATS has accreditations from Safecontractor and Contractors Health and Safety Scheme (CHAS), and it has received the RoSPA Gold Award. It’s also been granted a Royal Warrant as tyre specialists to Her Majesty the Queen.
What is it working to improve? Last year ATS launched an e-booking service. The diversity of tyre specification has grown quickly over recent years, and it is often impractical to have large stocks of hundreds of tyre types and sizes on site. It claims its network is more than capable of handling drop-in visits, but booking online means it can identify if the customer is on a particular tyre policy and ensure it has the correct stock available when they bring their vehicle in, minimising downtime.
What are its marketing/branding strengths? It recently refreshed its branding and has a strong presence on national media, radio and online.
Does it have any plans to expand? It plans to target strategic areas of Britain for expansion, and expect this to mean the addition of 10-20 new centres over the next five years, with the first of these opening by the end of the year.
Most recently, it invested £350,000 in opening a flagship service centre in Wrexham, and £1m into its existing network.
How big is the network? National has 233 branches across the UK, with eight wholesale distribution locations providing same-day and next-day delivery. It also operates a network of mobile tyre-fitting vehicles, for retail and fleet drivers.
What does it offer? A ‘no appointment necessary service’, while-u-wait exhaust, battery and brake replacement, steering and suspension repair and replacement, oil and filter changes, and MoTs are all offered.
It has invested in Sykes Pickavant 5000 TPMS tools and i-Sensor clone valve tools across its network, and Omitec dual emissions testers, Bosch battery testers, Omiscan diagnostic scan tools, and a new range of Fuchs lubricants. It claims it is poised to capture a greater share of the SMR market.
What is it working to improve? National is working to improve the general appearance and customer facilities within its network. Workshop areas will soon benefit from new EcoTile anti-slip flooring, to reduce maintenance and improve appearance.
What are its marketing/branding strengths? The brand uses radio, national and local press, directories, outdoor and direct marketing, as well as a range of SEO, social media, email, display, affiliate, remarketing, and pay per click.
Has it recently expanded? National recently invested in an MoT expansion programme, which has seen more than 70 new sites in the past two years (with more than 50 upgraded to one-person test lanes). Five branches were opened in 2014, and it has already opened two branches, in Glasgow and Worcester, this year – 11 more are planned. It is also replacing and expanding its mobile tyre-fitting fleet.
How big is the network? The HiQ Fleet Service network is made up of 125 HiQ Franchise Centres and 195 HiQ Fleet Service partners across the UK.
What does it do? HiQ claims to be the only fast-fit franchise network in the UK – even though it is a national brand, with transparent pricing, each site is a local business.
It says its CSI programme and fleet-standard service level agreements help it to maintain high customer service standards and it has its own HiQ training academy.
Appointments are available as either drop-in or pre-booked. HiQ offers tyres, MoTs, servicing, air-conditioning maintenance, exhaust work, batteries, oil and filter change, and fleet checks.
It has a contracted mobile service, which consists of pre-booked appointments and rapid response.
What are its marketing/branding strengths? Its corporate identity is a big part of its branding strength. HiQ online provides handy guides, car care, and tyre expert support, with a dedicated fleet service available. It markets itself with social media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.
What are its plans for the future? A new pocket HiQ retail and fleet app is planned, along with the relaunch of HiQ online, and a continued expansion of its franchise network.