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8 Questions to… Bowker BMW Preston service engineer Harold Bowden

Bowker Motor Group BMW Preston service engineer Harold Bowden

Bowker Motor Group BMW Preston service engineer Harold Bowden has passed the BMW master technician exam seven times and is still eager to learn after a career spanning 45 years.

He spoke to AM for the latest instalment of the ‘8 Questions to…’ feature series.

What are the main responsibilities of your role?

I’m involved in everything that helps resolve customers’ car issues as quickly as possible. So, from the moment they come in, I am involved in remote diagnostics and I carry out daily customer consultations to ensure everything runs smoothly. I formulate an action plan even before we see the vehicle. I also believe in follow up (YTT – yesterday, today and tomorrow). As one of the more senior members of the team, I help to coach colleagues in my spare time. As a fully qualified digital services expert (DSE) I was heavily involved in remote diagnosis; Bowker BMW was a hand-picked pilot retailer.

What are the most significant challenges ahead in your field of work?

The main challenge is keeping pace with the new technology. When I started, we predominantly looked after petrol engines, then diesel; and, now electric. I was reading the other day that the IMI (Institute of the Motor Industry) estimates there are between 13,000 and 20,000 technicians currently qualified to work on electric vehicles. That’ a massive skills gap with more than 50,000 and 57,000 technicians needed by 2030. I like to think we’re playing our part here at Bowker. But I hope we can encourage more colleagues to learn more and be in a position to deal with electric car issues. At one time diesel was the way forward. We all adapted. This is another challenge, but the need is even more significant.

How might these challenges be overcome?

Manufacturer support is important. My training includes regular visits to the BMW Academy at Wokefield Park in Reading. I get a real lift out of it. But there’s only so many training courses the car manufacturers and retailers can send us on. The difference will come down to how much technicians want to learn. Self-motivation is crucial too. We can have a good career now; finally we are starting to get the recognition and salaries we deserve. So, it’s important to be sparked by curiosity about new technologies. In my case, it means reading around the subject in my spare time and keeping up to speed with the latest innovations. The new advances excite me and I love the product.

What attracted you to this area of expertise?

I became one of the first master technicians in the country in 1992. I was challenged to take a test. Back then, I was one of the first 30 to take the examination. And only five of us passed. It was a tough exam but I’ve been hooked on furthering my knowledge ever since. I’m not sure I could have predicted the kind of advancements we’ve seen as a result. I’ve been with Bowker Motor Group ever since. It is a family-run company that always supports its technicians. With that support, I’ve worked hard, passed exams and here I am – still taking exams every three years. Even after all these years, there are things I can still learn and improve on.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your career, and how have you made use of it at your company?

From an early stage in my career, the value of a first-time fix was drummed into me. And it has served me well. Not just from an efficiency point of view, but to keep customers happy too. No owner wants to bring a car problem to be fixed more than once. That’s why I’ve always made sure I test rather than guess; delivered a solid diagnosis and connected with the customer where their detailed questions help to give a complete picture of any issue. I use the same “right first time, every time” mantra with colleagues. I think, together with other technicians here at Bowker who place importance on this approach, we have made a big difference to improving quality in the workshop over the years.


What drives you?

Thirst for knowledge, love of the product and keeping Bowker BMW number one in Lancashire.

What’s your favourite app?

I like YouTube. I follow ‘Scanner Danner’ and ‘Diagnose Dan’ about car stuff. And parkour videos.

How do you relax?

Watching my favourite football team, exercising and reading

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