Renault intends to have a 20-strong Minute fast-fit network by the end of the year, with a further 45 centres targeted by 2004, as it seeks to retain older models within the franchised network.
Selisik Ergin, Renault UK director of services and quality, said: “We believe 65 centres is the optimum number for the UK. We have around 160 dealers, but some are in rural areas and they do not need this type of business. But most dealers who need one will have a Minute outlet.
“Reaction has been mixed – many dealers have been quick to jump on board. But some groups have had poor experiences of operating fast-fits with other manufacturers. They have been more reluctant to join Minute.”
Mr Ergin estimates around 30% of the franchised network is unconvinced, but he is confident they will be persuaded by the results that Minute dealers are achieving.
“We are monitoring the results and are supplying the figures to dealers so they know what is happening,” he said. The manufacturer, which this month opened its seventh site, at Renault London West, believes Minute differs from other fast-fit operations because it offers a “while you wait service with no appointment required”.
Mr Ergin said: “It's a convenience service. Customers deal with one person throughout the process, from reception to repair to invoicing.”
Minute is primarily for jobs that take less than two hours – typically tyres, exhausts, batteries – and is not intended to replace the workshop. “It is an area of business that we and our dealers didn't really do before.”
The business is 95% Renault, but is expected to attract other makes in the future.
“This is not the primary target – for now we are concentrating on improving our service and looking after the Renault customer,” said Mr Ergin.
Dealer investment varies depending on the size of the site, but equipment is believed to cost around £50,000.
“We estimate that an additional technician brings in around £120,000 of extra turnover a year,” said Mr Ergin. Margins vary, but he believes dealers can cover their initial outlay within two years.
He said Renault had explained the concept to Nissan but it was “up to them” to develop their own version. “The two networks would be entirely separate,” he added.