The Institute of the Motor Industry has called for automotive servicing and repair technicians to be licensed, rather than the garage.
It believes that a credible system, backed by carmakers, that governs a technician's entitlement to practice will improve standards, help eliminate unscrupulous traders and lift the status of the profession.
“As an industry we have a fantastic product but the quality of its support structure is extremely inconsistent,” says Sarah Sillars, IMI chief executive. “I could, for example, start up my own garage without any qualifications, which is a frightening prospect.”
An investigation by the Office of Fair Trading two years ago accused the industry of “unacceptable quality” and said that consumers were being ripped off to the tune of £170m a year from overcharging and by technicians and companies who were charging for work not carried out. It suggested licensing as an option, but no further action was taken.
A Department of Trade and Industry taskforce last year recommended the introduction of a voluntary 'good trader scheme' for garages, which was criticised by RMI chief executive David Evans who said the association's membership criteria included minimum quality standards.
Sillars belieevs the emphasis should be on the technicians themselves: “If our industry is ever to be perceived as a champion of best practice then a radical yet credible solution is required.”
The IMI plans to introduce mandatory continuing professional development (CPD) for its technical members from next April.
It is urging repairers and servicing outlets to email firstname.lastname@example.org with their view on technician licensing and other suggestions on improving the sector's image.