Despite the revisions made to the block exemption regulations, it looks increasingly unlikely that independents will have any real chance to become authorised unless EU Commissioner Mario Monti steps in – and that is certainly a possibility.
“The car manufacturers are playing Russian roulette and eventually one of them will cop a large fine from the European Commission,” says Tom Dunn, Nationwide Autocentres managing director. “But until that happens there will be no change and I doubt that many independents will join an approved network.”
His views are echoed by the RMI. Its recent survey found that 54 per cent of independents believe cost of investment is prohibitive. “There is no clear route to information for independent garages or even any indication of how much they can expect to pay to become approved,” says RMI director Ray Holloway.
Nationwide, which hopes to double profits this year to £2m on turnover of £55m, already carries out warranty work for a number of fleet customers at its 190 outlets. It expects business to grow irrespective of achieving authorised status, although applications have been made to several volume carmakers.
But while Nationwide has the necessary training, equipment and premises, Dunn says it's the branding and furniture costs that cause the problems – some carmakers are even specifying exact dimensions for reception coffee tables and colour of carpets.