The study, which was carried out by the Authorised Independent Repairers Organisation (AIRO) more than a month after new block exemption rules were introduced, found five out of 160 garages had applied for approved repair status.
But AIRO's Mark Taylor-Jones is calling on manufacturers to boost take-up of approved independent repairers. “Many manufacturers are appointing ex-dealers who have lost sales contracts to become approved repairers. That means new players are not finding their way into the market, which is not in keeping with the spirit of the directive,” says Taylor-Jones.
“Many of the standards are too high with manufacturers concentrating on corporate image and identity, rather than getting the right equipment. Independents want to remain independent and service multiple brands, rather than looking like a franchised garage.”
But some manufacturers have made concessions on standards. For example, independents can use one diagnostic system for their business rather than a different one for each marque.
Revisions to block exemption mean that manufacturer contracts are divided between sales and servicing, allowing independent repairers to gain lucrative servicing and repair work by applying for approved status.
But the high costs associated with tooling up and training technicians means that many garages are put off becoming authorised repairers.
Experts say that, depending on the manufacturer, it will cost about £25,000 per brand to tool up. Mazda is asking repairers to spend £40,000 on average, which includes set up costs, tools, training, signage and parts stock. It hopes to sign up to 55 authorised repairers to help meet its target. As part of the new Drivetime scheme, Mazda wants 80 per cent of its customers to be no more than 20 minutes' drive from a garage.
Toyota has already signed up 17 authorised repairers and expects four more to be on board by the end of the year. Two of these will be independent garages.