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Low standards will undermine BE plan

Don't expect sweeping changes to the structure of the aftermarket after carmakers sign new franchise agreements under revised block exemption rules in October. According to industry experts, most carmakers' efforts have been concentrated on new car sales operations rather than investigating opportunities to appoint independent approved repairers. As one put it: “There isn't much activity at all. They're waiting for the dust to settle before taking a serious look at service and repairs. It may take until 2005 before much happens.” And it's probably just as well there's no rush to establish approved-status networks, because manufacturers may find few candidates capable of meeting the required standards.

Bedford's Network Automotive Management, which specialises in helping carmakers fill dealer and repairer gaps, says that in one urban area search for a major carmaker none of the 30 repairer sites recommended by a trade body as potential secondary points was suitable. “It wasn't simply a question of lack of skills – it was more premises, equipment and facilities. There was even one recommended repairer apparently operating from a residential address,” says NAM sales director Lance Jenkins.

“That said, we did find four to five places that were suitable, but we do have a team with many years' experience that is able to physically identify the right dealers, repairers and sites. We're very thorough.” Jenkins believes that even if there appears to be a lack of official pressure to exploit the competitive intentions of the new block exemption, doing nothing other than filing applications from repairer candidates in open points is unwise.

“Manufacturers should be looking now to make changes to their network and add workshop bays, not putting off the inevitable. The problem is that few have the budgets or the bodies to actually identify suitable new dealers, premises or approved repairers,” he says.

NAM assesses information on the financial background, experience and perceived strengths and weaknesses of likely candidates.

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