PSA UK chairman Tod Evans believes a JD Power-style scheme, under the wing of the Retail Forum, needs to be set up to help the motor industry improve its image with consumers. But he accepts it is likely to be at least a year before the DTI and vehicle manufacturers will consider tackling the issue.
The Retail Forum was set up in the late 1990s to consider four major projects: a common method of measuring satisfaction, improve skills, develop a common form of e-technology and improve efficiency in dealer workshops.
Progress has been slow because manufacturers have been wary of sharing too much sensitive information with their rivals and the Government. Last year the Automotive Skills Council was established to tackle the skills shortage, and Evans believes there will be little action on the other issues until carmakers assess its results.
“They need evidence that there are benefits to them working together,” he says. “A more consistent way of measuring customer satisfaction is important, but this will not be considered until the ASC succeeds, and it will be a year to 18 months before we see the results.”
Evans was appointed PSA UK chairman last year with a brief to boost the organisation's status with the Government. He sees his role as lobbyist and adviser – and believes it's one that the industry as a whole desperately needs.
“It's alarming that politicians develop ideas and opinions that pass into legislation without taking into account the views and interests of the companies involved,” says Evans. “They have good intentions but they need to be more practical. I want to help the Government understand our position.”
Much of the problem concerns the fact the UK has no major home producers. Ministers are forced to rely on the views of foreign-owned carmakers and they are sceptical about whether those views are genuine or self-interest. PSA, through its Ryton plant, is the third largest carmaker in the country and believes it should have a stronger link to the Government.
“I will measure my success on that communication,” says Evans. “Through the DTI's automotive adviser Sarah Chamber, we now have a direct feed we must use to influence Government actions.”