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Expanding the business

Annual service and MoT business is seen as an area of growth for Mr Clutch Autocentres, the 44-site garage chain.

Following a trial at six locations, the company has decided to expand its offerings in order to attract owners of cars three or more years old.

Traditionally, Mr Clutch Autocentres concentrated on clutches and transmission repairs. Faced with longer lasting parts and more reliable cars, its management has developed a new franchise model that finance director Trevor Steel hopes will now provide repeat custom and fleet contracts.

The expansion means the entry level of investment for franchisees has more than doubled to £75,000. But Steel insists this will bring higher returns.

“All our centres now offer MoTs and are geared to attracting regular, repeat business from customers who want somewhere reliable and pleasant to have their annual service and on-going maintenance,” says Steel.

“The sites that we are now opening are bigger, better and on a par with the standards of main dealers. They will be places that customers want to visit.”

At present, the company has 16 wholly owned centres and 28 franchised outlets in England and Wales. Two more franchises will open in Hemel Hempstead and Canterbury by the end of the year. By the end of the decade, Steel hopes the network to be nearing 90 locations.

He sees the company’s biggest challenge as establishing similar management practice and performance at branch level. “You can’t simply put up a matching sign and run a matching product and price offer and expect instant success. You have to replicate the corporate ethos, the staff attitude and the whole philosophy of good service,” he adds.

“Increasing numbers of people now own newer, better quality, higher value cars. Although they tend to take these to main dealers for servicing while they’re still under warranty, they want somewhere credible to do their annual service and maintenance once the car is out of warranty.”

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