AM Online

Extended: SMMT tries to heal rift with RMIF on code

Attempts were made last week to heal the rift within the industry over proposals for a service and repair code of practice but RMIF chief executive Matthew Carrington is opposing “increasing attempts by manufacturers to control the aftermarket”.

Carrington is due this week to have a meeting with Duncan Aldred, chairman of the Retail Motor Strategy Group customer service standards Sherpa group, and Christopher Macgowan, SMMT chief executive.

Last month, Carrington told AM that the SMMT was trying to push through a code without keeping major stakeholders informed. The SMMT has denied this, saying it was appointed as the secretariat by the Department of Trade and Industry to ensure a code was in place to ward off a threatened National Consumer Council super-complaint.

“The SMMT has now agreed to meet with us and work out how a code can be developed and operated on a joint industry basis,” says Carrington.

“I welcome this as progress towards resolving the issue – the SMMT was not previously willing to have such a meeting. But I have neither a date nor an agenda for a meeting.

“It is essential that we have a joint manufacturer/retailer code, otherwise it will not work. What’s happening is a reflection of a big problem: car manufacturers are trying to control the aftermarket.

“This is being done in a variety of ways, such as the way they control technical information. Both franchised and independent dealers are concerned about this.”

Carrington denies there are tensions between the RMIF and the SMMT because the manufacturers’ organisation was trying to ‘muscle in’ on the retail body’s territory.

Aldred, who is Vauxhall’s retail sales director, told AM he believed there had been “a bit of a misunderstanding” between the SMMT and RMIF. “That is definitely not the case,” says Carrington.

According to Aldred, the objective has always been a code for the whole industry, and not just dealers, “because that was the Government remit”.

He adds: “Matthew Carrington will take the lead on the entry criteria and everyone is now in agreement. I am arranging a meeting next week with Matthew and Christopher Macgowan.

“The immediate objective is to prevent the super-complaint and I believe the RMIF and SMMT will work together on one for the repair and service sector.

“In the short-term, there will not be a single code for the whole industry although that could remain a long-term objective.”

Christopher Macgowan believes the SMMT and RMIF will work together on a code but adds: “In at least the short to medium term, we will have a number of codes, and I am not certain we will ever have a single one for the industry because it is so diverse.

“Eventually, the consumer will decide whether any particular code is adopted, by its acceptance of it, and willingness to whatever it costs.”

The AM view

The industry needs a code of practice. It doesn’t matter whose brand it falls under (ultimately it’s an OFT code), so the RMIF and SMMT need to resolve their differences.

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