The consumer organisation took 50 cars, all less than three years old, to garages throughout the country for servicing. All were rigged with five deliberate faults. Twenty went to independent garages, 19 to appropriate franchised garages and 11 to other franchised outlets.
Of the 50, 46 garages (92%) missed at least one fault, and two, Central Garage High Street (Raunds) and Motormaster, a Bosch car service centre in Leatherhead, missed all five. Neither garage owner could be reached for comment when AM went to press.
The resultant publicity in national newspapers has prompted renewed calls for the industry to press ahead with the development of an OFT-approved consumer code of practice.
Two garages achieved top marks for spotting all faults and for their overall servicing standards. They were Highams Park Motor Company, an independent garage in London, and Colliers Jaguar in Tamworth, Staffs.
Howard Price, Bosch’s technical service manager, was disappointed that Motormaster had failed Which?’s test and said its performance was “unacceptable”.
Price promised Motormaster would have a site audit and a mystery shop within the next few months.
AM asked for a copy of the full research detailing all 50 garages that were involved in the secret service, but Which? refused.
Results from the ‘secret service’ showed that 26 garages (52%) missed the low brake fluid level fault. Thirty-eight failed to adjust the low spare tyre pressure and nine failed to adjust other tyre pressures properly.
Each service was rated out of five, considering how many of the introduced faults were spotted and how the garage acted on finding them, whether the garage spotted and reported on other pre-existing faults, and whether the service was carried out in line with the manufacturer’s recommendations. The average inspection rating was 2.28 out of 5.
Which? found no discernible difference in standards between franchised repairers and independents, although independents were cheaper. Dealers charged an average price of £255 for a service; independents charged £166 on average (35% cheaper).
No mention was made about how free services differed, such as valeting and collection/delivery.