If anyone is going to make money when the motor trade is in recession it really ought to be the people who sell advice on how to make money in recession.
There is some evidence that this is the case.
Dealers have been turning to their training consultancies to polish up their systems and marketing to bring the business back in.
But there is an additional factor that is brightening up these consultants’ and training companies’ lives and that is the technology change that is taking place in cars.
The rush to reduce CO2 emissions has brought forward a huge number of new technologies
Mild hybrids with their regenerative motors are already with us, electric cars are not far behind and hydrogen cells follow.
All these are technologies that need fresh thinking and careful handling.
The crash repair industry in particular needs to know how to keep the bodyshop productives safe while they are handling complex systems that are damaged.
This will often occur outside the franchised dealer networks which have the advice and support of the manufacturers.
Technology change is growing faster than conventional vehicle processing is declining, and some of the experts are doing very nicely thank you.
Mark Salisbury of Helmsman CTC – a consultancy, training and coaching company – is doing well on the one hand and badly on the other. On balance, things are good.
Workshop business was never a huge part of his business but that which he did has declined.
“I am seeing a lot of franchised dealers cutting back on technical training,” he said.
The franchised trade commits to development of its technicians and routinely sends them for update training.
That is still adhered to where there is a new model to learn in the manufacturer’s line-up, but where there is no new model the retailers are pulling back from the update training
Helmsman’s offering of fault finding methodology and workshop processes has suffered the same fate.
Where dealers can make a saving on routine training, they are, he says.
As a consequence manufacturers have stepped up with subsidies and free courses to ensure that the skill base is in good trim and will be able to cope when the demand for workshop time recovers.
The manufacturers are helping with the costs and are creating regional courses to reduce costs.
Minimum training hours are being reduced and rebates are being offered if retailers do persist with hitting the existing training-hour targets.
All of that means that the independent training agencies have very little overflow demand to profit from.
Being a good business consultant, Helmsman has looked for replacement business, and has turned more vigorously to its core business of helping dealers with their own business generation techniques.
“They have realised that under the stresses of recession they have lost some profit streams and may have lost their edge on processes. We are offering more telephone coaching and distance learning.
“One company that contacted us had set about its own direct marketing. It had made 50 phone calls and had very little to show for it.
“Telesales were simply making offers without knowing if they were suitable for the people they were calling.”
He switched the staff to making the calls in a different way.
It is a case of information gathering first, and then offering the right service.
Too often, the telephone marketing within a dealership is compartmentalised – service reception would call a customer because his car had not recently been presented for service, be confronted by the news that he was not getting it serviced because he was intending to buy a new car, and then not pass the information to the car sales department.
Often, all the telesales people needed was a bit of encouragement or help in cleaning up the data base.
“There was a 28% improvement in sales revenue from the calls and that was maintained even after we had left.”
Bosch takes advantage of opportunities
Howard Price, technical service manager for Bosch UK, says there is opportunity to build the training business that helps understanding of technologies of which Bosch is a master and very often, inventor.
Network Automotive has been appointed to train member garages of Bosch’s Car Service Network to exploit the “huge opportunities” in increasing invoice value, raise customer footfall, improve business and organisational processes, and manage staff more effectively.
Bosch delivers its training through its own rooms and technical colleges where there is a safe workshop.
Bosch distributors who take the hard parts to market are trained to know all that they need to about the components they deliver.
ESP is a perfect example of the way that black box electronic content is growing in cars.
The Electronic Stability Programme is regarded as having such a beneficial effect in helping drivers keep control of the car at the extremes of grip that it will be mandated fitment soon.
So much for the current technologies and the bulge in training potential: where will Bosch be in a few years time?
It is quite clear that it will be fully involved in electric cars having recently signed a joint venture agreement with Samsung which is one of the world leaders in lithium ion batteries.
That should give it the credibility it needs to be major force in the new generation of cars and at the very least, a credible training agency for the electric systems in the forthcoming plug-ins and hybrids.
Industry faces biggest single technical change
The Retail Motor Industry Federation says that Britain’s big training groups have never been busier.
Mike Owen, the senior technical manager, says that in 100 years of the motor industry, this is the biggest single technical change that the industry has seen.
Once the technologies are fixed and in production there will be serious risk of injury without proper training.
“We are getting word out to the independent sector. The franchised sector will be trained by the manufacturer but the
independents need expertise.”
He reckons that the attitude in the repair and service industry is right. It is very sure of its obligations and very open to training, he says.
“We have got electric and hydrogen fuel cells coming, and there are a number of mild hybrids in service already. They have 500 volts. That is enough to kill.”
In a recent poll of 150 garages ‘just a handful’ had any
experienced staff who knew how to handle hybrids. Hence the sudden surge of interest for the training for the independents.
The transition to new technologies comes in parallel with much more original equipment electronic components – from electronic stability to electric steering.