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Vehicle service history database needed to tackle used car losses

Sam Watkins, chair of the Vehicle Remarketing Association

Car dealers have been called upon to end unnecessary used vehicle stock value losses of up to 5% by creating a centralised national service history database.

Vehicle Remarketing Association (VRA) chairman, Sam Watkins, has called for the “urgently needed” solution in order to address the number one factor affecting the 1.5 million used vehicles which pass through its members’ UK auction halls each year.

Watkins has said that franchised retailers should be at the heart of a push towards a centralised database of vehicle service records to help avoid losses which “can potentially run in a five figure sum” on certain high-value premium vehicles.

“Virtually every garage in the country now carefully records all the jobs that it carries out on a vehicle on some form of IT system and, in 2019, many of these use cloud storage,” she said.

“It would take a limited effort to make this available through some form of central portal that shows work has been carried out. A vehicle’s MOT is available to anyone online on this kind of basis, so why not the service history?”

Watkins added: “Even if we could only get franchise dealers to do this, it would be a big step forward and would likely help to underline the value of the most expensive cars that are remarketed.

“Independent garages would undoubtedly present more of a challenge but, as already mentioned, this is successfully done for MOTs. It should not be a significant task.”

The VRA’s comments highlight the importance of widely available data in the automotive sector and echo the calls of consumers and car retailers for a national database of accident damaged, ‘write-off’ vehicles.

Demands for a ‘write-offs register’ followed Auto Express and BBC Rip-Off Britain investigations into the number of vehicles finding their way onto used car forecourts without documentary evidence of their prior involvement in collisions.

Speaking to AM about the issue, Phillip Wade, network development director at Stoneacre, said retailers have long been “duped” by write-off cars and called for a legislative solution.

He said: “There’s one straightforward answer. If a car is declared a write-off, it should be immediately dismantled and only be allowed to be re-sold as parts.

“I’d also like to see all repairs carried out as a result of an insurance claim carried out by licensed body shops, using genuine OEM parts, and fully documented on a centralised database.”

In March, AutoExpress highlighted the extent of written-off vehicles re-entering the market after significant collision damage was repaired.

While insurers must inform the DVLA of vehicles it has written off, legislation does not require them to register the vehicles on the Motor Insurance Anti-Fraud & Theft Register (MIAFTR).

MIAFTR is the sole source used by most provenance check services – including HPI and Experian – to help retailers and consumers identify a severely damaged vehicle.

Watkins’ frustration about vehicle service records is similarly linked to a lack of freely-available and transparent data, with information generally electronically stored by dealers that have carried out the servicing but not available via a centralised database.

Watkins said that the VRA would be keen to facilitate conversations that could help to create momentum behind a central service histories portal.

She said: “Anyone from manufacturers to dealers to technology providers who believe they have a contribution to make to this debate would be very much welcomed.”

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