Car retailers battling vehicle supply shortages must prepare for an MOT-driven September aftersales surge that could help forge the foundations of a strong second half of 2021.
That is the message from sector analysts, suppliers and retailers who are already adapting their businesses to be ready for a new seasonal spike which will see dealerships and garages faced with an estimated 580,000 more MOTs than in a normal September.
The sudden flow of vehicles into workshops follows the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency’s (DVSA’s) COVID-prompted MOT extensions.
And a failure to rise to the challenge could pose a risk to the future of dealerships’ aftersales volumes for years to come, according to eDynamix strategic account director Steve Ure.
“Last September some dealerships struggled to get back up to speed in time for the glut of MOT demand and fast-fits benefitted from that as customers looked for an alternative,” he said.
“This time around franchised dealerships should be making it a priority to ensure they have the capacity to cope with what’s on its way and – more than that – an offering to ensure that they reclaim that lost business.”
NEW SEASONAL NORM FOR MOT TESTS
GiPA UK general manager Quentin Le Hetet said: “We’re seeing a new seasonal norm for MOTs that means a lot of trade in September. It’s not ideal and could prove a big headache for some businesses, but, after what was a very quiet Q1 for many, there should be an excitement and desire to make the very most of it you can.”
While Le Hetet (pictured) is hopeful that dealerships might be able to entice customers to bring forward their MOT with consumer offers – leading to a softening of the high-stakes September “boom” period – he conceded that the process would take time.
Ure agreed and re-asserted that businesses should be working hard to capture all the aftersales work they can in what will be a chaotic September for workshops.
He said: “50% of the MOTs that would normally have been due in March are now due in September.
“What that means is that next year – in the early part of 2022 – dealers are going to be very quiet on MOTs.
“This isn’t a trend just for the short-term, this is also about the next 36-to-60 months. The MOT extension is going to have a lasting effect over a number of years.”
According to GiPA, 56% of all MOT tests performed in 2019 were carried out with extra work.
Ure said that, according to data held by eDynamix, the average additional customer spend on an MOT visit was £85.
Ure suggested that car dealerships with regularly cleansed, and DVSA-aligned, MOT data and a customer contact strategy would have an advantage in preparing for September.
“That way you have control of your customer base and don’t run the risk of losing trade at what is now the key month of the year from an aftersales perspective,” he said.
“Without sight of when your customers’ vehicles are due for an MOT, you don’t know what capacity you need.”
TrustFord aftersales director Stuart Cresswell said he was looking forward to the opportunity presented by September after a “cracking Q1” and a Q2 where the AM100 group successfully rode the storm 12 months on from the UK’s first COVID-19 lockdown.
“We’ve ripped-up the instruction book every day since March last year,” Cresswell told AM.
“We’ve already seen the trends established in 2020 knock on into this year.”
Cresswell said TrustFord’s MOT volumes were down around 70% in April and May, but the average monthly volume of around 6,000 for June recovered to around 4,500.
He added: “The real surge will come in August and September. I look at the DVSA data regularly and it shows 110,000 more MOTs to be done in August and 580,000 in September compared with a normal year. It doesn’t concern me; we’ve just got to put plans in place.”
Cresswell said he felt efforts to encourage customers to book MOTs early would find limited success.
“A £10 or £15 campaign on MOTs isn’t going to cut it if they took advantage of the three- or six-month extension and they think they’re losing a few months of MOT,” he said.
“It’s been a really trying one attempting to figure out exactly what’s going to work.”
TrustFord’s plan to accommodate more aftersales work includes the return of extended opening hours – 6am until 10pm at some sites – along with Sunday opening.
The business has also increased its number of technicians already to facilitate its mobile servicing offering and – thanks to July 19’s expected ditching of COVID-19 social distancing regulations – is set to bring back its ServiceNow express aftersales service.
Cresswell said: “The changing COVID regulations mean we can have two technicians on a car again and properly market that offer of 60-minute servicing once more. That’s a huge bonus for us.
“Altogether, I’m feeling positive about the second half of the year.”
PREPARING FOR AN MOT ‘TSUNAMI’
Chorley Group aftersales director Pauline Turner said that, April to September, the Lancashire-based group’s MOT volumes looked set to rise by 574%.
She said: “September is a big opportunity. I keep calling it the tsunami that’s going to hit us. In aftersales terms it’s been quiet, we’ve seen the tide go out, but it’s coming, and we have to be ready.
“COVID lockdown and the DVSA extension have had an impact on the spread over the year. Month-on-month MOT volumes go up 69% in May, 72% in June, 4% in July and then a 6% dip in August before a 96% increase in September.”
Turner told AM that the group is already in the process of boosting its aftersales capacity and MOTs are at the heart of its strategy.
She said that – as it currently stands – MOT ramps with a capacity for between eight and 10 tests per day would have to handle 17 in September to meet demand.
While she conceded that some MOTs would be outsourced, with any servicing or remedial work retained by the group, efforts are being made to boost capacity.
“There are two additional MOT bays under construction in a new standalone aftersales and vehicle preparation centre being created as part of the development of our new MG dealership in Chorley,” she said.
“We’ve also trained more technicians on MOTs and we’re extending the hours they’re offered ahead of September in line with the shifts we already employ at two of our sites.”
Turner said that Chorley Group had also been offering 20% off repairs to customers who brought forward their MOT in recent months, in a bid to soften the impact of the spike in demand.
“It worked, but we’re questioning whether to do it again for September, because August is already looking busy.”