Trade bodies urge crackdown on unlicensed repairers

NFDA and Trusted Dealers call for greater transparency of the car servicing and repair industry

The National Franchised Dealer Association (NFDA) and Trusted Dealers have joined forces to collectively press the government for stronger, legally-binding regulation of the service and repair industry in a bid to  protect motorists from unlicensed car mechanics.

According to a recent survey carried out by the firms, 84% of motorists are unaware that there are no minimum qualifications needed for someone to work as a car mechanic. Unlike many parts of Europe, the UK does not regulate entry to the mechanical repair sector meaning that unlicensed and poorly trained mechanics can run a garage without breaking the law.

NFDA director Sue Robinson commented: “The average car is a potentially lethal weapon if poorly maintained, making this a real issue of public safety. As the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) have reported,  40% of cars fail their MOT when first tested meaning these cars are being driven in an unroadworthy state. Cars today are becoming increasingly sophisticated and well beyond the skills of many non-franchised garages where staff might have completed manufacturer-approved training courses, or as little as a one-week tyre fitting course – there’s no way of knowing.

“At present anyone can open up a garage regardless of their background or ability and we think this is a situation that needs to change. Therefore we are calling for tougher, legally enforced minimum standards to raise the bar in the industry,”

Robinson said the joint initiative would bring the UK into line with other countries in Europe where automotive mechanics are subject to minimum standards of training. The firm highlighted Germany as a prime example, where all garages have a master technician, are licenced to protect consumers and guarantee high standards.

In the UK, apprentices typically train for three years to become an NVQ Level 3 Technician. Over the following two to four years, most manufacturers would expect technicians to attend regular training courses before becoming master technicians, and their competency is then assessed every three years thereafter. According to NFDA data, the average vehicle technician at a franchised dealership will have received over £20,000 worth of training by the time they become a master technician. However they point out that under the current system, independent garages could be staffed by employees without any professional training.