I read this week that franchised dealers are having a rough time of it in the service and repair sector.
This isn't news to me because, having spent the last two years getting to know the automotive aftermarket as a reporter on industry title CAT Magazine, I've become only too aware of how much the market is struggling.
It seems franchised dealers are being hit particularly hard though, because according to a report by automotive consultancy BTC franchised dealers are, on average, missing out on over £79,000 of work per annum because they aren't converting sales.
What does that mean? You go to the dealer, they tell you your tyres need replacing, and you decline their offer to change them. That's lost work for them, and with an average of £35 per job not being collected it's easy to see how the figure mounts up.
This surprises me, because for the last few years we've seen the overall value of the service and repair sector growing. According to annual industry reports organised by Castrol, between 2010 and 2011 the value of the sector grew by 6.3 per cent, and in 2012 was valued at £9.37 billion. Largely, that's down to vehicles becoming more complex and therefore more involving to repair, which in turn adds to the cost for customers.
The bottom line, then, is that while it's costing more to repair our cars, more of us than ever before are choosing not to repair small faults.
There are other factors at play here, too. Cash-strapped motorists are holding onto their cars for longer – the average age of a car on UK roads is now 7.4 years – with motorists keeping their cars for 3.6 years on average in 2012.
We're also seeking out more cost-effective ways of servicing our cars. In 2012, independent garages won the lion's share of the work at 54 per cent, while dealers are fighting harder than ever to maintain their dwindling share. In fact, customer retention at franchised dealers is currently at its lowest level since 1998.
To my mind, that goes some way to explaining why so many new car offers come with two, three or even five years' servicing thrown in.
I'll be honest, I've always used my local independent garage for MOTs, servicing and repair. Why? because on the whole I've found their prices to be cheaper than the alternative. That said, I also have friends who will only use the main dealer.