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7 May 2008

Unregulated garages are costly cause for concern among motorists

Poor training standards at vehicle service and repair centres in the UK are costing motorists £1.2 billion(1) a year to put right, suggests new research. A poll by Autoglass shows that almost 40 per cent of motorists have experienced a fault with repair work on their vehicles with one in three reporting that the repair had put their safety at risk.

Wheels falling off on motorways, clutches snapping on the drive home and even cars bursting into flames after undergoing a service are just some of the horror stories to come out of the research, conducted among 2,500 motorists. With no government legislation in place to make training compulsory at vehicle service and repair centres in the UK, Autoglass is urging the industry to do more to protect and promote the reputation of operators within the sector.

There are an estimated 25,000 garages or vehicle repair outfits in the UK. While there are many voluntary schemes aimed at raising standards, for example the Good Garage Guide, which has over 2,250 members, the Unipart Car Care Network and the Thatcham BSI Kitemark seal, there is currently no nationally required qualification for automotive technicians.

Recent research by the Office of Fair Trading suggested that around 1.3 million complaints are made by consumers about shoddy work from garages every year and consumer watchdog, Which?, estimates that three quarters of all garages in the UK are offering a poor service to car owners.

In 2006, Autoglass took positive action to formalise its own training and accreditation programme by becoming the first autoglazing company in the country to sign up to the Automotive Technician Accreditation (ATA) scheme from the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI). Introduced as a major platform to improve skills across the sector, the award scheme applies to a wide range of roles within the aftermarket industry and currently has over 7,500 accredited members operating across ten disciplines, including light vehicle service and repair and autoglazing.

Nigel Doggett, managing director of Autoglass, said: “What many motorists do not realise is that a windscreen accounts for 30 per cent of a vehicle’s structural strength. This means that it could stop the driver and their passengers getting crushed if the car were to roll over in an accident. Some vehicle features, such as the front passenger airbag, also rely on the windscreen to work properly, which is why we felt that it was imperative that we adopted a national training standard to help us in our commitment to continually promote and develop skills among our technicians.

“In an industry where virtually anyone can set up a repair business on a supermarket car park without any proof or requirement for training, the onus is surely on established vehicle servicing and repair centres to lead the way.”

Worryingly, the Autoglass research also suggests that there is still a significant job to be done on educating consumers when it comes to safe vehicle repairs. Some 68 per cent of those questioned always look for the cheapest vehicle repair centre when they need work doing with one in ten admitting that they would be swayed to use a cheap garage with a poor reputation to save money. Over half of would rather spend money on their house than on essential car repairs and one in ten put booking a holiday as higher on their list of priorities than finding a quality service.

(1)Based on number of vehicle services and repairs a year

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