Hour by hour
How much do you pay for service, maintenance and repairs? The answer, invariably, is too much. However, you could actually be paying over the odds if you run a small fleet and have not negotiated a rate with your local dealer.
As part of its 2015 Driver Power survey, Auto Express recently reviewed hourly rates charged by dealers around the country. The data, produced by Warrantywise, showed an eye-watering gap between the lowest and highest and revealed how important a factor geographical location can be.
The research found that the average hourly rate across the UK is £84.30, so as a fleet manager that’s a pretty good yardstick to negotiate your hourly rate from. The cheapest place to get a car repaired is in a garage in Kirkwall, Orkney, where the average rate is just £44 per hour. Contrast that with Twickenham, in south west London, where the average is £141 per hour!
But, as the research shows, you can pay a lot more than that. According to the survey, the highest recorded hourly rate of an individual garage was £240 per hour in West Byfleet, Surrey, with the lowest cost found to be £36 per hour at a garage in Smethwick, Birmingham – a staggering 566% difference.
Fleets within the M25 should note that London, predictably, recorded the highest average labour rate of £101.60 and was the only part of the country to break the £100 mark. Scotland was by far the cheapest with an average labour rate of just £71.42; that’s 42% lower than the capital.
Lawrence Whittaker, CEO of Warrantywise, described the differences charged by individual garages, which equated to £204 per hour, as “offensive”.
“Regional variations are to be expected, particularly when comparing London with the rest of the UK, but some of the differences we discovered are, frankly, offensive. Our advice is simple: shop around, negotiate and remember that as a paying customer, you are holding the ace cards.”
Despite some motorists paying a premium for repair work, the Auto Express’s Driver Power satisfaction survey, which polled more than 61,000 drivers, has revealed that Brits are actually happier than ever with their dealers.
The average satisfaction score was 87.8%, up from 86.8% in 2014. Around half of the motorists who took part said they would be “highly likely” to recommend their dealer to a friend.
Lexus was voted as having the best dealer network with an overall score of 93.5%, with sister brand Toyota in second place (91.4%); a sure sign of dealers using best practices across brands as Lexus sites tend to be operated by groups who also represent Toyota. Jaguar came third (90.9%), Honda fourth (90.6%) and Peugeot fifth (90.2%).
At the other end of the scale the worst performing dealer network was Suzuki (83.7%), followed, somewhat surprisingly, by Volkswagen (84%), Nissan (85%), Chrysler/Jeep (85.6%) and Seat (85.7%).
The Lexus victory, for the 14th consecutive year, was remarkable as it beat all other brands across the criteria set for the helpfulness of its staff, standard of workmanship, site cleanliness, technical knowledge and cost of work. It also won the reader’s vote for Best Car with the third generation Lexus IS.
Lexus' success can be attributed to it still being a relatively new brand in the UK, and therefore keen to do things differently, and the fact that it operates from just 45 centres which helps it maintain standards.
The report said: “Lexus has always made delivery of the highest customer service standards a hallmark of its brand and it continues to raise the bar. It is rolling out new-look showroom designs across the country, to appeal to the kind of style-conscious customers who appreciate Lexus’ advanced, contemporary designs. Physical changes to areas such as the customer lounge, private consultation rooms and vehicle hand-over areas are complemented by new digital tools to help staff deliver even better, personalised service.”
It's a model the brand has used successfully in the US and is one that other premium brands here scrutinise to see how they can up their game.