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Innovation: Total recall

By / 7 months ago / Features / No Comments

Roadside repair is morphing into much more than just breakdown recovery, as it looks to fix faults before they occur and respond to rapidly evolving trends. Jonathan Musk reports.

Edmund King, president of the AA, says work could be outsourced to expedite recalls.

Breakdown recovery is almost as established as the motor car itself. The AA deals with around 14,000 calls and 10,000 breakdowns every day, and yet the average time to reach a customer is just 45 minutes. And that’s just the AA alone, let alone the other breakdown companies.

In an era of unprecedented change in the automotive landscape, breakdown recovery firms are having to anticipate change faster than most, while also innovating in the field of fault prevention instead of waiting for a breakdown to happen.

Mobile recalls team

The DVSA is considering including recall work into the MOT, thereby failing a vehicle if it has outstanding recall work due. Alarmingly, one in 16 drivers admit to ignoring a recall notice even though 75% are familiar with the concept.

To address this, the AA is working with manufacturers to create dedicated teams to carry out necessary recall work. The teams use fully branded vans to travel around the country and undertake recall work in situ, whether that’s at a member’s home or workplace. Benefits include work being undertaken more swiftly than if typically busy dealer workshops were relied upon, as is currently the case for most. There’s also less inconvenience caused to customers, who no longer need to make a special trip to the workshop or be without their vehicle. AA research finds 61% would be more likely to respond to recalls if delivery and collection of their vehicle was included, and 53% more receptive if a technician came to their home or workplace.

Responding to trends

With the imminent influx of electric vehicles on our roads, it’s imperative that breakdown recovery continues to operate in a safe and timely fashion despite the potential difficulties caused by high-voltage equipment.

The AA has already begun training its staff to manage the majority of EV breakdowns and despite there being relatively few EVs on UK roads to date, it has already dealt with over 4,000 EV breakdowns this year.

Despite this and the modern technology such vehicles use, the repair rate is 79.5% for EVs and 90.6% for hybrids. Perhaps surprisingly, the most common cause for callout is tyres, followed by running out of charge and high-voltage battery faults. In addition, the 12V battery and high-voltage equipment, such as cables and sockets, are frequent issues.

With London having implemented its ULEZ and several major UK cities looking to ban diesel vehicles altogether, the AA has also already started conversations with local government to allow special dispensation for its recovery vehicles to enter Emission-Free and Clean Air Zones, before such time as it is able to replace its own fleet with electric vehicles.

Whatever the future holds, breakdown recovery services are continually innovating to reflect the changing habits of what we choose to drive, and it’s reassuring to see that they’re keeping one step ahead of the game.

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Jonathan Musk

Jonathan turned to motoring journalism in 2013 having founded, edited and produced Autovolt - one of the UK's leading electric car publications. He has also written and produced books on both Ferrari and Hispano-Suiza, while working as an international graphic designer for the past 15 years. As the automotive industry moves towards electrification, Jonathan brings a near-unrivalled knowledge of EVs and hybrids to Fleet World Group.