Halfords campaign targets cost of franchised dealership repairs

A new Halfords marketing campaign, highlighting the cost of franchised dealership repairs compared to independent workshops and chains, has led to some strong words from the director of a regional dealership group.

According to research, drivers opting for franchised dealership repairs can pay over 50% more for repairs compared with independent garages and chains. 

In an analysis of ten popular car brands, conducted on behalf of Halfords Autocentres, BMW Mini dealerships were found to be the most expensive of all automotive brand repair centres. Across seven common repairs, including replacement clutch, exhaust and brake pads, their franchised dealership repairs were, on average, 43% more expensive than Halfords.

Ford emerged as the best automotive brand amongst dealerships, however their repairs were still found to be 14% more expensive compared with the national chain. 

Research conducted for Halfords by Opinium shows that only 18%of new car owners are clear that under UK law they are free to use any garage capable of following the manufacturer’s requirements for servicing and repairs, and not just rely on franchised dealership repairs.  

Franchised dealership repairs not always necessary

“With the average cost of car ownership pushing £300 a month the last thing hard pressed motorists need is to pay over the odds for repairs,” said Graham Stapleton, chief executive of Halfords. “When you look at what some dealerships are charging for basic repairs, it is clear that many car owners are paying much more than necessary. 

“Motorists can get their vehicles serviced and repaired at any garage that can follow the manufacturer’s requirements with no impact on their warranty from the moment they drive the car off the forecourt.” 

The details come as Halfords launched its new campaign, Dealer or No Dealer, designed to raise motorist awareness of the choice and cost savings available to them between franchised dealership repairs and the rest of the aftermarket. 

‘Grubby reception area’

The news has not been welcomed by some franchised dealership groups. One regional dealer group director told AM: “Yes our charges are a bit higher, but our expertise is a hell of a lot higher.

“Going cheap will often be a false economy if that unnoticed recall work and software update doesn’t get done.”

“Halfords’ marketing is nonsense,” he added. “I do not imagine Halfords customers get to choose whether to be dropped off at the local train station for their commute or to stay in air-conditioned comfort with free coffee and WiFi while their car gets worked on. I would choose that over a grubby reception area with plastic chairs every time.

“And if anything goes wrong, because none of us is perfect after all, our customers can always call or email our directors and we will sort it.”

The comments are likely to increase a divide between franchised dealerships and the independent aftermarket, when the main factor is the consumer and their ability to choose where repair work is done. It clear, however, that Halfords’ finding have unsettled some dealer networks. 

British motorists spend over £21 billion a year on maintenance, service, parts and repairs. The most recent report from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) estimates that franchised dealership repairs account for about a third of the market, with the rest split among around 40,000 independent garages and chains like Halfords Autocentres. 

In total, Halfords estimates that motorists are spending around £200 million a year more on repairs than they need to. 

Franchised dealerships, which are often found in expensive locations, are forced to use pricey manufacturer parts but under UK law equivalent quality parts can be used by other garages with no impact on performance, safety, or warranties.

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