A new coalition, comprising automotive trade associations and commercial organisations, has been formed to lobby the UK government on behalf of the aftermarket.
The UK Alliance for the Freedom of Car Repair (AFCAR) derives its name from a European group of the same name. Taking into account the UK’s exit from the European Union, the partnership will lobby across a number of policy issues, most notably the Motor Vehicle Block Exemption Regulations (MV-BER), Vehicle Type Approval (including access to Repair & Maintenance Information) and Cybersecurity, alongside other issues that affect the competitiveness of the automotive aftermarket and freedom of choice for the motorist and business users.
UK AFCAR comprises of the Association of Bodyshop Professionals (ABP), the Garage Equipment Association (GEA), the Independent Automotive Aftermarket Federation (IAAF), the National Tyre Distributors Association (NTDA) and the UK Lubricants Association (UKLA). A representative from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) will also attend meetings on behalf of aftermarket members.
Commercial organisations include the AA, Alliance Automotive Group (AAG), Halfords, LKQ Euro Car Parts, Kwik-Fit and the RAC.
“The coming together of such a wide group of trade associations and businesses underlines what’s at stake for the automotive aftermarket,” said Mark Field, IAAF Chief Executive. “Independent access to information, an effective parts supply chain, competition and a vibrant Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) landscape are critical to keeping millions of vehicles roadworthy and ensures the consumer benefits from choice and affordable mobility.”
Participating in a recent round table event with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), UK AFCAR members highlighted the effectiveness of the UK independent automotive aftermarket and its contribution to the UK economy, directly employing over 350,000 skilled staff in around 50,000 locations. Independent repairers provide readily-available, cost-effective, local service, consistently achieving the highest customer satisfaction ratings.
The group will call on the UK government for the automotive aftermarket to continue to receive independent and direct access to the vehicle and its data, technical information, the ability to supply spare parts that match or exceed original equipment quality, and perform service, maintenance and repair (SMR) work to vehicles as part of an open, competitive and transparent marketplace.
UK AFCAR is advocating that the ‘principles’ afforded to the independent aftermarket under the Motor Vehicle Block Exemption Regulations (MV-BER), which expires in 2023, should be renewed with appropriate modernisation. These principles also apply to the ‘repair and maintenance information’ (RMI) requirements contained in the latest vehicle type approval Regulation (2018/858), which specifically includes access to the vehicle, its data and technical information.
While the MV-BER makes consumer choice possible, various technical and market changes put the UK automotive aftermarket at a disadvantage, which will be to the long-term detriment of motorists, as well as vehicle and mobility service operators.
UK AFCAR also reported to the CMA that more replacement spare parts are being taken out of the competitive arena and are being classified as ‘captive’ parts. In response to this it has put forward several recommendations that promote greater choice for the consumer, while at the same time providing independent repairers with direct access to key vehicle functions, including ADAS and EV systems.
Overall, the group has called for much greater enforcement of the requirements for both the MV-BER and Type Approval regulations, preferably through an expert, properly resourced section of the CMA or via a truly independent Ombudsman.