Van, Truck, Trailer, Bus and Coach Aftermarket News in Ireland

Why concept garages will help independents tackle the future

LKQ Euro Car Parts recently launched a third concept garage platform, 1TEC Auto Hub, to complement its existing partnerships with Bosch and the RAC in the UK.

Here, Kevan Wooden, chief commercial officer at LKQ Euro Car Parts, explains why concept garages will help independents take on the future:

Kevan Wooden, chief commercial officer at LKQ Euro Car Parts

We’re obviously not the only factor to run concept garage networks, so, why the trend towards more concepts and why do we feel there is space for a third within our own portfolio?

At their core, concept garages function by meeting benchmarks for the consistent delivery of quality work and service in exchange for preferential access to products and support from leading partners.

The brand they get to carry above their workshop door becomes a badge of quality and offers reassurance to motorists in the same way a Kite Mark does to consumers or an ISO accreditation in the B2B space.

It sets an expectation that customers will receive a high standard of service, that the workshop will use quality products and that the team working there will be supported with external training and expertise.

Perhaps the biggest single reason a motorist might chose to use a dealership’s workshop or bodyshop is because of the OEM’s logo. The concept garage’s affiliation is designed to provide that same level of reassurance – in effect, it’s saying ‘it’s ok to go to this independent, you can trust it.’

As I’ve written about several times now in my pieces for the IAAF (Independent Automotive Aftermarket Federation), we are constantly looking at ways in which we can help the independent aftermarket to compete on a more level playing field with the OEM sector.

This makes us a great believer in the power of concept garages and why we’ve created a range of different platforms to suit specific needs.

What separates 1TEC Auto Hub is the long and distinguished roster of partners behind it – Shell, Pagid, Varta, Valeo, MPM, Schaeffler, ZF and us – supplying their support and access to the latest technical data, tools and product.

In this sense, it’s very much focussed on the future and how garages will need to adapt to rapid changes in vehicle diagnostics, EVs and new OEMs disrupting the new vehicle market.

This latter point is especially relevant for the independent aftermarket. New brands won’t have a large network of service points or franchised chains. In the future, A concept garage can offer a professionally accredited route into the independent sector for owners of these vehicles.

Similarly, the ongoing decline of car ownership in favour of leased vehicles means the customer is no longer the driver but the fleet company. The strength of a professional network offered by a concept scheme can give independent workshops and bodyshops better access to this market, as fleet operators will prefer working with a handful of partners to hundreds of individual businesses.

Importantly, being part of a concept should bring a garage or bodyshop similar benefits to being a part of a networked franchise – like sharing ideas and support with a community of like-minded peers, and building much stronger relationships with suppliers – while keeping absolute control and ownership of their businesses.

As the dynamics shaping the future of the aftermarket continue to pose challenges to the independent sector that are more easily faced down by the franchises, concept garages have a key role to play in supporting their futures.