Car repair and maintenance
ACEA: “No need for more regulation”
By Ophélie Spanneut | Thursday 21 June 2012
All is well on the automotive after-sale market and there is no need for further regulation, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA). This view is not shared by all, however.
Anticipating publication of the European Commission’s evaluation report on Regulation 715/2007 (Euro 5 and Euro 6, see box), the ACEA has published a study carried out at its request by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) on the vehicle repair and maintenance market. The study presents figures that demonstrate that consumers are satisfied and that there is strong competition on the market.
After surveying 1,528 customers in France, Germany, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom, BCG concludes that consumers are able to choose repairers in terms of the services they need. The only barrier to free choice is insurance-related. Some 94% of those surveyed are satisfied with their most recent experience. Competition is strong on this stagnating market and BCG concludes that, in the light of this competition, the price of services is likely to decline over the next ten years.
ACEA points out, based on the study, that independent operators hold “a substantial market share, in spite of the growing use of electronic components” in vehicles. Consequently, “no further regulation is necessary” since “there are no obstacles to competition,” sums up Peter Kunze, director of environmental policy and aftermarket for ACEA.
The European Association of Automotive Suppliers (CLEPA) does not totally agree with this view. Jozef Frank acknowledges that the market is competitive but notes the problem of new vehicles, described as “computers on wheels,” since independent operators do not have enough technical information to repair them. ACEA admits that, during the first few years of a new vehicle’s life, thanks to the guarantee, manufacturer-authorised repairers hold a dominant share of the maintenance/repair market, but only for a limited time, until independent operators have invested in the necessary tools, software and training.
SHARP INCREASE IN PRICES SINCE 2000
The French competition authority reaches vastly different conclusions. On 11 April, it handed down its initial findings from its sector-based inquiry on car repair and maintenance. It notes a sharp increase in prices for repair and maintenance services in France, Belgium and the United Kingdom - 28% in France between 2000 and 2010. “Growing competition between the independent channel and the manufacturers’ channel has not challenged the leadership of the manufacturers’ authorised repair networks – which hold a 53% market share by value – compared to independent repairers.” This is because “the availability of non-visible spare parts is in some cases insufficient to ensure effective competition”. Furthermore, “independent repairers still face difficulties accessing all the technical information necessary for maintenance and repair activities”.
“Independent repairers have access to everything. If they are calling for more regulation it is for commercial reasons, because there is a lot of money at stake,” responds Marc Greven of ACEA. The repair market is worth €23 billion for vehicles over eight years old and €13 billion for those under five years. He nonetheless recognises that “it is not always easy for the independent operators, but they can get training”.
Regulation EC 715/2007 of 20 June 2007, in force since January 2009, obliges manufacturers to provide unrestricted and standardised access to vehicle repair and maintenance information to independent operators through websites using a standardised format in a readily accessible and prompt manner, and in a manner which is non-discriminatory compared to the provision given or access granted to authorised dealers and repairers. The Commission was obliged to report, by July 2011, on the functioning of the information access system, but its publication has been delayed.