Quality of workshops under scrutiny

“There is no longer a divide between what a dealership can offer you and what an independent workshop can,” says Dewald Ranft, Chairman of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA). He says the scales are balancing and consumers are finding that independents are versatile in repairs to all kinds of makes and models of cars, their technicians have a wealth of experience and knowledge, and the repairs cost less.

This comes after the quality of servicing at independent workshops came into question during debate around the Right to Repair Campaign. The Campaign aims to allow consumers to select where their vehicles are serviced, maintained and repaired at competitive prices in the workshop of their choice.

Ranft says for years Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) have been tarnishing the reputation of independent workshops without supporting evidence. “This is a public scare tactic which, we believe, needs to be addressed,” he says. “The standard of service and workmanship received at independent workshops is on par, if not better, than what consumers would receive at dealerships. What the public needs to understand is that many independent workshop mechanics were trained at dealerships and OEMs before entering the independent workshop space.”

Accredited independent workshops, as with dealerships, have to meet certain standards and criteria to achieve accreditation. They also have to undergo regular audits to ensure their accreditation remains valid. MIWA members, for example, of which there are over 2 400 workshops nationwide, have to go through a strict accreditation and grading process. “When choosing a graded workshop, consumers can trust that not only will they receive reasonable pricing and quality service and workmanship, but they also have a recourse for complaints if any problems arise,” says Ranft.

A five-star is a prestigious rating because graded workshops have to comply with the highest level of accreditation. “To become a five-star Graded workshop, MIWA workshops must be fully audited and deliver on requirements around workshop design and equipment, customer satisfaction assessment tools, and service options such as vehicle washing prior to delivery as well as free delivery and collection service. Many of our workshops are graded as five-star but we also have four- and three- star workshops that too offer excellent service,” he explains. “By choosing a MIWA Graded workshop, consumers have the assurance that these workshops have passed – and continue to deliver on – strict accreditation criteria.”

He adds that the liability will fall on the workshops to ensure the repair is done correctly so they make sure that they use oil and parts fulfilling the right specifications.

Ranft says competition in the market will also result in everyone ‘upping their game’ – dealerships and independent workshops alike. “In Europe where the Right to Repair has been around for some time, the general trend was that the independent workshops improved the quality of their offering and the dealerships improved their pricing. So, the consumer wins either way.”

“There is a need for a fair and competitive regulatory environment that enables freedom of choice for the consumers and gives aftermarket Small Medium Enterprises a chance to stay in business. The time of fearmongering needs to come to an end. Consumers need to be properly educated on the fact that they will receive top-quality service from the many independent workshops around the country and need the choice to be able to take their vehicles to one of these workshops. We are awaiting the guidelines from the Competition Commission that will be used to regulate the industry. Based on these we hope to see an end to OEMs monopolising the industry, fairer competition and more options opening up for consumers,” says Ranft.