31st January 2017
By Paul Muers
Towards the end of 2017 autoVHC carried out some research into service workshop performance - specifically relating to sales of replacement tyres. Our data, gathered from more than 400 UK franchised dealers, unveiled a very alarming trend.
Although dealerships recorded a total of 29,000 ‘Red’ tyres during November, fewer than 9,000 replacement tyres were sold. This means, in the space of just one month, more than 20,000 dangerous tyres were driven away from dealerships, all of which displayed serious defects, and in some cases, were classed as illegal.
Such a figure is obviously a cause for concern, but what makes the findings even more worrying is the fact that so many tyres are not being replaced at a time of year when, climatically-speaking, drivers are most at risk.
Poor weather is only to be expected during winter months, yet towards the close of 2017 many parts of the UK experienced particularly bad driving conditions. Indeed, the snow, ice and rain has now extended into the New Year; this report being just one example of the recent chaos caused by hazardous driving conditions.
Cause for concern
As we shared our findings, many industry publications expressed concern over the possible implications of failure to replace dangerous tyres - and rightly so. First and foremost, there’s the safety issue. Worn tyres pose a serious enough risk in dry weather conditions. During poorer, wetter conditions however, this is risk is exacerbated.
As discussed in an article from FleetNews, on wet roads tyre tread is responsible for channelling away water to enable tyres to grip the road surface beneath. If the tread wears too low, cornering, performance and braking are severely impaired, while the risk of aquaplaning increases. According to Department for Transport statistics, over a five-year period (2012-2016) the presence of illegal/defective tyres contributed towards an alarming total of 14,460 reported road casualties across Great Britain!
If motorists drive away from a service with severely worn tyres, there is also a very real risk that, within a short space of time, these tyres will wear to illegal levels (less than 1.6mm). If caught, motorists subsequently face fines of up to £2,500 and three penalty points per tyre.
Franchised dealers also suffer consequences when allowing motorists to leave workshops with “Red” tyres. As well as missing out on obvious revenue opportunities, aftersales departments are risking exposure to potential repercussions if a motorist involved in an accident was later able to argue they had not been sufficiently notified of the danger driving on their tyres posed.
Addressing the problem
Looking back over our data, it would be unfair to criticise aftersales departments for a lack of due diligence during the servicing process. After all, technicians are clearly identifying defective tyres. The problem lies more in the way these findings are communicated to motorists. Aftersales managers need to ensure their staff are well trained when it comes to advising customers on the risks associated with driving on worn tyres, particularly during the challenging winter period. If drivers can gauge a fuller understanding of issues such as aquaplaning and braking distance –or indeed potential fines- then it is more likely they will opt for replacement tyres.
Also, it may be worth offering some kind of incentive for motorists, especially during winter months. Cost is often a barrier to tyre replacement, so offering flexible, interest-free payment options may be the simple act that clinches a sale.
If, after conveying the risks, sales still falter, dealerships should be asking customers who decide to decline a replacement sale to at least acknowledge that they have been warned of the dangers of driving on severely worn tyres. Should there be any legal repercussions further down the line, at least dealers can be absolved of any wrongdoing as far as a duty of care is concerned.Blog