The end of the year gives us the opportunity to give our readers a pep-talk about the challenges that lie ahead for the forthcoming 52 weeks. Yet strangely this month, PMM’s juices are not flowing to the beat of William Wallace’s sword on his shield. The reason for this? We have a feeling that everything’s going to be alright.
This editor was just a twinkle in his mother’s eye when the last ‘severe’ recession took hold of our country back in the early 80s, so watching cartoons and conker fights took priority over the need to worry about paying the bills and putting food on the table. Fast forward to 2012 and things are very different. I can be fairly confident that 99.99% of our readership have been effected by the global economic crisis that has seen the landscape of every working-class individual’s lives shifted to an uphill position. We’ve talked to death about the subject over the course of the past two years and there should be no hiding from the fact that things are going to remain tough for a considerable period of time to come, yet the independent garage trade has proved remarkably resilient.
Inevitably some independents have fallen by the way side, and there will likely be more casualties to come, however the reality is that the stats don’t lie. The independent service and repair sector has reacted to the downturn in consumer disposable income by swiftly moving to take a large slice of the franchised dealer pie – and those customers are staying put. Recognised as offering real value for money, the reputation of the garage workshop has grown in the face of adversity.
A threatened extension of the MOT test period – a development that could have been a haymaker to the chin of the IAM – was thwarted with a flurry of punches from the independent repair sector, aided by an experienced corner-man in the shape of the bodies and organisations that represent our trade.
Other challenges such as access to the repair information and tools that allow technicians to do their jobs properly have been met head-on, ably abetted by the suppliers, distributors and dare I say, trade publications, that have made it their mission to make them available to the garage mechanic. Even our ever-reliable winter weather decided it didn’t want to play ball this year. Despite this, every bump that has been placed in the road has been successfully negotiated (it must be those modern suspensions) – so for that you should be congratulated!
We have the privilege of meeting lots of excellent garage technicians (and people) through our magazine travels and our regional MechanEx shows and the state of play is simple. Those who do a good job and want to improve will do well while those who don’t, won’t. The latest soundbytes from the Government suggest the green shoots might be sprouting, yet whether this is true remains to be seen. Either way, the IAM should have the confidence to now move on and take bigger strides, having overcome what might be the worst of the storm.
If ever there was a sensible time to substitute rousing pep-talks for a quick ‘keep up the good work’ pat on the back then this is surely it.