Independent garages face missing out on millions of pounds in revenue because they employ too few female staff and are intimidating to women drivers, a new study reveals.
The research, conducted for the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI), finds that 96% of female drivers want to see more women mechanics in garages.
It also reveals that large numbers of women still feel uncomfortable when taking their car for repair, due to the technical language many garages employ and the fear of getting ripped off.
The survey showed that women were four times more likely than men to get someone else to take their car to the garage. Many also said they didn’t know what they were being charged for and wouldn’t know how to challenge a bill if they thought it was wrong.
These are worrying results for the sector, because statistics show that there will soon be more women drivers than men.
“The number of women drivers in the UK continues to increase year on year (so) it’s important businesses understand and develop their methods, behaviour and attitudes to reflect the changes in the consumer landscape,” said IMI CEO Steve Nash.
AutoCare and Approved lead the way
“As networks AutoCare and Approved Garages are entirely open to employing female mechanics and a number do, and of course I am a woman and head of the networks," said Maria McCullough, network manager for AutoCare and Approved Garages.
"But more importantly all our garages sign up to a policy of transparency and clarity when it comes to communicating with customers about the work we do and how much it will cost."
Every garage that signs up to the networks agrees to abide by a code of conduct that includes committing “to fair and transparent pricing, complete honesty, and to never starting work on your vehicle without discussing it with you first.”
That commitment has resulted in a 99% customer approval rating from the Motor Codes customer review system, higher than any other independent garage network and well ahead of the franchised main dealers.
“Remember, many of those reviews come from female drivers who are obviously happy with the service they get from our garages, and who appreciate the effort our members put into communicating in a clear and jargon-free way,” Maria adds.
Several network members also organise popular women-only car maintenance nights, as a way to help female drivers become more confident with their cars and more comfortable interacting with their local garages.
“It’s all very hands-on. It’s OK knowing the theory of changing a wheel, but actually doing it for yourself is what gives you confidence. That’s what the night is about,” said Graham Packer of AutoCare member Roy Hubbard Motors in Market Harborough.