Blog: Dave LeggettKwik-Fit and Starbucks

Dave Leggett | 28 April 2004

One thing that came through strongly at that aftermarket conference yesterday is how improving quality and reliability in modern vehicles is putting the sector under some pressure. Longer service intervals, parts that are less prone to fail and last longer – these are things that mean we take our cars to the garage less. And that’s what the consumer wants, of course. The ultimate vision of the ‘sealed bonnet’ (hood if you’re American) must cause some aftermarket participants to have nightmares.

But how does the VM continue its relationship with the customer in an after sales sense if the car never has to go to the garage for regular maintenance? That ought to be a slight concern for VMs because the aftermarket business has been very profitable for some vehicle makers. If it becomes all about the occasional commoditised distress purchase – rather than the added value ‘relationship’ the VM would like – then the consumer perhaps gets drawn to the pile ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap, fast-fit operations.

I enjoyed hearing Kwik-Fit’s CEO, Tim Parker, describing the lamentable state of the typical fast-fit customer waiting area. Will he do anything about it, bearing in mind that any spending will eat into margins and the average customer getting new tyres or an exhaust just wants to get in and out as quickly (and cheaply) as possible?

Turn it into a wider and pleasurable experience? Difficult one. Although I’d possibly be swayed by the thought that in my thirty minutes of waiting time I could have a decent cup of coffee, a pastry and get online. And no, a flick through a well-thumbed copy of yesterday’s ‘Sun’ along with a finger-burningly thin plastic beaker containing something hot and horrible purporting to be coffee that comes out of a dubious looking vending machine that hasn’t seen a j-cloth for a few years, doesn’t quite do it for me.

‘Kwik-Fit announces tie-up with Starbucks in new waiting area deal.’ That’s a headline that I’d like to write.


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