RAC's move is part of its ambitious plans to become a global transport information provider and grab market share from rival the AA, whose larger membership, at 9.2 million, is growing fast. The AA also has a driving school division, with around 8 per cent of the UK market, half of BSM's share. Unlike BSM, which has been losing instructors and learner drivers following the introduction this summer of the new written theory test, AA's driving school business, started in 1990, looks strong.
RAC, which also operates two private clubs for its 13,000 full members, says that the acquisition of BSM is not about beating the AA in the driving school market. Neil Johnson, RAC's chief executive, says its plans are much broader. Initially BSM's 135 centres will be expanded and repositioned to offer customers everything from learner driving, through to advanced training and driving simulators, currently being trialled by BSM.
Supported by the Government, RAC plans to move away from a focus on motorists to providing an integrated transport service to the general traveller. This includes copying the likes of Trafficmaster as a service provider for car navigation systems, offering travel smart cards and information centres. RAC is understood to be teaming up with Richard Branson's Virgin group next year.
"The new car market is moving towards infomatics in a big way. Interruptions to a journey in the next 10-15 years will not be breakdowns, but congestion. Motorists will require very sophisticated technology." He said that RAC's first in-car information service could be ready in 12 months.
But analysts said that in transport information technology, RAC lagged the AA. Mr Johnson admitted that although RAC gathered vast amounts of information, its use of the data was currently at a "stone age level of technology." By contrast, in February the AA is with Vauxhall launching a satellite system OnStar, which gives customers live traffic data.Reuse content