What, then, is to be done? Our research found that garages franchised by manufacturers were no better or worse than independent outfits. In the short run, more inspections on anonymous lines, like our own, would help to raise standards. Longer term, there has to be a recognition among manufacturers, who have franchising clout, and garages, whose employees actually wield the spanner, that the consumer deserves, and must get, safe and satisfactory servicing.
Of the 36 garages we investigated, two - Drive 2000 of Manchester and Vantage of Altrincham - advised on, or corrected, all service items. One of these garages responded that it had 'put a lot of time, money and effort into training'. If that proves anything, it proves that improvement is certainly achievable; for the UK's commercial future in world markets, it is eminently desirable, too.
For the moment, though, that improvement will not necessarily come through the Government's enigmatic Chartermarks, the award of which is made by Whitehall mandarins on criteria that are shrouded in mystery. Ironically, in the same edition of Which? magazine, we highlighted the tariff and performance of South Western Electricity, awarded a Chartermark last year for its supposed 'improvements in service'. South Western sells England's most expensive electricity and has a poor record in keeping appointments and warning of planned power cuts.
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