Andy Hamilton, the CEO of LKQ Euro Car Parts, has issued a six-point policy wish list for the independent aftermarket, as Liz Truss’s new administration assumes control of the economy this week.
He said: “The UK’s SMEs are facing a cost-of-doing-business crisis. They need support and the economy needs a new plan.
“Clearly, this needs to be fiscally responsible to avoid worsening the state of our public finances. The focus should be on support that boosts growth to mitigate any impact on the UK’s debt burden.”
Hamilton’s three points for macroeconomic support in full, were:
“Reduced business rates or extended reliefs – these are a major cost to garages whose premises are often based in high value, central locations. Liz Truss needs to widen out the small business relief bracket by increasing the rateable value threshold to £25,000, in line with the FSB’s demands, and to provide holidays to firms struggling with rising costs…”
“Support with the cost of energy – everyone’s talking about how the increase in Ofgem’s price cap is set to play havoc with household finances. But small businesses don’t even have the protection of a price ceiling. Any garages that negotiated a two-year fixed price contract in 2020 will face a fourfold increase next month, and those on annual contracts will see bills double. Small garages are big energy users relative to their size, so they need support in much the same way as major industrial users do in sectors like manufacturing. The British Chambers of Commerce’s energy grant idea has real merit.”
“Tax cuts on learning and investment – the aftermarket is undergoing an unprecedented period of technological disruption that requires investment into new equipment and skills, especially in areas like electric vehicles. Currently, only 11% of the UK’s mechanics are qualified to work on EVs and while this number is growing quickly, we still need to ramp up the pace. The risk is that this investment slows down at the worst possible time, as garages grapple with inflation and reduced demand. Tax cuts and subsidies are needed to support and incentivise business critical investments.”
His final three points covered challenges unique to the aftermarket:
“Drop proposals to lengthen MOT periods – we’ve been lobbying hard against this wrongheaded plan since it was leaked to the media earlier this year. Far from cutting household bills, it will see maintenance costs increase – and worse, compromise safety on our roads.”
“Update and expand MVBER – the CMA’s consultation on its initial proposal has now closed. The initial signs are encouraging. Not only does the UK need to introduce its own Motor Vehicle Block Exemption Regulations, it needs to expand their remit to protect consumers from exploitation and defend garages’ right to trade.”
“Bring forward legislation to support EV battery recycling – silos are also emerging in the world of electric vehicle batteries, preventing the creation of a secondary market for their refit and refurbishment. Without legislating to break down barriers, we risk undermining the environmental gains made by the transition away from internal combustion engines, by sending batteries to landfill and fuelling ever more intensive mining activities in countries without adequate environmental or labour standards. “
Hamilton reiterated the support LKQ Euro Car Parts will provide to the industry at a political-level over the coming months: “We’ll continue to use our connections and memberships of organisations such as UKAFCAR to push hard for the interests of the UK’s independent aftermarket sector – now more than ever before.”