Who speaks for us?

  12 November 2012

Amusing to read the rather testy response this week from Halfords after the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled that one of its adverts was misleading. The ad tried to claim that Halfords customers could “save up-to 50% on main dealer pricing”.

But the ASA told Halfords they must be careful when making comparative claims. In particular they should “clearly communicate the significant differences between the products or services being compared and not select the elements of the comparison to give themselves an unrepresentative advantage”.

Halfords has amended its advertising but slammed into the SMMT, which made the original complaint. The high street retailer declared itself “the friend of the motorist” and accused the trade association of standing in the way of consumer choice.

The wider issue here is not whether Halfords misled potential customers and its reaction; it’s a question of how the franchised auto retail industry should react when under attack from the independent sector.

Most significantly, why was it the SMMT (on behalf of the car manufacturers) that made the complaint rather than our own trade association, the NFDA? The two organisations may work together on many projects but they represent two different sides of the coin.

We’ve commented before about how the NFDA is forced to operate with one hand tied behind its back because it is part of the wider Retail Motor Industry Federation.

Any attempt to highlight the benefits of franchised service is immediately seen as a slight on the independent garage sector, which makes up the majority of the Federation membership. Recent moves to split the Federation back into separate entities are only creating Chinese walls.

Until the NFDA finds a voice of its own – and a home to operate from that is not linked to either side of the auto industry – the franchised retail sector will remain, at best, marginalised or, at worst, ignored and under attack.

Rupert Saunders

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