Independent car company mainly sees signals on green

Recently, 90 almost former dealers came together in Bovaghuis in Bunnik. These were car companies that are more or less forced to make different choices. They have already been canceled and do not expect to receive a new dealership contract next year – 2023 – when the new block exemption, the Block Exemption Regulation (BER) enters into force. One choice is to continue as a universal car company, perhaps under the banner of a workshop concept.

Geert Brummelhuis and his colleague Jaap Verweij, branch managers at Bovag, spoke to the dealers together with various knowledge experts. Mostly small and medium-sized brand dealers. Because it was a closed meeting, we spoke to Gerard ten Buuren, Chairman of BOVAG Independent Car Companies a few days after the meeting. Especially about his vision of the future of the universal car company. Important common threads are workshop concepts and changing after-sales services.


“To start with the latter, I am very optimistic about the future of the independent car company. Also about the changing job offer. Despite the fact that society embraces electric mobility and the sale of electric cars is going well, a large part of the fleet in 10 years’ time will still consist of passenger cars and more importantly, have a petrol or diesel engine or be a hybrid version. And these are the segments where the independent car company makes up more than two-thirds of the demand side of the aftermarket market. And will continue to do so. The direction in which retailers’ inventories are moving now seems to be becoming more and more centralized and more or less retreating to the big cities. This makes the work area of ​​the independent car company larger rather than smaller. And that also applies to the opportunities in the market. Now that after-sales change is becoming more complex and electric, you need to seize these opportunities. ”

Gerard ten Buuren, Chairman of BOVAG Independent Car Companies: “I have great respect for all the self-employed entrepreneurs who time and time again prove to be able to survive in the changing aftermarket market, who know how to adapt and at the same time make themselves stronger . Despite their limited scope, they know how to stay close to their local customers. ”

small scale

There are successes to be made. “Undoubtedly, because of course it all does not come by itself. I therefore have great respect for all the self-employed entrepreneurs who time and time again prove to be able to survive in the changing aftermarket market, and who know how to adapt and at the same time make themselves stronger. Despite their relatively small size, they may be able to live close to their local customers. However, the local customer also has a modern car, maybe even a first electric car. As a universal car company, you must be prepared for this. Quality and complexity go hand in hand. It means providing knowledge and expertise. Education and training are things you should not cut back on if you want to continue to offer the customer the best price service. ” Knowledge and expertise in the technical field is one thing, but what about entrepreneurship? “As I said, I respect all those entrepreneurs, because that’s what they are. But in this time when the necessary changes are underway, it is also important that you develop a clear vision for the future of your company, for yourself and for your employees. Know what you want and where you want to run your business. ”

white spot

Back to the meeting with the almost ex-dealers. What were their questions? “These dealers are mainly looking. They realize that they will die in the scaling process that is still current in the dealer world. Many were canceled in the run-up to the new BER in the middle of last year. In May next year, they will be unnoticed, if they do not get a new contract and these dealers do not really expect it anymore. So the hunt for a new future as a universal entrepreneur has started. They have many questions. How do I keep my customers? Which garage concept is right for me? I need it? Do I need another software package? Is there marketing support? How do I handle leasing customers? What does my bank think? But of course not all wishes can be met.Concepts sometimes already have national coverage in their network, at least at regional level “Sometimes there is little or no room for a new participant. There is not a ‘white spot’ available for every wish.” And then? “As an ex-retailer, you need to first look closely at which concept suits you best. You need to realize that your emotional preference is not available or turns out to be inappropriate at all. You should therefore look for a suitable and available formula seriously and ask for advice if necessary. ”


The signals are green when it comes to market development, you said. Not a single cloud in the sky? “Many signals are indeed green, but there is certainly also a flashing red warning light. I see that car manufacturers in many ways are trying to increase their grip on the car and the driver. Connection is the common thread here. On the one hand, it is about sharing vehicle data, a file that moves in Brussels, but also very slowly.

In ten years, a large part of the fleet will still consist of older passenger cars and, more importantly, have a petrol or diesel engine.

On the other hand, it is clear that the product life cycle caused in part by electrification and wireless updates, and especially over-the-air upgrades, can be extended. In electric cars, of course, the battery plays a leading role and the relatively expensive electric motors. However, cars with internal combustion engines must also handle OTA functions more. ” Over the air is also an important topic on other fronts. Not only because this allows manufacturers to maintain retail, but also to favor their after-sales channels over the universal channel combined with dynamic vehicle data. The call from Toyota-Lexus a few weeks ago to go into the fire channel for a uniform 10-year warranty period is another such move aimed at bringing the relationship with customers, or at least part of it, back to the fire channel. “So we have to be aware of two things; that there are still equal conditions – a matter for the trade associations and the government – and that we have our marketing in order. There is no better contact than the personal contact! As for the latter, it is up to the individual entrepreneur whether it is supported by his workshop concept and his spare parts distributor or not. ”
With regard to the latter. Distributors play an important and guiding role. Not least with the concepts.

ROSA study

“Developing policies and a long-term vision are two issues that many individual entrepreneurs struggle with. They can count on support from BOVAG and at least when it comes to participants in a workshop concept, also their spare parts distributor. We will soon start our ROSA study of the relevant car companies’ appreciation of their concept or formula. I’m very curious about the results, because in practice I notice that here and there – perhaps because of the pandemic we now have behind us – it was difficult to be aware of the entrepreneur from the concept providers. I am a personal fan of workshop concepts. It can definitely help car companies when it comes to marketing activities but also when it comes to digitization and social media. At Bovag, we know that car companies and their suppliers can strengthen each other. That there is some added value on both sides. That is why we work closely with RAI Aftermarket, for example with the Auto’s de Baas project. Strong together applies not only to car companies but also industry associations. Nevertheless, as a universal, independent entrepreneur, you need to work out your own plan. A lot is possible, and there are good opportunities and examples. ”

Photo above: Dealers increasingly want to fill their empty spaces in the workshop with other brands so that they become (a bit) more universal.

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