Which? found that you might well do better than a Kwik-Fit fitter and shares blipped, but briefly. Founder Tom Farmer got the message and took remedial action. Annabella Gabb reports.
The year started with a jolt for fast-fit car parts retailer Kwik-Fit. The New Year celebrations were scarcely over when the Consumers' Association's Which? magazine published a report on advice given on the condition of car exhausts by 204 Britain's fast-fit garage chains. Of the 43 Kwik-Fit outlets visited by the inspector, as many as 12 advised expensive, unnecessary work. For the industry's largest operator, it was a bad start to the year. The share price took a knock, falling 8p, but recovered within the day, thanks to the underlying strength of the company. Results to end-February 1991 showed pre-tax profits up a spanking 62% to £24.5 million on turnover up 21% to £216.8 million. Analysts expect figures for 1992, due later this month, to take profits well over £30 million.
But for an organisation which has predicated its marketing on the promise "You can't get better than a Kwik-Fit fitter" as made by the famous all-singing, all-dancing mechanics, the Which? report held serious implications. As competition in the car repair industry becomes ever fiercer in the 1990s, the service given to customers will be what counts in the battle for business. Recent in-house surveys indicate that Kwik-Fit is achieving 99.8% customer satisfaction. But evidence such as Which? revealed may suggest to the consumer that he might well better a Kwik-Fit fitter elsewhere.