By Richard Robinson

The government’s plan to extend a car’s first MOT test from three to four years has seen some interesting pushback from the motor industry. Under the current arrangement, more than 300,000 vehicles fail their first MOT test due to not meeting minimum safety requirements, with failures frequently associated with tyres, brakes, lights and suspension.

With or without a change to the MOT test timelines, dealers, who should expect to see a car at least once a year for a service, can already provide a safety check, identifying critical repair work (red work) and the need for future work to be undertaken (amber work).

As it stands from our most recent data, just 48% of red (critical) work identifying a potential safety or operating failure is completed by the dealer, which begs questions about the cost/value assessment of the work needed by the customer and the approach by the dealer to create a compelling proposition.

On 22nd March, the Society of Manufacturers and Motor Traders (SMMT) published research assessing the views of 1,784 adults with a car in their household on the proposed move to four years before an MOT test would be required for a new vehicle. It provides some valuable insights into customer thinking:

  • 67% said they were concerned that extending the MOT test would endanger lives.
  • 74% said the typical MOT test cost of £35–45 is a price worth paying for peace of mind, with nine in 10 preferring other ways to save money.
  • Nearly a quarter (23%) didn’t check that their brakes were working correctly regularly, almost a fifth (19%) didn’t check whether their tyres were okay and 17% didn’t check that their lights and indicators were functioning. These three areas accounted for nearly a quarter of a million failure items alone in 2022.

Car owners view the MOT test as a crucial safety check, even more so because they don’t know how – or perhaps why – to undertake regular safety checks themselves. We can’t know how customers react to an MOT test failure, just that if their car is to stay road legal, any required work must be completed.

This brings me back to my observation that safety work is already being identified, but needs to be completed promptly at the dealer that determines the failure. In many cases, people are leaving dealerships with unsafe vehicles without the ‘stick’ of an essential MOT test – which is a risk they appear to be prepared to take.

Dealers can help address the legal and safety risks customers appear willing to accept. It comes down to creating a compelling and affordable solution to the critical failures identified. Doing so helps customers get the necessary work completed promptly, keeps the car safe and reliable, avoids invalidating insurance and stops people from risking penalties for driving an unsafe vehicle. It also evidences the dealer exercising a duty of care.