Stuart, Volkswagen Group Dedicated Technician of the Year, takes time out from his busy schedule to discuss what it’s like to work for the UK’s most reliable breakdown cover provider (as voted for by the readers of What Car magazine 2019).
Q: How long have you worked for the AA?
I started in 1995 as a Mobile Mechanic and worked with SEAT when Volkswagen initially acquired them. Around 2005/2006 I came onto Volkswagen assistance (as it was called then) and I’ve been there ever since.
Q: Tell us about a typical day as a Dedicated Technician?
On a typical day, before I start work I’ll check emails to see if we have any parts returns required. I will then do daily checks on my van, such as, fuel, lights, oil and water. Then I’ll sign on. Generally, I will get asked to go into the city to deal with breakdowns. Occasionally, if we’ve had a job that’s come in from the night before, I might have to head out to the country. If I’m in the city, I will well pop along to the local TPS Centre – I get on really well with the team there, so it’s good to drop in on them and say hello. Then I’ll continue with breakdowns and calls until the end of my shift, sign off and get ready for the next day. We generally work a week on weekend off and the shift patterns rotate.
Q: What’s the most unusual breakdown you have ever attended?
There’s one that always sticks in my head, for the customer it wasn’t a good outcome but the whole job was really interesting. It was a lovely old gentleman who lived in a rural village and was having warning light problems on his ŠKODA Yeti. I plugged into the vehicle and there was a ‘fault’ in virtually every control unit, so I had a look around. In the engine bay you could see a small hole where rodents had eaten through the wiring and made their way into the vehicle. On closer inspection, they had gone through every part of the car from front to back and there was a family living in the boot. They’d eaten everything from the seatbelts to the centre console behind the dashboard. The gentleman admitted he saw something strange as he was driving, a family of rodents playing in the footwell but thought nothing of it. Unfortunately the damage caused was too great and the car had to be written off but it was an interesting job!
Q: I understand that you use the Volkswagen Group Diagnostic system, how does it work and how many vehicles do you fix with it?
We use the VAS 60-150 which is dealer level diagnostic equipment. We have to use that as part of the warranty procedure and it covers all the breakdowns we deal with currently across Volkswagen Commerical, Volkswagen Passenger, Audi, SEAT, ŠKODA. The diagnostic equipment will talk to the control unit on the car and gives me access to faults information and software updates. A lot of control units will come with the VIN reprinted but they will be generic for any model worldwide so we need our diagnostic equipment.
Q: What parts do you tend to carry in your van and how do Volkswagen Group Genuine Parts help with your repairs?
I currently drive a Volkswagen Transporter and we’ll try and carry a lot of the basic parts; fuses, bulbs and batteries. We use Genuine Parts first and foremost due to the warranty procedure. Customers frequently ask for Genuine Parts, even when their vehicle is out of warranty. They like to think that their vehicle is factory fresh and so customers want that brand on their vehicle. They want to see the Volkswagen Group logo on there, just because they know that part is of the same quality.
Q: You only work on Volkswagen Group approved vehicles. Describe your relationship at a local level with TPS and how they help you get the job done on a day to day basis?
I’ll visit my local TPS Centre three or four times a week. In Birmingham, there are many TPS Centres but my main port of call is TPS Birmingham. I get on really well with them, have a good relationship with the warehouse staff and they’ll always do their best to try and get me the part I need on the same day. They’ll always take time to understand my order and email me if necessary to ensure we’re on the same page and ordering the right part first time.
Q: What are your favourite Volkswagen Group vehicles?
I personally drive ŠKODAs so I tend to lean towards that brand, but I’ve previously owned a vehicle from nearly all of the brands. If I had to go for a brand it would be Audi. They are forward thinking, their technology is second to none, and they’re pushing boundaries with electric technology.
Q: How did you hear about becoming Volkswagen Group Dedicated Technician of the Year and what does this accolade mean to you?
My line manager called me asking if I wanted to go for it. I initially wasn’t sure, but my wife convinced me to go for it and I am glad I did. We had a day assessment, driving assessment and radio and camera interview at AA headquarters. Then there was a fantastic awards night, it was like the BAFTAs. Just to see my name and picture up there was absolutely enough but when they announced my name, it was unbelievable. And since then, everything that has gone with the prize – I want to say that I did it all. It’s been brilliant!
Q: I understand that recently the UK had a fix rate conference, where all the European markets attended, how was that received?
I think it went really well – I think it really surprised them exactly what we do in this country as far as a breakdown organisation goes. They couldn’t quite work out how our repair rate is so high compared to the rest of Europe. I spoke in depth about what we do and what I carry in my van. They were surprised at the amount we carry, how much we’re allowed to do at the side of the road and that Volkswagen Group are happy for us to do it.
We also caught up with Ian Edwards, Operations & Technical Manager at AA.
Q: What is the roadside strategy?
Fix the customer, fix the car, fix the quality issue - and all in the most environmental way.
Q: What is the partnership with Volkswagen Group, TPS & the AA?
We look after over 1.5 million customers of Volkswagen Group.
Q: What is the Volkswagen Group’s overall repair rate percentage, so customers can continue their journey without being recovered to a Dealer?
Our Dedicated Technicians repair over 90% of all the jobs they attend. It is vital that we continue to have a great working relationship with TPS to ensure parts are readily available to effect a repair. These high levels of customer satisfaction are only achieved when a customer goes home in their own car.
Q: I understand you have a customer satisfaction objective to achieve: what is it and how does it work?
Our customer satisfaction target is 97% and last year we achieved 99.8%. The surveys are done by a third-party company assigned by Volkswagen Group. The monthly results are then shared and discussed in detail every quarter.
Q: According to latest SMMT figures there is just over 620,000 Alternatively Fuelled Vehicles (AFVs) including hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery electric cars currently on UK roads. What are the challenges you face as a Dedicated Technician from this supercharged increase in AFVs and what measures are in place to deal with this increase?
We have been dealing with alternative Fuel Vehicles since they were first introduced in the UK in mass over 10 years ago. All our roadside resources are IMI HV trained and this year, during our annual Volkswagen Group Conference, everyone will have access to the latest BEVs for familiarisation. We also have access to the UK’s Polar charge network where we can take our customers to top up their energy in order to continue their journey.