While I spent much of my early sales career in the window and door market, I’ve joined AluK from the automotive sector, where I had successful spells with the likes of We Buy Any Car and Nationwide Vehicles.
Since I arrived, quite a few customers have asked me what I think there is to learn from the automotive market, and I would say there’s lots of positives – and one very big negative as well.
In terms of the positive, we can take inspiration from how a new generation of online car sellers and buyers successfully disrupted the traditional dealership route and delivered a fresh new experience for consumers. I’m certainly keen to talk to customers about how they price, sell and target the consumer online and via social media, how they harness the power of their brands, and the best investments they can make in terms of online tools and strategies.
For the negative though, you only have to think of the long running emissions scandal that has come to be known as ‘Dieselgate’.
Rather than following the rules of compliance, certain manufacturers chose to tweak the performance of their models and they got caught out in a big way. VW paid out £193m in an out of court settlement in May this year to 91000 motorists in the UK who had mounted a class action, and had to put away £5bn for legal costs worldwide. Unsurprisingly, lawyers are now queuing up around the block to start a joint legal claim against 21 other manufacturers going all the way back to 2007.
Apply that to any business or supplier in the window and door market tempted not to follow the rules of compliance on the new Building Regs, or try and dodge the bullet when it comes to performance and testing for Part L in particular, and you can see just how easily this industry could find itself targeted by some of those same no-win, no-fee lawyers on the lookout for their next Dieselgate or PPI payday.
I’m obviously not suggesting a Part L scandal would be on anything like this scale, but it does serve as a valuable lesson.
There’s still a lot uncertainty around Part L and how it’s likely to be policed by Building Control, and even how much grace the regulatory bodies will allow to installers before clamping down. However, make no mistake, the government’s Future Homes Standard, of which Part L is an integral part, is high on its list of priorities when it comes to delivering on its climate change plan, and non-compliance in the medium to long term will simply not be an option.
I’m expecting to see proven Part L performance increasingly being used as a USP for suppliers against their competition. Those who are not on board with that won’t just risk losing sales, they could potentially find themselves caught up in an expensive and reputationally damaging scandal.
Thankfully, there’s no such risk for AluK customers. Our technical team have spent six months reengineering eight of our product ranges so that customers have access to a full suite of products that comply with the tougher U-Value requirements – using double and not triple glazing.
These new HI (High Insulation) versions of our products – from the 58BW window system to the BSF70 bifold – include new foam and thermal breaks within the profile to reduce heat transmission. They look the same from the outside as our standard range, so no new tooling is required and there are only a few minor adjustments to make in fabrication. And, crucially, they are priced very much in line with our current range so there is really no reason not to switch.