Two great proposals here.
An important one re Choice's opportunity for a calculated expansion as a much larger champion of members who are vehicle owners, and a recognition of the massive reach of these motoring organisations into other business areas.
First Whirlpool, then the NBN, next Toyota.
Should we agree we need a road test - How many exotic vehicles will it take? Which bikes, 4WD, exotic and luxury samples? You get to keep samples - right? It already sounds out side of Choice's budget.
It might need to be less pragmatic and more budget driven factual. Not good viewing? "Drive Away no More to Pay" sounds equally dorky. Does Choice also need to beware the "checkout syndrome" - too much consumer knowledge devalues the economy?
A less well informed view:
In the instance there is any hint of bias in what I suggest next I'm also a member of the RACQ and live in Qld. So a minority view at best - given nearly 2/3rds of us live in NSW and Vic.
How well do we know how most other organisations, magazines etc fund their highly exacting reviews, reports and consumer feedback? What are the facts or should they even be a concern? We mostly know reviews are typically sponsored with free loan vehicles, launch events, closed media track events, lunch on Fraser Island?
I feel that Choice and importantly it's membership defends it's independence. Even agreement to shopper discounts are no go for Choice members as they would need to be group negotiated with Choice as an organisation.
The RACQ label themselves variously as a "not for profit enterprise" and the "largest club in Queensland". Notably, membership is voluntary, many of the services and products are available in other ways, and none are arguably essential.
Of course a not for profit that makes a profit "virtual profit" (as the RACQ does handsomely) has to do something with those extra funds that is appropriate. It's too long a discussion for the here and now.
If an organisation such as Choice were to put the state motoring organisations to the test - it would be useful to know how their products compare to the open market. In practice they should be providing for members the lowest cost like for like for insurance etc. Travel and insurance make tidy profits - mainly from members as it would make little sense to purchase from the RACQ as a non member and miss the 10% discount. There are some of these areas covered by Choice.
Each state motoring organisation has overheads. They are run by professional business managers and staff. They appoint members through the AGM to key roles. As an organisation (even a not for profit) grows it needs more senior staff. And using a tried and tested remuneration model -- the more staff you manage and the greater your financial responsibility the greater the competitive salary. The RACQ has more recently expanded into home services and banking. These may fill a genuine need for some and possibly provide great value. Alternately the decision may just feed on the need for convenience and our insecurities to gain more "virtual" profit?
Hence there is a challenge for any third party review to determine by what criteria you assess value for money, as well as efficiency and quality of delivery of the relevant services.
As an RACQ member I'd also wonder whether there is a gap between my expectations of RACQ and RACQ's corporate direction. It is note worthy that you can join an online forum on RACQ live - however the level of discussion appears to be low. You also need to login using a "Disqus", Facebook, Google or Twitter ID. There is no option to login using just your RACQ member details. Disqus is a specialist provider that shares much with all. It's assumed they service RACQ. There is enough information on line to question whether anyone should ever sign up to a Disqus ID or post to pages they service?
The RACQ also has a second members forum - that looks more like a survey and marketing tool -called "RACQ Members Voice". From my participation in this group - it is firstly not like Choice's forum. It is specifically a marketing tool - where members independently complete surveys. It is typically a one way street. Individual comments are not shared or published. In some ways it works also as a push marketing tool. The recent survey on the new RACQ bank appeared just after the banking service was put in place - not before. Typical questions in the survey appeared to be more aimed at informing you or testing your knowledge of the bank - than fundamental questions such as do you support the RACQ going into banking? Now the lead in script to the original program was not dishonest. It is just open to interpretation. I may be unique in my assessment.
So I wonder just how would you go about fairly assessing the benefits, the personal outcomes, and ethical values of any "not for profit" enterprise"? Or even comparing all the state public motorists clubs to each other. NRMA insurance markets in Queensland as well as NSW which seems a little un-sibling like of them. Which organisation is more ethical?
What ever path taken a fully informed review may need a representative sample of actual members who have sufficient experience of all the products and services to be able to properly assess each in turn.
For the moment at best can Choice offer a "desktop" review? How meaningful might that be? It is easiest to compare products that are in the open market such as car insurance.
However the real value for many members may not in these products. We use RACQ as a couple primarily for it's road side support services. Our assessment and experience with other products has had variable outcomes. Some of our extended family relied on the RACQ for many services, more out of trust and as a defence against complexity than out of convenience. Although now the shop fronts are nearly all gone!
In respect of motoring organisations such as the RACV, RACQ, NRMA etc,
For membership what needs do they respond to?
How well do they deliver each service or product? Consumer satisfaction, and is this deserved?
Do they deliver value - competitive products and services?
How do they respond to complaints from members?
Noting it is up to their members to choose to exercise control over the not-for-profit charter, business direction and management team:
Do the organisations themselves suggest or promote themselves differently to how they act or perform?
Is their a genuine return to members directly or are members satisfied how surpluses are directed elsewhere?
Does each organisation deliver what all members need or are there short comings?
Is their a gap or short comings in the consumer advocacy by these organisations?
How truely independent is each organisation?
In history there once were a great many community "mutual funds" that provided some relief or support where the state did not. Many no longer exist. Some evolved. There are now large insurance businesses that are profitable and public listed.
Are the organisations serving the motorists morally still "not-for-profit" much like an old fashioned mutual society, or is it simply a quirk of the tax system they exist as they are? Independent of the legal and political realities is it better they stay this way to offer an option to counter the march of the global retailers?
Ultimately - while I expect the RACQ to be at the forefront of consumer protection by taking on the giants in the Motoring World, I sadly regret they do not!