Green Flag: 20 years of change

Green Flag 200 of its own vans

Green Flag used to rely solely on independent operators. Now it has 200 of its own vans

Green Flag started life as the National Breakdown Recovery Club in 1971. It was renamed Green Flag in 1994. To mark its 20th anniversary one of its original employees, Neil Wilson explains how the breakdown business and cars have changed over the past two decades. 

“When I started with Green Flag I was an adviser talking to customers over the phone. Since then I’ve held various positions in the business and worked my way up to the point where I’m now running the breakdown side.

One of the most obvious changes is that 20 years ago we didn’t have our own vans. Now, in addition to our huge network of independent breakdown recovery specialists, we have more than 200 Green Flag-liveried vehicles on the road so the business is much more visible to drivers.

Then there are our customers’ cars. When a vehicle broke down 20 years ago, mending it felt much more hands on as technicians would have to do their own diagnosis at the road side. And actually getting the car going again might have involved delving under the bonnet and doing something like brushing up the points. Now we plug a lap top into the car and most vehicles have engine management computers which will tell our computer what is wrong with the car.

Once that’s happened, we stand a good chance of getting the car running again. We manage to fix between seven and eight out of 10 vehicles at the road side so that area of the business hasn’t changed.

However, the cover we offer our customers has altered over the years. For example, sorting out the after-effects of misfuelling vehicles is now a standard part of every Green Flag policy apart from the most basic. It’s one instance of how we’ve offered our members more as time has gone by and how our service has developed so that we can compete effectively with our rivals.

Awareness of breakdown cover has improved dramatically since 1994. Our research shows that 20 years ago, just 53 per cent of young drivers had breakdown cover and nearly all of them broke down within their first five years of driving. Now 85 per cent will have cover but less than two thirds of them will break down within their first five years at the wheel.

Then there’s our pledge to get to customers within an hour of them reporting their breakdown or they’ll get their next renewal for half price. That’s new because attendance time is a vital part of the breakdown industry today. We recognise that for our customers, breaking down is a major inconvenience; drivers are on the way somewhere and they need to get there. We also understand that breaking down makes you feel helpless as you sit at the side of the road. Of course being stuck roadside is a dangerous place to be. And let’s be frank, it’s boring. Go somewhere and sit at the side of the road for an hour doing nothing and it feels like an eternity so we think our service pledge is critical.

What’s changed the most over the past 20 years? Without doubt the nature and type of breakdowns. Now there are a lot more breakdowns caused by electrical failure because cars are pretty much mini computing platforms. Is this going to change? Well 20 years ago, I didn’t even have a mobile phone. Now I have one that’s effectively a mini computer. We’ve already got cars that will park themselves. The technology is there for cars to drive themselves so who knows where we’ll be in 2034.”

Green Flag's Neil WilsonNeil Wilson is Green Flag’s national roadside rescue operations manager

7 comments on “Green Flag: 20 years of change

  1. Motors Recovery 01/12/2014 12:44 PM

    This is a really good read for me. Must admit that you are one of the best bloggers I have ever read. Thanks for posting this informative article.

  2. Amimul ehsan chowdhury 03/12/2014 11:42 PM

    you say u r 24 hr service but i don’t think it’s true because I did call u 11pm til 12 midnight but my call hung up automatically.

    • James Foxall 04/12/2014 4:18 PM

      Sorry to hear this. The phone lines were down between 10:30pm – 01:30am last night. This issue has now been resolved. Green Flag would like to get this sorted for you, please call on 01903 636999 or 0800 051 0370. Alternatively you can make contact via or at your earliest convenience.

  3. wrong fuel in car 17/04/2015 1:26 PM

    I think its fantastic how green flag have come such a long way in 20 years. A very good sign of a strong business model. A very well done.

  4. car recovery 26/04/2015 12:16 AM

    Great company – Green Flag improving every year. I have always had great assistance from them… much better than some of the other breakdown services out there.

  5. Janet Porter 07/07/2023 6:02 PM

    I was once stuck up a flight of steps near the chippy in Farsley in the late 70s. Night, dark, raining and 2 children in back. No phone, had to use phone box and directory. NB refused to rescue me. Just found out I needed to call my insurance Co. Wish I’d known then, I just got some strong lads from the Owl pub to lift the car off the steps. Still not sure if we got the chips.

  6. Ben 16/11/2023 7:56 AM

    I am of the impression that Green Flag is slowly becoming better soon will probably take over from the AA and deservedly so

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