The Automobile Association, otherwise known as the AA. They operate a breakdown recovery
service for automobile
s in the UK
. Basically if your car breaks down these guys will pick you up, take you home
and fix the car.
has been around for a while, and its history
is closely linked with the evolution of the British road system and motoring regulations
. It started in 1905
, when a group of 'motoring enthusiast
s' (read into that what you will) met in the Trocadero
restaurant in the West End
. Aside from proving that the Trocadero
's been around longer than most people think, this was the rag tag beginning of the AA.
With initially only 100 member
s, its main goal was to "help motorists avoid police speed traps
". This worthy cause was of course, in time, augmented by the perhaps more acceptable
effort of erecting road safety signs
. No doubt these early signs warned of police speed traps, but hey, anything to get members. This policy clearly worked, as by 1914
, the AA membership base had grown to 83,000. In fact, the AA was responsible for all road safety signposting until the 1930
s, probably because no one else was prepared to do it.
The AA began issuing a "Members' Special Handbook" in 1908
, which listed AA appointed repair centre
s around the country. This was the humble beginnings of the modern recovery service, which only really came to fruition
after the introduction of two-way radio
meant the AA could offer a vehicle breakdown service in London, which subsequently spread to cover most of the UK
The AA has something of a colourful
history, and classic AA memorabilia
is very collectable
these days. It's gone from little more than a gentlemen's club
for people wishing to avoid prosecution
for speeding to a major national organisation with 9.5 million members (at the time of writing).
Today the AA offers a bundle of services such as driving lessons
, financial loan
, pre-purchase checks on a car's history and they also publish travel
books (they shifted just over 10 million books last year).
As for the company itself, it was obviously an attractive venture, as Centrica
bought it in September 2000
for 1.1 billion (pounds sterling
And the service itself? Well, on the only occassion I've had to call them out they did a fine job, so I don't have any complaints. As for the competition
(despite what they'd have you believe, other breakdown rescue services do exist) I couldn't say, as I've only used the AA. Maybe someone else can node the RAC
The main sources used in my reserch on this were the AA website (theaa.com) and a handy little yellow booklet I found in the glove compartment which started all this off.