Archive | August, 2011

HEADLINE NEWS: RMI HOPES TO SAVE GARAGES A £5000 HEATING BILL

HEADLINE NEWS: RMI HOPES TO SAVE GARAGES A £5000 HEATING BILL

Garages could have to pay extra for removing waste oil

Garages could have to pay extra for removing waste oil

The Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMI) hopes to save garages £5000 in fuel bills by defending the use of small waste oil burners (SWOB) to the government.

SWOBS can be found in garages up and down the country, burning waste engine oil and heating workshops for free.

The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has decided to conduct a review into the use of SWOBS with a view to banning their use altogether.

The RMI, along with the Garage Equipment Association (GEA), has been campaigning on behalf of garages to stop the review.

RMI director Stuart James said: “Independent garages across the UK rely on SWOBs as a consistent way of heating their garages as well as disposing of their waste oil. If SWOBs were banned, already cash strapped garages could see a rise in their utility bills of an average of £5000.”

James commented that as well as upping their fuel bills, garages would then also have to pay to have the waste oil professionally removed and transported. He said the RMI are currently in discussions with DEFRA, and are making sure the views of the industry well heard.

GEA chief executive Dave Garret added: “At the moment, businesses using SWOBs burn their waste oil locally. If SWOBs are no longer an option then the waste oil would need to be stored until there was a large enough quantity and then collected by a disposal company.”

The RMI has said that if the ban goes ahead, the environmental impact will be negligible, but the impact on workshops will be ‘catastrophic.’

The use of SWOBs has already come under threat once before from the Waste Incineration Directive in 2000. However the government said that SWOBs could continue to be used as long as garages had an environmental permit from their local council.

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HEADLINE NEWS: COUNTERFEIT AUTODATA CD LEADS TO £3500 REPAIR BILL

HEADLINE NEWS: COUNTERFEIT AUTODATA CD LEADS TO £3500 REPAIR BILL

The garage was using a fake Autodata CD

The garage was using a fake Autodata CD

Vehicle information specialists Autodata have become the victims of counterfeiting.

The company was recently contacted by a car manufacturer following a complaint made by a customer.

The customer was furious when he was faced with a repair bill for £3,500 for an engine re-build, after the garage who had recently serviced his vehicle neglected to inspect a vital component which lead to a catastrophic failure.

The garage was then discovered to have been using a counterfeit Autodata CD to acquire the vehicle information.

Autodata has said that it aims to make sure none of its data CDs fall into the wrong hands. But the fact remains that some workshops could potentially be using counterfeit CDs.

An Autodata spokesperson said: “We are concerned that the general public may not be aware that a workshop could be using out of date and counterfeit information to service their vehicles. We are working hard to ensure that all the relevant agencies, repair standards, and enforcement bodies are aware of the safety and cost issues associated with using counterfeit software.

“Independents must also be aware that if they are offered technical information from a suspicious or unlicensed source and it seems too good to be true then it probably is, as the Warwickshire workshop found out by having to cover the repair itself rather than risk potential court action against it.”

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HEADLINE FEATURE: WHERE NEXT FOR ECP?

HEADLINE FEATURE: WHERE NEXT FOR ECP?

The ECP rocketship shows no signs of slowing

The ECP rocketship shows no signs of slowing

You’ve got to hand it to the team at Euro Car Parts, they certainly seem to know what they’re doing.

Whichever way you cut the company numbers it looks deeply impressive, daunting even. It’s now 35 years since the original Highways Autos store was opened by 18-year-old Sukhpal Singh in Wilsden but, with a projected turnover of £340 million this year, ECP seems nowhere near the zenith of its rocketship growth trajectory.

Singh recently said he saw no reason why his dedicated and energetic team shouldn’t continue the drive to create a company with a turnover of £1 billion and 10,000 employees across Europe. That’s about three times the size of the company now, but could just be the tip of the iceberg.

When CAT went to meet the ECP team at its Wembley HQ and massive Tamworth national distribution centre, we discovered turnover could get close to £1billion in the UK alone. And expansion into Europe? Why limit yourself to looking at Europe when the rest of the world is there, too?

ECP’s journey could eventually take it around the world, powered by a philosophy of getting every detail right at a local level, but how quickly can it get to the £1 billion mark and where will it go from there?

Let’s start here at home. Singh says expansion into Europe and beyond is not in his ‘immediate plans’, with a target to get to half a billion turnover in the UK over the next 36 months: “There’s enough to do here in the UK for the next three years. We’ve got geography to cover and product ranges to cover as well. There’s so much to do.”

ECP people’s director Martin Gray says: “For every £10 spent in the UK we only £1 to £2 of it. There’s still 80% to 90% of the mark left for us to acquire in the UK.

“I’m not saying that we want all of it, but could we get 30% of the spend? I wouldn’t say that was unreasonable. Could that get us close to £1bn in the whole of UK? I think so. At that point we’d be looking at other expansion as well.”

More of that added expansion a little later on, but development of the network will drive growth in the UK until then. New ECP branches are currently opening at the rate of 10 to 15 a year with the immediate target of having 110 branches to cover 97% of the UK.

At the time of writing there were 87, the 87th opening in York the day after our visit, but this figure will already be out of date by the time you read this. Huddersfield also arrived in July, with Singh saying ECP is now looking at Potters Bar, Stoke and further north to Scotland.

With this sort of branch rollout rate, ECP has got well practiced in the art of rolling into town. It uses geomapping technology developed at the University of Leeds to find appropriate locations and, says Gray, has a ‘cookie cutter’ approach in setting up shop – up to a point.

The difficulty comes in finding the right people, says Gray, who is ready to spend £1 million next year in employee development. Each region will have a centre of excellence, in branches, were training is available.

Gray says: “There’s not a people tree I can pluck the right kind of people off – it’s our biggest single barrier to growth. We do work at a ferocious pace, it’s very intense, and for a lot of the time business can be very full on. It’s a bit controversial but it’s like a positive drug, it’s intoxicating.

“It’s not for everyone, and that’s okay,’ says the ever-enthusiastic Gray, “but why don’t you come touch us and feel us and see if you like us?”

After branches, there’s an even more rapid story of growth story with the Bosch-backed AutoCrew garage concept for which ECP is the exclusive distributor. The first opened in February, there were 70 when we visited ECP, but this will number 80 by the time CAT lands on your lap. By the end of the year there will be 150.

The process of percolating and integrating into the marketplace doesn’t end there, either. Right now, garages are also trialling a brand-new ECP garage management system. With a new catalogue in the pipeline, too, the aim to help garages with a suite of support and, of course, ensure ECP’s closer connection with their business.

“You’ll be able to press a button and get repair times, ordering schedules, technical information and all of those services,” says Singh. “A lot of garage workers today are very good guys and very hard working, but they might not be business people. We can help with that.”

The system will roll out officially next year with ECP hoping to have 2000 garages using it by the end of 2012. We don’t doubt they will, so watch this space.

Singh says growth the impressive national distribution centre in Tamworth can cope with growth up to £700 million with increased throughput.

It’s a model of efficiency. Voice verification means pickers have two free hands to grab parts. At the moment the pick rate per person is 145/150 items per hour, helped by the usual trick of having the most commonly-needed parts at eye level.

There is, of course, the ‘long tail’ of parts which logistics director Steve Horne says ECP has to have to ‘have a ticket to the party.’ This means Tamworth has 100% coverage of the car parc with 114,000 parts available to branches overnight. Every part for every car, after all.

ECP’s hubs mean it can get parts for 92% of the car parc to branches within the hour, however, while the branches themselves carry 15,000 different parts to cover 85% of the car parc.

Improved return rates will also help to save the company a fortune and boost profits going forward. At the moment it’s running at 18-19%, which is pretty good, but the target is to cut this to 10% in 12 months. The new catalogue and garage management system will help with this and encourage garages to order online by offering discounts for doing so.

And then there are the new product lines for the UK. Horne is having to move some things around at Tamworth to make room for some tyres – 60,000 of them. If ECP are sending vans to garages with injectors, pumps, belts and oils on them, why not tyres?

What about acquisitions? Do other companies need to be looking over their shoulders?

At the moment organic growth is the name of the game. Singh says he did enter negotiations with an unnamed company in the UK, but back out, preferring the less messy blank sheet of paper that comes from starting new branches.

“There’s always room for a fresh idea,” says Singh, reflecting on how a demand-driven delivery process would surprise those in, say, Germany used to allocated slots. “They’re quite rigid and inflexible, If you introduced the concept of on-demand you could change things. Our cataloguing would be a big advantage.” Other markets excite Singh, too.

“Eastern European markets have another ten years of growth. It will be one of the considerations. We might say let’s do China, let’s do India because they’re going through phenomenal growth – it’s double-digit growth, year-on-year.”

There’s enough to be getting on with in the UK for now, but what of the tactics when the time is right to explore the globe? Gray says: “We have the ambition and appetite for expansion in various parts of the globe, but it will be driven through in a risk-averse way.

“We don’t have a plan for world domination – we’re not a James Bond villain stroking a cat. We’ll go for controlled expansion, looking at the markets locally, assessing the market, looking at our supply relationships and then driving that very aggressively. When we go into a country, we will do it very aggressively.”

Is all of this happening too fast, though, even the growth just in the UK? Singh answers. “Read the balance sheet. Last year, for example, to show our faith in the business, we capitalised our reserves  – £28 million. We could have taken as a dividend in one hit, but we capitalised it to show this a long-term situation.

“We have very little borrowings, we don’t operate on an overdraft. Our growth is financed through our cash flow. We buy very well, we sell well, make good profits and reinvest it.”

In any case, the £1 billion figure isn’t being chased for the sake of it, says Gray. It’s a very big number, and one that’s easy to get fixated on, but Gray says it’s just a future milestone that will be pass on ECP’s journey into the future. It’s not the final destination, because there is no final destination.

“I don’t think there is an end game. For true entrepreneurs, people who build real value, it isn’t about the exit or the end. They don’t actually get there. Am I at the end point? No. And if the answer’s ‘no’ then lets keep on doing it and doing it and doing it – there’s still so much, if only I had more time! That attitude is quite rare.”

Singh giggles and says: “You can have a busy day, and do a extraordinary amount of business, but then you get maybe 6% missed calls and you think ‘my God’ – if we didn’t miss those calls it could have been even better!”

Did he ever dream the shop in Wilsden would turn into the ECP we have today? “I wasn’t aiming this high,” he admits, but he must have been aiming pretty close.

With relentless energy and a huge amount of momentum, the ECP team is heading into orbit from where it need never fall back down to earth. The view from up there can be dizzying.

Posted in Factor & Supplier NewsComments (1)

HEADLINE NEWS: CTEK OFFERS CASHBACK PROMOTION

HEADLINE NEWS: CTEK OFFERS CASHBACK PROMOTION

Retailers will also benefit from new POS material

Retailers will also benefit from new POS material

Garages and technicians using CTEK’s award-winning MXS 3.6 unit could have the opportunity to gain some cash back.

The battery care and maintenance company has launched a new cashback promotion, which offers CTEK customers £5 cashback when they purchase the MXS 3.6.

Simply fill in a redemption form from the stockist and send it directly to CTEK with your receipt, and you’ll be sent a cashback cheque.

Stockists taking part in the promotion can benefit from new promotional displays to help drive business.

The MXS 3.6 offers technicians features such as desulphation, maintenance charging and a special cold weather mode, optimised for charging during the winter. It can also cope with AGM batteries. It is usually sold for around the £50 mark.

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Where next for ECP?

Where next for ECP?

The ECP spaceship is still taking off

The ECP spaceship is still taking off

You’ve got to hand it to the team at Euro Car Parts, they certainly seem to know what they’re doing.

Whichever way you cut the company numbers it looks deeply impressive, daunting even. It’s now 35 years since the original Highways Autos store was opened by 18-year-old Sukhpal Singh in Wilsden but, with a projected turnover of £340 million this year, ECP seems nowhere near the zenith of its rocketship growth trajectory.

Singh recently said he saw no reason why his dedicated and energetic team shouldn’t continue the drive to create a company with a turnover of £1 billion and 10,000 employees across Europe. That’s about three times the size of the company now, but could just be the tip of the iceberg.

When CAT went to meet the ECP team at its Wembley HQ and massive Tamworth national distribution centre, we discovered turnover could get close to £1billion in the UK alone. And expansion into Europe? Why limit yourself to looking at Europe when the rest of the world is there, too?

ECP’s journey could eventually take it around the world, powered by a philosophy of getting every detail right at a local level, but how quickly can it get to the £1 billion mark and where will it go from there?

Let’s start here at home. Singh says expansion into Europe and beyond is not in his ‘immediate plans’, with a target to get to half a billion turnover in the UK over the next 36 months: “There’s enough to do here in the UK for the next three years. We’ve got geography to cover and product ranges to cover as well. There’s so much to do.”

ECP people’s director Martin Gray says: “For every £10 spent in the UK we only £1 to £2 of it. There’s still 80% to 90% of the mark left for us to acquire in the UK.

“I’m not saying that we want all of it, but could we get 30% of the spend? I wouldn’t say that was unreasonable. Could that get us close to £1bn in the whole of UK? I think so. At that point we’d be looking at other expansion as well.”

More of that added expansion a little later on, but development of the network will drive growth in the UK until then. New ECP branches are currently opening at the rate of 10 to 15 a year with the immediate target of having 110 branches to cover 97% of the UK.

At the time of writing there were 87, the 87th opening in York the day after our visit, but this figure will already be out of date by the time you read this. Huddersfield also arrived in July, with Singh saying ECP is now looking at Potters Bar, Stoke and further north to Scotland.

With this sort of branch rollout rate, ECP has got well practiced in the art of rolling into town. It uses geomapping technology developed at the University of Leeds to find appropriate locations and, says Gray, has a ‘cookie cutter’ approach in setting up shop – up to a point.

The difficulty comes in finding the right people, says Gray, who is ready to spend £1 million next year in employee development. Each region will have a centre of excellence, in branches, were training is available.

Gray says: “There’s not a people tree I can pluck the right kind of people off – it’s our biggest single barrier to growth. We do work at a ferocious pace, it’s very intense, and for a lot of the time business can be very full on. It’s a bit controversial but it’s like a positive drug, it’s intoxicating.

“It’s not for everyone, and that’s okay,’ says the ever-enthusiastic Gray, “but why don’t you come touch us and feel us and see if you like us?”

After branches, there’s an even more rapid story of growth story with the Bosch-backed AutoCrew garage concept for which ECP is the exclusive distributor. The first opened in February, there were 70 when we visited ECP, but this will number 80 by the time CAT lands on your lap. By the end of the year there will be 150.

The process of percolating and integrating into the marketplace doesn’t end there, either. Right now, garages are also trialling a brand-new ECP garage management system. With a new catalogue in the pipeline, too, the aim to help garages with a suite of support and, of course, ensure ECP’s closer connection with their business.

“You’ll be able to press a button and get repair times, ordering schedules, technical information and all of those services,” says Singh. “A lot of garage workers today are very good guys and very hard working, but they might not be business people. We can help with that.”

The system will roll out officially next year with ECP hoping to have 2000 garages using it by the end of 2012. We don’t doubt they will, so watch this space.

Singh says growth the impressive national distribution centre in Tamworth can cope with growth up to £700 million with increased throughput.

It’s a model of efficiency. Voice verification means pickers have two free hands to grab parts. At the moment the pick rate per person is 145/150 items per hour, helped by the usual trick of having the most commonly-needed parts at eye level.

There is, of course, the ‘long tail’ of parts which logistics director Steve Horne says ECP has to have to ‘have a ticket to the party.’ This means Tamworth has 100% coverage of the car parc with 114,000 parts available to branches overnight. Every part for every car, after all.

ECP’s hubs mean it can get parts for 92% of the car parc to branches within the hour, however, while the branches themselves carry 15,000 different parts to cover 85% of the car parc.

Improved return rates will also help to save the company a fortune and boost profits going forward. At the moment it’s running at 18-19%, which is pretty good, but the target is to cut this to 10% in 12 months. The new catalogue and garage management system will help with this and encourage garages to order online by offering discounts for doing so.

And then there are the new product lines for the UK. Horne is having to move some things around at Tamworth to make room for some tyres – 60,000 of them. If ECP are sending vans to garages with injectors, pumps, belts and oils on them, why not tyres?

What about acquisitions? Do other companies need to be looking over their shoulders?

At the moment organic growth is the name of the game. Singh says he did enter negotiations with an unnamed company in the UK, but back out, preferring the less messy blank sheet of paper that comes from starting new branches.

“There’s always room for a fresh idea,” says Singh, reflecting on how a demand-driven delivery process would surprise those in, say, Germany used to allocated slots. “They’re quite rigid and inflexible, If you introduced the concept of on-demand you could change things. Our cataloguing would be a big advantage.” Other markets excite Singh, too.

“Eastern European markets have another ten years of growth. It will be one of the considerations. We might say let’s do China, let’s do India because they’re going through phenomenal growth – it’s double-digit growth, year-on-year.”

There’s enough to be getting on with in the UK for now, but what of the tactics when the time is right to explore the globe? Gray says: “We have the ambition and appetite for expansion in various parts of the globe, but it will be driven through in a risk-averse way.

“We don’t have a plan for world domination – we’re not a James Bond villain stroking a cat. We’ll go for controlled expansion, looking at the markets locally, assessing the market, looking at our supply relationships and then driving that very aggressively. When we go into a country, we will do it very aggressively.”

Is all of this happening too fast, though, even the growth just in the UK? Singh answers. “Read the balance sheet. Last year, for example, to show our faith in the business, we capitalised our reserves  – £28 million. We could have taken as a dividend in one hit, but we capitalised it to show this a long-term situation.

“We have very little borrowings, we don’t operate on an overdraft. Our growth is financed through our cash flow. We buy very well, we sell well, make good profits and reinvest it.”

In any case, the £1 billion figure isn’t being chased for the sake of it, says Gray. It’s a very big number, and one that’s easy to get fixated on, but Gray says it’s just a future milestone that will be pass on ECP’s journey into the future. It’s not the final destination, because there is no final destination.

“I don’t think there is an end game. For true entrepreneurs, people who build real value, it isn’t about the exit or the end. They don’t actually get there. Am I at the end point? No. And if the answer’s ‘no’ then lets keep on doing it and doing it and doing it – there’s still so much, if only I had more time! That attitude is quite rare.”

Singh giggles and says: “You can have a busy day, and do a extraordinary amount of business, but then you get maybe 6% missed calls and you think ‘my God’ – if we didn’t miss those calls it could have been even better!”

Did he ever dream the shop in Wilsden would turn into the ECP we have today? “I wasn’t aiming this high,” he admits, but he must have been aiming pretty close.

With relentless energy and a huge amount of momentum, the ECP team is heading into orbit from where it need never fall back down to earth. The view from up there can be dizzying.

Posted in Factor & Supplier NewsComments (0)

CTEK offers cashback promotion

Retailers also benefit from new POS material

Retailers also benefit from new POS material

Garages and technicians using CTEK’s award-winning MXS 3.6 unit could have the opportunity to gain some cash back.

The battery care and maintenance company has launched a new cashback promotion, which offers CTEK customers £5 cashback when they purchase the MXS 3.6.

Simply fill in a redemption form from the stockist and send it directly to CTEK with your receipt, and you’ll be sent a cashback cheque.

Stockists taking part in the promotion can benefit from new promotional displays to help drive business.

The MXS 3.6 offers technicians features such as desulphation, maintenance charging and a special cold weather mode, optimised for charging during the winter. It can also cope with AGM batteries. It is usually sold for around the £50 mark.

Posted in Garage News, NewsComments (0)

A little change for Magic Tree

The Little Trees brand will incorporate over 60 fragrances

The Little Trees brand will incorporate over 60 fragrances

One of the most recognisable brands in the UK aftermarket, Magic Tree air fresheners has announced a name change.

Saxon, which distributes the Magic Tree fresheners exclusively, has announced that from this month the Magic Tree brand will change its name to Little Trees.

Launched in the UK in the 1960’s, the Magic Tree brand has become on the most recognisable faces in the aftermarket, selling over 200 million units. Over the course of the brand’s history its fragrance line has been extended from one initial offering to over 30.

The new Little Trees brand will double that line with over 60 fragrances. The brand will also be accompanied by its own dedicated website, which will contain full product information on the range, as well as interactive media.

Saxon chief executive David Kent said: “The decision was made to change the name from Magic Tree to Little Trees in order to open up new sales opportunities for our customers. The Little Tree brand offers more fragrance varieties, designs, POS and marketing material and support from the USA.

“This increased offering gives us and our customers more choice, variety and flexibility.”

Posted in Factor & Supplier News, NewsComments (0)

ECP to visit 10 Downing Street

Picture 1

Sukhpal Singh Ahluwalia, chairman and founder of Euro Car Parts has received an invitation from the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer to head to 10 Downing Street for a ‘reception for business leaders’ event in September.

Prior to his visit, Sukhpal is inviting members of the garage trade to email him with their comments and thoughts on the issues facing the industry. He said he would like the top politicians to hear about the impact any relaxation on MOT testing would have on the motor trade.

He said: “ I will use the event to raise awareness of the key issues in our sector, including the huge dangers of any reduction in the frequency of the MOT.

“This is an exceptional opportunity for our Prime Minister to understand the current business challenges in the aftermarket and for Euro Car Parts to champion the sector.”

Garages can email saveourmot@eurocarparts.com with their thoughts and comments. The deadline for suggestions is 6.30pm on Tuesday 13th September.

Posted in Factor & Supplier News, NewsComments (2)

Ben – it’s a charity for everyone


BEN Logo 3D Final

When the CAT team went to see Ben at their headquarters in Sunninghill this week, we were pleased to see how well the automotive industry charity is doing.

As well as continuing to offer help, advice and support to both those who’ve worked in the motor trade, and their families, we learnt about the other side of Ben’s work. Namely, the charity’s residential care. Housing 350 residents at any one time is a tough job, but with the help of its supporters Ben is helping families with dependents needing round the clock care. Ben is currently in the planning stages of carrying out a complete redevelopment and renovation of its care facilities, which will enable them to provide an even higher standard of care to more people in the trade.

But Ben isn’t resting on its laurels. Far from it in fact, the charity is starting a new drive to increase awareness of its activities within the aftermarket. Almost one in every ten people in the UK are eligible for support from Ben, with one in every three people in motor-industry centric locations like the west midlands able to seek help when it’s required.

The charity want to promote their activities in the aftermarket, which after manufacturing remains their largest user sector. The charity say they don’t want people to think of Ben as a final resort when problems have already taken their toll, they want people to feel they can turn to Ben for help. Whether it’s advice, financial help, emotional support or even just to hear a friendly voice at the end of the phone, Ben stresses it is there to help those in the motor trade and their families.

The biggest problem they face, they say, is that people on the ‘front line’ of the trade aren’t aware of what Ben does. So when problems do hit they don’t know where to turn. Ben wants to change that, and make everyone in the motor trade aware that they have somewhere to turn when they need help.

We at CAT will always try to support the work of Ben, because they form an integral part of the motor trade. They need our support (and yours!) to continue doing the fantastic work they do, and to continue helping those in the trade.

You can find out more about the work of Ben via their website, here.

Posted in Blogs, Darren Moss' BlogComments (0)

Ben is brilliant…

Okay, so I’m ignorant. I’ve worked in the automotive sector for more than a decade and I hadn’t fully appreciated the extraordinary breadth of industry charity Ben.

I’ve just paid a visit to the Sunninghill HQ with super-reporter Darren (he’s writing a blog, too) and super-salesguy Don.

I assumed the charity only helped those currently working in, or just retired from, the industry.

Not a bit of it. Ben will help anyone who has worked in any part of the industry at any point in their career. And their families.

It’s quite amazing how much of the population are eligible for financial, emotional or medical help through Ben as a result – one in ten of the entire UK population and much, much more than this in areas where manufacturing is, or has been, concentrated.

Problem is, too many people might be too proud to ask for help, or get in touch after things have started going truly haywire.

Get in touch with Ben early to nip things in the bud and get things back on track. It’ll be much easier in the long run and the sooner things are sorted out, the quicker you can get back to running productive businesses.

No doubt about it, Ben is brilliant…

Posted in Peter Lawton's BlogComments (0)

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