Archive | September, 2011

Juggling the aftermarket and motorsport is no mean feat

So far 2012 has represented some new and exciting challenges for the CAT team but also a whirlwind of changes for Mr Lee himself.

To give you a flavour of what I have been up to, in January I began a new adventure on a Haymarket consumer title called Motorsport News.   The last 7 months have rattled by but now I find myself fully immersed into the glamorous world of F1, national and world rallying, touring cars and domestic/grass roots club racing.

Just to calm any concerns that you may have,  I will remain in the aftermarket by continuing to lead the dream team of Johnny, Don and Craig (So no emotional farewells or tears of happiness!)

As you can imagine I am juggling between the two brands, but I will be making the efforts to continue to be visible at the trade events, shows and of course IAAF Dinner.

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Auctioning old parts in aid of BEN

BEN Logo 3D Final

The National Clearence Centre has launched a scheme collecting and selling old or obsolete parts, with some of the profits being donated to the automotive industry charity, BEN.

The NCC, part of the Foray Motor Group says it will be working with dealers and other suppliers to collect and sell as many obsolete parts as possible.

The centre says it will be happy to arrange collection of parts from anywhere in the UK.

Foray’s parts director Howard Jenkins said: “These are parts which have sat on the shelf, gathering dust and taking up space and which in most cases have long since been written off.

“This is an ideal opportunity for dealers to clear space in an environmentally responsible way and support their industry’s charity – and of course while we are a Ford dealer group this scheme’s not just about Ford parts so we’re inviting businesses from all franchises to get involved.”

Dealers and other parts suppliers who would like to support this initiative and BEN should contact Gareth Taylor, National Clearance Centre manager on 07867 520268 or by emailing .

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Sovereign Rotating Machines has sold a stake of more than 30 percent in its business to US firm WAIglobal in the hope of breaking into Europe and offering more new part numbers.

Sovereign managing director Richard Welland wouldn’t reveal the value of investment, but said the UK company was still in overall control with a share of more than 60%.

Welland says WAIglobal wanted to enter the UK market and needed a partner like Sovereign so that it could offer a complete range with remanufacturer items.

As far as Sovereign goes, Welland says the deal will give the Sussex-based firm access to more new part numbers for newer cars.

“It’s not a marketing thing – they’ve bought into the business – this is a genuine partnership. Both of the companies are entrepreneurial, and we’ll do a lot for each other over the next few years.

“We’re now going to have late-to-range applications, water-cooled alternators and things like that. They too will have a full programme to sell into Europe, new and remanufactured.”

Welland expects the total number of parts available from Sovereign to grow from 2500 to 3000 as a result of the deal, and a move in the sales split from the current level of 60:40 remanufactured to new units to 50:50.

Following growth of more than 20% in each of the past three years, Welland is also now hoping to double turnover over the next five years.

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Autoelectro breathes new life into rotating electrics

Autoelectro are already gearing up for winter

Autoelectro are already gearing up for winter

Remanufacturing is something I need to know more about, so when CAT rolled into Bradford to meet with rotating electrics remanufacturers Autoelectro, I was keen to see what the fuss was all about.

If the warren of warehouses, offices and workstations that make up Autoelectro’s HQ are anything to go by, business is growing fast.

Boss Tony Bhogal says the company is already gearing up for the winter rush, when over two thirds of the company’s business is conducted.

He leads us downstairs into a maze of walkways, workstations and warehouses. As Tony explains the remanufacturing process, I’m amazed to see the change from the old, oily alternators, which arrive every day, to the shiny fully-functional units which sit on the workbenches and shelves.

In particular, I’m fascinated by the variety of machinery Autoelectro has had to invest in to help with the remanufacturing process. But Tony admits there are some jobs the stock machinery simply doesn’t do well enough, and in those instances his technicians have modified the tools to work better. It’s that sort of ingenuity which has let Autoelectro grow so rapidly.

In fact, the business is growing so fast it’s already spreading beyond its boundaries. Autoelectro is looking for more warehousing space.

Garages and factors can sleep soundly knowing that Autoelectro is already stocking up for the winter months. If this season is as harsh as the last, that stock will definitely be needed.

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It’s all change for oil

It’s all change for oil

Comma's range of oils cater for the vast majority of the UK car parc

Comma's range of oils cater for the vast majority of the UK car parc

Life isn’t getting any simpler, whether you’re talking about tax returns or the fluids that the UK’s millions of cars need to keep ticking over.

The days when one or two different viscosities of oil would do for most of the car parc are long gone. As tolerances, materials and technology develop and change, engines are putting ever more specific demands on their oils.

Gravesend-based Comma Oil and Chemicals says coolants are going through the same proliferation, so garages face even more potentially critical decisions. What used to be a simple swap of liquids at service time has become a minefield.

For the garages, factors and manufacturers that can keep pace with the times, however, there are great opportunities.

Comma, of course, is keen to take advantage, protecting and building on its 24 percent UK market share of oils and the 30 percent chunk of the market for other fluids. Sales and marketing director Mike Bewsey believes getting Comma’s message and advice down the line to the garage, helping them to sell the benefits to the consumer, will have the company’s cashtills ringing.

“The extended chain of communication is difficult, it can break down at any point if you’re not clear about it. It’s very difficult to get the quality message all the way down to the consumer,” he says.

Comma has been hard at work on a new programme to help get that message across. To help garages and factors identify the right fluids for the right cars, Comma has developed new features for its website and updated packaging and marketing material. The company did research to find out what the market wanted.

“Rather than do what we believed would be right, we did research on it to make sure it was right,” says Bewsey.

Comma's new site promises big business opportunities

Comma's new site promises big business opportunities

The new site, up and running now, features a vehicle registration look-up, as well as make and model dropdown menus, to display the appropriate liquids for a particular car.

Limitations with the information held on the DVLA database mean there isn’t always an immediately definitive answer, but in these cases the site asks the user questions to reach the right product. Is there a diesel particulate filter or catalytic converter fitted, for instance?

The results of the research that Comma did also means the site explicitly says when the company doesn’t have a suitable fluid – for the rear transaxle of a Ford Kuga, for instance – rather than leave a result field blank. After all, if there’s a gap, garages or factors might assume the fluid for a similar car will do.

It might, but it might not. It’s important not to underplay the difficulty in providing the information on which fluids to use, since it’s such a complex area. The website covers 98 percent of the car parc – more than 8500 different engine types.

Nearly half of these (48 percent if you want to be picky) are covered by 5W-30 oil. Not all 5W-30 oils are created equal, however. Comma has seven different blends, and the consequences of using the wrong one, or any other fluid, can be costly.

There’s the unfortunate case of one garage which fitted the recommended oil for a four-wheel drive 3.0-litre Audi to a two-wheel drive model. It ruined the continuously variable transmission and resulted in a bill running into the thousands.

Then there’s the different oil needed for Volkswagen Group cars on longlife service schedules rather than fixed intervals. Or unit injector engines versus common rail. Or delightful DPF differences on Renault Lagunas.

The 1.5-litre engine used in this model is available with and without exhaust after-treatment. Use the wrong oil, with too high a sulphated ash content, and you’ll clog the filter.

Bewsey says: “We’ve had two enquiries this year from factors over this model where the DPF has ended up broken when the guide wasn’t followed and a wrong oil was used. In each case, the factors ended up having to meet the cost of replacement systems, and they probably wouldn’t have got much change from £1,800.” Ouch.

These types of problems aren’t going to go away, either. In general the market trend towards smaller cars, with smaller-capacity engines with higher outputs than before, will drive the proliferation forward as tolerances get ever tighter and newer materials, such as magnesium alloy, are used.

Smaller and smaller engines are also using turbocharging technology, with the majority of failures in these systems being traced back to the incorrect fluids being used. They generate more heat, too, so coolants are having to do a lot more work to keep temperatures down.

Use the wrong coolant? It could cause erosion of the waterpump and turbocharger failure – not a cheap thing to put right if it goes wrong on your account.

“Modern day cooling systems are immensely sophisticated and even, most ‘basic’ are packed with different materials – aluminium, copper, brass, rubber seals, plastics and so on,” says Bewsey. “Finding a fluid that is compatible with, and crucially that prevents corrosion of these different materials isn’t that straightforward!”

If you happen to see a car within its warranty period, too, a manufacturer might well quibble over paying out if the wrong fluids have been used, even for an unrelated problem.

“The aftermarket did very well to retain the right to repair under Block Exemption. In this economic climate it’s a great opportunity for workshops to acquire new business as consumers trade out of franchised dealerships for better value servicing work.

“If workshops want to capitalise on that opportunity with 100 percent peace of mind, they need to get the right product – we can help them to do that.”

To keep in the game, Comma has invested heavily in its on-site laboratory in Gravesend. It tests deliveries of bulk oil, tests the different oil and chemical blends the company then mixes, tests fluids going down the production lines and then tests them again before they’re sent out.

Comma has also invested heavily in motorsport

Comma has also invested heavily in motorsport

Whether it’s oils, coolants or other fluids, the lab conducts more than 21,000 tests a year to ensure the blends exceed the tight ACEA specifications and perform exactly as they should. So far this year there have been only five instances were results were not immediately satisfactory and demanded further checks to confirm liquids conformed to the parameters.

Between the arrival of the raw materials and the dispatch of the goods, products go through a barrage of 30 tests to ensure they’re bang on the money.

It’s this work which backs up the company’s guarantee that a product is suitable. It aims to give garages the same peace of mind they’ll get with a Gates or Dayco timing belt promise, but the research Comma did into the new website and marketing revealed that many garages didn’t realise it even existed.

“The guarantee is what we put on as the ‘skin’ over all of those things, but if we didn’t have those tests underneath, the guarantee wouldn’t work at all. We couldn’t do it, and offer the guarantee, if we didn’t have the confidence in our product.

“In fairness, it isn’t new. We’ve offered our guarantee to the market place for some years, but what we are trying to do now is help distributors and workshops better leverage it.”

Bewsey believes there are plenty of ways to get that leverage and cement the relationship between consumer, garages and Comma other than price (see panel): “The UK is very price sensitive, although not as much as you might think. Price is there, but it’s not first or second – it’s around the sixth consideration.”

Besides the continual development and testing work at Gravesend, Comma spends a great deal of time on the road to reach the industry at shows like Mechanex. It says it has worked hands-on with 2000 technicians at TeckTalk Live events at shows last year and trained a further 3000 in partnership with factors like Camberley Auto Factors.

It also has 11,000 UK workshops signed up to its Professional Partner Programme, which it launched in 2001, all receiving the company’s printed application guide.

It’s not just about the UK for Comma anymore. Over the past eight years it’s enjoyed particularly steep growth in other markets. Export now accounts for 38 percent of the company’s turnover.

The company does particularly well in Iceland where there’s more Comma product in each car than in any other market. A shame for Comma, then, that the Icelandic car parc is 100th of the size of the UK’s, but the company’s still proud about the achievement.

It likes to think Icelanders go for its products because they have the confidence that they’ll continue to work no matter what the extremes of weather.

Wherever the market happens to be, though, it’s the 100 percent attention on the aftermarket that Comma also thinks gives it an added edge.

None of the growth in export has come at the expense of market share or service in the UK, Bewsey is quick to point out.

Comma has unrivalled access to base oils, to keep the UK demand fully met through peaks and troughs, and since the company is able to switch blends and make most of its own containers on site it can very quickly respond to changes in what the demand is for.

“We focus on the aftermarket, that’s what we’re about. If the aftermarket dies, we die with it,” says Bewsey.

As long as both stay on their toes, there doesn’t seem to be any danger of that happening to either, thankfully.

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Bosal turns exhaust manufacturing into an art form

It seems a strange sight in this modern age to see real people making real objects.

But that’s exactly what’s happening over at Bosal‘s UK base in Lancashire, where CAT editor Peter Lawton and I found ourselves this morning.

After a chat with sales and marketing director Robin Evans, we were given a tour of the warehouse and manufacturing floors.

Perhaps naively, I always thought that seeing any sort of production these days would just involve robots. I thought I’d see steel going in one end of a machine, and exhausts coming out the other.

Imagine my surprise then to see people on the production line, not just checking for quality but making parts as well. Sure enough machines do most of the heavy moulding and welding, but the final touching up is done by people on the warehouse floor. It was a gratifying site to see this manufacturing machine at work.

Evans explained that Bosal’s quality manufacturing comes from being an OE supplier – indeed, it’s currently making exhausts for the Range Rover Evoque.

He says that OE quality means that only the best can leave the warehouse. Perhaps that philosophy explains why most of the exhausts in the rejected parts bin seem to have nothing wrong with them. One specimen we inspect has a small surface dent in its casing, barely visible to the naked eye.

That may be alright for some aftermarket manufacturers, says Evans, but definitely not for Bosal.

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All proceeds from the event will go to BEN

All proceeds from the event will go to BEN

If car booting is your thing, then make sure you’re down at the Gaydon Heritage Motor Centre where BEN will be organising a car boot sale.

All profits made on the day will go towards helping BEN continue to carry out its vital work in the automotive industry.

The event takes place on Sunday 25th September, and everyone is welcome to attend whether as a seller or a buyer.

BEN’s volunteer coordinator said: “Boot4Ben has been running for several years now and is such a great way to support BEN and the automotive people it cares for.  The fantastic surroundings at the Heritage Motor Centre and the great facilities make this perfect settings in which to spend your day raising money for a great cause.”

What a chance to find some great bargains!

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Jelly Belly gives it the beans at Silverstone

The CAT staff are today attempting to eat their own weight in jelly beans, thanks to the Jelly Belly team who overloaded our daring reporter with sweet treats at Silverstone yesterday.

I must admit that prior to their event I wouldn’t have thought of the Jelly Belly company as being particularly involved in the automotive aftermarket. But, as the various scents wafting their way around the CAT office now suggests, it is.

In fact Jelly Belly has brought six sweet scents to the aftermarket in the hopes of making cars smell that little bit sweeter. A whole range of fragrances, from juicy pear to tuti fruiti are available.

As well as the traditional fragranced hangers, Jelly Belly also sells fragranced sprays for those who want the occasional burst of bubblegum scent. The sprays are ideal for livening up the car or the bathroom, and as it turns out the office as well.

My thanks to the Jelly Belly team for a cracking day out yesterday, although as the bean pile diminishes I must confess that my diet is now ruined.

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Trupart Ltd

Trupart reprint their many individual product catalogues every 18 months, but despite this, a paper catalogue can be out of date almost as soon as it goes to press. The Trupart ‘online’ catalogue is always totally up to date and is the best way to make sure that you get the correct part everytime!

Accessing the online catalogue is easy, simply log on to our website at and click on the big red button at the top of the page. Finding the right part is simple and most of the online data is also supported by illustrations or photographs of the product, together with technical information where necessary.

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The Widnes site will be the company's 18th branch

The Widnes site will be the company's 18th branch

CES is continuing to expand with the opening of a new branch in Widnes.

The new 12,000 sq ft site will service both the local Widnes area and beyond. CES says the decision to expand into Widnes follows years of successful trading in the area.

Opening at the beginning of October, the new branch will create 25 jobs within the local area. These jobs will fill a variety of functions in sales, warehousing, driving and administrative duties.

CES currently employs 500 people across the North West, Midlands and North Wales. The new site in Widnes will be the company’s 18th branch.

The company’s managing director Steve McCann said: “Over many years our existing Liverpool branch has built a strong reputation for customer service, product quality and reliable delivery. So it made perfect sense to expand our reach in the region.”

“It’s the CES way for our branches to have plenty of stock on-site, ready for delivery. We’ll be following the same successful model again. It means customers in the area can expect to receive the parts they need quickly.”

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