Archive | January, 2013



Sogefi Group has extended its 25-year contract with supplier Groupauto, securing another three-year term as a preferred supplier to the UK and Ireland.

From the 1st January 2013, Sogefi will continue to supply aftermarket filters from Fram and CoopersFiaam, which the company says is down to ‘continued confidence in the quality, scope and value’ it offers.

Sogefi calls the deal ‘important’, as it will benefit from Groupauto’s large network presence and recognised expertise. The deal is good news for Groupauto, too, which sustains the support of two of the market’s most reputable filtration brands. The renewal will benefit members of both organisations, as well as wholesalers, factors and garage networks.

Nigel Duffield, Sogefi Aftermarket Sales Manager said, ‘I am delighted that Groupauto has once again approved our UK aftermarket filter brands. This means that Groupauto members will be able to continue to benefit from our products encompassing market-leading technologies and OE-quality.

‘The Sogefi UK Aftermarket sales team will be working very hard to satisfy all of the Groupauto customers and provide the services, which only a leading filter provider can ensure.’

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David Cameron has promised to hold a referendum in the UK to decide if Britain will remain part of the EU.

The referendum will come in the early part of the next parliament if the Conservatives win the next election. In a speech Mr. Cameron said: “It is time for the British People to have their say. It is time to settle this European question in British politics. I say to the British people: this will be your decision.”

Cameron said the referendum would make a decision on the “destiny” of the UK. He also said that if he was successful in getting a more satisfactory relationship with the EU he would campaign “heart and soul” to stay within the union.

The decision to hold the referendum has angered some. France and Germany have both warned that the UK cannot “cherry pick” its EU membership, while Eurosceptics have welcomed the move.

Businesses seem divided on the move. A group of 55 business leaders have written to The Times supporting Cameron’s strategy, while some foreign investors have said they will raise the cost of UK borrowing in markets. The group, which includes the Chairman of Rolls Royce, said: “We need a new relationship with the EU, backed by democratic mandate.”

The Confederation of British Industry has said it will work with David Cameron to get the “best deal for Britain.” “The EU single market is fundamental to Britain’s future economic success, but the closer union of the Eurozone is not for us,” said CBI Director-General John Cridland “The Prime Minister rightly recognises the benefits of retaining membership of what must be a reformed EU.”

Not everyone supports the referendum. British Manufacturing organisation the EEF warned that the PM’s strategy was “not without risk.” “The Prime Minister’s speech set out a compelling vision of how Europe needs to change,” said the group “It is in the interests of the UK and business that the EU is a dynamic economy creating jobs and prosperity for all member states. We must work better with Europe to make Europe work better for Britain.

“If the door to a UK exit from the union is open it will diminish our ability to influence the reforms that Europe needs. It is far from certain, moreover, that the outcome of negotiations will be clear cut, meaning that greater uncertainty about UK membership – particularly for business, will prevail.”

The European Union question has far reaching consequences for every sector. CAT invites its readers to get in touch with their views on the subject.

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Set your New Year resolutions for success

When compared to motor factors is there any other industry offering a more efficient supply chain to technicians and service points in the UK? The answer is almost certainly no, so we should congratulate ourselves on what we’ve achieved. Or should we?

It is inconceivable that a plumber finding he needs an unanticipated part to repair a boiler, or a computer engineer wanting to order a circuit board, could phone their supplier and expect a delivery 20 minutes later complete with a free mug and Kit Kat. So why do we provide this level of service to garages, and, more importantly, can we afford to carry on doing it?

From the mid-seventies the race has been on to offer the fastest delivery service to garages and the bar has been raised every year. However, rising fuel prices, insurance and all the other costs associated with offering an ‘instant response’ delivery means that margins are increasingly being impacted and garages have become both lazy and inefficient. I have been with a factor and witnessed a garage place three separate orders for the same vehicle over a period of around an hour as the technician works his way through the service schedule, finds jobs to do and demands parts to be delivered on a different van. Another well-known horror story is the garage who orders from two or three factors, only to keep the first part to arrive and send the others back for credit. Many factors reading this will have sent a van out with only £10 worth of parts for delivery and wondered why we do it.

Surely the time has come for the industry to collectively start to educate their customers; ensuring they understand the cost implications of their actions and drive up efficiency not by delivering faster but smarter. Many motor factors reading this will be thinking, great idea but if I make the change and nobody else follows, I’ll lose sales and customers. To an extent they’re right, this has to be an industry- wide initiative.

Garages for their part need to address their processes. How many garages look at what’s due in tomorrow and pre-order the parts, so they arrive before the car? The answer is regrettably very few. This approach would deliver cost savings for factors that could be passed on to garages and indeed motorists. A by-product of this approach would be to allow factors to source parts they don’t have available and deliver them first thing in the morning often resulting in cheaper parts as they could use their normal supplier.

Ask yourself these questions: What is a viable minimum delivery value for my business? How much does it cost to deliver to each of my customers (it will vary), which customers are cost effective, and which are just a cost?

The answers to these questions may surprise you. After that the next question you need to address is what are you going to do about it? Make it a New Year’s Resolution, and watch your costs drop and profits soar.

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How to make friends and employ people

You don’t want to get off on the wrong foot with a new member of staff, so Mark Stevens explains how to make sure hiring your first worker works well.

Taking on a new employee can be one of the most significant steps that a small business can take. Understanding the legal issues when becoming an employer for the first time can make a huge difference to the experience, and costs, for all involved.

Finding the right person

Any potential employer must bear in mind that it is unlawful to discriminate against a would be employee. This includes the way the advert is worded, the format and content of application forms, the physical arrangements for interview, location and timing of interviews and the job and person specifications.

As of October 1, 2010 it is unlawful for employers to ask potential recruits questions about their health within an application form or during interview (subject to certain limited exceptions). This will include asking questions about a potential employee’s prior sickness records.

Making an offer

Any job offer should be set out in writing to avoid confusion as to the potential employee’s duties and responsibilities further down the line. The offer letter should also confirm any conditions to which the offer is subject, for example, receipt of satisfactory references. An employer can at this stage ask an employee questions about their health, and make the job offer conditional upon receipt of a satisfactory report or medical questionnaire.

All employers must carry out certain checks before an individual commences employment in order to clarify that they are entitled to work in the UK. It is a criminal offence to knowingly employ an individual who does not have permission to undertake the work for which they are employed and it is a civil offence to negligently do so. Be sure to ask the same questions of all applicants.

The contract

The contract of employment is a key document setting out the duties and responsibilities that the employee and employer will operate. There are a number of things that an employer must by law include in a contract of employment that is given within two months of starting work:

– The names of the employer and employee

– The date the employment starts and the date the employee’s period of continuous employment began

– Pay (or method of calculating it) and interval of payment

– Hours of work

– Holiday entitlement and holiday pay

– A brief description of the work

– Place of work

– Terms related to work outside the UK for a period of more than one month

– Terms as to length of temporary or fixed term work

– Pensions, including a note stating whether there is a contracting-out certificate in force under the Pension Schemes Act 1993

– Clarification of any collective agreements that may apply and

– Certain information on disciplinary and grievance procedures

Setting pay

Employers must comply with the requirements for equal pay between men and women when setting pay for work of equal value. Employers should also be mindful of the National Minimum Wage – see

An employer will also need to set up a payroll scheme via HMRC. An employer should therefore always ask an employee to provide their P45.

Employee rights

Employees receive various rights from the first day of their employment. These include:

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

Covers employees if they are off work on sick leave for four days or more in a row.

Paid holiday

All employees are entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks (28 days) paid annual leave per year. Bank and public holidays can be included as part of the minimum 5.6 weeks paid annual leave. Part timers get this pro rata.

Rest breaks

Employees aged 18 or over should not be required to work an average of more than 48 hours per week, unless they give you their voluntary consent in writing. You
must also allow workers to have minimum daily and weekly rest periods.

Family leave

Most employees will be entitled to take time off work for the birth or adoption of a child. Also, an employee is also entitled to emergency time off work in a number of specifically defined situations, including dealing with an emergency involving a dependant.

Health and safety

An employer has a legal responsibility for their employee’s health and safety at work. Employees should receive health and safety information, training and appropriate protective clothing free of charge.

unlawful discrimination

An employer must not treat workers less favourably because of their race, nationality, ethnic grouping, sex, maternity, pregnancy, disability, age, sexual orientation, religion or belief, membership or non-membership of a trade union or their marital/civil partnership status.

In terms of employees with a disability, unlawful discrimination includes failure to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to premises, practices and procedures to enable that person to work, or continue working.

In summary

While the issues facing an employer when taking on employees may seem overwhelming, when broken down they are, for the most part, commonsense and ensure fairness for both parties.

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CAT supplier lives: JRP Distribution

The site is growing

The site is growing

The recent rapid growth of JRP Distribution in Lancing is down to a lot of legwork and having key people on the ground. Not just in Sussex, or the rest of the UK, but in China.

Getting supply from Asia is obviously nothing new, but JRP seems to have developed quite a knack with it. The business was formed in 1984 by Richard Page who was joined by his son Ollie in 2006. From the early days of selling batteries and chamois leathers from the boot of a car, the company now prides itself on its rapid flexibility in meeting direct-to-branch demands from the likes of Andrew Page, GSF and Camberley Auto Factors.

The first inroads into China were made in spring 2011, the first delivery was taken in early 2012 and now JRP has three permanent members of staff in China dealing with 18 factories.

“I’m going out to China every six months, but that’s going up to every three months, two weeks at a time,” says Ollie. “The way we’ve got it set up is quite unique. Most people will have a UK agent who then discusses with a Chinese agent or Chinese trading company which then goes to the factory.

“Speak to any Chinese factory and if they get approached by an agent or trading company, they’ll put their prices up ten to 15 percent straight away.

“We’ve got our own office, so there’s none of that.

“I went to some stands at the Canton fair, got some prices and then sent one of my Chinese girls there under an alias for the same products. They were 30 percent cheaper.

“I try to pick up a few words every time I go out there, but it’s a ridiculously difficult language. It’s like any country. If you can’t speak their language, you’re going to struggle in any negotiation.

“If you haven’t got a Chinese speaking person out there, you’ll get charged a lot more.”

Having the right people in the right place clearly pays dividends with a very competitive unit price for JRP. All of the quality control work is done in China, with one of the latest study running to 180 pages on a new line of wiper blades. JRP has taken four 40-foot containers of jump leads under its Simply brand, and more are coming. Space at the current warehouse is running out, so a new-build 12,000sqft warehouse over the road is joining the roster mid-2013.

Ollie is learning business lessons fast

Ollie is learning business lessons fast

“Nothing gets consolidated out there, everything comes direct,” says Ollie. “One of the other things we’ve set up with the factories as well is to give them a humongous order, they store it, and then we draw down containers at a time.

“With costs changing all the time, if we hit it at the right time, we can get a low cost and they store it for free.” It’s a far cry from the early days of what Richard calls his ‘lifestyle’ company with four employees concentrating only on the South East of England.

He says: “I was an agent prior to this and the problem at that time was there was no legislation protecting us. Once the business had been built up, they could come in, say ‘thanks very much’, and send you on your way.

“So I took on Philips batteries that I sold out of the back of the car and some chamois leathers and it kind of developed from there. For the first few years I did part agency and part the products which I had at home.”

JRP took on Pacer adhesives in 2001, just as the Dollar exchange rate bit, but it bought the company a big customer list and suddenly they were a national player. Could Richard imagine back then where JRP would be today? “Definitely not, no. Years ago I imported from Italy and Germany. America was a big deal for me. Ollie’s got a different take on it and has managed to find lots of niches. Put those niches together you have a very attractive package.”

Ollie adds: “It also means that we’re not attacking one competitor at any one time, which would be suicidal. I don’t think many people could keep up with our range development.” By the end of next year, 75 to 80 percent of JRP’s lines will be coming from China, Taiwan or elsewhere in Asia. Being a family business Ollie was brought into work as a child at weekends and in the holidays and put to work by Richard. “I did those annoying blister packs that took about ten minutes to do and he only gave me 2p a pack.”

It seems Ollie learnt an early lesson the company is now benefiting from.

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Put in place with the partnership of Motor Codes, it aims to answer the criticisms of other schemes and make the garage experience more transparent for consumers.

Alongside the scheme Groupauto has launched an online garage finder, available at Groupauto said: “The Approved Garages programme is a not-for-profit initiative that will provide consumers with a network of trusted independent garages delivering quality and transparency, while also providing the garages in the scheme with new and repeat business.

“The purpose of the Approved Garages network is to challenge the negative perception that many motorists have of the independent garage. The only way to do that is to channel genuine enquiries from motorists that need to find a reputable garage through to a network that will do a quality job. This will raise the reputation of the network, the individual garages within it and the reputation of the independent automotive aftermarket.”

Although members of the scheme will not be obligated to buy from Groupauto suppliers, the company “believes they will benefit over the long-term” from doing so.

All of the garages signing up to the new scheme will have to join Motor Codes, and in doing so will be subject to the same standards and quality control checks as existing subscribers adhere to.

Motor Codes Communications Manager David Rogers said: “As with any Motor Codes garage they will all be inspected by the RAC. I think independent garages increasingly recognise that what we’re offering is a safety net for consumers. People see the Trading Standards logo, other people’s feedback and know that there is a government advice line to back those promises.

“This will become an official collaboration because they [GAU] are committing their garages to signing up to the codes of practice. I think this makes things clearer, because by choosing a Motor Codes subscribed garage you know what standards to expect. You know that if anything goes wrong, or you need to ask advice, there are customer service experts here who can act as go betweens, and who have success rates of 93 percent.”

This isn’t the first partnership between Motor Codes and another garage scheme. Rogers says Motor Codes already has an agreement with Unipart and its Car Care Centre programme as well as the RAC Approved Garages scheme. They contribute 584 and 217 garages to the Motor Codes network respectively.

Groupauto says that its network isn’t designed to run in opposition to any of the service and repair schemes currently operating. Instead Approved Garages will “work alongside them, to provide a network of garages that motorists can trust. It is designed to link motorists with a need to those most skilled and trustworthy to provide a solution to it.”

Those garages signing up to Approved Garages will also have access to technical training offered by Groupauto and its training partner eXponentia. As an added bonus garages signing up will have their annual Motor Codes subscriptions paid for them. Groupauto has confirmed there will be a cost for garages to join the scheme, but wouldn’t be drawn on the specific price.

Groupauto stresses that selection for the Approved Garages network will be by invitation only and those garages will “have to provide guarantees for their quality and reputation, and adhere to Approved Garages procedures.” The group says it wants 5-600 garages signed up by April.

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Millers Oils wins MIA award for Nanodrive

Millers Oils wins MIA award for Nanodrive

Screen shot 2013-01-21 at 10.32.59

Millers won the award for its Nanodrive range of oils

Millers Oils is celebrating after winning the Motorsport Industry Association’s Business Excellence Award for Technology and Innovation.

The company won the prestigious award for its Nanodrive oil, which it says has revolutionized lubrication within the automotive industry with unprecedented levels of friction.

Technical Director for the company Martyn Mann said: “This award is an important milestone for Millers Oils, as it reflects the motorsport industry’s drive for innovation in all areas.

“All of the research and development of our Nanodrive oils has been carried out at our new state-of-the-art facilities in Yorkshire. The product has put Millers Oils a step above our competitors, we are no ordinary oil company.”

Millers’ Nanodrive oil was originally developed for gear oil in 2009, and the same nanotechnology has been used to create a  whole range of motor oils which the company says can reduce frictional losses, improve fuel consumption, increase power output and reduce component wear.

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BM Catalysts finishes 2012 with a flurry

BM Catalysts finishes 2012 with a flurry

BM Catalysts released 88 new parts in the nine weeks leading up to Christmas, the company has said.

The Research and Development team bought 63 new catalysts and a number of front pipe and DPF units to the market. Collectively the new additions cater for 371 different vehicle fitments.

BM says the launch of its latest haul of new products marks a fitting end to the year for the manufacturer. Commercial Director Mark Blinston said: “2012 could prove to be a pivotal year for the company. We’ve expanded into Europe in a big way and are already having to gear up to meet increased demand.

“The 88 new parts we’ve launched in the last few months pay testament to that. We’ve been recognised for our dedication to new product developments; winning a Manufacturing Excellence award in November, so hopefully we’ll be looking back in ten years and thinking that this was the year we switched from a UK Market leader to the global go-to supplier.”

BM says it is committed to bringing 300 new parts to the market each year.

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Wilco Direct’s snowman eBay auction for motor industry charity BEN is hitting the big time.

News of Stevie Snowman has spread through the snow-covered town so the local paper is today popping around to take a photo and promote the charity drive. Wilco Direct owners the Shortis Group have also pledged to match the winning bid.

As well as winning what is left of Stevie at the end of the auction, the winning bidder will also get a range of motoring accessories including a shovel, sledge and waterproof car cover.

Just click this link to be taken to Stevie’s eBay page and start a bidding war.

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As soon as exhaust supplier Bosal entered administration the aftermarket grapevine turned its sights on a new company that was formed at the same Walton Summit Road address last October.

Bosal Preston was incorporated on October 30th 2012, just over two months before administrators Duff and Phelps were called in on Bosal last Friday January 11.

Some in the aftermarket have been quick to suggest that Bosal was put into administration to avoid paying a group of 48 employees their full redundancy package, and legal costs after the case went to court, and that Bosal Preston would simply take up the reins once again without this financial burden and great liabilities going forward.

Bosal had unsuccessfully argued that the ‘enhanced’ redundancy package negotiated before the employees were dismissed in 2007 was drawn up  in very different economic conditions and should not be upheld. Bosal said the agreement lapsed in 2004, but Mercantile Court in Manchester disagreed, found in the employees favour last July and left Bosal facing a total potential bill of more than £840,000.

A spokesman for Bosal said it would not comment on speculation surrounding the new business, but described Bosal Preston as a ‘dormant company’. The spokesman said it was formed last October as the company was looking at a variety of options for the future and said there were no plans for the business.

Besides the large redundancy bill facing the company, Bosal also blamed the switch to stainless steel exhausts and a move by rivals to production in Eastern Europe for its financial difficulties.

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