Archive | June, 2014



BrianSpratt_200pxThe Independent Automotive Aftermarket Federation (IAAF) is urging all suppliers and motor factors to air its experiences on accessing VM parts data.

The rallying call comes as the European Commission (EC), survey assessing the market’s experience of obtaining repair and maintenance information, enters its final days.

Already a hot topic, the IAAF believes that suppliers and motor factors need to give the EC its views and opinions on accessing both data for repairing and servicing vehicles and parts information necessary for cataloguing and cross referencing.

In his last act before retirement, Chief Executive of the IAAF Brian Spratt, believes the aftermarket needs to voice its opinion to give the EC an understanding of the challenges they face.

“It is vitally important that we explain to the European Commission just how detrimental restrictions on accessing parts data are to our businesses,” he adds.

“There are increasing problems with data access and identifying the correct parts for a specific vehicle, meaning factors continue to supply multiple parts to a garage. We need Ricardo and the Commission to understand the problem and enforce the Euro-5 rules.”

The deadline for the EC’s survey is June 27, click here to give your views and opinions.

Posted in Factor & Supplier News, Garage News, News, Retailer NewsComments (0)

Comline scores a hole-in-one with its second successful golf day

Comline scores a hole-in-one with its second successful golf day

John-Bennett_PRComline has hosted its second golf day, as it continues to establish the event in the UK aftermarket and build on its success.

The event at Woburn Golf Club was an opportunity for the distributor of Japanese, Korean and European car parts, to mingle with some of its customers who travelled across the country to play at one of the UK’s top 100 golf courses, including John and Louis O’Hanlon from National Auto Parts who travelled from Ireland to take part.

The day itself was a success as Peter Trimarco from T&S Motor Factors walked away with the accolade of Comline’s 2014 Champion Golfer, despite the fast course offering up a number of challenges and contending with typically unsettled British weather.

Malcolm Rosher, Sales and Marketing Director at Comline, said: “The Comline Golf Day is quickly establishing itself as a highly anticipated event on the aftermarket calendar.

“Woburn is a truly first class venue and our guests are treated to a day’s golf that they simply won’t forget. From our perspective it’s fantastic to bring together friends of Comline for such an event and further strengthen these important relationships.”

Posted in Factor & Supplier News, NewsComments (0)

Razoom brings business intelligence to the cloud

Razoom brings business intelligence to the cloud

homepage-screenshot-(1)Automotive software specialist Razoom has launched today its new cloud-based workshop management system available for the independent aftermarket.

CarVue has been designed to allow garage owners the opportunity to view their business at a glance, and offers a number of features, including reporting, invoicing, purchase

order creation and VRM lookup.

Being cloud-based software, it doesn’t need to be installed or regularly updated, and is accessible and optimised for any device that can connect to the internet.

Managing Director Carl Lightfoot, said that the software will be constantly evolving and for that reason has been built on a single online platform for all its markets.

Alex Knight, Marketing Director, adds: “The aftermarket is after a simple solution, as they didn’t want bloated product features that they would never use. They wanted one that could do the right things fast. That for us was key, as everybody said they wanted something simple and logical.

“We designed CarVue to be self evident and intuitive for the user and were delighted to see how rarely people called our helpdesk during our beta testing.”

Razoom has a number of different packages available for garages to choose from, starting with a basic set-up ideal for a small workshop, which comes with access for two users and 1GB of storage, up to the premium package, which comes with all of the features in the other two packs, and includes vehicle health check, online booking, technician clocking and unlimited storage.

There are also a number of media packs available for purchase giving garages the options of adding VRM and postcode checkers to the system, and a future update will allow for communication via text messaging, email and social media.

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Buying group The Parts Alliance has acquired Worcestershire-based Bromsgrove Motor Factors (BMF) for an undisclosed sum.

The Parts Alliance’s Chief Executive Peter Sephton said he was excited to be welcoming new colleagues from BMF to the HgCapital-backed Parts Alliance group ‘family’.

He said: “Bromsgrove Motor Factors is a great business with outstanding customer and staff loyalty, providing local service in the Worcestershire area, and adds to our national strength.”

“This deal is an early demonstration of our declared aim to grow quickly, both organically and through the acquisition of successful parts distributor companies, large and small.”

When Sephton became Chief Executive of The Parts Alliance in April of this year, he retained his role as Group CEO of the HgCapital-owned Parts Alliance members that trade under local brand names and are organised into The Western Alliance and The Eastern Alliance.

“Since our investors HgCapital bought those businesses we have made significant strides in bringing them together, integrating best practice and introducing unified systems while encouraging a common vision and culture, but retaining the local brands, entrepreneurial spirit and customer focus,” said Sephton.

“This investment in our people has delivered a new level of camaraderie and confidence, which will be extended to our new colleagues from BMF, and I am delighted that MD Gary Kennett and Director Anthony Rollings will continue to lead the company and continue to grow the business.

“I am also delighted Gary has agreed to join our senior group leadership team to help us build a national market leader.”

Gary Kennett said: “We are looking forward to working with Peter Sephton and the rest of the management team and developing Bromsgrove Motors Factors into an even greater business.”

BMF was founded in 1978 and has branches in Bromsgrove, Redditch, Worcester and Kidderminster, with a delivery fleet of 30 and a staff of 65.

The acquisition comes only 11 weeks after The Parts Alliance itself was acquired by HgCapital, an investment company with a £2 billion automotive fun

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TRW designs braking fluid to work in all temperatures

TRW designs braking fluid to work in all temperatures

TRWEU0414_(TRW_Ultra_ESP_brake_fluid)_imageTRW has developed the world’s first DOT 5.1 brake fluid designed to work and maintain its performance at all temperatures.

The formulation has been scientifically engineered to meet the latest demands in ESP technology.

It has developed its brake fluid offering to ensure it reduces the latent risk of longer stopping distances and loss of control of the vehicle, by developing a higher boiling point than most other standard liquids.

It also will be a low viscosity formulation meaning that the DOT 5.1 ESP has the best flow properties between the ABS hydraulics small bores, valves and pumps, especially during cold conditions.

Barbara Koerfer, Drum Brake and Actuation Systems Product Manager, said: “With this brake fluid we are thinking across systems, across extremes of temperatures and across the global vehicle car parc.

“Its unique viscosity properties exceed all others on the market which can only be categorized as DOT 5.1, making this product suitable from Antartica to Zimbabwe.”

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BCS-and-Tour-de-France_300pxBosch Car Service Centres will be tasked this summer with keeping the Tour de France entourage on the road once again.

The German parts manufacturers’ service network has been chosen to be a technical partner throughout the race, and is expected to ensure more than 2000 support vehicles are maintained throughout the event.

To provide on-going support during the Tour de France, which begins in the UK for the first time since 2007, Bosch will be providing three lorries equipped with its own specialist technicians and diagnostic equipment.

Rhian Kendall, Bosch Car Service Concept Manager, said: “With such a diverse mix of vehicles working to support the team, we’ll need to react quickly and effectively to all manners of breakdowns and failures.

“Bosch has supported the Tour de France in the past, but we’re especially proud to be involved with the world-famous cycle race this year, as it travels across the UK.”

Also key to the plan is its 500 plus strong service network, which will be on hand to help out when necessary.

Nigel Turner, Owner of Turner Brothers in Holmfirth, West Yorkshire, a member garage along the route, said: “The race passes our front door, so we are really excited to get involved.

“We’re making the most of Bosch Car Service’s relationship with the race, and have the Bosch Aftermarket mascot, Sparky the spark plug, drumming up support by giving out leaflets and vouchers to spectators.”

The race begins on July 5, with the riders and the teams expected to cover more than 548kms, beginning in Yorkshire, before heading South to race from Cambridge to London, and finishing up at the Mall before continuing the tour in France.

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Denso coolly expands its air con compressor range

Denso coolly expands its air con compressor range

DENSO-AC-Compressor-duo-with-packaging_sm-(1)Denso has extended its air conditioning compressor range by adding a further 29 new references.

The Japanese parts supplier has introduced the new products in order to increase its grip on the air con market, by extending its offering to the independent aftermarket.

It sees new references for the BMW 1-, 3-, 7-Series and the X5, the Mercedes M- and S-Class, Subaru Legacy and Outback, Toyota Yaris, Auris, RAV 4 and Land Cruiser, Chrysler, Jeep Cherokee and Hummer H2.

Each of Denso’s compressors are sent as complete assemblies ready for technicians to fit, including with the right specification and amount of oil in the unit, and its 479 part numbers covers all types of compressor including, the reciprocal, rotary and electrical variations.

Martin Pring, Manager of Denso Aftermarket Sales, said: “These new references demonstrate our continued investment in providing the widest range of air conditioning compressors in the automotive aftermarket.

“An in-built motor allows the Denso electric compressor to operate independently, providing consistent levels

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IGA new car repair plan is open for business

IGA new car repair plan is open for business


The Independent Garage Association’s message to consumers with the launch of its Car Repair Plan is to ‘shield yourself from unexpected repair costs’. This savings plan, tailored specifically for independent garages, will allow consumers to put money away in an account which can then be used to pay all maintenance costs at participating garages. Those accepting payment by this method must be members of the Independent Garage Association and approved by the Trust My Garage code scheme.

Stuart James, IGA Director said: “Consumers buying new cars are often tied into a plan which is limited to items covered in the service. Now, with this plan, all car owners can budget regardless of the age of the vehicle and with the added bonus of knowing that if they do experience a problem, the Independent Garage Association will investigate. There are already over 300 garages registered for the plan and we foresee this being the largest scheme of its kind in the UK.”

Multiple cars can be added to each Car Repair Plan account giving flexibility for families, and consumers will have reassurance that if they break down away from home, there will always be a participating outlet somewhere close by.

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From dangerous cars to diagnostics overkill

From dangerous cars to diagnostics overkill

210910accex_300pxMike Owen answers aftermarket questions about how to retain staff, protect the public from dangerous vehicles and keep on top of new diagnostic tools.

A customer came to collect a car that I think is in very dangerous condition. Do I have to hand over the keys?

Unfortunately you cannot impound a customer’s property (other than for payment); whilst this may serve the public interest best, it would be against the law.

But, hold on a second, don’t we have to carry out duty-of-care inspections and inform the customers or we are held liable? Yes you do – and that is what you do in this situation. The limit of your liability is to inform the customer only – this is where the old proverb ‘there are none as deaf as those who will not hear’ must be taken literally and you protect yourself accordingly.

Either get a signature to the effect that you have informed the customer of the problems with their car or tell them in front of a witness – yes, you have to be that formal; if this all goes wrong your conveniently ‘deaf’ customer (or their insurers or, even worse, the police) will expect you to prove that you did this or hold you liable.

It is important that your advice can be referred to – the vehicle condition should be completely described on the invoice; further, I have used a red stamp with something like ‘customer informed of vehicle condition’ and got them to sign across as evidence of them having seen it.

I remember an instance with a customer who drove a Porsche 928 back when they were new but who would not put tyres on the vehicle his wife and au-pair used to ferry their fleet of kids about in. But I’ve always worked on one simple premise – what would I feel if it was my wife and kids coming the other way when it all goes wrong?

I’ve taken on three new staff over the past 12 months and lost all three of them to other garages. I think we got on – I tried to pay them well and show them a few tricks – so what am I doing wrong?

Something fundamental is wrong – I hate to be the bringer of bad news but generally staff don’t leave a bad job, they leave bad management. The rate of staff ‘churn’ suggests that the initial promise tempts them enough to join but the experience doesn’t deliver.

Look towards what you offer your staff, not just that they are lucky to have a job.

Do your technicians understand that your company is going somewhere, and that you see them as a part of it?

Do you look at their training needs and discuss their development or just issue rollickings? Do you get all thin-lipped and difficult or carry on like Captain Chaos leaving a trail of destruction and aggravation behind you?

No manager likes to face their own shortcomings a worthy American, Tom Northup, suggested: “No great manager or leader ever fell from heaven, it’s learned not inherited.”

Oh, and by the way, the process never stops for you any more than it does for your technical staff. Being a manager doesn’t mean you’re the best at fixing cars – you may choose to fulfil that role as well but your staff look to you for other qualities.

But where do you learn management skills? More and more we are asked to run ‘Introduction to Management’ modules; these are becoming more available, and better attended, as the understanding grows about the need for these skills.

Motivation isn’t about being friends and asking them for dinner once a month – in fact this is almost to be discouraged. Motivation, that often misunderstood management tool is about getting staff to ‘want to’ rather than ‘have to’ – and that includes wanting to stay.

I’ve got a cupboard full of diagnostic equipment of every shape, size and colour, but it never seems to be enough. When will it end?

The march of technology is relentless and, due to this, so is the investment in equipment to satisfy working on it. I’m afraid those are the industry facts of life.

As you so rightly ask, why is there no universal equipment? Unfortunately expecting such a piece of equipment isn’t likely to happen for no other reason than a lack of cooperation, at the engineering level, by the manufacturers – one could also ask if such a piece of equipment would suit their end game?

It does beg the question, due to required investment, should independent garages start to specialise in order to get the use out of their investment or perhaps form ‘equipment clubs’? If you will accept that the equipment is bought, together with the training to support it, in order to increase ability and efficiency, this would lead you towards the former as the latter would incur the cost of training that supports the equipment, but not necessarily the hands-on experience, to turn the training into profit.

I have said before, unnecessary investment, without clear ‘return on investment’ is not to be recommended (despite the promises of the silver-tongued salesman). What do you do, how often do you do it – or how often can’t you do it, all serve to build a picture of your requirements, focus on these to start with. Secondly consider the division of cost, initially you could say it adds a pound to every hour you sell – but not if it increases the hours you can sell by increasing your efficiency.

Back when I was on the spanners, we used to have a horrible suspension job that was a nightmare, hardly a pleasure more of an endurance test – seven hours book time to complete (and no chance of bonus). An equipment company developed a ‘special tool’ to do the job in-situ with no dismantling and could be completed in less than an hour – the cost of the tool was over £500. Our ‘foreman’ couldn’t get his head around the fact that he was not losing six hours but gaining five and that the yield for those hours would double (which would pay for the tool in days) – the right equipment has the power to do this.

Put simply training and equipment will remain a factor of the industry well into the future, accept it, structure your finances to reflect it – but ensure that return on investment.

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CAT Garage Lives: Autopontiac

CAT Garage Lives: Autopontiac

Autopontiac_inside-1Robin Gray explains his passion for American muscle and especially Pontiacs.

To be a specialist in American cars in the UK isn’t easy and having a great passion for them certainly helps.

Robin Gray does.

His history is all about fixing many different V8s and V12s, ranging from the exotica of European supercars, to the tiny British sports cars housing huge engines through to the good ol’ American muscle.

Why American I hear you cry, well, I will let Gray explain: “The American car was the only real cars that gave me the buzz of motorcycling. That was the real thing behind it: the excitement of driving powerful cars and working on unusual vehicles.”

To be fair to Gray nothing is more unusual than the first car he worked on after finishing college in 1967.

“The first car I ever worked on was an AC Cobra, can you believe it,” said Gray. “I was 21 and this car was on the ramp for a service, and I went through it and changed everything. Back in those days you had to road test everything, and this was in Kensington, Chelsea. So I got in this car and drove it around for an hour in Kensington at 21 in this 1964 AC Cobra it was just unbelievable.”

Robin-Gray_headshot-1This opened the floodgates for Gray as he found himself working on everything from Lamborghinis right through to Morgans and Marcos.

Gray said: “My work was always very unusual and very varied and that was where the engineering side started. I worked on all sorts of cars and improvised and made bits up.

“I can’t say I was the most ingenious at this, but I worked with a lot of people who were very clever. That is why I can look at anything and see three angles on how to do that one job.”

In 1985, Gray decided that after many years running a number of different companies, he should start his own venture that would be a symbol of himself. Soon after Autopontiac was formed.

“I did a lot of work with Pontiac and it was getting quite popular because it was the Smokey and the Bandit era, and Knight Rider was on TV so Pontiac had quite a big image but nobody in the UK was doing it,” said Gray. “There were quite a few American car dealers and specialists but nobody was saying ‘I specialise in Trans Ams’.

“So I said was the Pontiac Firebird specialist. I knew nothing at the time, but I picked it up and I have probably turned myself into the most knowledgeable Pontiac person in this country.”

Gray’s decision to go for Pontiac is down to its subtle looks which differentiates itself from the Corvettes and Cadillacs, but also because Gray took it upon himself to prove that if done correctly Pontiacs are reliable.

His extensive knowledge base has proven to be invaluable to enthusiasts.

“There is nobody around with the knowledge. I started in 1967. When one of those cars comes down the road I can hear it if it is only running on seven cylinders instead of eight.

“I have ended up fixing cars over the phone for people because I recognise the way they go wrong from experience. But in 1988 a problem in an ‘86 car I knew nothing about required a diagnostic computer. So I became one of the first guys with a computer analyser after 1988.”

A large part of Autopontiac’s work now is restoration work, with Gray famed at building race engines, restoring gearboxes, axles and suspensions too.

“I have got an engine that started off as a 180bhp and is now 510bhp and produces 540lbs of torque between 3000 and 5000 rpm,” he adds.

That amount of specialist knowledge is sure to win a race or two.

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