Archive | October, 2014



CAT Awards logo AM700px
Nominations for the 2015 CAT Awards are open!

This year there are more ways to get involved in the nominations process. Do you know a factor that goes above and beyond your expectations every time? Is one of your customers a garage that’s beating the franchises at their own game? Perhaps you know an independent retailer that’s staying strong on the high street? The CAT Awards is your chance to get them recognised by the industry.

And don’t forget, it only takes ONE nomination.

Email your nominations to before the deadline of 24th November.

Here are this year’s categories in full

*Large factor of the yearopen to factors with a turnover of more than £1 million

“Does your factor always offer great service, night or day? Are their vans always on time and carrying the right parts? If so you should nominate them for this category.”

Last year’s winner: Livingston Autoparts

*Small factor of the yearopen to factors with a turnover of less than £1 million

“Small factors are the backbone of the aftermarket, and you might know one of the best. If you think you do nominate them for this award.”

Last year’s winner: Spartan Motor Factors

*Large garage of the yearopen to garages with a turnover of more than £750k

“Large garages have the space, the kit and the training to take on a whole variety of work. If your local garage sounds this good point them towards this category.”

Last year’s winner: Garej Wyn

*Small garage of the yearopen to garages with a turnover of less than £750k

“Small garages are the ones we love to hear about – size is no problem and the job is never too big. If this sounds like one of your customers nominate them for this award.”

Last year’s winner: Scotlands Ash Garage

*Retailer of the yearopen to all independent aftermarket retailers

“Does your business combine slick professionalism with friendly customer service? If you can answer yes to both those questions, you could be in with a shot at this award.”

Last year’s winner: Wilco Motor Spares

*Supplier of the yearopen to all aftermarket suppliers

“Do you have a supplier who delivers the right part on time first time every time? If so, this is the award for them.”

Last year’s winner: Exol Lubricants

*Extra Mile Award

“Which one person in the aftermarket deserves to be held above all others in 2015? This award recognises the individual who always goes the Extra Mile. If you have someone in mind, let us know.”

Last year’s winner: Greg Lee, Cat Automotive

*Lifetime Achievement Award

“Our most prestigious award, the Lifetime Achievement is decided by a CAT panel of experts.”

Last year’s winner: Brian Spratt

Email your nominations to before the deadline of 24th November.

Posted in UncategorisedComments (0)



The RMI’s Independent Garage Association (IGA) has announced a sharp increase in the number of technicians it has trained over the past year.

Year-to-date figures show that 3,500 technicians have participated in at least one of the Association’s various training programmes, which cover a number of aspects of motor vehicle maintenance, including how to safely work on modern hybrid systems.

Stuart James, IGA Director, explained: “Better informed and trained staff, as we know, helps ensure profitability and loyalty of our members’ customers. What’s more, with the continued growth in the level of technology found in modern motor vehicles, it’s imperative that technicians stay abreast of the changes, especially with a greater number of hybrid and electrical vehicles coming onto the market.

“From reviewing the statistics on numbers going through and completing our courses, we are encouraged that this is not the case, and we have the resources in place to deliver our training packages to many more.”

Posted in Garage News, UncategorisedComments (0)

How to extract useful info from databases

web-based-databaseMike Owen thinks you may know more about your customers than you realise and has some useful tips on how to make databases work for you.

For anybody who has tried to complete a crossword in the last 15 years ‘data’ is the answer to the clue ‘information stored on a computer’. Nowadays it’s a little bit more. Several years ago when I sold a company, the database was considered to be 12 percent of the value of that company. But ask yourself, do you take your data seriously enough?

Taking data seriously

Most business owners will nod and, when questioned, bluster about their system fulfilling this function. They are right and wrong. While systems do provide data tables, rarely are they in a useable format or contain the right information that can be used for business development purposes.

Look at a database in two ways: From an accountants perspective it stores information about what your company has done – sales invoice information, parts purchasing history and VAT; even this is often exported to an external accounting package such as Sage. It is historic information and while it can be used to send various reminders or to look up some sales history its true practicality starts to wane.

This is not the place to get too involved with how databases work, but it may be more appropriate to look at what they can be used for. A new buzz phrase has started to circulate within the service sector – Customer Relationship Management (CRM), basically a system that controls how a business interfaces with its customer. At the heart of CRM is a database that drives the business to keep in contact.

A CRM database has to be more versatile than a traditional invoicing system. While system suppliers will talk about data integrity – if the tables become corrupted the entire system could collapse – for CRM purposes there is a real need to be able to manipulate the information.

We can ask databases questions by using queries. You can ask a database of many thousands of customers for a list of those who buy filtration or a complex query is when you refine that list by asking for the information to match several criteria; those who buy Ford and Vauxhall filtration but not VW.

No database will allow you to ask questions about information that it does not contain and the versatility of a CRM database is in its ability to be adapted, have fields added and, in certain circumstances, new tables created and linked using dynamic links.

In any relationship you look for information that can make that person feel special; partner’s name, sporting interests, significant anniversaries such as birthdays and when their financial year ends – indeed, just about anything that can be used as a conversation starter. If you look at the six key factors in persuasion science, the factor of liking – starting a conversation with interest, increases the likelihood of doing business by nearly 40 percent and the value of that business by 18 percent. Harvesting information, storing it in a CRM database and then using it to bump-start a conversation works wonders.

Does this cost lots of money? No, most of you have all you need within Microsoft Office where in the professional version, you have a database package called Microsoft Access.

For those of you who want the next level in CRM there is an add-on to Microsoft Outlook called Business Contact Manager from which you could run a major customer facing business.

Should you just wish to dip your toe into being a little more dynamic with your customers try using a perpetual diary. Quite simply it is a diary that continues indefinitely into the future. Microsoft Outlook has a built-in calendar that fits this description exactly.

You can make repeating events, reminders for next year, rather than having to wait for a new diary to be available, produce ‘things to do this week’ reports and it comes loaded with features should you wish to use them.

A simple set-up

You have just called on a new business and have gathered some basic information; you create a ‘Business contact’ in Microsoft Outlook. The owner tells you that they buy their anti-freeze early, in June before he takes his family away on holiday, but he always looks for deals. You can now make an entry in Outlook calendar at the end of May. When the reminder pops up and you contact the customer and start the conversation with ‘You must be looking forward to your holiday…’ then you’ve just entered the world of CRM.

I have often stated in these pages that when you are selling you must keep control of the next action, and CRM is a high-brow way of suggesting that this is what you do and this is how you do it. As a salesman there is nothing more frustrating than being just-too-late to get that sale.

A great friend and mentor always kept his ‘black-book’ and was never afraid of tempting customers before they even knew they had a need. Pro-active selling always beats waiting for the phone to ring.

Databases are about taking ownership of your customer’s requirements. They allow you to do such things as mail-merge to letter, to email and even SMS. The most expensive bit is often learning how to use the systems. Using these systems does not create spam it creates individual targeted communication and that is the relationship part of the system, you don’t communicate ‘Dear Sir or Madam’, your communication is now ‘Dear Bill’, we are aware that you buy some filtration from us but in order to fulfil your VW requirements we have refocused our offer on quality and price…’ You appear to know your customer, their history and you are interested in them; a personal service.

If you asked why a database should have such an exalted value, its simple, it is where dynamic people go to develop business.

Posted in CAT Know-How, Factor & Supplier News, Garage News, News, Retailer NewsComments (0)

On the line: The first impression counts

114854350-1John Genge gives some advice on phone manner and how it can improve your customers’ attitude to and confidence in your business.

All of us as consumers make enquiries and contact businesses to discuss our needs. Often this is by telephone and the initial few seconds of the call will determine our attitude to that business, our confidence in them and our desire to give them or not give them, our custom.

However many businesses assume that any member of staff can handle this routinely without any training, processes or structure. This is a dangerous assumption to make and if you take the time to call a few garages and small factors, you will soon see how inconsistent the quality of response is.

Larger businesses will have dedicated staff to answer the phone but smaller ones will struggle to justify the cost, as it’s all hands to the pump. Answering the telephone is relatively simple and can be achieved easily, and those skills can be kept permanently.

  • Attitude: When the phone rings it is not an interruption but someone wanting to spend money with you. Treat it that way, and answer it quickly.
  • Smile: When you answer the phone don’t sigh or exhale. Try smiling. You will be amazed how much the smile can be heard at the other end.
  • Clear and to the point: I’m not an advocate of these long meaningless monotonous introductions but rather a short enthusiastic one, such as ‘CAT Motors. I’m John. How can I help?’
  • Listen don’t interrupt: A customer will normally take 10 -20 seconds to make clear their requirements. Listen carefully and only speak to clarify points.
  • Record the information: Obtain and record the customer’s name and if possible a contact number. Thank them for this information and remember to confirm that you have their requirements and agree the next step.

That’s all it takes. The next step may be to pass this to a colleague, obtain further information and return the call, book the appointment or give a price.

On the latter, never apologise. I have heard so many poor responses such as ‘I’m afraid that’s going to cost you….’ normally preceded by a sigh or sharp intake of breath. Never apologise or assume that the customer will think it’s expensive just because you do.

But the question still remains: Any call can interrupt someone working, disturb their train of thought and potentially affects their efficiency at whatever they are doing. Does it make better sense to have a dedicated person to handle all the calls?

There is no simple answer as it depends on the size of the business and the frequency of these calls. With a business employing a dozen or so staff it is likely that there is sufficient justification to consider such a person. However, with smaller staff it becomes harder to justify.

You could use scientific methods such as call frequency, profit per enquiry and call conversion ratio, but in my experience, for smaller businesses, these vary so much that any measurement is pretty unreliable. The other problem is that even with a dedicated person, they will have holidays, lunch breaks and other absences. Part-timers are a better option especially if their duties can be combined with other activities such as book keeping and reception duties. However, in reality you still need to know that anyone who is capable of answering the phone is trained and encouraged to do so.

Another good idea is actually to see if you can cut the number of unnecessary incoming calls, by suggesting you will call them back at a certain time rather than wait until they ring. It also gives a more professional impression.

Most businesses aren’t open 24/7, so you will get callers when you are closed. The quality and tone of your recorded greeting will determine whether or not anyone leaves a message and the chance to get their business. So, prepare your script, practice it, clearly and patiently record it and get as many people as you can to listen to it. And since many people don’t like talking to machines, make it as lifelike as possible.

Posted in CAT Know-How, Factor & Supplier News, Garage News, News, Retailer NewsComments (0)

CAT Manufacturing Lives: Prestolite

Factory-(4)_resizedStephen Trulock explains Prestolite’s diverse UK operation and why it has the perfect business model. Rotating electrics are a fascinating product type with the amount of power they are expected to produce especially in the heavy-duty sector, including buses, trucks, plant and military vehicles.

Heavy-duty rotating electrics company Prestolite gave us an insight into what it takes to produce rotating electrics for these sectors.

Prestolite, with its UK office and plant based in Middlesex, have OE contracts with Alexander Dennis and Wrightbus, and produce the starter motor for the new bus for London, affectionately known as the Boris Bus.

However, the scale and depth of Prestolite’s operations soon becomes apparent as Stephen Trulock, UK and Eire Aftermarket Sales Manager, explains.

“Prestolite used to have a battery company, a DC motor division, an ignition division. We used to make distributors and even aircraft parts.

“I was with a customer in Malaysia, and we were early for our appointment, so he took me to the aircraft museum, and it was there going through all these light aircraft that you started spotting Prestolite dynamos on them.

“We still get requests every week for all this stuff, and now we refer them onto those who have the business. There is Prestolite Motors Limited, who specialise in DC motors. There is a company called Prestolite Wire who sell cable, but we decided to go down the route of starters and alternators, and that is all we do these days. There are legacy products that we still do, but we wouldn’t do them for new customers, only for existing business. We have chosen to focus on our core business, otherwise we would have been diverted all over the place.”

The American company with its headquarters in Plymouth, Michigan, and two other manufacturing sites in Arcade, New York, and Florence, Kentucky, has a number of other manufacturing sites across the world including Brazil and three in China, with new locations in India and Russia penciled in for the future.

Trulock says that the plants in China are the jewel in the crown for the company.

The three factories in and around Beijing are part of a joint venture between parent company Opheonix and Chinese supplier Broad Ocean.

Trulock admits that customers are still sceptical about parts manufactured in China, but joint ventures are now commonplace throughout China, and he points out why having facilities across the world producing parts is essential for a global business.

“The thing with all these sites is that the import tariff is very high, for example in India it is 28 percent. The key to a successful business is local manufacturing. We are not opening factories to make cheaper parts for us. We are opening a factory in India to make OE for the local market.”

He goes on to say while the first facility in Beijing has more than 1350 employees and the second was developed to deal with an overrun from the first, the third facility, which opened in 2012 and is 23,500 sqft, only has 110 employees as most of the production line is robotic.

GAU_vintage-(1)-1Its first entry into the UK market was back in 1988 when the American firm bought Butec from British Leyland, including its facility in Leyland, Lancashire, and in 1998 it went one further and bought the heavy-duty side of Lucas, known as CAV.

The CAV plant was located in the back streets of Shepherd’s Bush, not far from Loftus Road home to Queens Park Rangers. Trulock explains his first encounter with the facility more than 11 years ago.

“All of CAV was moved here to Greenford, but when I moved here 11 years ago we had a factory in Acton, Shepherd’s Bush for original equipment and the business in Leyland which was the aftermarket side. Both were originally factories, but most of the manufacturing had moved down to Acton, with a little bit still going on in Leyland, but it was predominantly warehousing and remanufacturing.

“I remember going for my interview at the Acton site. When I got to Lardon Road I remember thinking ‘this can’t be right’,” he said. “It is a residential road with speed humps, I continue to drive down this road and then bang out of nowhere is this massive factory.

“When Prestolite bought the factory, more than half of the factory was building diesel parts. There was also a military contract for large 12 cylinder in-line pumps that had a year to run. Delphi said to us there was no point moving it elsewhere because the staff won’t move and the nearest place they had was in the Midlands. They said you continue manufacturing it and when it is gone, it is gone. That was supposed to last a year, but it actually lasted five and half years.”

Back in the 1990s Prestolite’s operation had well over 6000 employees but over time the OE work at Acton and the aftermarket operations in Leyland got condensed down and moved to Greenford where the UK business is based today.

Trulock explains that although the facility is far smaller today than in the past, it doesn’t stop the plant producing and restoring units across the rotating electrics spectrum.

From the facility in Greenford, Prestolite distributes stock across the world with pallets being put together for delivery all over Europe. Trulock adds that its warehouse can stock more than £6 million worth of stock ranging from fast moving and small applications through to large starters and alternators and bulk stock for OE contracts.

Prestolite has a number of small product lines producing a small run of alternators for old yet popular applications using the equipment from the old CAV facility. They also carry out overhaul work on military and rail products.

Engine_Room(3)_resizedAn area of importance for the company is testing, and Prestolite has designated zones dedicated to testing equipment it builds for across its many sectors. They have a number of bays where warranty claims are checked, which Trulock says have a 40 percent no-fault-found rate on all returns.

There is also a unit specially designed to test military equipment as he explains: “When we build or overhaul a military unit, we test it against every signal suppression method in a sealed room. It is important to check because if an enemy unit can block your communications, they don’t need to fire a gun because they have already outwitted you.”

It also has the facility to undertake a hot and cold test with its temperature chambers, salt spray test and test the longevity of the starters and alternators, with a range of dynos.

“The only way to test a starter motor is to put it on a vehicle and let it run for two years,” he adds. “Obviously we haven’t got two years to wait, but we are able to endurance test starters and alternators in two to three weeks. The endurance test we do for the aftermarket is 15,000 starts in two weeks, so the engine will start every 30 seconds. There is also an overrun on the clutch where it holds it in three seconds longer to put extra pressure on the clutch, because we are looking to make it fail.

“For OE we go to 35,000 starts but for stop-start it’s more than that. We test our own products, the competition, and we test new products we are looking to bring into the aftermarket in this way.”

“To test an alternator we let it run for so many hours. But we also load bank. That involves working the alternator at 30 amps, pushing it up to 150 amps and going back to 30amps. What we are looking for is 25,000 load dumps. That puts pressure on all the components.”

The only unit that Prestolite remanufacture is one family of alternators that are made for Volvo buses and coaches. Despite being old technology, demand and volume remain high for the unit.

Rather than spreading themselves too thin Prestolite’s diverse portfolio of products keeps them strong. Being involved in so many sectors is Prestolite’s recipe for lasting success.

Posted in Factor & Supplier News, News, Out and About with CATComments (0)

Inside Line: Remy

The Renault Megane is fitted with electric steering and has an EPS column providing assistance to an EPS rack. There are two different racks depending upon wheel sizes.  Racks are prone to the gaiters splitting, allowing water and road dirt in, causing inner tie rod ball joint failure, pinion bearing failure and nearside bush failure. Remy improve upon the OE design by replacing the original polyurethane gaiter with a rubber gaiter giving a better seal against the elements.

Posted in UncategorisedComments (0)

Inside Line: RMI

All variants with factory fitted alarms – false alarms at random when locked, water entry into the multifunction module in the engine bay fuse box N/S.

1.5 DCi K9K engines engine warning light illuminated with cam sensor code P0341 in the system – camshaft woodruff key failure allowing valve timing to slip, don’t be tempted to just replace the belt.

Posted in UncategorisedComments (0)

Inside Line: Manbat

Renault introduced a Start-Stop system on several of its power units for the Mégane in early 2012 and they now feature strongly throughout the range on both petrol and diesel variants.

As a result, early examples will now begin to be within reach of the independent sector, so workshops and the technicians undertaking service and repair work on these models, need to bear in mind that they are not fitted with traditional lead-acid starter batteries. Instead these models use either an EFB or AGM battery such as a Varta Blue Dynamic EFB or Silver Dynamic AGM and will therefore require specialist knowledge and equipment to ensure the correct removal and installation process is followed.

In addition, as the battery in the system is integrated with the vehicle’s battery management system and its ECU, thorough diagnosis is required to discover whether the battery needs to be replaced or if there is an underlying cause that might have led to its premature failure.

Having the ability to cancel and reset the fault codes that may be required for associated components like the alternator and starter motor, as well as the Start-Stop system, means that workshops would be wise to invest in the necessary tooling and training to allow them to tackle these issues.

Manbat, the UK’s largest automotive battery distributor, is also the primary distributor for Varta, Europe’s leading Start-Stop battery manufacturer. Together they have the products, equipment, and in association with eXponentia, the technical expertise, to ensure that workshops are fully prepared and have the confidence to service not only the Renault Mégane, but any other Start-Stop vehicle they may encounter.

Posted in UncategorisedComments (0)

Inside Line: Dayco

The 1.5dCi, 1.6i and 2.0TCe engines used extensively across the Mégane range are fitted with a Dayco High Tenacity (HT) or ‘white’ timing belt as its original equipment fitment. These units also feature a water pump that is integral to its timing drive system and which is driven by the HT timing belt. Therefore, workshops undertaking either a water pump or timing belt replacement, need to realise that only by fitting a Dayco HT timing belt kit can they be assured of a genuine like-for-like replacement.

Dayco offer a range of timing belt kits that also include an OE water pump and these kits, which naturally include references for the Mégane, are designated with a KTBWP part number reference.

Dayco recommend technicians follow industry best practice and ensure that they replace the water pump when the timing belt is being replaced and vice versa. Both of these components cover the same mileages, so replacing both at the same time is the most cost effective option in the long-term and provides motorists with much needed peace of mind following a vehicle repair.

Posted in UncategorisedComments (0)

Inside Line: First Line


Certain models in the Mégane range feature gearboxes with a self-adjusting clutch (SAC), which can be tricky to fit if the correct replacement process is not followed. Therefore, Borg & Beck recommend that before beginning the job technicians ensure that the self-adjusting springs on the replacement SAC remain compressed and have not become extended because of mishandling.

Although replacement normally requires the use of a mounting tool set, the cover can be fitted by using a driven plate centralising tool and an additional set of nine flywheel bolts with a 5mm longer thread stem. This will allow the clutch cover to be pulled onto the flywheel evenly, preventing de-adjustment caused by twisting during fitting.

The longer bolts will eventually ‘bottom out’, when they can be replaced one at a time with the original bolts, before evenly tightening them to the manufacturers recommended torque. After the releaser and gearbox have been refitted, operate the clutch pedal a few times to settle the clutch self-adjust mechanism before starting the engine.


Care must be taken when servicing the injection computer on some models in the Mégane line up. If it is not serviced correctly, or not serviced at all, it can affect the ABS system and therefore the overall performance of the braking system, leading to an increase in wear of the brake components and the need to replace the brake pads and discs.

Posted in UncategorisedComments (0)

  • FRANCHISING: The perils of buying into an unproven chain
  • EAT MY (BRAKE) DUST: Should we take brake pad emissions more seriously?
  • PRODUCTIVITY PUZZLE: Is the aftermarket as productive as it should be? .

more info

    • Should hand car washes face further regulation?

      View Results

      Loading ... Loading ...
    • Popular
    • Latest
    • Comments
    • Tags
    • Subscribe