OSRAM LATEST: WORKERS UNION REJECTS AMS BID

OSRAM LATEST: WORKERS UNION REJECTS AMS BID

German workers’ union IG Metall has rejected the recent €4.3 billion euro takeover offer by sensor firm AMS for lighting company Osram, according to a report by Reuters.

A spokeswoman reportedly said that ‘the strategy behind AMS’s offer is still not convincing.’

The rejection comes after Osram reported AMS’s €38.50 per-share offer on August 12th and stated that ‘the financing concept presented appears binding and viable.’ Osram confirmed it was in talks with AMS shortly after.

It is not the first time that IG Metall – which has more than 2.2 million members – has voiced opposition to the deal. On 24th July IG Metall released a statement opposing a ‘potential takeover of Osram by AMS’*, suggesting that the offer has been in talks for some time. At the time, IG Metall stated that ‘the necessary financing is absolutely irresponsible’* and ‘there are signs that the AMS offer will break up and massively downsize the company to create ‘synergies’. That is not acceptable to us.’*

OSRAM HQ

IG Metall’s rejection is the latest development in bids to acquire Osram. In early July, Osram received a public takeover offer from private equity firms Bain Capital and The Carlyle Group for €35 per share – approximately €4 billion in enterprise value.

*quotes indirect – translated by Google

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NEW €4bn+ BID FOR OSRAM

NEW €4bn+ BID FOR OSRAM

German lighting manufacturer Osram has announced that it is in negotiations with Austrian sensor and semiconductor firm AMS AG following a takeover offer by the latter. 

The takeover would see ams acquire all outstanding Osram shares. AMS is understood to have offered a price of 38.50 euros per Osram share, which Osram estimates is equal to around 4.3 billion euros in enterprise value. 

In a statement issued on 14th August, Osram claimed to have been in talks with AMS since the previous day and would ‘continue to do so’. Regarding acceptance of the offer, Osram said it viewed ams AG’s financing concept – which involves bridge financing of 4.2 billion euros by investment banks HSBC and UBS – as ‘viable’. 

READ: Bain Capital and Carlyle bid €4bn for Osram

“In addition to the offer price and financing concept, a stable environment is important for Osram’s further transformation into a semiconductor-based high-tech photonics company,” Osram said. “Moreover, it is greatly important to Osram’s Man-

Osram HQ

-aging Board that all key stakeholders are appropriately protected, in particular the company’s employees and the essential parts of the company.” 

READ: Osram completes Ring Automotive acquisition

It is the second takeover offer for Osram in as many months. Private equity firms Bain Capital and The Carlyle Group made a similar offer for the public takeover of all Osram shares – albeit for a slightly lower share price of 35 euros per shares – in early July. Under the offer – which is still ongoing – Osram said it would retain its name and rights to all patents. At the time, Olaf Berlien, CEO of Osram, said: “Bain and Carlyle are the right partners for Osram at the right time.” 

Talks are ongoing. 

 

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180 UK JOBS AT RISK IN MAHLE PLANT CLOSURE

180 UK JOBS AT RISK IN MAHLE PLANT CLOSURE

The Telford production location of automotive component supplier Mahle is due to close. 

In a company statement released in June, Mahle announced that it ‘considers the closure of its production location in Telford and enters into the corresponding collective consultation process.’  Closure is expected to take place in 2020-2021. 

On 8th August, a statement on behalf of plant manager Scott Ferguson said that the consultation process had been completed, according to a Shropshire Star report.

The closure creates uncertainty for the approximately 180 employees at the plant, which produces various parts used in OE production and filters for the firm.

Mahle claimed that the closure ‘results from declining order levels, which are expected to deteriorate even further due to the changed strategic direction of automobile manufacturers in Great Britain.’

The plant is not the only Mahle location set to close. In June, the company announced plans to close its Ohringen location in Germany amid a challenging market and competition. 

Closure of Telford site is imminent

In a financial report for the 2018 business year, Mahle reported sales of 12.6 billion euros before adjustments and reported over 79,000 employees – a growth of 1.6 percent. 

Aftermarket operations in the UK, centred at Bilston, are not affected in the restructure.

 

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GOV. ANNOUNCES INCREASE IN FUNDING FOR EV CHARGING

The Government has announced a £2.5 million increase in funding for residential electric car charging points. 

New Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the boost would fund the installation of more than 1,000 new charging points and doubled the funding available for local authorities to build charging infrastructure. 

Noting that there are over 20,000 publicly accessible charging stations, Shapps added that it was ‘vital that electric vehicle drivers feel confident about the availability of chargepoints near their homes’.

The money specifically targets the construction of on-street charging points, which can be integrated into existing structures like lamp-posts, to provide ease of use to electric vehicle owners who do not have off-street parking.

Sue Robinson, Director of the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA), called the announcement ‘positive’ but urged the government to continue to invest in charging infrastructure. “The findings of our latest Consumer Attitude Survey suggested that ‘access to charging’ still represents a barrier to buying an electric vehicle for 53 percent of consumers,” she said.  

Meanwhile, Sebastian Speight, Managing Director of Infrastructure at investment managing firm Ingenious, said that uncertainty such as charging type and location surrounding charging infrastructure ‘creates a level of risk in these business models which has a closer fit with strategic or venture capital rather than more traditional infrastructure capital.’ He concluded: “A closer involvement from public stakeholders should enable greater visibility on these risks and increase the availability of private capital.”

 

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SCHAEFFLER REVENUES DOWN IN ‘PERSISTENTLY DIFFICULT’ MARKET

SCHAEFFLER REVENUES DOWN IN ‘PERSISTENTLY DIFFICULT’ MARKET

Automotive components and systems manufacturer Schaeffler has published its financial report for the first half of the year. 

Company revenue, reported as €7.2 billion euros for the first six months, decreased at constant currency by 0.8 percent in what the report referred to as a ‘persistently difficult market environment’. This was driven largely by the automotive divisions, while the industrial division saw some revenue growth. 

Meanwhile, the firm’s earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) margin was 7.7 percent compared with the prior year’s 11.0 percent margin, with the decrease attributed to a decrease in gross margin and higher expenses. However, this did improve from 7.5 percent in the first quarter to 7.9 percent in the second. 

READ: SCHAEFFLER PLANT SOLD IN MBO

The Automotive OEM division saw revenue of approximately 4,514 million euros for the first half of this year, with the firm claiming a drop of 2.9 percent on last year in constant currency. Though the company did say that ‘order intake was very encouraging in the first six months, totaling 7.7 billion euros’ and that the E-Mobility business division won a 1.1 billion euro supply contract.

Schaeffler’s Langen HQ

Similarly, the Aftermarket division also reported a revenue of 905 million euros, a drop of 2.4 percent at constant currency, attributed to a ‘considerable decline in revenue in the Europe region’. EBIT before special items was reported as 136 million euros compared to 177 million euros in the prior year, while EBIT margin before special items was 15.1 percent, down from 19.3 percent in the prior year. 

READ: SCHAEFFLER’S NEW DATA DIVISION

Dietmar Heinrich, CFO of Schaeffler, said the company is ‘increasingly successful in managing our use of capital more efficiently,’ and noted: “In the second half of 2019, we will focus on even stronger discipline regarding cost and capital and on generating cash flow. 

Meanwhile, Klaus Rosenfeld, CEO of Schaeffler, noted the ‘persistent weakness’ of the global automotive business, and said: “Following a difficult first six months that fell slightly short of our expectations, we believe that the market environment will remain challenging in the second half of 2019 as well.

“We have acted on this trend by adjusting our full-year guidance for 2019,” he said. 

 

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COMPANIES HOUSE – THE CASE FOR REFORM…

COMPANIES HOUSE – THE CASE FOR REFORM…

By Peter Windat – accountant and insolvency practitioner at BRI Business Recovery and Insolvency 

The work and practices of Companies House, the repository for all information on the majority of the UK’s companies and similar registered entities, is currently under review. In May, the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy issued a consultation about options to reform the body and change is coming.

In recent years concerns have grown that the UK’s framework is open to misuse. Concerns arise mainly from four interrelated issues – misuse of UK companies by international criminals and corrupt elites; the accuracy of information held at Companies House; the abuse of personal information on the register; and the limited nature of cross checks between Companies House and other public and private sector bodies.

Given a span of 80 pages much is covered, and the view is clearly that much work needs to be done to help keep the UK in the leading pack of countries in which it is desirable to start and grow a business.

Know who’s managing

The government is proposing that individuals who have a key role in companies should have their identity verified. This would apply to company officers (directors), People with Significant Control (PSCs), and those filing information.

It should be possible to introduce such identity checks simply but there are also important data protection issues.

The consultation sets out why greater certainty over the identity of those shown as owning, running or controlling companies is needed, it shows how new technology offers the opportunity to obtain greater assurance over identities, and sets out far-reaching proposals to introduce identity checks for those who file information on the register, directors, PSCs and, on a voluntary basis, shareholders.

This document proposes a series of reforms that would deliver better quality information on the register – including extending the powers of Companies House to query and seek corroboration on information before it is entered on the register and making it easier to remove inaccurate information. In addition, the government is proposing improvements to the process and delivery of annual accounts to Companies House. The government intends to maintain the current approach to retaining records of dissolved companies on the register for 20 years from dissolution.

Personal information

The government has outlined how Companies House will store information if its proposals are adopted. Under identity verification proposals, access to the register will be carefully managed, allowing only identified or authorised persons to file information. New processes are proposed for sensitive information to be protected. Proposals to allow directors some additional rights to suppress their information from public view have also been set out.

Information on the register should be of real, practical use to those who wish to find out information about those taking advantage of the privilege and protection of limited liability. However, information on the register should not become a tool for abuse and so information of a sensitive personal nature will not be made publicly available.

Ensuring compliance

Companies House data on UK corporate bodies could be improved through cross checks against data held by other government and private sector bodies. The government wants to see the exchange of intelligence made easier in order to enable greater sophistication in identifying possible criminal behaviour. This will lead to faster identification of anomalies between data at Companies House and elsewhere.

Also sought were views on several related measures that might deter abuse of UK legal entities, including ending the business activities of limited partnerships which are being misused, imposing limits on the number of directorships any one individual can hold, disclosure of banking information and action to deter misuse of company names and addresses.

The routine cross-checking of information on the companies register against external data sets and powers to obtain feedback on discrepancies identified is proposed alongside adopting a risk-based approach to the sharing of intelligence with police and requiring firms to provide bank details.

Implementation

The proposals in the consultation, if implemented in full, would amount to the most significant reform of the UK’s company registration framework since a register was first introduced in 1844 and go to the core of the Companies Act. There will be an impact on the fees levied by Companies House, though the government fully expects them to remain very low compared to international standards.

The transformation will touch every aspect of Companies House’s work, covering both customer-facing and internal digital systems.

Although responses to the proposals were required by August 5, there will be a little leeway for late submissions.

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PUTTING A STOP TO BRAKE DUST

PUTTING A STOP TO BRAKE DUST

By Greg Whitaker

The knives have been out for traveling by car recently. All around the nation, there have been scores of column inches devoted to the harm that small particulate matter does to our bodies – and if you live around London, you have probably seen some of the anti-car campaigns being run by the Mayor’s office as a new wave of legislation dictating what vehicles can be driven and when take effect.

It isn’t just smokey exhausts that have caught the attention of the powers that be. A cross-party committee called the Air Quality Expert Group has identified that tyres, roads and perhaps most notably, the dust from brake linings are a source of very small particulates which can cause problems with breathing and can also enter the water table easily when rain washes the dust from the road.

Scale of the issue

In one sense the problem is unlikely to be growing as hybrid and electric vehicles use regenerative braking, so the amount of wear on the pads is greatly reduced. However, as the amount of particulates from exhausts reduces, pollution from brake and tyre wear will increase as a percentage, with DEfRA predicting that 10 percent of transport emissions will be from these sources by 2030. In Germany alone it has been calculated that 10,000 tonnes of brake dust is scattered annually.

It might be easy to dismiss this issue as just rhetoric, but cases of lung diseases and asthma are on the rise and there is good evidence that it is the smaller particles, rather than the bigger sooty ones, that cause the most damage to the organs of the body.

So, what can be done? We asked a number of the 60 or so friction lining brands if they are taking any action on the issue.

Scott Irwin, Technical Trainer at TMD Friction, the company behind brands such as Mintex, Textar and Pagid, said: “With regards to pollution through tyres and brakes overall, there are currently no official limits or common methods of measurement. It is much more difficult to provide these guidelines than it was for emissions from exhaust pipes because brakes are open systems”.

He added that his company has around 800 materials to choose from. “Our raw material portfolio management team proactively researches and tests suitable new raw materials that are not harmful to people or the environment when processed or when used in the brake system,” he said, adding that TMD is a member of the UN’s Particle Measurement Programme which is dedicated to address the issues of non-exhaust related emissions from vehicles.

New materials

Most people know that asbestos was used in making brake pads and shoes until it was, quite sensibly, banned from use donkey’s years ago. Perhaps less well known is the use of copper wire to make the friction material bind together. Copper isn’t in itself harmful, but when ground into a fine power, the metal can get into the bloodstream where it is toxic.

Copper is being phased out, and some companies have already removed it entirely from friction linings. However, others have kept it in the mixture and will do so until required to do so by law.

Matt Leeming a Manager at aftermarket braking brand Juratec noted that his company had discontinued use of copper and other heavy metals some time ago, but the problem is spread wider: “Of course, governments are looking to go further than just restricting the use of some of the more problematic ingredients of brake pads. It has been established that this wear debris, or particulate matter, which is a mixture of both pad and disc debris ranging in particle size from under 100 micrometres to approx. 0.1 micrometres, with some of it falling in the critical respirable range of 10 to one micrometres” he said.

By comparison, a human hair typically has a width of about 50 micrometres.

“To reduce particle emissions further will require a much broader approach across a number of fronts so we are seeing special hard coatings being applied to the surface of brake discs to reduce their wear rates and of course carbon-ceramic discs offer reduced wear albeit at a significantly higher cost” Leeming furthered. “The automotive industry is also exploring partially enclosing brakes and fitting them with filters in order to capture the bulk of particulate emissions so the likely final outcome will be a combination of measures”.

The filters referred to by Leeming are being developed by companies including Mann+Hummel based in Germany. The firm recently exhibited a working model of a brake dust filter, which featured in the firm’s company magazine. For the filter media the engineers opted for a metallic based web. The fibers are resistant to corrosion and are able to withstand the high temperatures on the brake. Several German magazines have also shown pictures of the filter, built on as part of the brake mechanism, being tested on various new VWs, suggesting that VMs might include the design on new vehicles in the near future.

Some firms are further down the road of removing metal from brake pads than others. A few we spoke to would only say that the binding agent would be removed ‘when the time comes’, i.e when required to do so by legislation and herein lies the problem of cleaning up the mixture used in brake linings.

There is scope for development, but with so many brands fighting for space on the factor’s racking, there needs to be rules and clearly repeatable tests introduced that everyone must follow.

Trains a problem too

Don’t think that simply avoiding cars and taking the tube will be an answer to keeping clear of brake dust particulates. Filter brand Mann+Hummel has reported that longer visits to underground railway stations can also be harmful to health. Measurements in the London underground system, for example, have registered air pollution with inhalable particles in the range of 500 to 1,120mg per cubic metre, which compared to the EU’s guideline of 50mg is off the scale. A tunnel cleaning train used to be in service, but it was withdrawn and plans for a replacement were quietly dropped.

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NEW MOT EQUIPMENT STANDARDS SET FOR 2019

NEW MOT EQUIPMENT STANDARDS SET FOR 2019

Many will recall the MOT changes that came into effect in May last year. Introduced at a time of scrutiny surrounding diesel engines, the changes featured DPF checks and also set new categories for vehicle defects. Here in 2019, there’s a new focus: connection. It’s a buzzword that has been pretty much unavoidable in the automotive industry recently, and now MOT centers may have to consider preparing for new standards ushered in as connectivity increases.

Some changes are already planned. As of 1st of July 2019, the DVSA will only approve new roller brake testers that are able to connect to the DVSA’s database and share MOT test information, and from August 1st this requirement will be extended to other types of kit as well. What’s more, come October or November, the DVSA anticipates that those who are planning on opening a new MOT center will have to operate this new ‘connected’ equipment in order to be approved.

Speaking at Automechanika Birmingham, the DVSA’s head of MOT policy Neil Barlow said that future MOTs will be more about ‘connecting to the vehicle’. “Those garages that start to invest in this stuff early, start to build up experience in doing these things early, will be one step ahead of those garages which don’t do that,” he said. “Because at some point the MOT will need to change more radically than it did last May.”

In a bid to reassure garage owners over issues of cost, Barlow also noted that this new ‘connected’ equipment would be ‘the same kit that we use now,’ but with ‘very slightly different software’.

Meanwhile, Stuart James, Director of the IGA, seemed unconcerned about the changes, noting that implications for the industry would be ‘very, very minimal’ and said it was ‘definitely not the case’ that existing kit would have to be switched over to the new standard. “Don’t fear that there will be some kind of mandating of stations having to buy equipment because of a change in legislation. I’m absolutely sure that is not the case,” he said. “The DVSA are not going to impose additional costs on the garage. So this is if you needed a new roller brake tester, then you would have to buy, after this date, a new piece of equipment that is compliant or capable of the upload capability.”

Opinions

Despite the new standards, the DVSA’s ability to monitor MOT activity is nothing new. According to James, the agency can already tell quite a lot about what’s happening in an MOT ‘in live time’. “So they can walk in the door and expect to see that car on the ramp,” he said. “So if there’s a perception of ‘Big Brother’, it’s already there.

“So this extra piece of communications information, I suppose it will be useful for the DVSA to be able to understand how many vehicles are carried out on brake testing, but they know a lot of this. So I’m not totally sure what benefit it will be to the DVSA because they already have all the information they need.”

Barry Babister, MD at CCM Garages and MOT Juice, praised the plans. “A large problem for the MOT industry is fraud,” he said. “The addition of connected equipment could go a long way to stopping this, and to protecting the image of the MOT scheme and the people who operate MOT bays, which can only be good for business.” Regarding potential costs of new brake testers, Babister said: “you won’t have to upgrade until you actually want to so it’s a capital investment usually easily financed.

“What the industry needs is an increase [in] MOT prices to help us cover the ever-increasing compliance and equipment costs,” he concluded.

John Tullett, founder of Autocar Repairs in West Dulwich echoed similar sentiments (though he acknowledged that Autocar Repairs is not an MOT test centre). “There is still a degree of abuse within the current MOT test system in the UK and the proposed development would certainly reduce that. On that basis alone, I am in favour,” he said, also noting that ‘other countries use government controlled test centres will others still are much more strictly controlled than ours.’

Suppliers

While no equipment suppliers provided a comment to CAT on how the changes would affect them, Clive Richardson, Marketing Director at garage tool supplier Draper Tools said that ‘where there are industry standards, those are absolutely met.’

Meanwhile, away from the MOT, the garage equipment market is moving in new directions itself. Fran Weeks, PR consultant at Draper Tools, claims that the demand for electric vehicles is creating a ‘missed opportunity’ for specialised tooling. “So we’ve got a wide range of stock which includes VDE insulated sockets and other hand tools that are suitable to work on these hybrid and electric vehicles,” she said.
Richardson noted that the market for Draper Tools is moving towards larger workshop equipment as opposed to hand tools. “We’re seeing more of a demand now … with what we’d call workshop equipment – the tablet, the four wheel aligner, specialist lifts etc. There’s a lot more demand for that.”

There were certainly plenty of these products on show at Automechanika Birmingham.

 

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IS THE AFTERMARKET EMISSIONS COMPLIANT?

IS THE AFTERMARKET EMISSIONS COMPLIANT?

By Greg Whitaker

At this year’s What Car? Awards the coveted ‘Car of the Year’ gong was picked up by Kia for its e-Niro EV. This marked the first time that a car maker from the Pacific Rim had picked up such an accolade, but crucially it was the first time that an electric car could be considered practical enough for the magazine to recommend one to its readers as being better than, rather than just a compromised alternative to, a conventional petrol or diesel-powered car.

Electrification is one of three major areas (or to use industry jargon ‘megatrends’) where the motor industry is changing and fast, with the other two being ‘connected car’ and autonomy. This is good news for the health of all concerned, but does it mean that car manufacturers are done with conventional power trains?

The answer is no, at least if you read some of the press releases about emissions-reducing technology that is being developed in reaction to emissions. Delphi Technologies for example produces a GDI (gasoline direct injection) system that runs at 350 bar – tech that the manufacturer itself immodestly describes as ‘state of the art’. However even this has now been supplanted by a new system that runs at an intense 500+ bar, or around 7,500 psi.

Under pressure

Such pressure means the fuel vapour mix is so fine it will explode at an atomic level, meaning even very small particulates are reduced by half. However, running engines so hard is not without problems.

“The industry has long recognized that increasing injection pressure to 500+ bar could substantially cut engine-out particulates while improving CO2 emissions and fuel economy,” explained Walter Piock, Chief Engineer, Gasoline Systems, Delphi Technologies.

The challenge has been to achieve such pressures without increasing the drive loads from the pump. As most engines power the GDI pump through the camshaft drive, a conventional approach would usually require a costly redesign and strengthening of the camshaft mechanism.

“By designing an innovative new internal sealing system for our GFP3 500+ bar pump, in some applications, we have designed a downsized plunger diameter which prevents increasing the loads in the drive mechanism,” said Piock.

Descriptions of the Multec 16 injectors and ‘forged rail’ make no reference to the parts being serviceable, and it is likely that components under that significant amount of pressure will be sealed for life.

Time will tell how reliable a pump that operates under such a load will be, but there can be no denying that the increase in combustion efficiency will allow the petrol engine to be a viable proposition to both the buying public and to politicians for a while yet.

Of course, the aftermarket has to follow OE so there is little in the way of innovation in this field, although products such as ‘universal’ lambda sensors could well make the emissions from a vehicle worse as they are not calibrated to the specific values needed for the application. Fortunately there a plenty of OE-spec parts available, such as the recently launched wide band (also known as five-wire) sensor range under NGK’s NTK sensors brand.

“We have had a very positive response from our customers to the launch of our new NTK five-wire sensors. NTK has more than 40 years’ experience in the sensor business and this is a fantastic addition to our portfolio” said Mark Hallam, Marketing Manager at NGK UK.

Slippery issue

It is also no secret that lubricants are getting thinner in a bid to increase engine efficiency. “Car and lubricants manufacturers try to improve the fuel economy of cars by reducing the viscosity of engine and transmission oils. A thinner oil flows more easily and requires less energy for it to be pumped into the engine,” said Bob Wood, a Technical Engineer at Total Lubricants. “To be compliant with ACEA specifications, synthetic oils or severely hydrocracked base oils are used in combination with the dedicated additives, to not only meet the minimum requirements, but to exceed them”. Wood added that the pace of development of thin synthetic oils for modern and hybrid engines is fast, and that innovations in the additive pack, such as the firm’s patented ‘age resistant’ technology would continue.

Standards question

Buying aftermarket products that directly relate to the emissions that a vehicle produces can be complex. Equipment such as DPFs and catalysts vary wildly in price and this is due in part to different methods of producing them. One of the main areas of debate over the last few years is how effective these components are. David Carpenter of Cats and Pipes explained to us the last time we spoke that: “When buying a product of this technical complexity, in order to guarantee the product complies, it is important to purchase a product that meets Euro classification and comes with all the relevant and up to date test data and quality approval marks”.

Crucially, and in reference to a row that the aftermarket had seen in recent years, he added: “It is also important to question the data and information received to ensure it applies to the actual product you are purchasing. Also, very simply, if the aftermarket version you are buying is totally different in appearance and size to the manufacturer fitted version, there has to be a difference in performance”.

“This is particularly relevant with DPFs and CATs that are supposed to meet the Euro classification to be retailed in the UK. If they are physically only half the size of the original factory fitted part, they cannot possibly meet the standards to which they are supposed to comply. This is a challenge for the aftermarket and small companies which often do not have the time or resources to check all this information and are often buying purely on price and good faith however visual checks are a good place to start,” he furthered, concluding that apart from the environmental issue, products that don’t meet the spec result in returns and unhappy customers.

It seems that the battle of price vs quality is not over yet.

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ALL PEACHY AT APPLETON’S

By Greg Whitaker

There’s a queue as we walk in to the reception of B.L Appleton, mainly because the customer at the front, an older gent, is questioning every aspect of the service on his Vauxhall, which is par for the course for any service and repair garage.

Looking out through the window on to the forecourt, I can see that this customer is not the only one to come in a motor with the Griffin badge. The business was a Vauxhall franchise in the past.

“The amount of people that come here and say: Are you still a Vauxhall dealer? You used to be one. Well, yes, but that finished in 1990,” said Phil Evans, General Manager. “We have a good number of customers that have been coming for over thirty years”.

Indeed, the business has served the community of Heald Green, near Manchester Airport, for a great deal longer than thirty years. Founded by Basil Appleton some 80 years ago the garage has remained in the same family and on the same spot ever since. Originally based from an old barn, the outbreak of WW2 put Appleton’s fledgling business on hiatus, though the army requisitioned the premises to charge the lead-acid batteries used in field wireless equipment.

After the war, the garage served the expanding suburb and its growing number of private cars as well as servicing land vehicles used by the nearby Manchester Airport.

In time, the old barn was demolished and replaced with a complex of buildings. Basil married Mabel and had two children, one of which, Gerrard, runs the business to this day.

Back to our visit, current owner Gerrard Appleton has popped in to say hello, but has to go out again shortly after, leaving us with Phil Evans to show us around.

Mixture

While we were there, there was a mixture of private cars and fleet work receiving ramp time – the garage takes on fleet work from fleet managers and through a lease management company. Other than the Vauxhalls, there is a Jeep and an A4 in for service as well as some vans used airside at Manchester Airport with clogged DPFs. Spark ignition vehicles aren’t used due to risk of an explosion, meaning that diesel vehicles chug around at no more than 20mph, with inevitable consequences. “They clog up very regularly,” said Evans, “And when you do need to do a regen, let’s just say it gets very smokey”.

As mentioned, the garage long ago was a Vauxhall franchise, but today it is a proud member of the Bosch Car Service network and has been for the past ten years.

The garage is proud to support the local community, and one of the reasons for inviting us up was to tell us about a plan to raise money for St Ann’s, a nearby hospice. Among other initiatives, the garage will donate a fee for each MOT to the charity. “It’s the third time we’ve done this, the last being three years ago, but as it is our 80th anniversary and the hospice needs money we thought we’d do this for them again and advertise it on social media.

Looking ahead, Evans is keen to stress the garage needs to invest in training and tooling to look after the next generation of electric and connected vehicles. “I’ve been a technician since 2003, but in the last five years it has just gone mad,” he said, referring to the pace of change of technology. ADAS calibration equipment is also being considered. We look forward to a return visit – we won’t leave it 80 years next time.

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