CAT KEYNOTE PANELS TO TAKE PLACE AT AUTOMECHANIKA BIRMINGHAM

CAT KEYNOTE PANELS TO TAKE PLACE AT AUTOMECHANIKA BIRMINGHAM

EVENT PROMO ON BEHALF OF AUTOMECHANIKA BIRMINGHAM

A series of keynote panel sessions will take place at this year’s Automechanika Birmingham taking place from 5-7 June 2018 at the NEC.

Organised in association with CAT, the briefings will deal with the thornyiest issues facing the market today. Topics include a steer on the gathering storm surrounding connected and autonomous vehicles, the merits and threats of sweeping digitisation and robotics in the distribution chain, plus a discussion on what our role will be in a world where there has been the electrification of everything.

Also new at this year’s show, designed to is a meetings meetings programme to further enhance the knowledge of delegates.

With over 500 suppliers exhibiting at the leading event across three halls, the organisers have introduced a helpful planning tool for visitors and exhibitors to make the most of their time at the exhibition. Once a visitor has registered for their free badge, the new meetings programme is a useful tool to help the visitor plan a day of meetings at the exhibition. By matching visitor interests with the capabilities of exhibitors, the tool helps to create business meetings between relevant suppliers and buyers.

To benefit from the planning tool, visitors should register free for Automechanika Birmingham 2018 at automechanika-birmingham.com

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VISION OF THE FUTURE: NEW BRANDS FOR ELTA AUTOMOTIVE

VISION OF THE FUTURE: NEW BRANDS FOR ELTA AUTOMOTIVE

Midlands-based supplier Elta Automotive has announced the introduction two new brands, VisionPro and VXPro catering for lighting and engine management products respectively.

The company has been best known over the years for being a licensee of the Lucas brand, but a push to get the firm’s into new markets in Europe, and into the hands of new technicians domestically, has led to the introduction of the new ranges which the company says are aimed at the upper end of the aftermarket.

In the case of ignition products, each unit will be shipped in an anti-static bag and the carton will contain fitting notes.

“In this, our 25th year, we are taking a strategic step to address what we believe is a great opportunity for independents within the sector,” said Ian Hallam, MD at the firm. “As the market has evolved and the influence of the big buying groups increased, independent factors and their workshop customers need to have access to a premium quality brand they can call their own”.


The firm will continue to be a Lucas licensee and products under that brand will be unaffected by the new introductions.

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OSRAM AND CONTINENTAL SIGN TECH JV DEAL

OSRAM AND CONTINENTAL SIGN TECH JV DEAL

German parts giants Continental and Osram have signed a joint venture based on sharing technology and expertise in automotive lighting and electronics.

The deal, in which both companies have an equal share, is set to come into effect in the second half of 2018 following approvals.

Osram Coninental GmbH as the JV will be known, will have Dirk Linzmeier from Osram as CEO and Harald Renner from Continental as CFO.

“We want to actively drive forward technological change in the lighting market within the automotive industry and develop even more innovative and intelligent lighting solutions. The joint venture will help us to establish the conditions for this since it combines our expertise in software and electronics with Osram’s automotive lighting expertise. As such, we will be able to offer our customers an unrivaled portfolio in the lighting market,” said Andreas Wolf, head of Continental’s Body & Security business unit.

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THE CHANGING FACE OF RETAIL

THE CHANGING FACE OF RETAIL

After a grim few months on the High Street, we speak to retailers and suppliers in our sector to find how they have adapted

WMS shop floor

Let’s not beat about the bush here: 2018 has so far been a terrible year to be a High Street retailer. There have been numerous high profile casualties such as Toys R Us and electronics giant Maplins as well as clothing retailers such as New Look, Claire’s Accessories and Jones the Bootmaker either calling in the receivers or announcing drastic restructuring.

Even restaurants in the so-called ‘smart casual’ dining sector, which for a long time were lauded as saviours of dwindling town centre, seem to have hit bad times. Carluccios, Prezzo and pretty well all of the outlets in TV chef Jamie Oliver’s portfolio have announced drastic closure programmes. It isn’t ideal.

Nonetheless, traditional accessory shops have adapted as best as they can to the changing face of the retail environment: The days of Ray D’Ator (CAT’s longtime accessory shop owner turned columnist) scowling at people over the counter, and his attitude of ‘you don’t want it looking too smart, people will think they can’t afford it’ are well and truly over.

SHOP ENVIRONMENT
Indeed, it is the opinion of the accessory retailers we spoke to is that the environment has changed significantly over the last couple of years, leading them to revise their offering. “There’s a change in consumer behaviour due to cars being less easy to work on therefore fewer DIY mechanics to serve” noted Jonathan Rogers of Wrexham Motoring Supplies. “We do a lot of free fits now when it comes to bulbs, batteries, wipers etc and we have noticed a significant increase in this service. This is directly in line with inf lating garage hourly rates and people being forced into looking elsewhere for fitting.”

Richard Shortis, Managing Director of regional chain Wico, said: “The range of product has increased as a result of the changing marketplace. Gone are the days of two different headlight bulbs, now there are about 10 – and that’s not including all the different upgrade versions.” Shortis adds that a noticeable change in the key categories of bulbs and wipers is that (with the possible exception of high-output bulbs) the parts wear out more slowly, and need changing less frequently. However, more customers are asking for the bulbs and blades to be changed for them, which Wilco will do for a fee.

One retailer who feels the environment has not changed significantly is A1 founding member and accessory shop owner Joe Elliott. “Has the environment changed in the last two years? Not really, business has remained consistent,” he said. “It’s busy when its cold and its OK the rest of the time.”

Push bike sales in decline

Despite this, Elliott says that he has noticed more sales in touring equipment. “I think the increase in sales of roof bars and WMS shop floor boxes are due to development in the leisure market. More families these days take part in more leisure activities throughout the year,” he said. “Roof boxes, expensive as they can be, it can often be cheaper to buy one and all the malarky that goes with it (instead of renting one on multiple occasions or shelling out for a larger car).”

Despite the rise in sales, he describes the competition from online vendors in the leisure category as ‘absolutely tremendous’ and he counters it by offering good service and free fitting. Indeed, it is the fitting offer to which Elliott attributes the company’s ‘edge’. “Apart from one very brief period, at Elliots, we have always offered free fitting on any accessory, whether that is bulbs, wipers or roof boxes. This policy has bought us a tremendous amount of kudos within the city. When we tried charging, we lost our edge. We have seen sales dramatically increase since we went back to free fitting.”

PUSH BIKE SALES
One area that appears to be in decline, or at least not as profitable as everyone hoped, is the sale of push bikes. “We did dip our toes into the cycle side a few years ago but quickly realised how saturated the market was,” explained Jon Rogers, adding that there is more to cycle retailing than simply stocking a few bikes. “We are clearing out of push bikes,” concurred Joe Elliott. “We went to a lot of trouble and expense setting up as a cycle repair shop, but for some reason it just hasn’t worked.”

“The other issue is that the Push bike sales in decline venture capitalist have come into the cycle industry… and we all know how they were when they went into the motor factor side of our trade,” said Richard Shortis, adding that pedal-electric bikes were a growing segment, albeit one that was growing from a very low base.

So the message from the market is adapt fast and respond to new trends – and don’t be afraid to try something new. Just be prepared that not every new trend (particularly in our sector) is going to fly.

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GKN MELROSE: POLITICAL REACTION TO HOSTILE TAKEOVER

GKN MELROSE: POLITICAL REACTION TO HOSTILE TAKEOVER

Melrose Industries has narrowly won its hostile takeover bid for GKN.

Following a ten-week battle that saw a war of words from GKN management as well as a number of alternative deals on the table, including a proposal from car parts maker Dana, the shareholders decided by a margin of 52 percent to sell to Melrose.

Despite assurances from Melrose, fears that the new buyer will simply wage a campaign of asset stripping as the takeover promises £8bn to be returned to shareholders, which will inevitably involve selling off parts of the business. Apart from car parts, GKN produces aviation components and has a number of defence contracts, leading to some speculation in the mainstream press that the deal might be stopped on national security grounds.

Business Secretary Greg Clark sought assurances from Melrose, saying that no company was ‘immune’ from takeover. Critics were keen to point out that such ‘assurances’ mean little in law, as was demonstrated when Kraft went back on promises made to Cadbury in 2009.

However, Defence Secretary Gavin Williams appears not to share Clark’s lasse-fare opinion, as he is reported as having ‘serious concerns’ about such a deal.

Former Defence Secretary [and owner of Haymarket Group] Lord Heseltine is quoted in the FT as saying that ‘no other country of our sort’ would allow the deal to go through.

Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn has said that the deal ‘must be stopped’ and that it does not make any sense ‘to put the interests of city speculators over the national interest’.

On completion of the deal, the Head Office in Reddich is tipped to be the first part of the operation to close.

 

 

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DANA MAKES BID FOR GKN

DANA MAKES BID FOR GKN

U.S-based car parts maker Dana has made a bid for embattled engineering giant GKN.

A report in the FT says that Dana will offer $6bn for the drivetrain division and will consider opening a secondary listing on the London stock exchange.

GKN’s drivetrain business combined with Dana’s existing contracts would give shareholders 47 percent of the world’s biggest drive system supplier with annual sales of $14bn according to the paper.

Jim Kamsickas, Chief Exec of Dana was clear that the combination of the two firm’s strengths in road vehicle engineering was undisputable. “It would be impossible to poke a hole in this industrially” he said.

The new bid is in addition to the hostile offer to shareholders from Melrose Industries, previously reported on. The board of GKN has rejected the bid, but shareholders are currently considering it.

However, the Melrose bit is neither popular with the management, nor some key clients. Tom Williams, CEO of Airbus has been quoted as saying that it would be ‘impossible’ to work with the engineering company under a short-term business model.

“The industry does not lend itself to shorter term financial investment which naturally reduces R&D, budgets and limits vital innovation,” he told the Reuters news agency.

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IN MEMORIUM: HENRY HOPE-FROST

IN MEMORIUM: HENRY HOPE-FROST

Henry Hope-Frost

Journalist and broadcaster Henry Hope-Frost has died, following a motorcycle accident.

Henry was known for his passion for motorsport and was famous for energetic and humorous commentary.  Famous for covering F1, Henry also covered the Goodwood meetings, BTCC and many others. Since his death on Thursday night, tributes have poured in from scores of people who knew him through his work.

He was well-known and loved by all at Haymarket Media Group, where he spent 22 years, mostly working on Autosport magazine. Since leaving, he remained in touch with the teams and was involved in various projects, including our Awards which he hosted in his own inimitable style.

Henry is survived by his wife Charlotte and their three young children.

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THE PART WITHOUT THE SURCHARGE

THE PART WITHOUT THE SURCHARGE

Nick Hood shows us that returning old units isn’t always the core of the business at Autoelectro.

D&V testing rig

This isn’t the first time that we’ve been to Nimalec House in Bradford, home to remanufacturer Autoelectro. However, there’s a special announcement today, so we are keen to hear what it is.

Before that happens, we are given a guided tour of the complex. ‘Complex’ is the correct term for the sprawling mass of buildings, as the original was bought soon after the business was founded in the late 1980s and has been extended several times since. In fact, if you don’t know your way around it is quite hard to keep track of where you are, as the building twists and turns and is set over several levels.

Fortunately, brothers Nicky, Tony and Paul Bhogal are on hand to show us around, as is Sales Manager Nick Hood. There are all the things you might expect in a modern remanufacturing business and warehouse, such as a busy sales office, various well-ordered stockrooms (the facility is ISO14001 accredited) and a large reman workshop. There’s also a few things that you might not: For example, there is a complex photo studio hidden away which is set up so the subject can be pictured through 360 degrees, meaning visitors to the firm’s website can virtually turn an item around on screen – the idea being that users can see if a unit is directly comparable to an item being pulled from a vehicle.

The testing facilities are also impressive. Nicky Bhogal, who is an electrical engineer by profession, worked with Canada- based D&V Electronics to develop testing rigs that could not only test a wide variety of alternators, but just as importantly, were easy to set up for each piece being tested. This means every alternator leaving the building gets properly calibrated and has a full test report along with traceability.

However, the real business of the day is the launch – and that is the news that from March, more than 2,000 references will have their surcharge charges cut.

The 10 bestselling and half of the 100 fastest-moving part numbers within its sales pareto will be surcharge-free, following months of stockpiling core behind the scenes.

Nick Hood explained that ironically, the deal was possible because of the proliferation of cheap imported units in the market. “Most people fitting these new units will still keep the old core and sell it by the basket load to a core dealer, so we are looking at a proliferation of part numbers in broader terms.” he explained, adding that dealers would usually take these crates of mixed core as they came rather than picking through them. The result, perhaps predictably, is an increase in the number of the most common part numbers.

The new no-exchange offering will be sold in the same red Autoelectro boxes as the rest of the range, albeit marked ‘NEX’. An entirely new sub-brand had been considered, but after a lot of what the Bhogals described as ‘soul searching’ they decided to keep it under the same label. “We’re proud of what we do and we don’t want to step away from that” explained Tony Bhogal.

“What we are offering is not a budget product, so it won’t be as cheap as some of the Chinese units” he explained. “But it won’t be much more expensive, which allows us to compete at that end of the market, and with smaller factors that don’t want to deal with core”. On the subject of core, Hood is keen to put one myth to rest. “We are well aware that some people think we make huge money on core, and I can tell you categorically that we don’t” he said, adding that collecting, identifying and processing core is a complex, but vital part of the business and will continue to be so.

There’s more announcements to come as well. From the beginning of April, the remanufactuter will be introducing
a ‘surcharge transparency’ tool, which will assist in securing maximum profits from stock on the shelf, something we’ll be interested to know more about in due course.

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HAYNES PUBLISHING IN THE MODERN WORLD

HAYNES PUBLISHING IN THE MODERN WORLD

Despite what the world at large might have told you, DIY car maintenance isn’t dead. Admittedly, driveway servicing isn’t as prevalent as it once was, nor are people tackling quite the same jobs as was once the case ­– for example, where a reasonably competent DIY’er might once have swapped an alternator or a starter motor with little problem, they would probably avoid fiddling around with a modern stop and start system.

Nonetheless, you don’t have to delve too deeply into any of the hundreds of car club forums, Facebook groups and YouTube channels to realise that people are still delving into dashboards and taking out complicated factory fit stereos, weedling out diagnostic trouble codes with any of the dozens of consumer code readers as well as regular servicing. A point often lost in non-specialist media is that routine servicing is in general more straightforward than it has ever been: modern cars don’t need tappets adjusting, points changing or even spark plugs every 8,000 miles any more.

 

Production

It’s for this group of car owners that Sparkford-based Haynes publishes workshop manuals. Time consuming and complex to produce,each one is based on a complete stripdown and rebuild of a car with each sub-assembly being meticulously dismantled, recorded and rebuilt. Around ten new titles are published in a year, with the Nissan Note and second-generation SEAT Leon among the latest subjects.

Haynes Publishing is selling property to adapt to the changing publishing environment

Printed manuals have their place, for example you can’t leave a tablet computer showing the same page on a workbench without it going flat and getting greasy. However, a flick through the aforementioned social channels shows that thepractically-mindedalso like to take their information from other sources as the internet is full of ‘how to’ videos that vary enormously in quality.

It’s for this reason that Haynes OnDemand was launched. Short videos are produced while the car is being dismantled and are available to view individually through the Haynes website.

However, for retailers it’s the Online Manual product that will be of more interest. Sold alongside its paper counterparts, customers purchase a voucher to get the same manual as the print version, but also havecolour photography, colour wiring diagrams and searchable text. Also different is the licence: digital manuals are sold with a one-year subscription.

The point here, as explained by CEO J Haynes (named after his father, company founder John Haynes, but always known by the mononym ‘J’) is about giving readers a choice. “We want to get the information into as many drivers’ hands as possible” he explained. The advantages here are obvious. If a visitor wants a book for a car that they are working on that day and the shop doesn’t have it on the shelf, then the digital manual vouchercan make the difference between making the sale or not.

Product explanation

J admits that digital products can be a difficult concept for retailers to get their heads around, and that the Haynes team spent time on the road explaining it to them along with the other USPs of the firm’s consumer products. “Our approach is unique” he said. “We still buy the car, take it into our workshop and take it apart, photograph it and video it. Then, step by step and through real experience we write instructions that show people how to maintain and repair their car. It’s a robust, thorough and tested method” he said, adding that Haynes is, in his opinion, the ‘only company with experience in providing this sort of information for consumers’.

J Haynes, CEO

 

For professional users, the approach is different. Haynes Pro, like its competitors, is online only. Originally known as Vivid Automotive Data it differs to the firm’s consumer products in that the data comes from OEM sources, rather than hands-on stripdowns. Instead, the product contains a range of part and fitting data that has appeal to parts suppliers and designers of diagnostic equipment as well as to workshops.

 

Recently the Pro offering got a boost as the company used some of the proceeds of a property sale in the U.S to acquireTonbridge-based data business E3 Technical from Solera Holdings, the company that also owns rival firm Autodata. Besides its user base, there were a number of technical aspects of E3 that must have appealed, including VRM lookup, a technology Haynes would like to use across its platforms.

 

The firm also acquired OATS, a lubricants database established in 1984 and widely used by industry.

 

Print is still profitable, but the most recent half year figures show that digital streams now make 46 percent of group revenue, a figure that continues to expand. “Bear in mind that digital revenue is a combination of both professional business and consumer business” said J, explaining that he believes there is room for growth in both sectors. “We certainly believe that it is a method of delivery that is becoming more popular with people who want to act on the information”.

Property sales

A few years ago the company had excess property in the UK, U.S and Australia that was a legacy from the days when the manuals would be printed and stored in-house. The property overseas has been sold, although the original site in Sparkford, Somerset, remains for sale. Moving these properties on is one aspect of turning the business around from the days when each print edition had to be produced in a large run, into one where runs are much smaller and produced offsite. Speaking about the UK business, James Bunkum, COO, said: “The restructuring has further to go, but we are now starting to see the results”.

 

“From our point of view we’ve seen the UK business return to profit for the first time since 2011, and following the big restructuring exercise that we did in the UK between 2013-14, we are now starting to see the benefits of that coming through”.

 

J concluded: “For the turnaround, it continues to be a close eye on what product is required and desirable in the market. The economy is robust, but there are challenges out there”. We’ll be interested to see how the company adapts to these challenges in the months and years ahead.

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MESSE FRANKFURT ACQUIRES FOREST EXHIBITIONS

MESSE FRANKFURT ACQUIRES FOREST EXHIBITIONS

Event organiser Messe Frankfurt has acquired Forest Exhibitions to create Messe Frankfurt UK. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

Sherwood was the licence holder for Automechanika Birmingham, while Messe Frankfurt is the parent company.

Simon Albert, Event Director of Automechanika Birmingham will take the role of Managing Director of the new UK subsidiary replacing Rob Sherwood.

A note from Olivia Brockwell, Operations Executive at Messe Frankfurt UK, to exhibitors at the show read: “There will be no operational, commercial or legal impact on your relationship with Forest Exhibitions”.

“The event team remain unchanged, and we are full steam ahead with this year’s event”.

The show organiser will remain in the same

 

 

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