Blogs

OBITUARY: KEVIN SHORTIS 1939-2019

Accessory shop owner and entrepreneur Kevin Shortis has died following a short illness.

While he was involved in a number of businesses, Shortis will be best remembered by the aftermarket for his chain of accessory shops, latterly called Wilco Motosave.

Kevin Shortis 1939-2019

Shortis started work in the late 1950s as a teenager. Originally he worked for parts distributor Vic Moore Car Spares in Lancashire. “Back then there were no accessory shops. If you wanted something, you went to a garage. But they had to sell you the parts at the rate the manufacturer dictated” he told CAT in a 2010 interview.

Sensing a gap in the market, Shortis set up a shop aimed at DIY motorists. In an age where a new generation of first-time car owners liked to maintain and fit accessories to their vehicles, the business did well and before long several more branches were opened across East Anglia.  

Such success came to the attention of aftermarket magnate Quinton Hazell, who bought Shortis out. Shortis took a place on Hazell’s board, but the relationship was short lived due to the sale of QH to Burmah and in the mid 1970s he took the opportunity to buy several of his stores back.

Steady growth occurred in the decades that followed, with the acquisition of Leeds-based Motosave in 2004 more than doubling the size of the network.

In 2010 Shortis won the Lifetime Achievement trophy at the CAT Awards. However he never retired and continued to work in the business with his son Richard.

Kevin Shortis signed off the last email he sent to us at CAT with the words: “I never get bored, but since I started in the trade I reckon I’ve seen everything!”

He will be sorely missed by all that knew him.

 

Posted in Factor & Supplier News, News, Retailer NewsComments (1)

PROFITS SLUMP AT HALFORDS FOLLOWING MILD WINTER

Halfords PLC, the company behind the retail chain and auto centres as well as specialist cycle shops Treadz and Cycle Republic, has announced its results for the year ending in March 2019.

Underlying profit before tax was down £12.8m on last year to £58.8m.

Halfords

Profits down at Halfords following a mild winter

Chairman Keith Williams noted a ‘disappointing fall in profit vs expectations’ which he put down to a mix of Brexit uncertainty and a mild winter. CEO Graham Stapleton expanded that the drop was also due to ‘weakened consumer confidence’ in the run up to Christmas, retail cost inflation as well as investment in ‘strategic opportunities’, such as the opening of a Boardman Performance Centre. The report also noted that operating costs both in retail and in the auto centres had increased, further reducing profitability.

However, it wasn’t all bad headlines for the retailer. Like-for-like cycle sales grew modestly, net debt was reduced by £6m to £81.8m and total Autocentres revenues were up £2.6 percent. Battery, bulb and blade fitting services at the retail outlets were also showing positive growth.

Posted in Factor & Supplier News, Garage News, Latest News, News, Retailer News, special newsComments (0)

DEALER GROUP COMPLAINS ABOUT ‘AGGRESSIVE PRICING” OF TRADE CLUBS

A dealer group has noted the ‘aggressive pricing’ of VM parts chains makes it ‘less attractive’ for franchised dealers to sell parts for older models.

In a Group Accounts Statement filed at Companies House by John Grose, Director Ian Twinley noted that: ‘Both Ford and PSA continue to restructure their parts distribution models which is making it less attractive for the franchised dealer and therefore a sector that we will reduce our activity. In the retail sector we are all seeing a huge transformation in small package distribution driven by the digital revolution, which is likely to continue for some while yet and have further impact on OEM parts distribution’.

 

VM initiatives such as PSA’s Euro Repar make spares ‘less attractive’ to franchises

Both Ford and the PSA brands are represented by John Grose, and both have expanded their trade club-style offerings in order to tempt independent garages to buy parts directly from them rather than from the all-makes factor chains. PSA has been particularly aggressive with the roll-out of its Auto Repar offering that includes several different tiers of parts quality. Ford has also tried a number of initiatives, including the Quick Lane soft franchise garage model.

 

The Group Accounts Statement also noted that John Grose has taken a number of actions to prepare for a worst-case no deal Brexit, which included stockpiling common service and repair part numbers as well as securing ‘additional headroom in funding’ to meet any volatility in cash flow.

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

MAN ARRESTED IN FAKE SPARK PLUGS RAID

Trading Standards in East Sussex has uncovered a haul of fake spark plugs, valued at nearly £40,000

Istvan Lorincz of Hailsham was found to be in possession of bags of the engine components, along with sophisticated label making equipment and cartons. He had been passing off the fakes as authentic parts on internet auction sites.

Fake plugs found in raid (Photo: East Sussex Trading Standards)

Hove Crown Court found him guilty of 25 breaches of the trademarks act and handed down a four-month prison sentence, suspended for eighteen months.  

Cllr Bill Bentley, East Sussex County Council told local paper, The Eastbourne Herald: “This unscrupulous individual was caught with counterfeit motor parts with a very high value”.

“He was knowingly selling these items online to unsuspecting consumers and businesses around the country, to the detriment not just of the buyers, but of the manufacturers whose products he claimed to be offering and to genuine traders trying to make an honest living”

Rumours of fake spark plugs in the market have been floating about for a while.

 

Posted in Factor & Supplier News, Garage News, Latest News, latest news, NewsComments (1)

MAHLE AFTERMARKET ACQUIRES BEHR HELLA SERVICE

Mahle Aftermarket has announced the acquisition of automotive thermal management product supplier Behr Hella Service (BHS) for an undisclosed amount.

The acquisition will see all existing BHS activities transfer to Mahle on January 1st 2020, bringing a broad range of thermal management products to Mahle’s portfolio. The products will cover passenger vehicles as well as agricultural and construction vehicles.

The old BHS part numbers can still be used by current customers to order products even after 1st January 2020. Mahle part numbers will be implemented in parallel.

In a statement, Mahle noted the importance of thermal management products in the operation of electric vehicles. Olaf Henning, Corporate Executive Vice President and General Manager of Mahle Aftermarket, said: “E-mobility will present workshops in particular with new challenges in the medium term.

“We can now offer them targeted support with the expertise from our OEM business and provide the right solutions – by identifying a component with the correct diagnostic systems and delivering technical training and information on repairs and maintenance,” he concluded.

Posted in Latest NewsComments (0)

BREXIT: UNCERTAINTY AND BUSINESSES CONTRACTS

By Lindsay Ellis – Lindsay Ellis advises on a range of legal matters, including outsourcing, procurement and commercial contracts for Warwickshire solicitor firm Wright Hassall 

Lindsay Ellis

Uncertainty surrounds the timing of Brexit, but when it does happen, there will undoubtedly be an impact on UK businesses and their contracts. It is important that organisations consider how Brexit might affect existing contracts.

Existing contracts

For many businesses, Brexit could impact their supply chain and they should consider the performance of obligations by subcontractors and suppliers. Other key areas to consider include; term, territory, currency, tariffs, customs clearance, resources, licensing/ consents and tax. Failure to review and plan for these could result in increased costs and/or damage to business performance.

Force majeure 

A contract typically contains force majeure clauses. Depending on the drafting, these can relieve a party from liability for a breach resulting from ‘circumstances beyond its reasonable control’. However, if Brexit was likely when the contract was agreed, it could be argued the parties should have planned for its effects. Without a specific reference to Brexit, force majeure clauses are unlikely to help of itself, but depending how the clause was drafted, it might address delays in delivery of goods due to crossborder issues.

Compliance with law clauses

Many contracts state that parties must comply with applicable law. It will be a matter of interpretation whether such a clause could oblige a party to absorb the costs associated with Brexit-related changes in law. Long-term contracts typically address what will happen if the law changes, often specifying that charges can only be increased in limited circumstances, with the supplier required to consult with the customer before making any changes.

Termination 

The contract may include scope for termination, by either party. This may be in connection with circumstances arising from Brexit related events or a failure to agree a change. If a contract’s termination clause gives a party a right to terminate on relatively short notice, the prospect of termination can always be raised to encourage negotiation.

Common law and frustration

Frustration arises where an event occurs after the date of the contract, radically transforming the obligations of either party or making it impossible to fulfil the contract. However, a contract is not frustrated due to inconvenience, hardship, financial loss or when the event should have been foreseen by the parties. As such, it is generally accepted that frustration will not help with Brexit, although it might apply if certain changes in law were to be made subsequently, which would make it impossible to fulfil a contract.

Interpretation and implied terms

The courts are unlikely to interpret a contract or imply a term to assist a party adversely affected by Brexit and will not relieve a party from the consequences of their poor business practices, if that involves departing from the natural meaning of the contract. Similarly, the fairness of a proposed implied term or the fact that the parties would agree to it is insufficient grounds for implying it. Both interpretation and implication of terms have regard to the background knowledge reasonably available to the parties at the time they entered the contract.

What are the options?

By not drafting contracts that address Brexit uncertainty, there is a risk that a party will be obliged to continue to fulfil its contractual obligations, even if Brexit-related events render it commercially unattractive. However, doing nothing may be an option for a party who can terminate contracts at short notice or are confident in their ability to perform regardless of Brexit’s outcome.

‘Brexit’ clause

Inserting a ‘Brexit clause’ into contracts will trigger some change in the parties’ rights and obligations when a defined event occurs. The best a Brexit clause may offer is a binding requirement for the parties to try and renegotiate the contract. For other contracts, it may be possible to specify the consequences of certain events, but with Brexit, there is the risk that events occur that have not been first considered.

Making changes

Organisations must take the time to review their existing commercial contracts, ensuring every possible outcome is accounted for and the necessary clauses are added. Seek advice from experienced contract lawyers and plan for life after Brexit, sooner rather than later.

 

 

 

Posted in CAT Know-HowComments (0)

NEW BROOM SWEEPS THROUGH KLARIUS

 

“We’d like to invite any and all of your readers to see the plant and we can show them exactly what we do and what our processes are,” Klarius’ Business Development Manager Paul Hannah said to us after we had concluded our tour of the Cheadle production site.

Klarius is on a PR drive, and there is a reason why. The Directors are facing a charge relating to selling catalysts and DPFs with incorrect type approval numbers. Whether or not this was done knowingly is up to a court to decide when the case comes to trial later in the year, but right now, new MD Mark Brickhill has the task of showing us exactly what the company produces today.

In fact, it has four distinct areas of business, namely KMT Machine Tools, Emissco solvent manufacturing, AutoLogistiks distribution and the design and production of Klarius branded products.

On our visit we were shown around by Brickhill, someone entirely new to the company and as we discovered, a man whose enthusiasm for improving processes and the corporate culture in British manufacturing was infectious.

Brickhill, who previously held senior roles at Goodyear and Turtle Wax, was keen to emphasize that his role was to put in place processes that mean happy staff and satisfied customers. “Customer, team, execution have always made for a successful business. Once you compromise on these things, you are going to trip over,” he said, adding that one of the first things to do on joining the company was to put together a plan for the next three to five years, during which he plans to take the company to a £50m turnover with a 10 percent EBIT margin, a target he describes as ‘not an outrageous number, but is broadly double the turnover and double the profitability that we had in 2017’.

To achieve this, Brickhill reviewed every process across the business and used feedback from customers and staff on the areas to improve. As a small example, boards found around factories that use the Kaizen method have for years had illustrations of good vs bad practice, but Brickhill has redesigned the boards on the production floor so they show things that merit a ‘yellow card’ or a ‘red card’ metaphor. It goes further than rugby metaphors around the plant though. “You are never going to delight your customer if you don’t have a fantastic team of people focussed on that as a key objective,” he yelled, over the noise of exhaust pipe production. “I think the most important thing a leader can do istosetoutaclearsetof directions that everyone can understand. There are two parts to it. One is the business plan and the other is the culture of the company,” he furthered.

UNCONVENTIONAL

Throughout his career, Brickhill has been keen to look at problems in an unconventional light. For example, when he was appointed European MD at Goodyear one of the issues he was faced with was the issue of lacklustre sales of heavy truck tyres. Rather than simply telling his reps to go out and try harder, he developed a new marketing campaign entirely. “We called it ‘free tyres’ because the better rolling resistance of our product meant that over the life of the tyre, it would more than pay for itself,” he said. The strategy worked and profitability increased.

Walking through the site, the KMT production area was busy making some sort of enormous jig, similar in appearance to one of those car rollers used for DIY car restoration, but painted bright yellow and about 60 feet in length, apparently used in the production of railway carriages. This is the heaviest of heavy engineering and the production ‘line’ such as it is can be configured to make any number of heavy tools. Other than heavy rail, clients include manufacturers of earthmoving equipment and ship builders.

Moving through the plant, the R&D department is housed in another building, and an area that the management are particularly keen to show us. On our visit, a Skoda Octavia was on the ramp having a new OE exhaust system tested, presumably to benchmark its performance against the aftermarket unit in development. Brickhill was keen to stress that the VCA inspector was in ‘almost every week’ and that all new to range exhaust systems are type approved as is required in most of continental Europe. The CAD team were busy drawing up the new reference so it can be uploaded to the electronic catalogues.

The company also has use of a piece of private road that winds around an adjacent area of farmland. While it might be an overstatement to call it a ‘test track’ it is nonetheless a useful way of trying new products for fit and rattles etc.

STANDARDS

After the briefest sight of the sun, it was into the main factory where exhaust systems are produced. A substantial investment has been made over the past eighteen months in hardware for rolling and bending steel tube, and the changes needed around the factory to accommodate new machinery gave Brickhill the opportunity to implement various changes to the factory and to the production method after scrutinizing every aspect of a time and motion study. “If you don’t aspire to an exceptionally high standard, you might have something that is functional, but is it excellent and great? That’s the challenge” he said. The factory, in common with other comparable businesses, is now able to make product in extremely small batch sizes if necessary, meaning that on some occasions products can be picked for delivery

New MD Mark Brickhill

within hours of being fabricated.

From a logistics point of view, exhausts are the poster child of ‘ugly’. Spindly, pokey, easily crushable with lots of loose parts, the products are difficult to store and transport. To this end, the firm established its own delivery company, AutoLogistiks, a few years back to get the products where they need to be overnight, and in the condition they are supposed to be in. On our visit, transport managers were busy loading various vehicles with stock. We didn’t want to disturb them, so we moved to the final building of the complex, Emissco.

While we were aware that the company’s Emissco arm produced a number of chemical products, such as brake cleaner and maintenance spray, we didn’t realise that they are developed and canned on site. “It’s massively exciting,” said Brickhall as we looked around the canning plant. Setting up an

installation such as this requires the line to run for as many hours of the day as possible to get ROI, so it wasn’t surprising to see other brands’ products being produced under contract. However there is, as Brickhill enthusiastically told us, ‘plenty of scope for expansion’, so talks with more clients are ongoing.

While simply mentioning the name of this company makes some in the industry bristle, there is no doubt that thanks to the work of Mark Brickhill and the team, the company as we see it in front of us today is committed to producing decent, British engineered products. But there is no reason why you should take the word of a magazine writer with little technical knowledge. We’d suggest the cynical take up Paul Hannah’s offer of a plant tour and then you can make up your own mind.

 

Posted in Out and About with CATComments (0)

HOSTED GARAGE PROGRAMME SET FOR SUCCESS

PROMOTIONAL ARTICLE ON BEHALF OF AUTOMECHANIKA BIRMINGHAM

Motor factors take lead in bringing garages to the event

Motor factors that bring their garage customers to Automechanika Birmingham 2019 will benefit from an exclusive VIP area, enjoy fast track access into the event and support with their travel arrangements.

Automechanika Birmingham 2019 is designed to bring the entire automotive industry together and with the Hosted Garage Programme, the event is doing that literally by assisting motor factors with bringing their customers to the event.

All motor factors have to do is simply invite, register and bring five or more garage customers to the event to receive free parking and free breakfast too.

The Hosted Garage programme is a great opportunity for motor factors to introduce garages and technicians to their supplier base. What’s more, garages that take up the offer of attending with their motor factor will visit The Big UK Garage Event, where they will access hundreds of suppliers and brands from across the industry covering areas such as accessories, components, tools and garage equipment. There will also be CPD accredited training taking place and demos from the industry’s top speakers including Frank Massey, Andy Crook and James Dillon, the Training & Skills Village and the returning Workshop Training Hub.

Exhibitors will also be providing a raft of exclusive show offers and giveaways for garages at this year’s event.

One motor factor bringing garages to the Automechanika Birmingham is Midwest Motor Factors of Walsall. Group Factor manager, Craig McCracken, said: “This is a fantastic idea and really ties in everybody in the automotive industry. Much of the event’s content is geared towards independent garages and it’s a fantastic opportunity for us as their local motor factor to bring them to an event that will ultimately benefit their business.

This was echoed by Autosupplies managing director, David Clarke, who said: “Each year we bring garages to the event and this year we’ve been inundated with requests to join our team at the event. As a motor factor, we have a responsibility to support our suppliers exhibiting at the event and bring garages to them. Such dialogue and feedback helps all in the supply chain and so we’re delighted to be bringing more garages than ever before to Automechanika Birmingham as part of the Hosted Garage Programme.”

There is still time for motor factors to sign up to the Hosted Garage Programme and they can do so by emailing info@automechanika-birmingham.com

Major aftermarket names committed to the 2019 event include: Schaeffler, ZF, DENSO, MAHLE Aftermarket, Delphi Technologies, Valeo, Bosch, Hella, Bilstein Group, MANN + HUMMEL, NGK, Yuasa, Apec Braking Ltd, BM Catalysts, Draper Tools, GROUPAUTO, Launch Tech UK, Liqui Moly, MAM Software, Marathon Warehouse Distribution, Morris Lubricants, OESSA, Texa UK and Total UK.

Registration is now open and visitors can now book their free ticket here: https://automechanika-birmingham-2019.reg.buzz

Posted in Greg Whitaker's diaryComments (0)

IS THAT CLEAR?: JOHNSON CONTROLS TO BECOME ‘CLARIOS’

Johnson Controls Power Solutions has been rebranded as ‘Clarios’. The new name for the battery arm formerly owned by Johnson Controls International comes some months after the business was acquired by private equity firm Brookfield Business Partners in a cash deal valued at $13.2 billion. According to a statement, Clarios intends to continue to provide automotive battery products and services, with a focus on new technology such as traction batteries for electric vehicles.

READ: GKN FIGHTS ‘OPPORTUNISTIC’ HOSTILE TAKEOVER BID

Johnson Controls Battery Technology becomes Clarios

“As a global leader with a product used in virtually every vehicle from conventional to fully electric, we are well positioned to capitalise on market trends, including a move toward more electrified and autonomous vehicles which are elevating the critical role of the battery and accelerating the need for more advanced batteries,” said Joe Walicki, President of Clarios. “Under Brookfield’s ownership, we can better capitalise on these growing trends and operate with more focus and efficiency.”

Clarios currently has 56 facilities worldwide with over 16,000 employees. It is best known in the UK for its Varta battery range. 

Posted in Factor & Supplier News, Latest News, News, special newsComments (2)

THE HIDDEN COST OF POOR MENTAL HEALTH IN OUR TRADE

By Rebecca Watt – Technician at Avia Sports Cars

According to research carried out by the World Health Organisation, one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. Only one in eight of those with a mental health problem are receiving help or treatment. Maybe that’s because they do not know what help is out there, or maybe they think it is not important or serious enough. There are many reasons why someone with an issue such as anxiety or depression may not get the help they need.

The truth is, everyone is affected by mental health at least once in their lives. Although women are more likely to be affected, men are three times as likely to take their own lives. There are about 6,000 suicides in the UK and Republic of Ireland each year and men make up about three quarters of this figure.

Now you’re probably thinking: what has this got to do with the Motor Industry? In fact, the garage trade is particularly affected by instances of poor mental health. Years of heavy lifting, chasing bills and complaining customers can take their toll, but there are many other reasons why an individual who has previously been fine can change to being ‘not okay’ in a short time.

Stress

Stress can build up and affect things like productivity, quality of work and physical health. Consider a lean management system, like any used in production factories and distributor’s warehouses. If any issue, no matter how slight is detected, the problem will be flagged and managers will work to resolve the issue as efficiently as possible. If a problem with a machine or industrial system is fixed so quickly, why then has a government report found that 300,000 people with mental health problems lose their jobs each year? It makes no sense.

From a business point of view, it is important to ensure employees are aware of the help available to them. People spend most of their time in the workplace, so giving employees the basic need of connection and being cared for will have a greater impact on their lives and will only then benefit the company. Employees will respond to this and work to their full potential. Studies have shown that 12.7 percent of all sickness absence days in the UK can be linked to mental health conditions. The government report showed that better mental health support in the workplace could save UK business up to £8 billion PA.

Flexible working

So what can be done in the workplace to improve mental health? A good start is if employers can embrace flexible working. Allowing staff to work flexible hours or schedules to suit them would give them the self-care time that they require to continue working to the best of their abilities. It is equally critical to allow employees to have their entitled time off, or holiday days away from the work environment so they can return bright eyed and bushy tailed.

People suffering with mental health problems are urged to see their GP, plus there are lots of charities that can help – Samaritans and their excellent confidential helpline for example. Specifically for our industry, there is the charity BEN which also offers a confidential support line and will work with individuals. They also offer a range of workplace awareness and engagement initiatives, training programmes and digital assets to help promote its services within companies. If you look after your employees, they will look after your company. Mental health should never be ignored.

Posted in Blogs, UncategorisedComments (0)

Advertisement
  • COMLINE: Ishan Kamdar takes over the family business
  • AIR CON: Trade body vows to fight smuggled gas in UK
  • LIVES: Visit to meet the new MD of Klarius

more info

    • Should hand car washes face further regulation?

      View Results

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