Archive | Emma Butcher’s Blog





Automechanika Birmingham will be the home to more than 550 high calibre businesses over the course of three days, from the 7th to the 9th June 2016. As an important part of the visitor experience, the organisers have arranged a series of informative seminars that will examine a wide range of important issues facing both the aftermarket and supply chain.

The aftermarket focussed seminars will be presented by prominent figures and organisations from within the industry and will provide insight, explore the challenges and reveal the opportunities effecting the future of the aftermarket.

The seminars will be presented across three theatres, the Keynote Theatre sponsored by Morris Lubricants, the Aftermarket Theatre sponsored by Aftermarket magazine and the Technical Theatre, with Workshops for the Aftermarket organised by autotechnician magazine and sponsored by TecRMI. The programme of events begins at 10:30 and runs to 16:15 on Tuesday, 10:00 to 16:15 on Wednesday and on Thursday from 10:00 to 13:50: for full details of the entire programme, please visit the Automechanika Birmingham website.

  • Among the aftermarket specific presentations is ‘The workshop of the future: how data is shaping servicing and diagnostics’ by Max Lienard, Autodata, on Tuesday 7th at 11:00.
  • Ian Gillgrass is also giving a presentation on Tuesday on ‘The rise of autonomous technology; what it means for the automotive industry’ at 14:20.
  • The final aftermarket focussed seminar of the Tuesday is Adam Bernstein’s ‘The impact of regulations on business’ at 15:40.
  • On Wednesday, Wendy Williamson of the IAAF, will be giving a seminar at 10:30 on the ‘Challenges facing the automotive aftermarket’.
  • The DVSA will be presenting the latest developments in their seminar of ‘Modernisation of MOT training’ at 11:15.
  • ‘Safeguarding your business: dispute resolution and key updates on consumer legislation’ will be given at 13:40 by Mark Hallam of Motor Codes.
  • There will also be a selection of seminars focussing on the effect technology will have in the aftermarket. First on Wednesday, is HELLA’s Neil Hilton presenting ‘Overcoming the challenges of ADAS’ at 11:20. There will then be a seminar on ‘The impact of technology in the retail sector’ given by Professor Jim Saker at 13:00. Finally in this section will be Prashant Chopra, Autogem, at 15:40 on the subject of ‘TPMS, a tidal wave of challenge and opportunity’.
  • The first aftermarket based seminar on the closing day, Thursday 9th, will be given by Steve Scofield, IMI, at 10:00 on ‘The changing world for Vehicle Testing Stations – MOT requirements demystified’.
  • Also at 10:00, Shaun Greasley of TecAlliance will give a seminar on ‘Supporting the independent’.
  • The penultimate seminar concentrating solely on the aftermarket is ‘Vehicle systems integration’ presented by Paul Grosvenor, MAHLE, at 10:40.

Posted in Emma Butcher's Blog, Factor & Supplier News, Greg Whitaker's diary, NewsComments (0)

Pirate parts: The battle has begun

Did you have a giggle at the daft spellings on the fake goods that littered the press in the pre-Christmas buying frenzy? I did.

The internet, too, is a goldmine of hilariously hopeless rip-offs. My favourite find was one audacious Chinese pirate’s ad for a fake Apple MacBook Air laptop, using a fake Steve Jobs to sell it.

You might admire their nerve if you didn’t know that this kind of activity routinely funds organised crime: drugs, people trafficking, terrorism.

Counterfeiting is big business and, although some deny its prevalence, it is a very serious threat to the aftermarket.

Right now, according to the experts, one in every 10 replacement parts circulating in the UK is a fake. And we’re not just talking ‘harmless’ accessories such as wing mirrors or fluffy dice.

The evidence suggests that the majority of counterfeit parts are now safety-critical: brake pads, steering linkages. The quality of some of the parts that CAT has seen is so shoddy that it’s surprising no one has died yet.

But yet is the operative word.

Counterfeiting is a growing trend in this industry and as consumers continue to cut their spending, demand for cheap parts will inevitably increase.

It’s up to the trade to resist this and to insist only on fitting quality parts from qualified and trusted suppliers.

That’s why CAT is making this our major campaigning issue for 2011. The aftermarket can’t afford the public backlash that will come in the event that a dodgy part does cause a fatal accident.

If you think this summer’s Which? report was hard to take, a death would make that seem like a walk in the park.

We know that CAT readers would be horrified at the thought of fitting a fake and potentially lethal part to their customers’ cars – and that’s why if you do come across a part that you suspect to be counterfeit, we want you to let us know.

Evidence will be key in the fight against fakes. Let’s fight this one together.

Posted in Emma Butcher's BlogComments (0)

Time the independent aftermarket got its house in order

By now you should have received your new look CAT mag – cunningly timed to get you in the mood for attacking 2011 with renewed vigour.

I hope you’ll agree that we’ve managed to cram in more insight, more strategy and more power to the aftermarket.

That’s why we’re here, to keep you informed, connected and armed to make tough business decisions, hopefully bring you a little light relief from time to time – and kick some proverbial backside when needed.

And I’m afraid this month it is. On the back of a year in which the aftermarket won its hardest battle, Right to Repair, instead of regrouping, it seems everyone has gone back to their own camps and forgotten the happy (though just a little Simpsonesque) family unit.

D’oh! The effort to pull together and prove that the repair industry can put its own house in order is in all but meltdown; and the reborn IAAF is having what the neighbours would in hushed tones call “a wobble”.

The IAAF is in the process of pulling off an ambitious move, welcoming garages, promising a new world of togetherness.

But this month half the board was threatening to walk before new members had wiped their feet on the mat.

Why? Domestic strife – isn’t it always? I don’t want to do the IAAF’s dirty washing for it, but I do know that a man who has given many years of loyal service felt compelled to resign his job.

Trade bodies exist for one reason – the trade. When they work, they work wonderfully. But there is always a risk that they become inward looking.

And in my experience, politicking and personal agenda rarely puts dinner on the table.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got a huge amount of respect for those who wear the trousers at the IAAF. They are industry leaders, shrewd business people, committed to the cause.

But come on guys, get it together, put the handbags away. The aftermarket needs you. And it’s almost Christmas – let’s crack open the sherry and share some good will.

Posted in Emma Butcher's BlogComments (0)

Which? report not the aftermarket’s finest hour

CAT’s legendary timing strikes again. Only last month we pre-empted the devastating Which? report with our review of the industry’s sometimes confusing raft of codes of conduct, although I have to admit the timing was more down to luck – well let’s call it intuition – than anything else.

The report, which is about as scathing as you could imagine of the service and repair sector, throws into sharp relief the huge amount of work our industry needs to put in to repairing its bruised and battered reputation.

Even considering the very small sample size of the servicing jobs that Which?’s mystery shoppers tested (62 out of 48 million services carried out in the UK each year, according to the RMI), the fact that all but eight garages tested failed to identify and put right at least one significant vehicle defect is very worrying indeed.

What with the Which? report, counterfeit part seizures in Northern Ireland and the admission of a quarter of the garages that responded to a recent Motaquip survey that they would use white box parts to save money, now is really not the aftermarket’s finest hour. The independent aftermarket is better than this – let’s prove it.

Posted in Emma Butcher's BlogComments (0)

This week I was mostly impressed by cabin filters and Steve Jarnet’s lime-green barnet

Wembley Hill's Calvin, ECP's Donna West and lime-green lovelies Satbinder and Steve from Corteco

Wembley Hill's Calvin, ECP's Donna West and lime-green lovelies Satbinder and Steve from Corteco

It was great to see the supply chain working together to spread the aftermarket word this week.

I popped along to the Brent Park Tesco superstore to see Corteco, ECP and Wembley Hill Garage in action as they helped charity Asthma UK rattle their fundraising buckets.

(Well keep them quite still, actually, because apparently rattling is strictly off limits these days!).

Now you might wonder what Asthma has to do with the aftermarket.

Well, Corteco has teamed up with the charity to help raise awareness about the health benefits of regular cabin air filter replacement.

  • Apparently, without a properly functioning filter the air inside the vehicle cabin can be up to 6 times more polluting than outside
  • And according to Asthma UK, 66% of people with asthma say that traffic fumes trigger their symptoms

So how did our friendly chuggers get on?

Well the shoppers of Wembley are clearly a generous and health conscious lot because a surprising number of them not only made a donation, but were really interested to find out how a cabin filter can help keep respiratory conditions under control.

Many of them had never even considered that their vehicle had a cabin filter before.

Or were they just hypnotised by Steve Jarnet’s new barnet?

Taking the Putting Asthma in the Limelight campaign tag quite literally, the normally impeccably dressed UK sales manager for Corteco ditched his sartorial pride for the day to don a lime green wig – and very fetching he looked too!

But back to the serious matter of filters, one lady, Mrs Jackie Togher from Collingdale, told me that she had just been to visit her friend’s daughter, who is recovering from an asthma attack, in hospital.

“It’s really scary,” she said. “I hadn’t heard about these filters before. I’m really interested in anything that can help.”

She took away two filters, one for herself and her small son, and the other for her friend, and headed off round the corner to Wembley Hill Garage to get her free fitting.

Educating motorists

Calvin, Wembley Hill’s main man, said he was looking forward to seeing more educated motorists in his workshop.

Unsurprisingly, he said that motorists never ask for their cabin air filter to be changed without prompting.

“Most of them don’t know what it is but it’s so important, especially when you’re driving bumper to bumper and can smell the exhaust fumes of the car in front.

“We always recommend charcoal filters.”

The Wembley charity event was the first in a nationwide tour for Corteco. It is working together with various distribution partners and local garages in its month-long campaign.

Apparently, there’s still time to get involved – and that means there’s still time to see the lesser-spotted Mr Jarnet in all his lime-green glory. Coming soon to a Tesco near you…

Posted in Emma Butcher's BlogComments (0)

Independent garages get thumbs up from consumers

I challenge anyone who doubts the fantastic service on offer in the independent aftermarket to take a look at our website right now and walk away with the same view.

The messages of support that customers of motor factors, garages and retailers have left while voting for their 2010 aftermarket heroes are incredibly refreshing and really underline the passion and commitment of the people that make up this industry.

Of course you can read them all on our awards pages, but here are just a few of the comments we’ve received from motorists about independent garages who far too often get a raw deal.

I hope they brighten up your day.

  • “TJ Hall and Son provide excellent service. I needed a replacement bulb the other morning and when I pulled up at 8:30am the mechanic came out and fitted one immediately so I was able to get to work on time.”
  • “There are not many people to whom I would entrust my beloved Cobra! – I have no hesitation with ABP Motorsport.”
  • “Dakar Cars are brilliant. Nothing is too much trouble, great service and the pricing is competitive.”

Back to the CAT Awards, voting is now closed, although my lips are sealed about the identities of our winners – sorry but rules are rules – so you’ll have to wait for the big announcements on the 22nd of Jan.

It’s shaping up to be a fantastic event and the CAT team is looking forward to kicking off 2010 in style by welcoming all our guests at the fabulously luxurious Lensbury Hotel and Spa and sharing a few well-deserved celebratory drinks with you.

In the meantime, here’s wishing you all a happy and prosperous New Year.

Posted in Emma Butcher's BlogComments (0)

Got a question about China and the aftermarket? I’m your woman

Growing interest: In 2008 31k people visited Automechanika Shanghai – a 40% increase on 2007

In 2008 31k people visited Automechanika in Shanghai – a 40% increase on 2007

Do you have an ingrained tendency to recoil in horror at the mere mention of China in relation to the replacement parts market?

The country’s association with “white box” products or “Chinese copy parts” has, understandably, made a lot of legitimate traders in the UK view its exports with suspicion.

But although the association with counterfeit parts persists – only this summer Contitech successfully took one dodgy manufacturer there to task after it ripped off its belts – things are changing.

Already many of the biggest and most well respected parts suppliers are using Chinese factories or have opened their own manufacturing plants there.

Labour there is still relatively cheap (although wages are rising and thus becoming less competitive) and quality has improved dramatically – though you need to know where to find it.

China’s rise to global industrial super power was underlined this summer when it became the world’s largest automotive market with sales of 6.1m new cars in the first six months of the year – 1.3m more than in the US.

Sales forecasts of 11m vehicles by the end of 2009 would put the country’s motor industry 2m units ahead of 2007 figures. And this influx of new cars has created unprecedented demand for replacement parts and aftersales services.

Freedonia Group predicts that the aftermarket for light vehicle components in China will grow 17.9 percent annually through to 2011.

So what, if anything, does this all mean for the UK aftermarket and, ultimately, the companies working at the sharp end distributing installing and selling parts and accessories to the consumer?

In December, I’ll be putting my investigative hat on and jetting off to the fifth Automechanika exhibition in Shanghai to find out first hand.

It will be my first visit to China and, despite the fact that I’ll be spending more time on a plane and in an exhibition hall than out and about soaking up the sights and sounds of Shanghai, I’m really looking forward to it.

Yes I must confess that I am one of those strange people who actually enjoy airline food, although my experiences to date of exhibition hall fare have not been what you might call inspiring!

Can the Shanghai New International Expo centre rival the NEC in the sandwich stakes? After I’ve covered the serious stuff, I’ll report fully on this pressing question.

But my real mission in Shanghai is to seek out opportunities for (and indeed potential threats to) the UK independent aftermarket.

So if you have a question you would like to put to the trade out there or an issue you’d like to look in to,
I’m your woman.

You can get in touch by emailing me at, calling me on +44 (0) 208 267 5906 or even leaving a message on this post.

Posted in Emma Butcher's Blog, UncategorisedComments (0)

How I was witness to a world 1st in engine tuning

Hmmmm, a Porsche – mine if they’re out of Aston Martins – any model will do, I’m not a fussy kind of girl!

Hmmmm, a Porsche – mine if they’re out of Aston Martins – any model will do, I’m not a fussy kind of girl!

It is not very often that you get to witness a world first. But this week I was very excited to do just that.

While visiting Viezu, a new kid on the tuning block, the engine codes for a brand new Porsche Turbo were cracked for – as far as we know – the very first time outside of the hallowed halls of Porsche HQ.

It all happened in a corner of the company’s so-called “dream room” (a name, which might seem a little ostentatious for four plain walls within a pre-fab industrial unit in Bromsgrove, but they’re actually referring to the brains at work there).

These guys know their onions – their latest recruit, Mandy, for example, has just completed a degree in motorsport engineering and is just about to join the remapping team.

But I have to admit to feeling just a smidgeon let down by my first world-first: there were no fanfares, fireworks or even a speech – nope, this apparently is every-day stuff for Viezu’s engineers.

“We’re just about to crack this Porsche Turbo ECU; no one’s ever done it before but we need to do it now for a client in Dubai,” declared technical director Jayson rather matter of factly and not addressing anyone in particular.

Sensing I was about to be part of something BIG, I turned around, watched and waited with bated breath.

Nothing happened.

Then: “Well that’s that then – all sorted.” And Jayson made to walk out of the room.

“What? Have you done it?” I screeched?

“Well yes,” he said, looking somewhat confused by my excitement.

Well I suppose once you get used to this kind of thing, the novelty wears off. I’m sure I’ll be much more composed next time!

Seriously though, while it has traditionally been the preserve of the track-day fan and boy-racer, engine tuning, it seems, is ready to go mass-market.

And, according to Viezu’s dynamic chief executive Paul Busby and managing director Linda Williams, there could be big profit opportunities for the taking.

You can find out what they had to say on the matter by reading my interview with them, coming soon in the November issue of CAT.

Posted in Emma Butcher's BlogComments (0)

Scrappage extension is not surprising, but the aftermarket jury’s still out

The scrappage scheme has worked for VMs such as Ford but how is the aftermarket faring?

The scrappage scheme has worked for VMs such as Ford but how is the aftermarket faring?

Today’s news that the Government is extending its scrappage incentive scheme is not so surprising really, given the inordinate amount of pressure heaped upon it by the new car sector – and others.

And let’s not forget that every Government as it draws nearer to a general election needs a crowd pleaser at its annual party conference.

Since its launch in May, the scheme has certainly proved its worth to VMs and their dealer networks, and has pumped much needed cash back into the new car market.

As one factor I bumped into last week argued: “It’s easy for the aftermarket to bash car makers but we do actually need them to produce the new cars that we service.”

As of today, 227,750 new cars have been purchased through the scheme – and in just four short months, that’s not bad going.

But what of the wider effects on the aftermarket? When the scheme was first mooted, it sparked a backlash from the independent sector.

Many told CAT that they feared such a scheme would mean losses for the parts replacement sector and for independent garages, which had been capitalising on consumers’ newfound frugality.


Perhaps it’s too early to say whether these fears have been realised.

How many of the cars consigned to the scrap heap were kept effectively off-road and therefore not within the reach of the maintenance sector; how many would not yet have been due their MOT or service?

These are questions to which we don’t yet know the answers; but the anecdotal evidence I’ve heard from garages and factors is that it’s been pretty much business as usual.

But the long-term impact could be quite something. Most OE parts manufacturers are usually pretty quiet when it comes to this kind of issue, but it is almost certainly a worry for their aftermarket divisions.

At a press conference this summer, I asked NGK Europe’s deputy managing director, Norbert Neuhaus, what he expected would be the impact on his company’s aftermarket parts sales.

And refreshingly, he didn’t hesitate to answer: “We think the European car parc will lose 4 million cars to the scrappage scheme, which for us could translate to 16 million cylinders.”

That’s no small number.

And he added that it’s not just the parts market for vehicles in this country that will be affected.

Many cars, once they have reached the end of their wanted life here are shipped over to the developing world where they continue to require parts and service. That is business that is lost to the parts sector, too.


What may provide a silver lining for the aftermarket is the news that, from today, vans aged 8 years and older are also covered by the scrappage scheme.

That could provide a boon to distributors wishing to breathe new life into their fleets.

Do you own a van(s) that falls into this age bracket? Is the £2000 incentive enough to make you consider renewing your fleet? Would you turn down the opportunity as a matter of principle? (I’m sure you’ll let me know just how silly a question that last one is!)

I’d love to hear from you on this issue – it’s one that we’ll be analysing further in future editions of CAT, so get in touch at or by using the comment facility below.

Posted in Emma Butcher's BlogComments (0)

A Homer Simpson moment at the BEN Awards

We should all be doing more to help BEN

We should all be doing more to help BEN

Just got back from a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon up at BEN’s beautiful Town Thorns care centre.

Today was our industry charity’s hotly anticipated annual awards ceremony, which it uses to say thank you to everyone who has lent support throughout the year.

The fact that the annual lunch at the Savoy had been downscaled was a poignant reminder of the difficulties the charity has had this year in raising funds.

But rather than being a glum affair, the sun was shining and the event was arguably made all the more relaxed by its smaller size.

Chatting to BEN’s chief exec, David Main, and president, Joe Greenwell, over a buffet lunch (and here, I have to take a moment congratulate the caterers for those damn fine cream cakes – a Homer Simpson moment for more than one of us!), it became clear that while BEN has had to make cut-backs, it is not sitting still.

There are some very big plans in the pipeline for a complete revamp of the facilities at Ascot, with lots of new homes to accommodate more people in need than ever before.

It’s still very early days, but we’ll bring you more on this and how you can help when the charity is in a better position to talk about progress.

I was really surprised to hear just how difficult it is to get aid from some local councils for affordable, sheltered housing. It seems that something of a postcode lottery applies – yet another reason for donating to BEN.

It was also an absolute pleasure to finally meet BEN’s bubbly new PR officer, Emily Bird.

We’ve been in touch a lot via email and phone since she joined so it was great to see her in person – and find out about her intolerance to meringue and balloons… best not to ask!

On to the awards… CAT mag was honoured to be nominated in recognition of all of the great editorial coverage and advertising the team has given to BEN.

We didn’t quite manage to win this year so we’ll be going all out over the next 12 months to do better next time!

Oh dear, that sounds like a warning that we’ll be asking you to get your wallets out!

But hopefully we’ll be able to have some fun while squeezing you for cash – all fundraising ideas welcomed!

Posted in Emma Butcher's BlogComments (1)

  • ANDREW PAGE: End of an era for this once vast factor chain
  • BUSINESS INTERRUPTION: The rules and your rights
  • CONNECTED FUTURE: A new generation of diagnostics

more info

    • Should hand car washes face further regulation?

      View Results

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