Archive | Peter Lawton’s Blog

Joe Elliott rewarded in New Year’s Honours

Huge congratulations from everyone at CAT to Joe Elliott for his inclusion in the New Year’s Honours List.

Although it wasn’t for services to retailing, we’re delighted that Joe has been recognised for his efforts in another walk of life.

It is for services to museums that Joseph Warden Elliott is now a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, in fact, thanks to his role as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Coventry Transport Museum.

Perhaps he can notch up to an OBE next year if Elliotts store in Coventry is reborn as vibrant as he hopes, or for his work with the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children or as Life President of Coventry City Football Club.

Actually, that last one might deserve a knighthood…

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BM Catalysts shortlisted in business awards

BMC_Toby_MasseyBM Catalysts has been shortlisted in the Family Business of the Year category of the Midlands Family Business Awards 2013.

The company, which employs up to 300 staff, has been nominated for continuing development, success, commitment to innovation and excellent governance.

This is the second year BM has been put forward as a finalist, with the Nottinghamshire based manufacturer picking up the award for ‘Manufacturing Excellence’ at last year’s awards.

BM Managing Director Toby Massey said: “Finding out that we have been shortlisted for a second year running is not only a great boost for the company, but is hugely satisfying to be recognised for our family values and success as a family run business.

“We are proud of our family heritage and this award reflects that. The success of our business is down to our ability to manufacture aftermarket parts of the highest quality using state of the art machinery, as well as continually meeting on-going market demands.

“We are determined to continue investing in our people and facilities to ensure we become a leader in the EU aftermarket.”

Toby Massey is the third generation of the Midlands-based family to lead the business after his father, who took the business from local fast fit to Europe’s largest independent manufacturer of aftermarket cats, dpfs and pipes, passed on the mantle of Managing Director in April 2012,

The overall winner and runners-up in each category will be announced at Birmingham University in The Great Hall on Thursday 14th November 2013.

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Free food, Mintex braking advice and 3-D TVs


They’ve just completed their first weeks duties offering advice on braking issue. One visited the Andrew Page branch in Harrogate, 14 local garages and Harrogate College, part of the University of Hull.

Besides coming with an experienced, full-time technical braking expert, each van carries more than 40 different tools, literature on best practice and a 3D television showing videos and demonstrations.

Oh, and free food, of course, with Page’s Pack-up since you obviously need something to grab the attention.

The vans also aim to sign up future technicians as product champion. On the Harrogate run no fewer than 12 technicians signed up to receive on-going technical information and updates about Mintex, discounts on products and training courses and a free t-shirt. Ah, more freebies.

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KYB is off on the Dakar rally

KYB-Toyota-DakarAn ex-colleague of mine met Charley Boorman shortly after he had completed his first Dakar and his hands were, well, in need of substantial moisturisation.

So when this Toyota popped into my inbox I had to take a little look. It’s the Toyota Auto Body Team Land Cruiser entry for 2014.

KYB is providing technical support and sponsorship for the vehicle which, you won’t be too surprised to hear, is fitted with customised shocks to cope with the wide variety of terrain it will cover.

The shocks are designed to withstand 10,000km on tough terrain and have strong seals to prevent desert sand working its way in.

You can see a video of the car and components being tested for the 2014 event, which passes through Argentina, Chile and Bolivia, at

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Have you heard the one about CAT buying QH?


Now that Klarius has entered into administration, the grapevine is alight with all of the possible consolidations and purchases, however.

Since Klarius sold QH Netherlands to Sator Holdings last September, it is actually vicariously connected to Unipart through H2 Equity.

There’s no news on Unipart buying QH for the moment, however, or, for that matter Tetrosyl or FPS moving in for the brand.

Unipart continues to feature in rumours involving Tetrosyl or that it will be bought by ECP. Some put that purchase as happening in the next five to six days, but there is no comment from ECP on that front.

Then there are the murmurings about HgCapital, its continued investment and its ability to buy Andrew Page outright, and suggestions of a merger between PDP and IFA.

It’s all go. Watch this space, but don’t hold your breath for news of CAT and QH.

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From the very small, to the very big

From the very small, to the very big


CAT paid a visit to the HQ of the two companies ahead of Automechanika since they’re both stationed near Frankfurt.

Freudenberg has been in business for more than 100 years and is still family owned (I’m looking out for single Freudenberg lass around Frankfurt as you read this).

Corteco is the arm dedicated to aftermarket sales, was only formed in 1996 and does business in the UK with vibration control parts, brake hoses, cabin filters and seals.

It’s turnover of around £5 million a year in the UK is somewhat drawfed by the €5 billion turnover Freundenburg reported in 2008.

There are more big and small numbers when you look at the firms’ history. One of the first innovations for Freudenberg coming with the development of a new chrome sulphate tanning process for leather in 1904.

It made the process more reliable, and cheaper, but also drastically cut the time it took to tan from 18 months to six weeks.

While such enormous strides forward are pretty much unknown today, the firm still innovates and profits from friction reduction in seals which help vehicle manufacturers to trim crucial 0.5g/km outputs of CO2 from their tightly legislated emissions levels with one seal. Collected together it can help a VM slice 5g/km off the output of a car with slippery, but tight, seals.

Freudenberg first entered the automotive seals market in 1929. It patented Simmering radial shaft seal design in 1932 and had sold the 100th millionth by 1953.

Pretty impressive, but these days it produces one billion Simmering shaft seals a year, such is the success of the part and it’s hold on the market. It produces 200 million of them at the plant near Frankfurt alone each year, twice as many as it managed to sell in the first 21 years.

Seals have developed from the days of leather, of course, moving to rubber (of which Freudenberg blends 10,000 different consistencies with the raw materials it brings in), to friction free gas lubricated designs.

Its expertise with rubber has helped it to become the worlds leading supplier of sealing and vibration control in the OE world, with its part fitted to every car from a Tata Nano to a Porsche 911.

It’s also become a leader in cabin filters which it first started offering in 1989 and now enjoys a 60 percent share of the market. ­It doesn’t do any other type of filter since the material used in them isn’t a core competence like the non-woven fabric in cabin filters.

Corteco has been banging the cabin filter drum for years now, but it’s still to really take off. It could contribute sales of £20 million to the business, says Coreteco’s man in the UK Steve Jarnett, four times it’s entire turnover for last year. Based on the way in which cabin filters are treated by franchises, the aftermarket’s turnover with cabin filters should be five times the size it is.

Garages still need convincing that they should be changed. Show a customer a filthy filter and the quick, easy job should be given the thumbs up but why, asks Jarnett, should you even be asking when its part of the service schedule?

Aftermarket garages are also, far too often, turning to franchises for things like shaft seals and liquid-filled engine mounts that are starting to a become a replacement issue (and at up to ten times the price of a conventional rubber-to-metal mount quite lucrative, too).

Jarnett says Corteco stands ready with stock to supply, so don’t go to a franchise next time, ask for parts direct from the company that supplied them to the VM in the first place.

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Will I get to Automechanika?

Fantastic. On the eve of my first visit to the gargantuan Automechanika show in Frankfurt, Lufthansa cabin crew have decided to go on strike. And, of course, I’m flying Lufthansa.

I can’t begrudge them wanting a five percent pay increase, and I suppose if you want to get your point across you need to take advantage of big events like unions did in the UK with the Olympics.

Still, it’s bloody annoying. I could jump up and down and demand ‘do you know who I am’, but the chances are they don’t and wouldn’t much care if they did.

So, Lufthansa might have offered 3.5 percent to the crews, but it hasn’t helped to prevent three strikes in eight days.

Today’s is the biggest so far. It runs for 24 hours, has seen two thirds of flights cancelled (up to 1200) and is causing complete chaos at airports, Frankfurt in particular.

In a rather frank statement, Lufthansa also admits it doesn’t know how bad the knock-on effects will be.

“At this stage Lufthansa cannot say for sure what exact impact the strike action will have.

“Even after the end of the strike, Lufthansa foresees irregularities in flight operations on the weekend.”

See you at Automechanika, I hope.

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Fast times in Milton Keynes as aftermarket takes to the track

60 drivers, one track, and one need for speed

60 drivers, one track, and one need for speed

The aftermarket had a huge amount of fun at the second CAT karting event last night.

Sixty of the finest aftermarket drivers descended on Daytona in Milton Keynes to do battle on the outdoor track.

Actually, there were probably fewer than sixty aftermarket workers taking to the wheel since many teams included those from, er, other walks of life.

That includes 14-year-old Robbie Gallier who raced for Mountney’s team of four and took the fastest lap of the night at 68:55.

Your Editor was ten seconds adrift from his time on the 1360m long track which is, of course, hugely embarrassing, but I’d like to see him edit next month’s cover story.

There may also be more than one young driver at the next event including a certain 11-year-old named James from T J Hall and Son to give Robbie a run for his money.

The ringers are proof of the increasing seriousness with which the racing is being taken by many, so too were the number of black flags waved through the two-hour endurance event.

If it gets any more serious we can expect to see Messrs Button, Hamilton and Vettel at the next event.

Our winners on the podium

Our winners on the podium

Despite a lap deduction in the final minutes of the race, the local team from Motor Serv still managed to triumph. Massive congratulations to them, second-placed Mountney and last year’s winners First Line who came in third.

There was still room for having fun amidst the mayhem on track, but it was also a brilliant chance to catch up with colleagues and engage in a bit of banter.

We hope you had fun if you came, and look forward to bumping wheels with you next time.

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£1.8 billion in MOT fees to go for

Great news to hear that the service, maintenance and repair industry has increased in value to nearly £9 billion in 2011.

That figure excludes the value of MOTs, too, so the pickings are even more rich than this total suggests.

How rich, exactly? Well, that depends on the level of discounting offered in the marketplace says Trend Tracker, author of the report.

Considering there are around 35 million MOTs conducted each year, the £54.85 maximum charge potentially adds up to more than £1.8 billion in test fees alone.


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They’re coming, are they? Oh God…

That’s quite a reaction to the news that Andrew Page has bought Camberley Auto Factors.

The key member of the Parts Alliance was ‘snapped up’ today in a move which instantly gives Andrew Page a significant presence in the south.

One factor said: “They’re coming, are they? Oh God, it’s going to be a hell of a fight! It’s a call to action I suppose, we’d better get ready.”

I put ‘snapped up’ in inverted commas since deals like this aren’t done on a whim, of course. It’s tempting to think that the groundwork might have taken almost a year since Duncan Wilkes has also today been announced as Andrew Page’s new non-executive Chairman. Wilkes’ departure as the boss of the Halfords Nationwide Autocentre chain was signalled last August.

Perhaps I’m putting two and two together to make five on that one, but I’m just avoiding doing the sums on how Steve Fulford at the Parts Alliance must be feeling to see his biggest member bought.

What does it mean for the Parts Alliance? How was CAF bought from under its nose?

We’re still yet to hear from PA but it’s safe to say Page has made what you might call a rather audacious move.

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