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WIPING UP WITH BLADE PROMOTIONS

WIPING UP WITH BLADE PROMOTIONS

Offering free fitting is one way to boost blade sales

Staples of retail they might be, but wiper blades are no longer simple items with each supplier offering its own take on hybrid and beam designs. In terms of display, cars today might well have wiper blades of unequal length, which makes stocking twin packs something of a nightmare.However, thanks to various cunning clip designs, most wiper suppliers can now produce a short range of single packs that takes up perhaps just one panel of retail space. Of course, if you have only a small space dedicated to a core product, you had better make sure that the area works for you, both in terms of displaying the product and making it look as attractive as it can be. This is not just to make it look nice, but to make it clear for the motorist
to find the right product for their vehicle.

Kevin Singer of wiper maker Pylon, which has the licence for the Michelin brand in the UK said: “People like to be able to see the blade inside the packaging and it makes it easier for them to understand the product”.Sam Robinson, Brand Manager at Trico made the point that simple carton-style merchandising stands can be used to remind customers of wipers when they are at the counter. “If you can get them in front of the customer you remind them that they are not just summer products” he said.

PACKAGING
Noting that while consumer products are often packaged in small works of art that cost millions to develop, Randstad’s Martin Dowd makes the point that for trade customers, the packaging is irrelevant and just makes for extra and expensive trade waste. “Most of our product is in a cardboard box with our livery on and each blade just has a thin plastic bag. This takes up very little room and is environmentally safe” he says.

This is a point echoed by all of the people we spoke to: While there are still some kits on the market that have both wipers, the number of vehicles with unequal length blades mean that the size of stockholding would be vast even before you factor in slow-moving references. Single blades of course, don’t have that issue and the ability to have all the product you need in one box means that suppliers are eagerly persuading garages to once again hold stock. Being able to carry a small range that covers the market opens up opportunities that had fallen out of favour. Describing a ten- hook merchandise stand, Jerry Banks, a Product Manager at Federal Mogul’s Champion brand, said: “Although garages don’t sell wipers like they used to, you can more or less squeeze a stand like this in anywhere and fit quite a bit of product into a small space”.

Having garages return to stockholding wipers has obvious benefits for the supplier: Garages are more likely to offer a pair of wipers if a car needs them, even if it has been brought in for something else. “Absolutely, and with blades being a compulsory part of the MOT, as well as something that motorists can literally see if they are not clearing the screen, it is a massive opportunity” said Carlton Edmeade, a Manager at Tetrosyl-owned Bluecol.

FITTING OPTIONS
Adrian Syder, the co-owner of a pair of accessory shops around Wymondham in Norfolk favours offering free fitting, and has a bay designed for the purpose at one of the branches, but he only offers one premium brand of wiper. “We fit wiper blades and that works well because of the little bay outside the door. Even on a (rainy) day like today you can nip out and fit them” he said, adding that the motorist was always happy with the premium product and the higher margin justified free fitting.

Compact store display

However, this strategy is relatively unusual in retailing. Pylon’s Kevin Singer says that retailers will usually chose to offer different types, i.e conventional, beam and hybrid as well as different price points. “The range offered depends on the type of store and who their consumers are” he explained. “Some people only carry the traditional blade, while others only have the hybrid blade but most will carry both. It is always good to give consumers an option with a budget, and a brand with more features or more exclusive technology”.

There are other ways of bringing your wiping product to the attention of the motorist, or at least to the attention of the counter staff who will hopefully recommend it. Denso has signed a racing driver as a face of the brand who has given the product as much exposure as the manufacturer could wish for. “We’ve got a partnership with Rebecca Jackson, who has fitted hybrid wiper blades to her Mini race car” explains Marketing Manager Fatiha Laauich. “And I can tell you she is a good brand ambassador as her nickname is the ‘raining queen’ because she has performed at her best when it is raining! She has been very complimentary about our wiper blade and said the blades profile kept f lat on the screen, compared with the previous flatblade” she said.

CUSTOMER CAMPAIGNS
Promotions other than those that are run at the point of sale can also bring success. “We are driving the ‘light and sight’ campaign to check both wiper blades and bulbs” says Besime Kaya, a Product Manager at Bosch. Such campaigns urge the motorist to judge for themselves that (in the case of wipers) a blade should be replaced before it is a smearing, juddering, MOT- failing mess. To promote this, the company is set to launch a consumer website, separate from the main Bosch sites, to get the message across. There is also a new app to find the right products, and the packaging itself has QR codes which show would- be purchasers neat computer- generated fitting animations.

A traditional way of keeping retail and wholesalers onside is to offer incentives to sell a certain product. Often this is in the form of a token collection scheme that can be saved up to exchange for goods, or a number of promotional free items thrown in with each order over a certain size. However, the most innovative of the season so far is Trico, which has produced its own label beer, which it it dishes out to thirsty distributors. “I like beer and it seemed like a good idea!” said Sam Robinson. “Also, I wanted to try something we hadn’t done before, and I’ve got to say that it has had the best response from any press release that I’ve sent out”. The promotion has lead to a surge of interest in the firm’s social media presence. “It would certainly be a lot easier to sell beer than wiper blades, I’ve found that out” he joked.

PRIVATE LABEL
Selling products under a private label is a phenomenon that those in the aftermarket almost dare not speak its name, despite it being incredibly widespread. However, Randstad are happy to talk about how they can produce wipers, or rather have them produced, for private clients. “One of the biggest areas for growth for us is own label, people who want their own brand because we have made established relationships and have gone through the difficult learning curve that you have to go through to establish a good supplier at the right price” said Martin Dowd. Trico also produces product for other companies. “We’ve always been upfront about it and write ‘Engineered by Trico’ on the packaging” said Sam Robinson.

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GETTING BACK ON TRACK

GETTING BACK ON TRACK

Fires and floods have wreaked havoc on some aftermarket businesses, but how have they fared since their ordeals?

Water recedes showing ruined stock

Disasters in the aftermarket are not uncommon. In fact, it can have a double- edged sword effect on business. Either, roll down the shutters for good or rebuild the company from scratch, coupled with numerous calls to insurance firms and the like to get back on track. Here are the tales of three of them:

STREETWIZE ACCESSORIES
Accessories and leisure brand Streetwize, knows this experience all too well where a flood caused by a burst riverbank left the team with no choice but to relocate into temporary office space a stones throw from its Radcliffe site that had been submerged underwater. The results were catastrophic for Streetwize Director Murray Silverman with the accident causing £500,000 worth of damage to stock (excluding plant and office furniture) while wrecking tonnes of paper work and computer systems in the process.

After notifying the insurance authorities, Silverman and his team had the troublesome task of keeping business afloat by informing customers of the situation and organising every stock item rescued from the flood. “It was a lot of pain and a lot grief”, recalls Silverman, “Customers are very sympathetic when it happens but you can’t turn on the tap and get the stock back. The first phone call from customers was, ‘we’re very sorry about the flood, how are you doing?’ The second call is a catch up asking when stock is coming back and by the third it’s, ‘we sympathise with you but we’re going to have to go elsewhere’, which we understood”.

Not wanting a repeat of previous events, Silverman snapped-up a large 100,000 sq ft. warehouse in the Trafford Park Industrial Estate, Manchester, incorporating all of its storage facilities under one roof. However, an efficient new space didn’t come without its complications. “After the flood it was up to the sales guys to win back all the orders that we’d lost”, said Silverman. “There was also the grief of losing staff where many employees couldn’t travel with us because it was a new area further away”; adding that Streetwize incurred many costs subsidising staff for travel and expenses to and from the new site.

Despite over a year of negotiations with insurers, the team managed to replenish all stock within six months of transitioning to their latest premises and as it stands, the business seems to have recovered well housing around 50 staff and growing its sub- brand Leisurewize that now has a strong foothold the European aftermarket. “Since we left our old site, one of the biggest areas has been in the leisure group where we picked up the caravan mover and two years on, we’ve gone from zero to number two in the UK and ranked high as one of the leading brands in Europe”, Silverman added. “We might have had a struggle in the last place but this has contemplated that”.

LMA
Similarly, in June last year, aerosol maker LMA, which cans many aftermarket brands, fell victim to a fire that caused hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage at its site on the Pocklington Industrial Estate, East Yorkshire. Fortunately, nobody was injured and no production machinery was destroyed, meaning, the factory could resume its normal operations the very next day as it began the tiresome process of recovering its wares from the fire. However, LMA owner Fraser Todd notes that if it wasn’t for their suppliers’ support, the future of the business could have taken a turn for the worst. “Due to the amount of stock we lost, it was a couple of months before we could be back to running all of the thousands of product varieties which we manufacture”. Todd continued. “We received a lot of help from suppliers to get our stock levels back to where we need them. In the end, we appointed our own loss adjusters, so we could manage the recovery while they argued with our insurer. However, had we not been as established as we are, the efforts of our insurance company would have ensured that as a business we collapsed”.

LMA after the warehouse fire

14 months on, Todd says the company is still fighting tooth and nail with insurers over final payments for some capital items such as forklift trucks and racking. Although the dispute is still ongoing, some positives have emerged from the ordeal. For instance, a new 8,000 sq ft purpose built factory has been created on top of the old site, combining its previous two units into one, complemented with a more robust design. Todd elaborated. “Because of changes in building regulations since our previous warehouse was built, plus some specific planning demands, we couldn’t build exactly what we had before. So we’ve built something which is designed to cope and withstand a fire more effectively and allow us to grow and become better at what we do”. He adds that the new layout has improved its logistical operations making stock and picking processes more efficient.

J S AUTOS
Family- run garage J S Autos is currently undergoing a similar situation to LMA after a fire broke out and engulfed the building in flames. The accident took place down Empress Road, Southampton last April where 79 firefighters were called to tackle a blaze that had apparently been caused by ‘petrol welding’ from a repair business a few doors down, according to owner Jhalman Rai.

Unfortunately out of the three businesses involved, JS Autos took the brunt of it suffering from damaged windows, vehicles and the roof collapsing in on itself. ‘Shocked’ was definitely an understatement for Rai as he retold the story to the local press. “It’s 40 years of business down the drain”, he said. “It’s a family business and it happened so fast. Smoke started coming from it and then all of a sudden it just went up, flames everywhere and we had to get out.”

Nevertheless, this didn’t defeat the garage owner’s spirit and it was business as usual to get the company back off the ground. The workshop owner said his company is currently working from a temporary tyre depot not too far from the original building and is in the stage of ordering a new MOT bay to resume services for local customers. “We’re applying for an MOT station at the moment. At our original site we had two MOT bays but there are none available at our temporary one so we have had no choice but to farm out our MOT services”, Rai expands. “Once the site is cleared, we’re going to see what plans we can get and look into getting a quote. It’ll probably take around a year before planning and developing the new site”, adding that the garage is making the best of a bad situation by trying to keep customers happy and paying its bills as normal.

While the odds were against these aforementioned companies, they are living proof that having a clear structure and support system in place, will see businesses survive and thrive no matter what disaster is thrown at them.

SURVIVAL TIPS
To avoid any firms from going through a similar ordeal, our suppliers shared some expert advice to business owners in case such events should arise.

LMA’s Fraser Todd said, “Following on from our experience, we’d recommend you thoroughly check your insurance policy. Irrespective of what your broker tells you, don’t expect your insurer to help your recovery. Don’t think they’ll be honest and faithful”, he expands. “Most likely the insurance will appoint their loss adjustor who will argue about the cost of everything and the values you have insured to reduce the claim. They will be slow to pay and hold out to make you agree to lower payments”.

Streetwize Director Murray Silverman concurs and advises aftermarket firms to invest in strong and long-term working relationships to see them through those turbulent times. He said. “It’s very important to have the right people around you and it’s really work ethic and getting support from your suppliers. If it’s suppliers you’ve known for years they can help you, compared to ones that are new or don’t know much about your business”. Todd agrees and concluded. “Business works on relationships and provided you have good relationships with your customers and suppliers there’s no reason why you can’t survive what happened to us”.

Although it’s still early days for J S Autos, we are certain the independent will continue going from strength-to- strength as it continues its recovery process, post disaster.

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HANDLING DIESEL COMPONENTS

HANDLING DIESEL COMPONENTS

Injectors and related components need special care, but do garages appreciate this?

Diesel system components are a paradox. On one hand they survive for years if not decades in a harsh, high temperature and even higher pressure environment of an engine. On the other hand, when the parts are out of their clean, contamination-free safe zone the are immensely fragile and even the slightest knock or the tiniest contamination particle can render them useless.

CR Injector

It is interesting to note that the component manufacturers take getting injectors through the factory, to the garage and into the engine, extremely seriously. “Delphi’s common rail injectors are manufactured and packed in conditions of utmost cleanliness in our OE facilities. All outlets are fitted with protective caps and plugs and the injectors are sealed into VCI (Vapour Corrosion Inhibitor) bags. The bagged injectors are then packed into strong, durable cardboard cartons for delivery to distributors and end users” explains Gail Flint, UK Category Manager, Fuel Injection Systems, Delphi Product and Service Solutions. She adds that on fitting, garages are encouraged to vacuum (as opposed to blowing compressed air across the component) when fitting and that the old core should be returned packaged in the same way complete with end caps when being returned to the factor.

DEBATE
However, a thorny debate arises when it comes to remanufacturing that core. Arguments over what is a repair and what constitutes being a remanufactured item are as old as the industry, but in the days of high-tech electronics and ultra-sensitive precision parts the topic has never been more pertinent. Part of the problem, according to various remanufacturers is a lack of universal build specs from OEMs. Chris Paxman, MD of TT Automotive said: “There always has been companies who want to do the job properly, and others who want to get it working to a fashion and make a quick buck”. He adds that where there is official field repair information available from the OEM ‘most reputable diesel repair shops will be using this to remanufacture the unit’.

Graeme Stock, MD of Hirsche Automotive said a key difference between repairers and reconditioners is the way they’s approach each unit. “Repairers would solve the immediate fault, and if there were 10 racks the same, perhaps with different faults, they’d just repair that one challenge. What we do in R and D is we solve the issue across the board. Every time we produce it, we will strip the whole thing down and build it back up. You have to change the mentality, if you don’t do that, you aren’t a reconditioner, you are a repairer”.

PROGRAMME
The OEMs do have various diesel programmes, but some in the industry want this expanded and formalised. The one fundamental change [that we’d like to see] would be that the OEMs recognise the value of an approved diesel centre network that they promote the benefits of using the same, that they introduce new programmes quicker through this network and making sure that the component parts are competitively priced” said Ian Neill, Director, Diesel Systems at Carwood. “This would ensure that the approved networks who have made very significant investments in equipment and training would capture a major share of the available market before the non – genuine repairers got a foothold”. He adds that in his opinion the reason that this is not happening as a given is because it is in conflict with the OEMs own reman programmes.

Despite the bad headlines, there are as many diesel vehicles on the road as ever and while the parts are delicate and difficult to transport until fitted, there is no denying that a modern workshop cannot simply refuse to take diesel work on.

NO SHORTCUT FOR DIESEL PARTS

An important point to understand about diesel components is that there is no such thing as a cheap price- fighting brand on new components. On glow plugs, for example, there are only half a dozen companies that produce them, and all have various OE contracts. The reason for this, as outlined in the main text, is that all diesel components are highly precision engineered parts and even the slightest error in the length of a glow plug, for example, could result in the crown touching the piston which would result in significant engine damage. A year ago CAT visited the Hidria glow plug factory in Slovenia, and were surprised how few people were involved in the physical production, as the vast majority of operations are automated and in clean room conditions. As with other diesel system components, each product is coded for traceability and are subject to many tests before leaving the building, including a fast heat change test, plunging the plugs from a hot ambient temperature to -40° in a flash.

Hidria

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BLACK AND SILVER FUTURE

BLACK AND SILVER FUTURE

Belts, both timing and auxiliary, tends to be a relatively static market dominated by ContiTech, Dayco and Gates. However, all of these have released products with new technology in recent months.

Gates introduced a new version of its Micro-V auxiliary belt at the Birmingham show. While the firm doesn’t hide the fact that this is an aftermarket product, it is keen to stress that it uses the same EPDM rubber compounds in both OE and aftermarket products. The firm offers the belt in four variations, including a type for stop/start, another for stretch fit, a third called Unique Fit, which is described as being for ‘sensitive systems’ and a general purpose range that will work on 90 percent of the UK parc.

Dayco, meanwhile has introduced a new range of belts, known as ‘HK’. These newcomers feature a design of tooth lining fabric and weave that incorporates aramid fibres. This combination achieves high wear performance and greater adaptability to tooth geometry, which makes them effective for high-stress systems.

UNDER STRESS
These belts are now making their appearance in the aftermarket and are included in specific timing belt and water pump kit applications, with the HK suffix in their marking. However, kits for these new belts will only be available for references that are specified by the VMs to have them. Steve Carolan, Sales Manager for the firm said: “We only supply garages like for like what they take off. We could theoretically supply the [new] belt and it might give some improvement in performance because they have a higher load capacity, [but] we want to give garages exactly what the VMs buy”.

Making the most major change to its line-up is ContiTech. With the tagline ‘black has always been our colour, but now we’ve added silver’, the group has introduced timing chain kits. “Full-line distributor is the keyword here” says Dennis Roth, PM for the timing chain project. “We’re constantly reinventing ourselves with the aim of offering our customers with the complete range of power transmission components”.

The firm will initially offer a short range of 43 kits to cover fast moving applications. As might be expected from a modern kit, each box will contain the various guides and pulleys needed for the repair and will be supported by a five- year guarantee. As with ContiTech’s rivals, a series of training videos under the ‘Watch and Work’ banner will be put online to coincide with the products going onsale.

WET TECHNOLOGY
Timing chains have made a resurgence in recent years, but the death of the belt is greatly exaggerated. Dayco’s Steve Carolan said: “While the amount of engines with belts has dropped to something like 47 percent. I don’t see any significant change for many years – it will reduce but not a significant amount. We think the popularity of stop/start systems will increase the business for auxiliary belts.

Dayco HK belt release

Belt in oil – a technology which is now a decade old covers a ‘grey area’ where there is no clear advantage for the VM to use either conventional belt or chain according to Carolan. The firm produces kits for applications to use these system, and they remain strong sellers.

In the past, engine designers have experimented with deleting belts and chains altogether on OHC motors and trying gear-driven mechanisms. These have not been successful, but who knows what the future will bring?

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MADE IN CHINA: THE PLUSSES AND THE PITFALLS

MADE IN CHINA: THE PLUSSES AND THE PITFALLS

Choosing where to site a factory is an issue that is as involved with peoples’ perceptions as it is with politics and cost

National brake pads

China is a country where it is cheap and easy to have products manufactured, but there are a number of things to consider if you want to get involved. “My view on producing in China is that it is very good, but if you allow local engineers to do it, they will do it their own way” said David Houlden, MD of National Autoparts. “The classic is if you give them a drawing and it will come back differently, because ‘it is easier’”.

Houlden is clear on a solution. “To overcome that you do it yourself. You have people out there on a very regular basis and keep those people in the factories. We employ a UK quality company to be out there and check stuff as well as our own engineers are there on a regular basis”.

He adds that the two factories that his company uses are owned in a joint venture with a local partner.

SKILL SET
When National took the decision to introduce pads, a new skill set was required. “Metal we understand, but for friction we had to take on someone for two and a half years” he said. “We didn’t know a lot about pads, so we employed a consultant who had OE experience, who is heavily involved in anything we do”.

However, manufacturing on the other side of the world is not without its problems. Even if the product quality is consistent, there is an issue of logistics to consider. Colin Smit, UK MD of Polish manufacturer Lumag, which sells the Breck light vehicle pad range in the UK said: “I wouldn’t want to place an order with five months worth of stock all the way from China”.

“From here (in Doncaster) we have a 98 percent pick rate and we can place a daily delivery on the factory if we want to. It only takes three days to get the stock from the factory” he said, adding that the warehouse had quite a high stockturn and there was no reason to tie stock, and therefore cash, up in inventory.

Producing in Europe is markedly more expensive, something Smit admits to being ‘a difficult sell’ to customers that are simply focused on price. “It’s a premium product, not a white- box product. We are targeting customers of premium brands”.

Meanwhile, some brake components are produced even closer home and are remanufactured in the UK.Brake Engineering has produced in Wales since it was founded in the 1980s. However, the days of needing to accrue a big stockpile of core for one reference before you begin are in the past. “Traditionally, a remanufacturer would stockpile individual references in cages until there is a large enough batch for it to remake” said Steve Willis, IAM General Manager at the firm’s parent company. Today, Willis says that this notion is obsolete. “If the car is on a ramp and needing a part, the garage isn’t going to wait for us to assemble a core pile, they will go somewhere else – so it is critical for us to service the need as soon as possible and Wrexham is all about making sure the highest service level is maintained” he said.

 

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SPOT-ON TESTING

SPOT-ON TESTING

One halogen bulb might look similar to another, but is there a real difference? We took a trip to Aachen to find out

Bulbs are checked at each stage of production

Anyone who has served time behind the counter of an accessory shop will tell you that bulbs will be a year-round staple of what they sell. Perhaps less clear to the vendors is the difference between them. There is a headlight bulb for every price point, with some halogen bulbs ranging between a couple of pounds up to around £30 for a top rated product.

However, the amount of light output from all bulbs has to be within a tolerance band of a certain percentage of each other, so how different can the bulbs be? We took a trip to Lumileds in Aachen, Germany to find out.

On our visit we met with Richard Armstrong, UK Country Manager for Philips Automotive and Juergen Melzer, a Consultant Engineer working for the firm.

One of the first things to address is the issue of ECE conformity markings. All headlamp bulbs sold in the UK and across Europe must conform and display the mark. “If the product doesn’t meet the standard, then the it must not be used” Melzer explained. “To get the product approved the maker needs to bring five samples to a test house to get the certificate for the conformity number from the authorities. If you own a factory, you need to declare that the product conforms”. Herein lies the problem, some suppliers, and even some well-known brands simply buy the product from various sources and the conformity, known as Regulation 37, is lost. One magazine test a couple of years back even found that a ‘matched pair’ of bulbs in a packet had been made by different producers.

TESTING
However, very little in bulb testing is subjective – and such discrepancies can be uncovered certainly in terms of testing the output and beam pattern of a halogen bulb is straightforward if you have access to the right equipment, and in this case the ‘right equipment’ is a light tunnel, more correctly called a goniophotometer, which reads the spatial distribution of light.

To demonstrate, the team show us into an internal room that is windowless by necessity. The room features a bank of headlamp clusters from different vehicles, aimed at a number of reference points over the on the far wall. “The standards specify a beam with a sharp, asymmetric cut off preventing significant amounts of light from being cast into the eyes of drivers of preceding or oncoming cars” explained Richard Armstrong. We then have a demo of Philips’ brand and known competitor bulbs, both halogen and Xenon. The meters clearly show that while the various products differ in the amounts of light produced and the colour of the light, the essential requirements of the beam and cutoff points are similar.

However, this isn’t the case when we are shown the results of some spurious bulbs. Although they bear the E-mark it was immediately obvious that the first we are shown (an H7) would be likely to dazzle a driver coming from the other direction as there was no clearly defined cut off. Apart from being a safety problem, such a headlamp would certainly fail an MOT.

A set of Xenon bulbs were similarly off-pattern, and such was the intensity of the beam that they were similarly likely to dazzle oncoming traffic.

While we are there, the team showed as an ‘explosion test’, which is just as alarming as it sounds. A pair of bulbs are switched on in a blastproof box. One is the Philips product and one is a competitor product. While the bulbs are still hot, cold water is sprayed on them. The competitor product shatters immediately, but the Philips- branded product remains intact, thanks to the properties of the quartz glass.

HIGH OUTPUT
An interesting point is the popularity of bulbs that offer increased output. These are upgrades keenly purchased by car enthusiasts and command a healthy premium over standard bulbs, which makes them popular for the retailer as well. However, some customers might not be aware that increased performance will result in a shorter life. “Sometimes the consumer doesn’t understand (that it has a shorter life) and sometimes the consumer believes that the product will have an all- round better performance, including a longer lifetime. If I could manage this, I’d be rich and wouldn’t need to work anymore” noted Melzer wryly.

He adds that such a product is referred to in Germany as an “Eierlegende Wollmilchsau” which literally means an animal that can lay eggs as well as produce milk and wool and is obviously impossible.

“We need to explain to people that if you bring more light to the road that the product will have a shorter lifetime. We can explain what we are doing to compensate this” said Melzer, saying that a number of points can further reduce the lifespan of a bulb. One is that some vehicles that have a voltage output 0.5v more than specified.

He adds that it is also important to identify what the customer wants from their bulb. If the motorist owns one of those Renaults that seem to require keyhole surgery to replace a lamp and it is driven mostly in town, then Melzer remarked that a product such as the long- life Eco Vision might be the most suitable. “You need to think about the bulb you’d reccomend that fits their needs. Of course, Racing Vision will give them more light, but I wouldn’t want to recommend a bulb that they wouldn’t be happy with. So it isn’t black and white” he said.

Final visual check

We round off our visit with a tour of the on-site production facilities. We visited the production line of an H7 bulb and saw the entire process from taking glass tubes (which are also produced locally using quartz crystal) through to the finished product, Along every sep of the production process, the components are tested, with around 20 production checks in total. This is completed with a final electronic test with a computer recording performance to ensure consistency, as well as a further visual inspection by a team of operators each equipped with a jeweler’s magnifying glass.

So to answer our original question, it seems that while one bulb will look much like another, the difference in performance can be very great indeed – and a good point to explain to customers who want to know the difference between one product and another.

Structure of the company

The current structure of the company that produces Philips automotive lighting needs some explaining.

Back in 2005, Philips took control of Lumileds. a San Jose- based producer of LEDs following previous joint ventures.

Ten years later, Philips took a decision to focus on its healthcare business, so it sold the LED and automotive lighting business and the newco would be called Lumileds and would continue to produce Philips-brand products under licence.

A deal struck with private equity firm Apollo Global Management, confirmed on July 7 of this year, saw the former take 79.9 percent of shares in Lumileds, while Philips retain the remainder.

Nonetheless, the products are made in the same factory as always and the only visible is the Lumileds sign above the gate.

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KEEPING UP WITH THE TIMES

With so many diagnostic tools available, when is the right time to upgrade? 

Nowadays with advanced vehicle technology, diagnostic tools have become an essential
piece of kit for garages whether the job involves re-f lashing ECUs to pulling out fault codes However, with the wide range of products and updates on the market, are workshops keeping their tools in check?

TOOLING UP
“There’s a lot more realisation now with anyone possessing old kit that they’ve got to look into upgrading” said Dave Richards, Managing Director at Launch UK. “The older kit predates the electronic park brakes where service resets were just a part in the dashboard. But on a Range Rover, it’s a programming function where you have to re-program five ECUs to reset all the service lights.” Julian Goulding, UK Marketing Manager at Delphi, points out that there are some older devices being used by technicians. He says, “There are still old and out-of-date tools out there, however, with the coverage we provide, that is dependant on the workshops updating to the latest software”, adding that the firm is continually stressing the importance of using modern units to trade customers.

HGS Mega Macs tool

From a tyre dealer perspective, Colin Webb, MD at TPMS firm Bartec Auto ID, advises technicians to consistently update their diagnostic equipment and software, due to the ongoing growth of new passenger cars and sensors making their way off factory lines. “The market is moving very quickly so tyre shop technicians need to have their tools updated as soon any new car comes onto the roads, otherwise, they will have trouble repairing the next car coming over the threshold”, highlighting that this could incur loss of business to OE franchise dealerships.

PRICE DRIVEN
Neil Hilton, Head of Business Development at Hella Gutmann Solutions, notes that many technicians are driven by price when it comes to upgrading their toolbox and do not necessarily understand the differentiations and benefits between what a budget and a premium tool can bring to the workshop. A challenge the firm is consistently educating garages and bodyshops about, as Hilton explains. “The comparison is you pay a little extra and buy a better quality machine that has more capabilities from day one and also has a longer lifetime”. He continued. “A customer who buys price driven compared to a customer who buys one of our HGS devices, the HGS customer has spent less in the long term because he’s purchased a machine that’s seen him through five years plus whereas the alternative customer has brought two or three more in that space of time and had less coverage”.

Delphi’s Julian Goulding agrees and expands: “There are still some technicians driven on price and this feeds through to diagnostics. What we try to stress to people is look at return on investment, what price you pay and the capabilities it gives you across a wide range of vehicles”. Similarly, Bartec’s Colin Webb says the firm has developed a method to take the hassle out of reminding tyre technicians and fast fit centres through regular wifi updates. He explains more. “We offer wifi updates so the technician doesn’t have to remember to do the update so they will always be ahead”. He elaborates, “The TECH500 is our latest tool containing wifi and software updating on it as well as wireless charging”, adding that the gadget also allows users to detect vehicle faults and re-program universal sensors on a range of vehicle models.

BUYING TRENDS
Launch UK’s David Richards said the firm has spotted a buying pattern between technicians who are keen to upgrade their apparatus. Speaking about his findings, he said. “One of the trends which we are trying to address is that technicians are wanting to up their game but don’t want to wait around for the boss’s tool. Most of those guys are not looking to spend £2,500 so we have products in the £500 to £1,000 range, which are affordable for them because they’ll usually spend around £500 on a set of spanners”. He continued, saying, “We’re already seeing some cases where you almost get the tablet for free but you’re committed to five years of software updates. Launch UK doesn’t operate like that and instead, offers two years free software for the customer”.

Launch UK’s X-431 PRO 3

ADAS DIAGNOSTICS
It’s all well and good having a unit that performs general diagnostics, but garages may struggle if the system can’t detect faults on ADAS systems, according to Hilton, who says many workshops are unaware of the business implications this could cause in the future. “Through our ADAS awareness seminars, it is clear from the shocked faces that most of the workshops, bodyshops and to an extent, glass companies, are still not aware of these systems on the vehicles they’re working on and the risks it poses to their business by not carrying out the correct processes or procedures”. He concluded. “All of our HGS Mega Macs equipment is capable of calibrating ADAS systems (some vehicles require additional hardware). We also offer a diagnostic tool that is purchased as a standard tool but also incorporates the required software at no extra cost to have the capability to calibrate ADAS vehicles”.

Although suppliers seem to hold a certain level of responsibility to encourage workshops to keep up with the times, it is crucial in this day and age for technicians to take charge by familiarising themselves with not only the diagnostics and software available, but not allow pricing to get in with the way of potential ROI opportunities.

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AUTOMECHANIKA IN REVIEW

AUTOMECHANIKA IN REVIEW

For us at the magazine, it is funny to think that 2017 was only the second time Automechanika has taken place at the NEC, such is the amount that we have written and speculated about it. Nonetheless, this is only the second time the show has happened here, and it seems much of the aftermarket holds an opinion about it.

For me, the proceedings started the day before the event as SMMT had invited a handful of journalists to dinner at a nearby country pile to talk about the show, the aftermarket and the motor industry in general. One interesting stat that Chief Exec Mike Hawes raised was that the British public now spend more online on car accessories than they do on cosmetics. I haven’t been able to verify this yet, and I suspect it includes replacement tyres and servicing booked online, but even so it goes to show that the new generation of motorists are less willing to do things the old way. A point to ponder perhaps.

After the show was opened, complete with ribbon cutting and the traditional comedy big scissors (I wonder where they come from?) the show got underway and we grab show organiser Simon Albert for a few words. As the show had only just opened, he didn’t have much to tell us that we didn’t already know, such as the longer opening hours, increase in aisle space etc. However, he did confirm his hit list of companies that he’d like to see attending in the future and, of most significance to us, confirmed that the show would return next year.

On the Valeo stand

This surprised me a little, as I’d assumed that the show would become biennial in the years that the Frankfurt show was not held. However, I was keen to get going as my appointment book was full and I was running late before I had even started.

The first visit took me across Hall 19 and into Hall 20 where I could have a quick look at some of the stands as I scurried past. Liqui Moly and Auto Repar had particularly amazing looking stands. Schaeffler had used a space right next to the main entrance to build a gleaming white stage where cutaway versions of various products had been mounted on plinths for the reps to demonstrate. Valeo meanwhile, had approached the concept of having a stand in a different way, as it had simply brought a huge truck and trailer kitted out with demonstration models of various things into the hall.

MEANDERING
I won’t trouble you with the details of every meeting I had or what everyone said, except that on the first day a number of stands reported that footfall seemed a little low, which could be down to appalling weather that day as well as a crash blocking one of the motorways near the NEC that may have put some off attending. I should add that if the attendance was low on the first day, I didn’t notice it. From my point of view, Hall 19, where I spent the bulk of the time, seemed annoyingly busy with meandering people with a tendency to stop in front of me filling the aisles.

It was pleasing to see that many exhibitors had brought in things other than their products to keep people amused. Sales-i brought an Out Run arcade machine for example (a game that I spent too much time on in my youth). Denso brought a VR racing car simulator, which I quite fancied trying out, but decided not to as the racing driver Rebecca Jackson was looking on, and I had no wish to humiliate myself. Other stands brought various cars and bikes from series that they sponsor as well as the usual show novelties.

Holding an event after the show is always a risk, because while there will be a ready supply of people in the industry who are in the same place, there is no telling that they will be in the mood to go somewhere else after spending a day at the show. Even if they do, there is every chance that someone else has invited them first. With this in mind, I was curious to see how many people went to an event held by Motaquip at Warwick Castle on the first night. The answer as it turned out was a lot of people as the event was full. It was one of the more fun events that we’ve been to, with two apparently empty suits of armour jumping off the wall and alarming diners by staging a battle between the tables.

STAGES
Back at the show the following day I would have liked to have had more time to attend some of the industry and technical seminars that were taking place on a number of stages across the halls. Big names from the world of diagnostics including Frank Massey and James Dillon had been brought in as a lure to get technicians to the show (which by all accounts worked) while the heads of the garage associations talked about the various threats and opportunities du jour in the aftermarket. I did manage to get over to hear the winner of the Garage of the Year announced, which turned out to be Motorserv UK, which readers who have been paying close attention might recall we visited this time last year.

One notable absence from the show was TMD Friction (who are on record saying that they have ‘no plans’ to exhibit). However, the company did rent a plaza suite just outside of the main halls to hold a Pagid Live event in association with Euro Car Parts where a number of garage owners and technicians (the majority of whom had been brought down for the event) who, after a day at the show spend a couple of hours enjoying presentations on the benefits of the Pagid Expert programme and on ECPs garage scheme (see Hot Story).

If your reason for visiting the show was to find new products, you wouldn’t have been disappointed. Delphi brought a new bit of diagnostic kit for high- pressure injectors, European Exhaust and Catalyst introduced a 6-in-1 fuel system cleaner at the show and in a similar vein, Forté launched a 4-in-1 cleaning machine. Essentra Components launched something called a ‘High Tech Fluid Absorption Plug’ and I’m sure there were many other things never before seen at the event.

Throughout the show, I spent most of my time in the three aftermarket halls, but on the final day I had a meeting with Stericycle (a company that manages recalls for the VMs) and so I spent a while exploring the area dedicated to the automotive supply chain. It was markedly quieter than the aftermarket halls, although it should be noted that while the supply chain market as a whole is huge and worth big money, the number of buyers within it is relatively small, and stands dealing with VM services were of little interest to technicians, so it might be unfair to judge its success on the amount of feet in the room alone.

‘Billy’ character on Bosch stand

However, the highlight of the show for me came late in the afternoon on the final day when Helen Watkins from Bosch, who was manning the Extra stand, was accosted by a strange small man who kept offering her some of his special ‘home made’ sweets, much to the amusement of onlookers – apparently he’d been coming on the stand and doing this at various points throughout the show. However, just when Helen couldn’t stand the embarrassment anymore, the fellow took off what turned out to be a wig and false teeth to reveal himself as a well known customer of the firm. Apparently, his alter-ego ‘Billy No-Mates’ is a character that he regularly performs for some of his unsuspecting suppliers, and it was much to the amusement of the crowd that had built up.

It was almost time for us to leave in order to high-tail it back to London while there was still time to vote (remember that?) One point that is inescapable is the topic of the show frequency. As a conservative guess, I reckon I spoke to 40 company bosses during the show and the overwhelming majority said that they thought the show should run once every two years, preferably during the non- Frankfurt years in order to keep costs reasonable and keep the momentum of the show. From the point of view of the whole CAT team, we could have happily stayed there for a month if we could – there were so many people to see. However, I’m always curious to know the experience of our readers. Did you go? Were you exhibiting? What were the highlights, and what would you have liked to have seen? Give me a shout at greg.whitaker@haymarket.com.

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TRAINING TO KEEP THE AIR CLEAN

TRAINING TO KEEP THE AIR CLEAN

Ever-tighter rules mean workshops need to take advantage of training opportunities

Klarius exhaust portfolio

With talk in the news of dirty air affecting public health means it’s down to the independent sector to have the tools and technical know- how to service these parts or risk losing business to other garage networks and franchise dealers. But where can they go to learn about the latest systems?

EMISSIONS TRAINING
Julian Goulding, UK Marketing Manager at Delphi, says that technicians can benefit from enrolling onto the firm’s ‘Understanding Emissions’ course, that focuses on helping workshops diagnose and fix petrol faults without hassle. “Delphi’s ‘Understanding Emissions’ covers diagnosing petrol faults using the exhaust emissions data, looking at gases coming out of petrol vehicles and related ECU controls”, said Goulding. “It’s a one day course and the aim is to be able to accurately diagnose engine management faults”, adding that the firm also runs a ‘Diesel Emissions Exhaust After Treatment’ programme, allowing garages to repair EGR valves, DPFs and AdBlue systems effectively.

Similarly, exhausts manufacturer Klarius Products has run its IMI accredited scheme for over a year, with further plans to launch a second level instalment later this year. Doug Bentley, Head of Research and Development at the firm, explains more. “The Emissions Control Training is a scheme aimed at technicians operating in independent garages. The course is modular and runs over two days; covering new technology, best practice, legislation and failure modes regarding exhausts, catalytic converters, DPFs and additive systems”. He adds. “The course is held in various locations around the country with four modules offered in level one”.

DIAGNOSIS AND PROLONGIVITY
Although it seems imperative to train-up staff, Mark Blinston, Commercial Director at BM Catalysts, mentions that a large proportion of garages are still misdiagnosing DPFs, usually ending up with the clogged filter returning to the workshop or sent off for regeneration. “The issues garages are typically facing is a lack of understanding and awareness for the DPF to go faulty in the first place”, said Blinston. “One problem factor we hear of is that a DPF comes to the end of its life cycle but the technician forgets to reset the ash counter on the ECU during replacement. The car then thinks it’s still full of ash and before you know it, a warning light appears on the dashboard”. Delphi’s Julian Goulding agrees. He said. “The main issue is the correct diagnosis of what has caused the issue on the DPF to fail”.

UPCOMING TECHNOLOGY

Speaking about its catalyst and exhaust portfolio, Paul Newby, Commercial Director of EEC, explains that the
manufacturer’s parts contain a 409L (low carbon) steel grade providing added corrosion protection and durability while complying to industry standards. “All of our catalytic converters metal work elements are formed from stainless steel” said Newby. “The 409L steel grade features a specific amount of nickel and chromium on the substrate with high temperature corrosion resistance characteristics. Our exhausts, flanges and hooks are typically stainless steel coated with aluminum for high level corrosion resistance as well”.

In the near future, petrol- powered vehicles may have filters akin to a DPF fitted as standard. VAG plans to fit the first GPF (gasoline particulate filters) on the Tiguan and Audi A5 from next month, while the Group predicts around seven million of its models will incorporate this technology by 2022. VAG also claims that the new filters contain the same properties found in modern diesels and can reduce soot particles up to 90 percent.

Meanwhile, there will be many opportunities for workshops to clean or replace DPFs for some time yet, as despite the bad headlines, new diesel registrations are relatively unaffected. “As with the introduction of any new technology, significant uptake is going to take time for full EVs with a technology yet to be fully proven .” said Klarius’ Doug Bentley. EEC’s Paul Newby concurs. “We’ve seen strong growth in DPF sales and for the foreseeable future we will continue to see an increase in this area”.

As the old saying goes, ‘It’s better late than never’, a slogan some garages may act on if they don’t get to grips with the new emission laws, technologies and training soon to remain competitive and in business.

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