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THE CHANGING FACE OF RETAIL

THE CHANGING FACE OF RETAIL

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

WMS shop floor

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

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

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

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

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

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

Push bike sales in decline

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

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

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

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

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

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PUTTING A CAP ON EMISSIONS

PUTTING A CAP ON EMISSIONS

There are plenty of filters out there, but how are suppliers helping garages with their selection?

TPS anti allegen dust and pollen filter

It’s hardly news that emissions are hot on the VMs’ agenda, notably with the ongoing initiatives encouraging customers to swap out their older diesel vehicles for cash to put towards a newer model. Whilst scrappage schemes have been widely adopted by the former, suppliers are also playing their part in filtering out contaminants that would otherwise cause engine damage and discomfort for motorists if left unattended.

AIR/CABIN AIR FILTERS
Jonathan Walker, Managing Director of manufacturer Mahle Aftermarket UK, says that as a general rule of thumb, technicians should be replacing cabin air filters at regular service intervals as a clogged filter is still a major contributing factor for under performance of the A/C system and losses in engine power. He also mentions that the installation procedure is not always plain sailing: “Fitting cabin filters is increasingly complex and garages spend a lot of time locating and removing other components to ensure a correct fit”, he replied, “Fixed price service has arguably had a negative impact as the time spent on replacing cabin filters becomes more pressurised. It all equates to the biggest contributor of failure, which is a clogged cabin filter.”

To assist workshops with these practices, Walker highlights that Mahle’s CareMetix cabin filters have played a crucial role in communicating these messages whilst offering improved health and wellbeing benefits for end- users. He elaborated: “Our Caremetix range comprises of a five-layer cabin filter specially designed to improve passenger health and wellbeing by removing nasty odours and harmful contaminants from vehicle cabins.” He continued. “Garages can offer customers a tangible difference as the innovative range provides five- layer protection against allergens, brake dust, diesel soot, fine particulates and tyre debris that is proven to enter a car from exhaust fumes.”

Attempting to achieve a similar goal is Hella Hengst, a distribution partnership between Hella and filtration brand Hengst which launched last year. “The focus is to support workshops with point of sale material and marketing strategies that help inform the end user of products being fitted”, said Mark Adams, Product Manager at the firm. “The company also takes extra steps to include fitting instructions/ location guides for its cabin filters, which reduces time and allows workshops to maximise profit.” Adding that the supplied content points out the ‘benefits of premium quality products against the dangers of using those of an inferior design’.

ENVIRONMENT
Michelle Smith, Marketing Manager at TPS, explains that the organisation is economising through its Genuine Parts Range, with new pleated technologies. “In terms of materials, the filter media contains cellulose fibers which protects it against moisture, oil and fuel vapours. Depending on the application, fully synthetic filter media with a multilayer structure or with an additional nanofiber coating are used”. Smith noted, “Our Genuine Air Filters incorporate the latest materials and pleat technology to ensure that both performance and fuel economy are maintained throughout service life. In addition, our pleat technology has the ability to absorb dirt and dust particles whilst maintaining the optimum air f low into the engine for efficient combustion”.

HELLA Hengst portfolio

Sogefi’s Sales Manager, Jonathan Brooke said “Car drivers are not enough aware of the benefits of changing the cabin filters for their well-being. “The garages should more systematically inform their customers of these benefits. One good reason for doing it is that the end users can really feel the improvement: less dust and odours, better ventilation and defogging. These are strong selling points, that the customer will appreciate. In many cases the fact of showing the used filter – full of dirt and pollution- is the best selling argument.

THE FUTURE OF FILTERS
Touching back on the diesel market, UFI Filters Sales Manager Karl Ridings says the firm is armed and ready to service the next generation of vehicles complying with Euro Six and Seven standards. Speaking about this in more depth, he
said: “Thanks to the investments in R&D we supply filters like the Gen2Plus diesel filter”. He added: “Based on the availability of these technologies, UFI looks very confident in the future of diesel filter sales”.

Miten Parikh, General Manager at Comline, concurs and builds on Ridings statement, outlining that this ecological- type filter is becoming a more desirable choice among VMs particularly for their air modules. “As vehicle manufacturers become ever- more environmentally conscious the ecological-type filter is becoming more prevalent”, he continued. “Manufactured entirely from recyclable materials, many modern applications use this type of air filter and this trend seems likely to continue. Comline has in its range a number of fuel filter references with built-in water separators and sensors”.

With the multiple filter options available, workshops will certainly not be left starved of products that will result in repeat business and happy customers bearing in mind they follow the procedures outlined in this article.

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GDPR: WHAT’S THE FUSS?

GDPR: WHAT’S THE FUSS?

Time is running out to get your ship in order for new data regulations

The act of putting one product in the carton of another is something that we all know happens throughout the aftermarket at all levels.

There’s one product in particular that we know is packed in the UK in a dozen or more brand images – and no doubt there are others.

There has been little in the news about the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into effect on 25 May, so it is hardly surprising that there are many people that either have no idea about it or assume that it has anything to do with them. Put simply, GDPR will give teeth to existing legislation, the Data Protection Act (DPA) and according to consumer polls, over a third of Britons are already anticipating to exercise their rights in accordance with this legislation.

But what does it all mean and more importantly what does it have to do with fixing cars? It is easy to brush off this kind of change, assuming that it only applies to big companies like chain fast-fits and dealerships that obviously have some sort of ivory tower that churns out policies and small print in a factory like manner. They are used to being sued right? They have all the means to support all this bureaucratic nonsense and the small company that only employs a couple of people won’t have to worry about this kind of EU nonsense, plus Brexit and everything else…

Unfortunately this is not the case, this change has happened and it is coming in the next couple of months. On that day and every day after this new responsibility will be handed over to you regardless of your preparedness. A bit like becoming a parent really, only without the panting and sweating that you get to herald this kind of immediate change. So what exactly is it?

THE ACT
To break it down, The Data Protection Act (DPA) was introduced in 1998 to protect the rights of the individual with regards to their personal data and how it is processed. A lot has changed since then, particularly the quantity of data that is collected and the complexity of locations of where it is stored have changed dramatically.

Most of the legislation from DPA will remain the same, GPDR will enforce certain elements of it and although GDPR is an EU directive it will be incorporated into British law post Brexit.

Louder for the people at the back, whether we are in or out we are keeping this.

Before moving on, it is worth clearly defining what we mean when talking about processing data, especially in the context of General Data Protection Regulation.

At its most basic definition this refers to any operation performed using personal data, it does not matter if this is automated, handwritten or typed into a spreadsheet. This includes and is not restricted to collecting it, organising it, structuring it, storing it, retrieving it, sharing it and a whole lot else. The official definition can be found on the Information Commissioner’s Office website.

In short, it will now be considered a breach of data if information that is protected by this legislation is not securely stored. This is so serious that even if a breach of data has not occurred, poor management of this data will be treated in the same manner as if the breach has occurred. Dumb luck is not rewarded. If an organisation has been targeted for data theft or even if a suspicion that data has been potentially put at risk there is guidance on the ICO website on how to manage and report such an incidence, and the ICO are keen to push the ‘tell us everything and tell us quickly’ message in the same way you would speak to your insurance company and the police if someone had broke into your premises.

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HAYNES PUBLISHING IN THE MODERN WORLD

HAYNES PUBLISHING IN THE MODERN WORLD

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

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

 

Production

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

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

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

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

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

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

Product explanation

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

J Haynes, CEO

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Property sales

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

 

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

 

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

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IS BANNING DIESEL BAD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT?

IS BANNING DIESEL BAD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT?

Scrappage Scheme

Evidence suggests that a rise in petrol registrations is contributing to global warming

Diesel-powered vehicles have been in the news a lot over their environmental performance, or lack thereof. Conversely, industry experts have warned that a clampdown on diesel vehicles could result in the UK actually missing European environmental targets.

Mike Hawes, Chief Executive at SMMT warned that demonising diesel conversley will have an adverse effect on the environment. “Customers are not moving straight from diesel to electric. They’re moving to petrol or staying put in older cars” he said when speaking at the Society’s annual dinner in December. “So we’re seeing a falling market, declining revenues, rising costs, rising CO2. And, yes, this will have an effect on climate change goals. This is not a policy without consequences”.

Data firm CAP HPI has authored a report which concludes that the EU’s 2021 environmental targets could be missed if the percentage of diesel vehicles continues to decline on UK roads.

The report points out that some of the environmental criticism of diesel vehicles is misguided.

All the countries in the report achieved the 2015 CO2 emission target for cars registered in that year. While France and Italy were comfortably below the 130g/km line, the UK is closer, and Germany only cleared the hurdle by 1.4g/km.

UNACHIEVABLE
Matt Freeman, Managing Consultant at CAP HPI and the report’s author, commented that without continuing sales of diesel engine cars, this target reduction is unachievable: “Hitting the 2021 environmental targets for CO2 reduction would be a significant challenge without the likely decline in diesel. Therefore it is imperative that diesels continue to command a substantial share of the new car marketplace.

“If consumers, with no option of transitioning to hybrid or EVs, switch to petrol the environmental impact is clear – their CO2 emissions would likely rise between three percent and 23 percent according to model.”

The report argues consumer education is key as there is an apparent risk that consumers are being led to believe that ‘all diesel is bad’ and that any suggestion that there is a good diesel option is due to the automotive industry seeking to resist change and preserve the status quo. This level of miscommunication needs to be countered if diesel is to have a short- to medium-term future.

SKEWED
However, the media coverage on diesel is, to say the least, skewed against the fuel no matter what the improvements and consumers are confused. At the aforementioned SMMT dinner, Greenpeace crashed the stage to hand VW boss Paul Willis a faux ‘award’ for ‘toxic air’ and coverage in the mainstream press has been hardly less hostile. This has resulted in drop in demand (by about a fifth) in new registrations for diesel powered cars and new registrations for light vehicles as a whole are down 5.7 percent compared with last year. This has lead to several analysts making doom-laden predictions about the future of new car retail through franchises coming to an end entirely. These might be a little wide of the mark, but it does seem that for a private motorist wanting to upgrade to the latest technology, the idea of a conventional powertrain must seem a bit old fashioned.

Most people reading this might wonder why they should care, after all, surely this is a hole that the VMs have dug for themselves? It doesn’t affect the aftermarket… Unfortunately, it does. Tens, if not hundreds of thousands of vehicles won’t go through trade auctions and back into the aftermarket as the VMs are holding their own versions of scrappage schemes. As far as I know, no-one has made a serious attempt to retrofit otherwise efficient Euro- 3 onwards common rail diesel engines with devices to clean up their carcinogenic soot, meaning that they are replaced with petrol vehicles that are only marginally less toxic, but will emit greater quantities of greenhouse gas. Meanwhile, the face of the retail motor industry as a whole is besmirched by the failure of the VMs to get a grip on this situation which is a real pity for all involved.

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CHARGING UP BUSINESS MARGINS

CHARGING UP BUSINESS MARGINS

There are plenty of battery charger brands out there, but how are firms standing out from the competition?

Noco Genius series

Consolidation is the buzzword of our industry at the moment, but it isn’t just reserved for the factor groups, suppliers are part of this trend too. “There has been a lot of consolidation of battery brands with only a few major players left in the market.” said Gary Vincent, Sales Manager of American battery charger firm Noco.

While battery brands are shrinking, he says the opposite is true of chargers, “In terms of battery chargers, there is an increasing number of battery charger brands entering the market from the far-east with little actual battery charging experience and just looking to make quick money on places like Amazon,” he said, adding that this has had a knock-on effect on product quality and safety in the marketplace.

TRAINING
To maintain quality standards and be one of the ‘go-to’ brands for battery chargers, Noco has heavily invested in a number of marketing initiatives, technologies and training programmes to maintain customer retention while providing new clients with the technical know-how to up-sell its chargers in store. “Technical training forms part of the Noco on-boarding process for new customers so they can confidently advise and sell across the range,” said Vincent. “We see a continued trend towards lithium-ion batteries in all markets, and all of our chargers contain a specialised lithium charging mode. However, most competitors focus on their attention on charging fast, whereas we focus on return of capacity whilst restoring the specific gravity to optimal level, which can sometimes lead to slightly longer recharge times.”

The design and packaging can also bring many plusses to retailers stocking them as Vincent highlights: “Our chargers and packaging is extremely compact, which typically saves retailers upwards of four times in retailer footprint. These not only allow retailers room to add additional SKU’s, but also saves on logistical costs.”

NEW PRODUCTS
Taking a slightly different stance on battery charging is Swedish battery charger firm CTEK. As previously mentioned in CAT, the firm recently introduced its ‘CT5 Time To Go’ device, which informs users when their battery is fully charged, through a series of LED lights that monitor the state of charge of the battery. The tool is used in conjunction with the firm’s new ‘Battery Sense’ dongle, which tracks the vehicle’s battery health. The concept behind this was to encourage more motorists to check their battery regularly in order to prevent further breakdowns, particularly during the colder months when this component is at its most vulnerable. Sten Hammargren, Consumer Business Unit at CTEK, elaborated: “The Battery Sense tool is easy to install and data is delivered through a free to download iPhone or Android App. Battery Sense means no worrying about charge levels or when to charge; providing valuable information about the vehicle’s battery in a simple, user-friendly way.”

In addition, the maker is conducting ongoing training sessions for factors and distributors via its Skillsbase programme, allowing them to gain a thorough understanding of the firm’s wares. This is further supported with marketing materials such as product sheets, brochures and promotional films for additional advice and guidance. “Understanding how our products can be used to meet the needs and demands of the end user is a strong factor in choosing the right products to generate sales opportunities”, said Hammargren, “Our Skillsbase programme is helping our customers to gain comprehensive CTEK knowledge and develop essential skills and understanding to maximise profit margins.”

In a similar vein, Banner Batteries is raising awareness and the importance of battery chargers and maintenance to its retail network in the form of ‘visually appealing’ display units and marketing materials including a pocket guide leaflet for its Accucharger range. Lee Quinney, Country Manager at Banner, elaborated: “Developed to ensure that modern lead-acid batteries attain their anticipated long service life through regular and necessary equalisation charges, each Accucharger is more than capable of powering up any starter battery easily, fully automatically and safely. In addition to their functionality and suitability for all 6/12V lead acid batteries, they are appealing in terms of their design aesthetics and have already been widely adopted by Banner’s distributors and their customers.”, he concluded.

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ACEA DROPS A1/B1 AND INTRODUCES C5

ACEA DROPS A1/B1 AND INTRODUCES C5

Old specs to be discontinued as new oil sequence is introduced.

In the ever-changing world of modern lubricants, the ACEA A1/B1 standard is no more from December 1 2017 (though you can still sell products with this mark for another year). In its place is ACEA C54. So why the change? “In terms of the background to the removal of A1/B1 this grade reflects the trend towards low viscosity lubricants such as 0w20 which are becoming increasingly popular for newer modern cars, especially those from the Far East” explained David Wright, Chairman of industry body Vehicle Lubrication Standards (VLS).

“However, traditionally, the ‘A’ and ‘B’ ACEA sequences are reserved for vehicles without exhaust after treatment devices such as catalytic converters or diesel particulate filters. Today it is very rare that modern cars are sold, especially in Europe, without some form of exhaust after treatment device. So, the category A1/B1 became incongruous because most modern cars requiring low viscosity oils are fitted with exhaust after treatment devices” he explained.

We spoke to an industrial chemist at lubricant firm Comma, who confirmed that in a lot of cases, products that had been made to the old standard (or ‘sequence’ as it is known in
the lube business) were already compliant with the new one. Producers that had tested their products and found they met C5 were able to label them as such from December 2016 (and it became mandatory for new products produced since December 2017 to have the mark, though as mentioned you have a while to sell through anything that still has the A1/B1 label).

Our chat with the Comma chemist also confirmed some other good news, namely that as the makeup of the additive packs are broadly similar there shouldn’t be any significant price difference. Variations in lube prices are more likely to be down to the raw cost of products, rather than any different technology. It is also worth noting that most new C5 products will be have a high temperature viscosity of 20, rather than the more usual 30.

TOTAL QUARTZ
There are a few oils on the market ready to meet the new ACEA C5 technical standard. Among them is the new Total Quartz 0w20, which has been developed to meet a number of VM approvals,
including Volkswagen Group’s 508.00 ‘blue oil’ standard (despite the name, the product is in fact green). The criteria set down by VW Group were described by Total as being ‘severe’ as long-life oils can go more than 18,000 miles between changes.

Oil blender Comma is also among the first to market with a C5 oil. The firm’s Eco0-F 5w30 product needed no extra reformulation to meet the new standard, and is now sold bearing the mark. However, may of the major suppliers have yet to bring a C5 oil to range.

WHAT IS ACEA?
The European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (or Association des Constructeurs Européens d’Automobiles in French, hence the ACEA abbreviation) is a group that represents the 15 most important European motor vehicle manufacturers. The website oilspecifications.org notes that ACEA is the successor of CCMC (Comité des Constructeurs du Marché Commun). According to their statement, ACEA is an advocate for the automobile industry in Europe, representing manufacturers of passenger cars, vans, trucks and buses with production sites in Europe.

Among various other activities ACEA defines specifications for engine oils so called ACEA Oil Sequences. The sequences are usually updated every few years to include the latest developments in engine and lubricant technology. ACEA itself does not approve the oils, they set the standards and oil manufacturer’s may make performance claims for their products if those satisfy the relevant requirements. According to fuel supplier Infineum, there are a number of revised tests for C5 oil, compared with previous standards. These include tests for the effects of biodiesel and high temp, high shear rates.

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FEATURE: HAYNES’ LONG ROAD TO A DIGITAL FUTURE

FEATURE: HAYNES’ LONG ROAD TO A DIGITAL FUTURE

Speaking to CAT after the Haynes shareholders AGM, J Haynes has admitted that selling digital manuals through bricks-and-mortar accessory shops is a difficult concept for retailers.

“I’m not quite sure they do [understand how to sell the cards] quite yet. One of the elements that we’re putting together is card that retailers can sell in the store, which contains a code that the customer can redeem for a digital manual” he said, adding that while many customers will continue to want paper books, a growing number will prefer the info on their phone, tablet or laptop. “What we want to do is to get the information into as many drivers’ hands as possible” he explained.

 

Haynes is a firm that has grappled with the method and need to modernise. “I think Eddie [Bell, Group Chairman] outlined at the AGM that we are still a business in turnaround” he said, adding that the publisher continues to have ‘a clear focus on content and data’.

In December 2016, Haynes disposed of publishing and printing buildings in Australia, and more recently sold one of its two decommissioned US freehold properties in Nashville. The Group’s remaining freehold properties in Nashville, Tennessee and Sparkford, Somerset, are presently being marketed for sale. The cash generated from the sales will offset the costs associated with acquiring Swindon-based lubricant data firm OATS, for which it paid a total of £2.4m and Tunbridge-based E3 Technical in a deal valued at £4.72m.

There will be more on Haynes’ strategy in an upcoming issue of CAT.

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ARE CLASSIC OILS A GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY?

ARE CLASSIC OILS A GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY?

There is growth in the classic oil market, but it is an overcrowded area

i-Sint formulation

Buying oil is an ever more complex process for modern vehicles, so don’t you just long for the days when there was a choice of about three?

Well, there is a section of the market that caters just for classic cars (and by ‘classic’, we mean anything from the straight weight oils of the veteran and vintage eras, right up to the high-detergent multigrades used in the late 1990s). Oddly, as demand for volume of older oil grades such as 10w40 decreases, the number of brands available has actually increased. It is also one of the few areas in the lubes market where a high percentage of sales go to DIYers rather than to the trade, so retail visibility is important.

Old brands, long out of circulation have been revived during the year just passed, notably Veedol and Duckhams. The latter being produced under new ownership as a private consortium bought the brand from BP, though at the time of writing, the only way to get your hands on a can is to mail order it from the brand’s website.

Traditional brands have got a lot of cache among older motorists, but a name isn’t the only reason that consumers would choose one brand over another. Indeed, there is plenty to suggest that the market for this type of product is oversupplied.“The temptation is to think there’s always room for one more brand, but there have been some spectacular failures in recent years where people have assumed they can carve a niche and found that it’s much harder than they thought” said Guy Lachlan, a Director of Bicester-based retailer Classic Oils.“Kroon Oils was one that didn’t work in the UK, and the Shell X100 brand tried to come back but hasn’t really made the leap into the mainstream yet.”

TOUGH OLD TIMER
Others concur that the old-timer segment is tough to crack. “The classic market all told is relatively small, so we are noticing a degree of increased competition, oversupply and also margin squeeze” said Tony Lowe, Sales Director at Brighouse-based Millers Oils. Interestingly, both Millers and Classic Oils have found a significant market for direct sales via the internet, something that would have seemed unlikely even a few years ago. “Online is the big driver for this range,” said Lowe. “Our own web shop via the Millers website has been key in driving sales forward.”

Penrite oil

However, the assurance of modern quality also goes a long way according to Adam Young, a Field Sales rep for lube supplier MotoWorld which imports ENI and Agip into the UK, both long- standing brands featuring the fire- breathing six- legged dog. “The oil market in general, is very crowded, but Penrite oil we believe there is a space for ENI” he said. “The products are fully certified to the latest ACEA, API and JASO and manufacturer standards so consumers can be certain they’re receiving the best quality possible from our oils.” As you might expect, all of the suppliers that we spoke to said that the message of quality was something that any consumer working on their pride and joy would take to heart, however other aspects of the marketing message differed. Millers’ Lowe said that the ‘Made in Britain’ tag was important to its customers, while Classic Oils’ Lachlan makes the point that it is easier for brands that were originally mentioned in the handbook, which must be good news for the likes of Castrol.

RETAIL IS DETAIL
When selling directly to consumers, ‘retail is detail’ as the old saying goes. However, how much difference does retro- styled packaging really make? “Packaging does have an effect on retail sales as the product has to firstly catch the consumers eye if they are unfamiliar with the brand” said Young.

Putting oil into traditional metal tins and using a design based on a 1950s logo has certainly paid off for Millers. “Since rebranding, sales of the Millers Classic range have enjoyed double digit growth in terms of revenue” Tony Lowe confirmed.

Conversely, Lachlan makes the point that product recollection is extremely important. “People tend to be looking for a familiar design rather than a ‘good’ one” he said. “We have seen clever rebrandings actually damage sales because customers don’t recognise it as being the same as their trusted product.”

Posted in CAT Features, Factor & Supplier News, Garage News, News, Retailer NewsComments (0)

WINTER BLUES? GET READY FOR SPRING TIME

WINTER BLUES? GET READY FOR SPRING TIME

New apps and wider distribution make for a better future for spring stockists. CAT Ed Greg Whitaker reports. 

Heavy rollers

As this month’s topic is springs, we thought we’d get on the road to visit two different spring suppliers to find out what they do first hand.

CZECH FACTORY
Our first visit was all the way to the Czech Republic to see the European production facility of KYB. Situated outside the town of Pardubice, two plants produce both coil springs and dampers. Established in 2003, the plants enjoyed large extensions a few years ago, allowing the spring factory to push 2.2m coils springs through the goods out door every year. The capacity is set to rise as extensions built on both plants in the last few years give the company room to grow.

We had a long tour of the spring factory and were fascinated to see how great machines twist bar into springs, which are then tempered and shot-peened before being laser etched and electrostatically coated. On our visit, the products being produced were being made with taper wire, although side- loading (banana) springs and other designs are also produced in the facility. Shot- peening with the correct medium is apparently critical

in producing a strong spring. Units from factories that haven’t been through this process, or have been blasted with the wrong medium can be a third weaker than those that have been correctly produced.

KYB hasn’t been slacking in investing in new technology. While were were in Pardubice we learnt about a new app, which unusually is for garages to show to customers. The app, named Suspension Solutions, is split into two parts. Part one is to help the technician explain to the motorist what issues have been identified with their vehicle’s suspension and which components need to be replaced. It sends the driver a text message with links to video clips which explain the dangers and risks associated with worn shock absorbers, coil springs, mounting and protection components. Part two is for showing the completed repair which a garage has carried out on a customer’s vehicle. It can send a text message to the driver with a before and after photo of the work carried out.

While the app can be viewed on the customer’s phone, garages will also be sent a type of VR headset, which is simply
a frame in which a phone slots in to. The end result is astonishingly good, and an interesting way of involving the customer in the work.

YORKSHIRE HUB
Meanwhile, we were interested to visit Lesjofors’ new facility in Huddersfield. The firm was keen to get its logistics based from one site, and so constructed this site measuring 65,000 sq ft situated right near the motorway network.

On CAT, we love a good warehouse and were fascinated to see how the design allowed use of the full height of the building, which left room for future expansion. Both Kilen and Lesjofors brand springs are stocked in the warehouse (Kilen was acquired by the parent in 1996) and leaf springs, gas struts for boots and bonnets, as well as sports lowering packs
are stocked alongside the regular coil springs.

Slightly less centrally located, the firm has a UK factory in Cornwall. It produced road springs under the Kilen springs brand, while other production takes place in Sweden where both companies originated. The factory doesn’t just produce car springs – indeed, it will produce to order any size and application, ranging from the type of spring found inside a biro, right up to the giant coils found on a mining truck.

Lesjofors has also recently published a phone application. The app allows professional users to search its catalogue by vehicle, with an option to search for country-specific references. You will also be look up technical articles when they’ve been uploaded.

Posted in CAT Features, Steering & SuspensionComments (0)

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