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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.”

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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.

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MAINTAINING EMISSION STANDARDS

MAINTAINING EMISSION STANDARDS

Launch DPF Gun

With CO2 emissions on the rise, how are suppliers preparing workshops accordingly?

unless you have your head in the sand, you’ll notice that the tide has turned for emissions and for light diesels in particular. Last month, almost anything registered before 2005 was effectively banned from central London, thanks to the so-called Toxicity Charge. What’s more, these standards are only likely to get tougher, with a diesel emissions check at MOT among many options being mooted by those in power. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing: Everyone wants fresh air and there are a number of products to help clean up diesel engines.

One technology that has kept VMs in line with their objective is Exhaust Gas Temperature Sensors (EGTS), designed to protect components exposed to hot exhaust gases from overheating. Julian Goulding, UK Marketing Manager at Delphi elaborates, “Exhaust gas temperature sensors play a crucial part in modern vehicles. From Euro 5b, all diesel vehicles had to have EGTS, with each car having up to six sensors, they’ll become an increasingly important service item.” He adds that these parts can and do fail, which is hardly surprising given the hellish temperatures that they endure. However, an EGTS problem is often misdiagnosed.

TRAINING AND WEB PLATFORMS
To counter this, Goulding suggests workshops can enrol onto a number of training courses in order to repair these systems confidently. Based at its Warwick Centre, the parts maker hosts various programmes, with training that can also be accessed via its’ digital channels; which provides information on fitting sensors and diagnosing faults successfully. Helen Goldingay, UK Marketing and Communications Manager at Hella, concurs, stating that although most garages are up-to-speed with EGTS, attention on newer technology must be brought to the forefront. She expands, “Due to the growth in use of the micro hybrid (start-stop) systems, intelligent battery sensors, which play a crucial in the battery management function that are part and parcel of the system, are clearly a growth area, as are those directly connected with emission controls, like exhaust gas pressure and air quality sensors.

‘Technicians are aware of the growth in the number of sensors that modern vehicles require, but what is more important than actually knowing every sensor itself, is the ability to identify where a fault lies and have the equipment to reinstate the management system once the component has been changed.” To facilitate this, various web platforms have been launched by the company in recent years. This includes Tech World for technicians as well as Partner World for factors and others in the supply chain.

CLEANING AND TESTING

It’s all well and good being able to diagnose faults with these parts, however, carbon build-up on EGR valves, DPF’s and injectors can restrict sensors from detecting problems within the fuel and exhaust system. Carbon build- up or post combustion carbon as it’s otherwise known, is a result of vehicles running in conditions where they can’t reach their full temperature; resulting in heavy quantities of carbon being burnt.

Fortunately, the aftermarket isn’t starved of chemical products to help with this. Various potions that are poured in the fuel or in the crankcase, as well as several machines have come onto the market in recent years. One of the most recent entrants in this sector comes from diagnostic equipment supplier Launch UK. The company has recently launched a device called a DPF Gun as well as various pour-in chemical cleaning products. Richard Collyer, Product and Equipment Specialist at the firm, expands, “Once vehicles are full of carbon, the EGR valve can’t operate properly and can blow electronically. Once this occurs, it will need changing.”

Euro5 BM

FACING FEARS
Akin to this, Mark Blinston Commercial Director at UK manufacturer BM Catalysts, encourages independents to get involved in servicing DPFs themselves, instead of dismantling and sending them off to dealers, which he says can be a ‘costly move’ for the garage. However, there is still a ‘fear’ around this technology that he brings to light, “The general perception is that garages are worried that if they get it wrong, it will be expensive”, he continued, “There’s been a lot of noise about this in the news where the BBC recently done a report revealing a shocking number of vehicles being driven on roads that are not fitted with them. This is one reason why some garages aren’t getting involved.”

To face this fear head on, Blinston explains that the firm has produced some point- of-sale material, training sessions and technical information for technicians. This also goes along with a number of new offerings for its’ core lines of catalytic converters, pressure pipes and DPFs. He concluded, “We have invested in many resources and developments over the last year by adding 245 new part numbers in 2017 covering 30 million vehicles across Europe.”

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REBOXING & PRODUCT LIABILITY RISK

Could the last big taboo in the aftermarket land suppliers or retailers in legal trouble?

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.

However, times are changing ever higher up the list of boardroom priorities for businesses across multiple sectors. Increased media attention on product safety incidents brings the potential for a badly managed crisis to kill off a brand entirely. Growing consumer awareness is translating into more civil claims and ever closer scrutiny by regulatory authorities in the wake of scandals such as ‘dieselgate’ and Grenfell Tower is partnered by dizzying fines where serious failings are identified.

In the light of all this it is critically important that all businesses involved in product supply chains understand their responsibilities and manage risk, regardless of where they stand in the product journey from factory to end user.

It’s interesting that retailers and others in the supply chain who do not actually make a product often regard themselves as immune from these issues and assume that their suppliers will be the target of claims or regulatory scrutiny if things go wrong. Unfortunately this is not often a safe assumption: many regulatory regimes place responsibilities not only on the manufacturer, but also on others in the supply chain, particularly (but not exclusively) those who place their brand on the product.

UNFIT FOR PURPOSE
The act of placing an unsafe consumer product on the market is an offence, regardless of whether or not a producer knew about a potential safety defect, and there is a requirement to notify the regulatory authorities promptly where a producer becomes aware that a product he has placed on the market – or supplied poses – risks to a consumer that are incompatible with the general safety requirement under the GPSR.

Many other regulations also extend obligations to businesses placing their own brand on products – including, amongst others, the Construction Products Regulations 2013, and the Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 2016 – the latter imposing on manufacturers requirements regarding regulatory conformance and an obligation to take action in cases of non-conformity and notify authorities where there is a risk, with the definition of ‘manufacturer’ . [See panel for more detail].

Any business supplying articles for use at work will also be caught by the requirement under Section 6 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (‘HSWA’) to ensure that the article is designed and constructed that it will be safe and without risks to health at all times when being used by a person at work. Fines for breaches of the HSWA have recently been scaled up dramatically.

CIVIL LIABILITY
In addition to the regulatory regime, those placing their brand on products are potential targets of civil claims for damages under the Consumer Protection Act 1987 which implements the Product Liability Directive in the event of an injury or damage to personal property caused by a defect. For these purposes, a defective product is one which fails to meet the standards of safety which users are generally entitled to expect. Crucially, a failure to warn of non-obvious risks or the provision of inadequate instructions can render a product just as defective in the eyes of the law as a situation where a safety risk is presented by a design or manufacturing defect.

Liability for claims of this type is strict, meaning that no fault on the part of the own-brander is required for liability to arise. In practice, a potential claimant looking to recover damages following an injury is much more likely to target the business which placed its brand on the product than trouble itself with identifying the underlying manufacturer or component supplier. It is left to the business whose brand is applied to recover damages paid out through strict liability claims through its contracts with suppliers (assuming they don’t exclude the right to do so).

Potentially, resellers and distributors who deal directly with consumers could face further claims under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA). The CRA has the effect of implying terms into an agreement in favour of a consumer, meaning, for example, that goods sold must be fit for purpose and of satisfactory quality. These terms cannot be excluded. Under the CRA, a consumer can enforce these terms and subsequently is provided a series of remedies, including the right to reject, or the right to have goods repaired or replaced.

Resellers and distributors could also be hit with claims in negligence when failing to exercise reasonable care and skill in the course of their business. Claims in contract may also follow, although these will turn on the specific contractual terms in place in each circumstance.

MANAGING RISK
It’s clear that there are numerous routes by which businesses branding products as their own may expose themselves to regulatory investigation and prosecution of civil claims.

It is essential that any business in this position addresses its mind to the management of these risks. There are a number of practical steps that businesses can take.

Firstly, steps should be taken to ensure that allocation of risk is given proper consideration when entering into agreements with manufacturers. This may allow the business to pursue the manufacturer through a contractual claim. Particular attention should be paid to warranties and indemnities, and to the responsibility for different aspects of the product specification.

Next, audit rights should be included in supply agreements so that the retailer (own brander) has a means of verifying the quality and robustness of manufacturing and design processes, for example by inspecting manufacturing processes or by paper-based audit.

Traceability is crucial, in terms of managing product safety crises. By pinning down manufacturing dates/times/batch numbers, the scale of any recall is reduced and affected products can be recovered quickly.

Lastly, the potential for a product safety issue to cascade into a major reputational crisis is real in the age of globalised social media, and the speed with which events can move means that advance planning for such situations is crucial. Any business selling products under its own brand should prioritise the creation of a crisis management plan. This should address, amongst other matters, how communications with customers and regulators will be handled, management of press communications, risk assessment and decision making processes and logistical aspects of recovering and replacing affected product in the market.

There are a number of key issues that need management and it should be emphasised that the law in this area is highly specific to individual product types and sectors. Retailers and others considering own- branding are well advised to obtain guidance from specialists to understand the risks and ensure that they take appropriate steps to manage them.

Those importing products into the EU should be particularly alert to the fact that, even if their branding is not applied, they may be treated as a producer and assume responsibilities and liabilities as a first importer.

The commercial benefits of own-branding are often compelling, but businesses entering this area should do so with their eyes open, understanding that by placing their name on a product they may be substantially increasing the legal and reputational risks which they bear.

YOUR NAME, YOUR RISK
Let’s take an example. Most products intended for or likely to be used by consumers (i.e. including those which might be targeted primarily at professionals but which consumers may buy too) fall within the scope of the General Product Safety Regulations 2005 (GPSR) which implements the EU General Product Safety Directive. These regulations place a strict and onerous obligation on ‘producers’ to ensure that the product is ‘safe’ – meaning that under normal or reasonably foreseeable conditions of use it presents either no risk or only the minimum risk compatible with the product’s use.

Critically, For the purposes of the GPSR, a producer is any person who manufactures a product, or a person who presents himself as the manufacturer “by affixing to the product his name, trademark or other distinctive mark”. This distinction means the obligations placed on producers are also applicable to retailers, merchants and distributors in circumstances where they place their own brand on the product.

From the perspective of consumers and regulators, of course, this makes perfect sense: if a business sells a product as its own, it should be seen to be taking responsibility for the safety of that product. However the rule continues to catch out businesses who are attracted to the idea of a product being associated with their brand, but do not appreciate the responsibilities which come with such a move. The effect of this is that retailers and merchants applying their own brand to products need to ensure that they can be satisfied with the safety of those products. This means not only that they are designed and manufactured in accordance with technical requirements and industry standards, but also, for example, that adequate warnings and instructions for use are provided.

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AVOIDING THE BATTERY BLUES THIS WINTER

AVOIDING THE BATTERY BLUES THIS WINTER

As the season of flat batteries creeps in, how are suppliers preparing garages this winter? CAT Reporter Daniel Moore finds out.

Battery labelling at Yuasa factory

Like all of the aftermarket, we wait in joyful expectation of a foggy and icy winter, but how are battery companies preparing for the oncoming season?

MARKETING CAMPAIGNS
The idea is of course to recommend a replacement before it fails to start the car, thus eliminating some of the seasonal peaks and troughs in battery sales.

Trying to achieve a similar theory but with a slightly different end goal in mind, Swedish battery charger firm CTEK has launched a campaign to encourage motorists to prolong the life of the battery by regularly giving it a maintenance charge (by using one of the firm’s switching ‘smart’ chargers of course). A new consumer product called ‘Time to Go’ has removed most of the process indicators on the front panel, instead simply telling the motorist how long it will be until the battery is charged. The product ties in with a Bluetooth dongle and smartphone app called ‘battery sense’, that gives the motorist real-time info about the state of health of their batteries – this could be particularly useful on vehicles that are rarely used over the winter such as classic cars or motorhomes. Sten Hammargren, Consumer Business Unit Manager at CTEK, said “It’s a reflection of the demands that today’s consumer has for household tools and accessories that can keep them in the picture – we’ve seen it with other household goods such as washing machines and tumble dryers and now you can have this type of information from your battery charger.”

TESTING TIMES
Of course most consumers will prefer the garage to check the state of health of their battery and Bosch Car Service member garage Spiros Motors, is one workshop that has followed suit by carrying out free of charge battery checks on every vehicle it sees. Dinos Christoforou, Master Technician at Spiros Motors, expands: “Every single service for any vehicle coming in, it’s one of the main checks that we do”, highlighting the tools used for the job, he said, “We use Bosch Bat121 Electronic Tester that measures the amperage of the battery. notifies us of how much amperage is in the battery before it needs to be charged up”, adding that a ticket print out is then issued from the machine. You might ask what the point of a printout is if the machine has it on the display, well, this information is then relayed back to the customer, complete with the printout as proof that the check has been carried out as described and notifying them of the steps taken before receiving the keys back to their vehicle.

To avoid breakdowns, Steve Hudson, Head of Business Development at Behr Hella Services, says garages should consistently advise customers to maintain their battery all year around no matter how much or little the vehicle is used. “Battery related issues remain the most common cause of breakdown, whatever the season, battery health should be a priority”, notes Hudson. “Technicians should be recommending that customers that use their vehicles infrequently or make only short journeys, should charge the battery on a regular basis, which will substantially reduce the risk of electrical related breakdown”. Lee Quinney, Country Manager for Banner Batteries GB, echoes Hudson’s sentiment suggesting ongoing training should be a number one priority of any garage, particularly with the eclectic range battery technologies flooding the market. “Giving the garages the training and support that is needed has never been more important, particularly as specifying the wrong start-stop battery for a vehicle can have serious consequences”, he replied.

BATTERY LOOK-UP TOOLS
When the time for battery replacement comes, a number of manufacturers have introduced online applications allowing workshops, suppliers and the like to source their models easily. Ecobat Technologies (formerly Manbat) is a prime example with its EBT Battery Finder that has helped extend its distribution network to many independents nationwide. “Users simply need to enter the registration number of the vehicle in the search box and the site will use a sophisticated VRM database to locate the correct car and provide access to its vehicle- specific details”, notes Paul Payne, Sales Director at Ecobat Technologies. “This information naturally includes the exact specification of the battery for which it is designed, and therefore provides an absolute assurance the battery is the precise replacement the VM has specified for that model”.

With the extensive amount of gadgets and promotions on offer, workshops and retailers can be rest assured that by investing in some of these wares and services will enable them to avoid those battery blues this winter while picking up some extra revenue along the way.

CHARGING UP FOR THE FUTURE
While technology in vehicles becomes increasingly complex, we were interested to find out how this could impact the battery market in the years to come. Although we have touched on the aforementioned start-stop technology, it is the now and future as battery maker DBS Energy’s MD Henry James, points out, “The market in automotive batteries is moving towards ‘All Electric’, but the current future is in stop-start technology, which is having a positive outcome on sales of AGM batteries due to larger amounts of stop-start cars being on our roads”, he said. “There has already been a huge swing to sealed maintenance free flooded batteries also, which has already started to take place in the commercial vehicle sector too.”

Ecobat’s Sales Director Paul Payne concurs and expands. “In the short to medium term, the replacement market will remain dominated by the 12-volt battery. Clearly AGM sales will increase and [traditional] batteries gradually fall back, but any significant growth outside this core sector, is still several years in the future.”

Yuasa’s James Douglas says before investing in future wares, workshops must first identify and understand the different setups for each model on the market, something that is still a little unclear among some garages. He said, “The key issues is there hasn’t been a massive volume of start-stop cars going through garages needing their battery replaced, it’s only now that it’s beginning to increase. We are still pushing that message and explaining to garages that it’s a completely different setup. If a car has EFB battery then it needs to be replaced with EFB and likewise with AGM as opposed to a conventional one.”

Whatever the weather, it looks like there is still good business in battery services for a while yet.

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

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