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GET YOUR THERMALS ON

GET YOUR THERMALS ON

Ceramic coating process in action.

Oxford-based Zircotec’s ceramic heat shielding technology was first developed for the nuclear industry during the 1970’s when the manufacturer was still part of the UK Atomic Energy Authority. But after a management-buyout in 2008, the terms and conditions of becoming a Limited corporation meant the firm would have to relocate from its nuclear license site in Harwell and that’s what the team did, setting up an independent operation at their new digs in Abingdon seven years ago.

One of the employees that assisted with this buyout was Zircotec MD Terry Graham, who was keen to talk about the the firm’s latest multi-cloured offering Performance Colours. “Many aftermarket firms purchase these, because if they’re spending large amounts of money on modifying a vehicle and adding fittings to engine compartments, the coating will protect those extra features that they’ve installed”. He adds that the robust design eliminates the need for exhaust wraps. Although these components look pleasing enough, it’s the thermal barrier protection that is why people buy it as exhaust surface temperatures are reduced by a third.

PRODUCTION
The first thing you need to know when entering the facility is that you’ll not find the team with brushes and pots of emulsion to hand. Instead, expect high tech machinery and designated workstations designed for the electrolysis process right up to inspection and distribution. To facilitate this, the warehouse incorporates a masking lab, four grit blasters as well as three spray booths and several baking ovens for those colour specifications to set before ending up in Zircotec branded packaging.

Our first checkpoint was the delivery room filled with tailpipes, turbochargers and manifolds sent in from workshops and OEMs. Once the order is logged, it enters the masking lab next door where parts are carefully marked-up on customer request. Explaining the reasons for this, Graham said. “Customers don’t want coatings on certain parts such as the slip joints or serial number. This is because the coating has a certain thickness (0.3mm to be exact) so if we applied it on these parts, they wouldn’t fit together properly”.

The component then enters a grit blaster machine to smoothen its surface before ending up in one of three plasma spray booths where a metallic-based bond coating is applied for secure adhesion between the ceramic and substrate. Two hours after the operation, the product re-enters the booth so the ceramic coating can be ‘welded’ on. “With intense processes and temperatures, people ask us if we ever damage the pipe, and the answer is that we don’t”, Graham replied. “We are in effect ‘welding’ liquid metal or ceramic that we’re firing to the pipe. Each particle welds itself in place but doesn’t damage the pipe” adding that the spray gun melts the ceramic particles at 10,000°c and twice the speed of sound, which would explain the screeching noise coming from the booths.

For its Carbon Composite and Performance White coatings, Graham notes that parts coming in for this service will receive a similar setup in order to provide thermal protection for glass fibre, plastics and composite materials through its Thermohold formulation. Of course, working under any of
these intense conditions means staff are kitted out in the correct clothing, eye and ear protection before the finished article receives its final checks.

BRANCHING OUT
A new test facility is currently in its mock-up stage and will be completed later this year. As for the Performance Colour Range, the team are scratching the imagination with new and vibrant colours to replace some current ones in order to keep the line fresh and competitive.

In addition to this, the business has taken on some more projects from OEMs and has objectives to develop its exhaust coating portfolio and distribution networks overseas. “Our aim is to start testing out coatings in different arrangements and getting further improvements to the performance of them” Graham said. “Quite often are aftermarket customers don’t buy on performance so I’d like to obtain some more data and relay it back to them. We do quite a lot of work for these companies but there is still much more to be had” he concluded.

Posted in Exhausts, Factor & Supplier News, Garage News, News, Out and About with CAT, Retailer NewsComments (0)

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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A POINT OF DIFFERENCE

A POINT OF DIFFERENCE

David Williams takes us on tour around Michelin Licensee Future Developments.

Stoke-on-Trent is known as the Potteries for its heritage in throwing all kinds of clay, from fine bone china to toilet pans. However, in recent years the city has become a logistics hub housing many distribution centres. A major player here is Future Developments – a manufacturer supplying car care products and aerosols to large retailers up and down the country.

18 months ago, the firm inked a deal with Michelin where it became an official licensee for the UK and Ireland. Dave Williams, Sales Director of the firm, explained: “We manufacture specifically for niche markets. We never had a brand before and Michelin came to mind because it was in local [Michelin has a niche tyre production facility in nearby Shelton] and they were keen to do it”. He continued. “We’re looking to create a brand over the next two to three years by bringing in and making products with a difference”.

With 700 products to manufacture, a large space and the essential amenities are required. While touring the site, Future Developments seems to have all the facilities to hand with a 7,000 sq ft site containing three shipping containers for raw materials and bottles, an aerosol storage plant and a production warehouse where over 10,000 Michelin-branded products are produced each day, before they’re tried and tested on site. Once approved and set to the required standards, products are boxed up and packaged for distribution.

PRODUCTS AND PROMOTIONS
Another well-used area is the mock-shop showroom, which has a plethora of retail products sporting the Michelin brand. Wheel trims, inspection lamps and breakdown kits were displayed on shelves next to the firm’s other wares such as insect repellents and stain removers for the household domestics market as well as graffiti removal – a regular purchase among city councils across the UK. Ray Bowles, Managing Director of Future Developments, said. “We distribute all the Michelin wiper blades as well as snow brushes, ice scrapers, snow shovels and wheel trims”, adding that the firm has expanded its wiper blade distribution overseas.

Williams mentions that retail customers can benefit from some handy upsell opportunities such as Michelin point of sale (POS) display stands. He adds. “Customers can purchase our promotion stands to upsell their products in store. Another example is our screenwash, which we’ve designed so it can interlock with other bottles for stacking in shops. From a retailer’s point of view, it looks presentable, doesn’t crush and is easier for stacking”. In addition, the team provide fitting videos and aftercare support to retailers and end users.

POINT OF DIFFERENCE
While designing things like formulas and bottles is an element of the business, it is not the only one. Williams highlights that the multicoloured triggers within the car care range are ‘unique’ selling points in themselves, whereby, each bottle has its own mechanism, designed to make application simpler for customers. He says. “We don’t just develop the product, we also develop the trigger. For example, we have developed a pre-compressed trigger which allows easier application and restricts any leaks onto fingers and hands during use”.

A similar example Bowles and Williams demonstrated was their AdBlue container. Although this formula can’t be altered, this didn’t stop the team from creating another application solution. “We can’t make AdBlue different from anybody else because it’s a standard product according to regulations”, said Williams. “However, we can differentiate the way it’s delivered. We have done this by creating a siphoned nozzle with 360° action, which can be used in different positions to fill into the car”.

PARTNERSHIP
Recently, a number of factor chains have expressed interest in the firm’s products. Williams expands. “We recently signed a deal with Euro Car Parts who are taking on the Michelin brand. They requested a couple of products including our new Screen Wash sachets and they’re also stocking Michelin’s Tyre Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS)”, adding that the firm’s wiper blades have also sparked interest. Bowles and Williams have also been in meetings with battery suppliers, factor buying groups and accessory store chains, any of whom could become potential supply partners in the near future.

The firm is now planning to extend its fleet of vans and silver range of glass, leather and wheel cleaners (to name a few) launched at Automechanika Birmingham this year. Whatever market they’re supplying, the team will continue bringing out products that will not only make sales for retailers, but more importantly, ‘make life easier’ and simpler for the end-user.

Posted in Accessories, Car Care, Cooling, Factor & Supplier News, Garage News, General, Lighting, News, Out and About with CAT, Retailer News, Styling, WipersComments (0)

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.

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

FACTORS SNAP UP TMD FRICTION’S PREMIUM TEXTAR BRAND

FACTORS SNAP UP TMD FRICTION’S PREMIUM TEXTAR BRAND

PROMOTION ARTICLE ON BEHALF OF TEXTAR

Three new stockists have been secured following April’s launch of superior brake brand, Textar, to the UK market, developed by global OE friction manufacturer, TMD Friction.

Parts distributors, BMG, Super Spares and Direct Auto Parts now stock a full range of Textar products including brake pads and accessories, as well as brake fluid, available for next day delivery. The range of high-performance brakes is also complemented by a wide range of brake discs, including high carbon and composite discs, with the full range covering 99.9% of the UK car parc.

Textar is a global premium brand offering a selection of OE and aftermarket products with a renowned reputation for high quality, performance and endurance. This makes Textar the brand of choice for OE and aftermarket, as well as a sought-after product offering for factors and garages.

Nick Hayes, UK Sales Manager of TMD Friction, said: “Expectations were high for the launch of Textar which, I’m pleased to say, have been undoubtedly met. Along with securing three new stockists, we also have a number of factor contracts in the pipeline, that can see how the Textar passenger car brand can elevate their current product offerings. It’s an exciting time for us as a friction manufacturer and for the industry.”

Utilising cutting-edge technology, Textar brakes are precision engineered to offer maximum safety, performance and comfort. This uncompromising approach has been the ethos of the brand for more than 100 years and has led to Textar being a trusted partner to the world’s leading vehicle manufacturers. For more information on Textar please contact UK.technical@tmdfriction.co.uk.

Posted in Braking, Featured Sidebar, Industry InsightComments (1)

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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TRANSFER WINDOW: NEW SUPPLIER DEALS

TRANSFER WINDOW: NEW SUPPLIER DEALS

Fram coming to ECP

Transfer season sees clubs scouting for talent and players looking for a comfy life, aftermarket brands have also been swapping sides over the last month.

  • First of all, The Parts Alliance has announced a five-year partnership with the AA. The products will cover batteries, vehicle parts and consumables in a supply contract for five years. “We are delighted to be a business partner and supplier to the AA, one of Britain’s most trusted brands”. said Peter Sephton, Chief Executive of The Parts Alliance.
  • Meanwhile, Sogefi Filtration has signed an agreement with distribution giant Euro Car Parts, which will see the latter stock products under the Fram brand from the beginning of July. This will include the full range of light vehicle filters sold through ECP’s outlets in UK and Ireland. Nigel Duffield, Sales Director at Sogefi said: “The cooperation with Euro Car Parts is very promising and will surely contribute to further develop the presence of the brand throughout the country”.
  • The CAAR buying group has also made some signings, with oil brand Mannol now being stocked by the group’s members. The lubricant producer has had a good month, because in addition to the supply deal it also won two awards from separate German car magazines for it’s Combi Energy 5w30 Long Life oil. Andrej Gaikov from Mannol said: “We are absolutely delighted to have been chosen by CAAR’s members to be stocked in their stores. I feel this is the start of a great partnership for both of us”.
  • The A1 buying group has introduced Warwickshire-based Compressortech into its approved suppliers list. The remanufacturer of A/C compressors can now be distribute its products across the chain’s members. Gary Stephenson, Business Development Manager for Compressortech said: “A1 is a significant and recognised buying group and our thermal cooling products will further complement their expanding product ranges.
    We look forward to working with the members.”

Posted in Batteries, Blogs, Factor & Supplier News, Filters, Garage News, News, Retailer News, UncategorisedComments (0)

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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ZF AND HELLA SIGN SENSOR DEVELOPMENT DEAL

ZF AND HELLA SIGN SENSOR DEVELOPMENT DEAL

Dr. Stefan Sommer (L) and Dr. Rolf Breidenbach (R)

OE brands ZF and Hella have inked a deal which will see both suppliers cooperate on sensor technology, such as front cameras, imaging and radar systems.

Both firms will now begin a joint development project in camera technology, aiming for a market launch in 2020.

“This strategic partnership for sensor technology with Hella enhances our position as a complete systems supplier for modern assistance systems as well as autonomous driving functions,” says Dr. Stefan Sommer, CEO of ZF Friedrichshafen AG. “This non-exclusive cooperation with Hella is an important expansion of our Vision Zero ecosystem of development partnerships. Thus, we can create a wider technological foundation for safety and autonomous driving.”

Dr. Rolf Breidenbach, CEO at Hella KGaA Hueck & Co., added: “Hella is a strong and experienced provider of sensor technologies. Our knowledge aligns perfectly with ZF’s expertise. By combining our strengths, we clearly aim to provide market leading and high performing assistance systems and autonomous driving functions. In addition, this cooperation will strengthen Hella’s position as a well-regarded supplier for imaging and radar sensor technologies.”

Posted in Factor & Supplier News, Garage News, Latest News, News, Retailer News, SensorsComments (0)

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