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AFTERMARKET LIVES: VISIT TO NGK

Mark Hallam invites CAT up to NGK’s distribution hub in Hemel Hempstead.

Most workshops will know the NGK brand through its BoxClever scheme, where customers can trade in their empty lambda sensor boxes in exchange for reward points to spend on an array of gifts at the firm.

Besides this loyalty programme, the manufacturer has had a strong foothold in the aftermarket for many years; beginning its operations in Nagoya, Japan 81 years ago. Eventually, the firm expanded its footprint overseas by building spark plug factories around the world. Presently, the network totals 11 factories, four development sites and over 20 sales offices worldwide.

LOGISTICS
However, today’s visit brought us to its UK headquarters in Hemel Hempstead, which was previously located in Hendon (North West London) before relocating nearly two decades ago. “The transition of NGK’s UK HQ to Hemel Hempstead was due to the requirement for more space for a rapidly growing business”, said Mark Hallam, UK Marketing Manager at the firm. “The Hemel Hempstead site was purpose built in a location with transport links ensuring an efficient delivery service to our customers”, adding that the warehouse had previously been extended to stock its core ignition lines with plans in the pipeline to expand it even further due to company expansion.

The current premises houses 100 staff and a large warehouse space where parts are sourced from Japan and distributed to trade and supply chain customers across the country. The site contains a finance and marketing department as well as its sales office and OE division where a team of staff are employed to communicate directly with vehicle manufacturers. Hallam elaborated. “NGK work directly with all of the major VMs around the world”, he continued. “NGK Spark Plugs and lambda sensors are the world’s number one OE fitment”.

BRANDING
Despite the firm’s bread and butter being in in glow and spark plug sales, this is not the only part of the business. “NGK are more than just a spark plug company,” remarked Hallam. “We also sell glow plugs, lambda, NOx, EGT, MAF and MAP sensors as well as ignition coils and spark plug covers. Under our NTK brand we also operate a specialist Technical Ceramics division from Hemel Hempstead specialising in ceramic cutting tools and IC packages.”

Hemel Hempstead DC

To communicate its ‘more than spark plugs’ message to garages, the firm recently launched a range of aftermarket products under the NTK division with over 150 part numbers, including 87 Mass Air Flow (MAF) sensors and 69 Manifold Absolute Pressure (MAP) sensors that have been ‘well received’ so far. In addition, the company updated its logos to bring awareness to both businesses. “In 2016, NGK developed a new brand identity with two new logos. “All ignition related products come under ‘NGK’s Ignition Parts’ with all sensor products coming under ‘NTK Vehicle Electronics’”, noted Hallam.

STAFF RETENTION
Staff longevity has played a crucial role in business expansion with most employees possessing over 20 years experience The standard setup involves a team of reps that are sent out to different regions in the country to work closely with existing customers by developing and keeping their stock holdings competitive as well as scouting out new leads to grow the firm’s UK footprint. “The NGK sales representatives are an asset to the company offering our customers market leading sales, product and technical support across the UK”, said Hallam. He adds that staff loyalty has played a big contribution towards the receiving its A1 Motor Stores Award, which proudly sits behind a glass trophy cabinet in the foyer area.

Going into the autumn and winter months, the team at Hemel Hempstead will continue growing the UK base organically through customer retention while hammering home the message of NGK and its various subsidiary brands. Although there are some new developments on the cards, everything is being kept top secret until a big reveal at Automechanika Frankfurt next year.

Posted in Factor & Supplier News, Garage News, News, Out and About with CAT, Retailer News, Sensors, Spark PlugsComments (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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NGK

NGK Spark Plugs (UK) Ltd has published its 2012 Spark Plug & Diesel Glow Plug catalogue, which includes a raft of important new additions and new applications for existing plugs.

It contains details of 14 new spark plugs and five new glow plugs for a host of popular vehicles from some of the world’s leading vehicle manufacturers and was released in time for the recent MechanEx Show in Exeter.

The new spark plug part numbers have applications for vehicles that include the Vauxhall/Opel Insignia Turbo/VXR, Signum Turbo and Vectra C VXR, Volkswagen Golf Mk6, Fiat 500 Twinair Turbo, Nissan X Trail, and a range of Mercedes’ including the Sprinter.

New glow plugs cover vehicles from Hyundai, Lexus, Toyota, Citroen and Fiat, including the Lexus IS 220, Toyota Avensis and the Citroen Relay and Fiat Ducato.

There are also additional applications for existing spark plugs which cover popular models such as the Audi TT, BMW 116 and 330 and Ford Fiesta and Mondeo.

New applications for existing glow plugs include vehicles from Jaguar, Range Rover, Peugeot and Skoda.

NGK Spark Plugs (UK) Ltd Marketing Manager Gerard Irving said: “Our new 2012 catalogue contains up-to-date information about new applications for both existing and new part numbers for spark plugs and glow plugs. They cover many of the most popular vehicles on the road which will make it an essential tool for our distributors and customers.”

Further information on the spark and glow plug ranges can be found at www.ngkntk.co.uk where the NGK online Part Finder system is now being updated to incorporate this new catalogue data.

Posted in Catalogue Guide, Spark PlugsComments (0)

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