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OBITUARY: KEVIN SHORTIS 1939-2019

Accessory shop owner and entrepreneur Kevin Shortis has died following a short illness.

While he was involved in a number of businesses, Shortis will be best remembered by the aftermarket for his chain of accessory shops, latterly called Wilco Motosave.

Kevin Shortis 1939-2019

Shortis started work in the late 1950s as a teenager. Originally he worked for parts distributor Vic Moore Car Spares in Lancashire. “Back then there were no accessory shops. If you wanted something, you went to a garage. But they had to sell you the parts at the rate the manufacturer dictated” he told CAT in a 2010 interview.

Sensing a gap in the market, Shortis set up a shop aimed at DIY motorists. In an age where a new generation of first-time car owners liked to maintain and fit accessories to their vehicles, the business did well and before long several more branches were opened across East Anglia.  

Such success came to the attention of aftermarket magnate Quinton Hazell, who bought Shortis out. Shortis took a place on Hazell’s board, but the relationship was short lived due to the sale of QH to Burmah and in the mid 1970s he took the opportunity to buy several of his stores back.

Steady growth occurred in the decades that followed, with the acquisition of Leeds-based Motosave in 2004 more than doubling the size of the network.

In 2010 Shortis won the Lifetime Achievement trophy at the CAT Awards. However he never retired and continued to work in the business with his son Richard.

Kevin Shortis signed off the last email he sent to us at CAT with the words: “I never get bored, but since I started in the trade I reckon I’ve seen everything!”

He will be sorely missed by all that knew him.

 

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PROFITS SLUMP AT HALFORDS FOLLOWING MILD WINTER

PROFITS SLUMP AT HALFORDS FOLLOWING MILD WINTER

Halfords PLC, the company behind the retail chain and auto centres as well as specialist cycle shops Treadz and Cycle Republic, has announced its results for the year ending in March 2019.

Underlying profit before tax was down £12.8m on last year to £58.8m.

Halfords

Profits down at Halfords following a mild winter

Chairman Keith Williams noted a ‘disappointing fall in profit vs expectations’ which he put down to a mix of Brexit uncertainty and a mild winter. CEO Graham Stapleton expanded that the drop was also due to ‘weakened consumer confidence’ in the run up to Christmas, retail cost inflation as well as investment in ‘strategic opportunities’, such as the opening of a Boardman Performance Centre. The report also noted that operating costs both in retail and in the auto centres had increased, further reducing profitability.

However, it wasn’t all bad headlines for the retailer. Like-for-like cycle sales grew modestly, net debt was reduced by £6m to £81.8m and total Autocentres revenues were up £2.6 percent. Battery, bulb and blade fitting services at the retail outlets were also showing positive growth.

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DEALER GROUP COMPLAINS ABOUT ‘AGGRESSIVE PRICING” OF TRADE CLUBS

DEALER GROUP COMPLAINS ABOUT ‘AGGRESSIVE PRICING” OF TRADE CLUBS

A dealer group has noted the ‘aggressive pricing’ of VM parts chains makes it ‘less attractive’ for franchised dealers to sell parts for older models.

In a Group Accounts Statement filed at Companies House by John Grose, Director Ian Twinley noted that: ‘Both Ford and PSA continue to restructure their parts distribution models which is making it less attractive for the franchised dealer and therefore a sector that we will reduce our activity. In the retail sector we are all seeing a huge transformation in small package distribution driven by the digital revolution, which is likely to continue for some while yet and have further impact on OEM parts distribution’.

 

VM initiatives such as PSA’s Euro Repar make spares ‘less attractive’ to franchises

Both Ford and the PSA brands are represented by John Grose, and both have expanded their trade club-style offerings in order to tempt independent garages to buy parts directly from them rather than from the all-makes factor chains. PSA has been particularly aggressive with the roll-out of its Auto Repar offering that includes several different tiers of parts quality. Ford has also tried a number of initiatives, including the Quick Lane soft franchise garage model.

 

The Group Accounts Statement also noted that John Grose has taken a number of actions to prepare for a worst-case no deal Brexit, which included stockpiling common service and repair part numbers as well as securing ‘additional headroom in funding’ to meet any volatility in cash flow.

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MAN ARRESTED IN FAKE SPARK PLUGS RAID

MAN ARRESTED IN FAKE SPARK PLUGS RAID

Trading Standards in East Sussex has uncovered a haul of fake spark plugs, valued at nearly £40,000

Istvan Lorincz of Hailsham was found to be in possession of bags of the engine components, along with sophisticated label making equipment and cartons. He had been passing off the fakes as authentic parts on internet auction sites.

Fake plugs found in raid (Photo: East Sussex Trading Standards)

Hove Crown Court found him guilty of 25 breaches of the trademarks act and handed down a four-month prison sentence, suspended for eighteen months.  

Cllr Bill Bentley, East Sussex County Council told local paper, The Eastbourne Herald: “This unscrupulous individual was caught with counterfeit motor parts with a very high value”.

“He was knowingly selling these items online to unsuspecting consumers and businesses around the country, to the detriment not just of the buyers, but of the manufacturers whose products he claimed to be offering and to genuine traders trying to make an honest living”

Rumours of fake spark plugs in the market have been floating about for a while.

 

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MAHLE AFTERMARKET ACQUIRES BEHR HELLA SERVICE

MAHLE AFTERMARKET ACQUIRES BEHR HELLA SERVICE

Mahle Aftermarket has announced the acquisition of automotive thermal management product supplier Behr Hella Service (BHS) for an undisclosed amount.

The acquisition will see all existing BHS activities transfer to Mahle on January 1st 2020, bringing a broad range of thermal management products to Mahle’s portfolio. The products will cover passenger vehicles as well as agricultural and construction vehicles.

The old BHS part numbers can still be used by current customers to order products even after 1st January 2020. Mahle part numbers will be implemented in parallel.

In a statement, Mahle noted the importance of thermal management products in the operation of electric vehicles. Olaf Henning, Corporate Executive Vice President and General Manager of Mahle Aftermarket, said: “E-mobility will present workshops in particular with new challenges in the medium term.

“We can now offer them targeted support with the expertise from our OEM business and provide the right solutions – by identifying a component with the correct diagnostic systems and delivering technical training and information on repairs and maintenance,” he concluded.

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IS THAT CLEAR?: JOHNSON CONTROLS TO BECOME ‘CLARIOS’

IS THAT CLEAR?: JOHNSON CONTROLS TO BECOME ‘CLARIOS’

Johnson Controls Power Solutions has been rebranded as ‘Clarios’. The new name for the battery arm formerly owned by Johnson Controls International comes some months after the business was acquired by private equity firm Brookfield Business Partners in a cash deal valued at $13.2 billion. According to a statement, Clarios intends to continue to provide automotive battery products and services, with a focus on new technology such as traction batteries for electric vehicles.

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Johnson Controls Battery Technology becomes Clarios

“As a global leader with a product used in virtually every vehicle from conventional to fully electric, we are well positioned to capitalise on market trends, including a move toward more electrified and autonomous vehicles which are elevating the critical role of the battery and accelerating the need for more advanced batteries,” said Joe Walicki, President of Clarios. “Under Brookfield’s ownership, we can better capitalise on these growing trends and operate with more focus and efficiency.”

Clarios currently has 56 facilities worldwide with over 16,000 employees. It is best known in the UK for its Varta battery range. 

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‘EXTENDED VEHICLE’ CONCEPT CAUSING AFTERMARKET CONCERN

‘EXTENDED VEHICLE’ CONCEPT CAUSING AFTERMARKET CONCERN

By Greg Whitaker

A new concept in the evolution of connected cars has been proposed by VMs, but many in the aftermarket are not happy.

Backers say that the idea of the ‘Extended Vehicle’ concept will lead to greater protection from hacking and fewer risks from on-vehicle software updates etc. as data will be stored on centralised servers and any access to data will be via these computers, rather than on the car itself.

A website to promote the concept, cardatafacts.eu, has been set up by ACEA, the body that represents VMs in Europe. The site argues that while the servers will be run by the VMs, third parties such as diagnostic tool companies are welcome to establish ‘neutral’ data centres, not operated or funded directly by the manufacturers. However, detractors of the concept say that it amounts to a ‘major threat to aftermarket competition’ as all of the data generated by a vehicle will be in the hands of the VMs at least to begin with, and the third party servers may be a bit like the ‘pass-through’ diagnostics from a few years ago, which used data pulled directly from VMs servers on third party diagnostic tools. Technicians complained that the data available was either late or incomplete compared with the dealer tool.

A recent study showed that the potential for financial loss for independent repairers, and extra costs for the motorist, could be huge if the Extended Vehicle concept is enacted in Europe and the UK. Both the VMs and independents, via the medium of trade bodies, are going head-to-head over the issue, and a test server is being set up to illustrate to the European Commision of the sort of problems that are likely to arise from it.

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INDUSTRY CRACKDOWN ON ILLEGAL REFRIGERANT

INDUSTRY CRACKDOWN ON ILLEGAL REFRIGERANT

By Greg Whitaker

Illegal and potentially hazardous air conditioning gas has been entering the UK and European aftermarket, partly as a result of a reduced supply of legitimate R134a refrigerant, according to a director of Honeywell.

As the EU has been pursuing its climate change policy, the amount of harmful fluorocarbon gasses (known as F-gas) allowed to be sold has reduced significantly in the last few years. The first big cut was in 2018 when the amount of gas allowed in the market was reduced by 37 percent.

Tim Vink, Director of Regulatory Affairs at Honeywell International Inc, explained: “The problem comes when people think ‘I can make a bob out of this’, so they get offers from suppliers, essentially from South-East Asia, and possibly unwittingly started importing gas without having an adequate quota. They’d then offer these products [to the market].”

The problem is apparently so widespread in some places that genuine suppliers face what Vink describes as an ‘existential problem’ for their businesses.

Banned containers

Product that has no business being in the market is obviously harmful to legitimate refrigerant suppliers, but the issue has wider implications: “The problem is, you can’t be sure what is on the packaging label is actually in the container and that could cause serious issues with the functioning of the system. It could have a completely different vapour pressure which could blow up the compressor,” warned Vink. “If you are not using the right lubricant and the compressor runs dry, you get a burn out and all that sort of stuff, so you have to be very careful with the material you put into an air-conditioning system”.

Another concern is the container. Vink said that many of the products taken off the market so far have been in non-certified and non-refillable gas bottles, of a type that has not been legal in Europe since 2006. Honeywell and other F-Gas producers have formed a trade body, known as the European Fluorocarbon Technical Committee, or EFCTC, with the aim of informing the market and pursuing culprits through legal channels.

“The members of EFCTC have taken the initiative to take an integrity line where people can report anonymously if they receive anything suspicious in the market and that information can be used to build a picture of where those products are coming from in the market,” explained Vink. The ‘action line’ and legal action against perpetrators is taken by an independent third party, because as Vink explained: “We are not experts in prosecution and providing the right sort of evidence”.

Action line

The initiative has already seen some success. “Material has been seized in the Netherlands, Spain and Poland,” said Vink. “We as an industry are spending a considerable sum with a third party investigation unit that will go to prosecutors in the countries where material is found”.

Vink believes that the spurious product is being sold both online and by cold callers to aftermarket businesses, offering discount gas. Ultimately, the problem will be relieved by an adequate supply of legitimate gas back in the market and Vink assures us that a low-GWP drop-in replacement for R134a is being worked on at the moment, with a launch slated for early 2020.

Get more information about the EFCTC campaign at fluorocarbons.org

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OSRAM COMPLETES RING AUTOMOTIVE ACQUISITION

OSRAM COMPLETES RING AUTOMOTIVE ACQUISITION

Ring Automotive HQ

Lighting manufacturer Osram has completed on the deal to acquire Ring Automotive, following clearance by the Competition and Markets Authority.

The proposed buyout was announced earlier this year, although details of the transaction have not been disclosed. Ring Automotive was previously owned by industrial investment firm Rubicon Partners.

George Skalski, Managing Director of Ring Automotive said of the deal:  “Being part of the Osram family offers us incredible opportunities for further global expansion. The synergies are enormous and will help us to continue our innovation leadership together. In the future, our customers will benefit from the many years of experience of both companies”.

“In addition to expanding our aftermarket portfolio, the acquisition of Ring will enable us to tap into additional sales potential and further expand our market expertise. The aim is to use the additional market and customer access and create synergies in the product portfolio and distribution channels,” said Hans-Joachim Schwabe, CEO of Osram Automotive.

 

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CTEK EMPLOYEE ARRESTED OVER ALLEGED ‘TRADE SECRETS’ THEFT FROM RIVAL

CTEK EMPLOYEE ARRESTED OVER ALLEGED ‘TRADE SECRETS’ THEFT FROM RIVAL

An employee of battery charger firm CTEK has been arrested by Melbourne police over alleged theft of trade secrets at a recent trade show.

 The incident took place at the Australian Auto Aftermarket Expo held in Melbourne earlier this month. In a lawsuit filed in Ohio by the NOCO company, prosecutors allege that the employee stole a notebook containing sales strategy, contacts and other sensitive information.

 CCTV footage confirmed the theft and the man was detained by exhibition centre security until local police came and made a formal arrest.

“We want to thank on-site security, members of the AAAA, and MelbournePolice for their efforts in arresting the individual,” said Thomas Smith, Director of Public Relations on a press statement. 

Smith described the action as ‘evidence of a possible systematic corporate mandate’ to curtail the U.S firm’s growth, something CTEK denied, describing it as an ‘untrue allegation’.

While it accepts that the theft occurred, it said the actions were taken by a lone individual, no longer employed by the company.

In a statement, Jon Lind, Chief Executive at CTEK said: “There was an incident involving a CTEK employee at the Australian Auto Aftermarket Expo in Melbourne, Australia. That individual acted completely on his own, and in disregard of [our] Code of Conduct and instructions. This was an isolated incident by a person acting at his own behest. This person is no longer employed or otherwise associated with CTEK”.

The statement added that the company has ‘zero tolerance for dishonest conduct against competitors or any other business partners’

 In the lawsuit, NOCO is seeking damages and hopes to obtain ‘injunctive protection against the use or dissemination of its trade secrets’  by CTEK.

 

 

  • Updated April 23 to include response from CTEK

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