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BREAKING: CHANGE AT THE TOP AT FPS

BREAKING: CHANGE AT THE TOP AT FPS

Breaking: The following statement has been released by FPS:

“FPS are pleased to announce today that Jonathan Eden is to take the role of Managing Director, effective from 1st December 2017. Jonathan joined the team in 2013, initially with responsibility for IT, and became Finance and IT Director in early 2016 following the retirement of Peter Blackburn. Prior to working at FPS, Jonathan worked in the aftermarket for 23 years, so brings considerable industry experience to this role.

FPS are also pleased to announce that Duane Trower will be joining the business from Unipart Rail on 4th December, to take up the position as Director of Logistics. Duane has substantial and broad logistics and aftermarket experience which will support the continued growth of FPS.

This succession follows the planned decision by Neil Davis and Adrian Parker to step down from the business at the end of this year, after a period of handover. Both joined in 2001, having formed part of the leadership team since then.

Neil Davis commented “It’s been a pleasure to work at FPS, a business that really is the sum of the people, and on behalf of Adrian and myself, I’d like to thank all our colleagues who have worked so hard in the business over so many years. We’d also like to congratulate Jonathan on his appointment, and wish everyone all the best for the future”.

Jonathan Eden commented “FPS has seen continuous growth for the last 17 years, and continues to invest to ensure it will keep adding value for both its customer and supplier partners. I’d like to thank Adrian and Neil on behalf of everyone for their contribution to FPS over so many years, and look forward to the future working closely with all my colleagues across the business”.

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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.

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HALFORDS INTERIM RESULTS: MODEST GROWTH IN ‘CHALLENGING CONDITIONS’

HALFORDS INTERIM RESULTS: MODEST GROWTH IN ‘CHALLENGING CONDITIONS’

Retail chain Halfords has published interim results for 2018. This will be the first set of results released since CEO Jill McDonald finished working out her notice at the end of October.

The group published modest growth in most areas, during what it described as ‘challenging conditions’, citing the weak pound and disappointing summer weather as reasons for gross margin to be weaker than it could be.

Like-for-like sales in car accessories were down two percent, which the group blamed on the continuing slide in the sale of sat-navs (which now make up around three percent of accessory sales, down from a high of 20 percent). The results were offset to some extent by the continued growth in dashcam sales.

The number of pushbikes sold was lower than the previous period, but the sector still recorded growth as the bikes had a higher average price, helped in no small part by the increase in popularity of e-bikes, which are now available across the chain’s network. The report also mentioned that two new Cycle Republic stores opened during the period.

Jonny Mason, Chief Financial Officer & Interim Chief Executive Officer, commented: “It is pleasing to report positive sales growth for this period, despite the poorer summer weather and the uncertainty in the UK economy. We are also pleased with our profit performance in the half, as we offset a large part of the (circa) £15m increase in costs that resulted from the impact of the weaker pound. Looking ahead, we have strong plans both in-store and online for the Cyber, Christmas and winter peaks.”

Ex-Dixons Carphone boss, Graham Stapleton has been hired as the new CEO and is expected to start in January.

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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)

EMPLOYEE MONITORING

EMPLOYEE MONITORING

Employee monitoring methods should be considered carefully

A recent decision by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights has brought the question of employee monitoring to the forefront of employers’ minds once again. The Grand Chamber in Bărbulescu v Romania examined the ability of employers to monitor their employees’ work, email accounts and in particular, the extent to which employers can check whether employees are using email accounts for solely work-related purposes.

Mr Bărbulescu was dismissed by his employer for unauthorised personal use of the internet. The dismissal arose as a result of allegation that Bărbulescu had been using a Yahoo messenger account whilst at work. Following various decisions in Romania and in the European courts, the Grand Chamber of the ECHR determined that Bărbulescu’s private life and correspondence had been infringed.

It is worth noting that employers can be found to be vicariously liable for the actions of their employees in the course of their duties. This means that employers may find themselves liable for their employees’ actions if the employee causes damage or loss to a third party. Employers therefore often find that they have a heightened interest in understanding – and keeping tabs on – the activities of their employees.

EMAIL AND INTERNET USE
The Grand Chamber decision in Bărbulescu v Romania highlights the fine balance between an employee’s reasonable expectation of privacy and an employer’s right to check the activities of those working for them. It was not sufficient for the employer to simply inform the employee that there was an internet usage policy in place but instead, the Grand Chamber found the employee should also have been made aware of the extent and nature of the monitoring activities that the employer was putting in place.

In the UK, the monitoring of employees is heavily regulated by existing legislation, which places limitations on the
powers of employers to monitor their employees’ private communications, including the Data Protection Act 1998 (and soon to be the General Data Protection Regulation, which comes into force in May 2018). Employers must provide
legitimate reason to justify the monitoring of an employee’s communications. This requires some form of assessment to be in place in order to decide whether legitimate reasons are in place.

The importance of an assessment can also be found in the Information Commissioner’s Employment Practices Code in the UK. The Code recommends that employers carry out an impact assessment, taking into account factors such as the purpose behind the monitoring arrangement and any benefits or adverse effects that arise from this monitoring.

Ultimately, employers must be satisfied that they have achieved the correct balance between protecting workers’ privacy and the interests of the business. Carrying out an impact assessment in relation to communications monitoring is one way in which employers can demonstrate that they have achieved this. Employers should also ensure they have a communications monitoring policy in place and where possible, this should be backed up with specific training on the use of IT and email systems.

DRUG AND ALCOHOL MISUSE
Employers have a responsibility to look after the wellbeing, health and safety of employees whilst they are in the workplace, and this duty may extend to ensuring that employees are not misusing drugs or alcohol.

The extent to which employers will need to monitor their employees’ use of alcohol or indeed drugs, will depend on the particular environment in which the business is based. For instance, in some circumstances, it may be appropriate for employees to consume alcohol whilst entertaining clients. For other industries, however, employers will need to be much more cautious about their employees’ use of alcohol or drugs. Those whose staff use vehicles as part of their jobs, for instance, will need to maintain a higher level of vigilance in this respect.

Employers may want to consider whether it is necessary to carry out drug screening or alcohol testing. This will – of course – only be relevant in particular industries, however, for those where this is likely to be an issue, then employers should ensure that reference to screening or testing is included in a policy given to all staff.

Even with a drug screening or alcohol testing policy in place, employers will not be able to require staff to submit to testing without their specific consent to do so. One option is to draft the monitoring policy to say that withholding consent is a misconduct offence in itself.

TRACKING
Employers whose staff work ‘off-site’ – say when driving – may find it particularly difficult to know the exact movements of their employees during their working hours. Improvements in technology have, however, made employee accountability in the workplace much easier in recent years. Again, industries which rely on employees driving vehicles may find this kind of technology particularly useful. GPS, for instance, highlights if drivers are deviating from their planned routes or if there is traffic preventing them from reaching their destination.

If employers do intend to monitor vehicles they should ensure that they provide a policy which sets out the nature and extent of the monitoring. Employers should satisfy themselves that their employees are aware of the policy that is in place, what information is recorded and the purpose for that recording. Where the vehicle is used for both private and business use employers, should be particularly wary, as monitoring movements when the vehicle is being used privately will rarely (if ever) be justified.

CONCLUSION
Monitoring employees can take place in a variety of ways and employers should carefully consider which form of monitoring is necessary for their business, without being unnecessarily intrusive to the privacy of staff. Carrying out impact assessments are often a useful way of determining whether the monitoring is truly justifiable.

Case law such as Bărbulescu v Romania clearly demonstrates that the courts take the privacy of staff in the workplace very seriously. In order to reduce the risk of employee complaints, employers should try to be transparent and honest with employees about monitoring which they may be subject to.

Getting employee monitoring wrong can have a significant impact. Employers could face discrimination complaints or employees resigning and claiming constructive dismissal. Employees could argue that their rights under the Data Protection Act 1998 – or even the Human Rights Act 1998 – have been infringed. In addition to the cost and time associated with defending a claim, an employer could be found liable by a court, employment tribunal or the Information Commissioner’s Office, and ordered to pay compensation.

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NEW DIVISION AND DATA FIRM FOR SCHAEFFLER

NEW DIVISION AND DATA FIRM FOR SCHAEFFLER

Changes at Schaeffler for the New Year

The Schaeffler group is expanding its company divisions with the announcement of its aftermarket subsidiary that will come into effect on January 1st.

The clutch maker will now consist of three separate divisions – Automotive OEM, Industrial and the newly appointed autonomous Automotive Aftermarket business, where all sites operating under this brand will report directly to the company’s head office in Langen, Germany. The full upgrade to division status has also prompted a shake-up in the senior management team appointing Michael Söding to the Board of Managing Directors of whom has been President of the AAM business since it was established in 2009.

“This upgrade to division status within the Schaeffler Group allows AAM to push forward necessary improvements and changes faster and more effectively – for the benefits of our customers”, said Jeff Earl, UK Marketing Manager at Schaeffler, “The UK AAM organisation will also reap the benefits from this stronger position within the group. We will continue to deliver the market leading range of LuK, INA, FAG and Ruville repair solutions, along with the unmatched levels of service that customers have come to expect.”

To further strengthen its position, the group has also acquired Autinity Systems GmbH for an undisclosed sum. Speaking of its latest purchase, Earl said, “autinity systems GmbH specialises in the digital collection evaluation and analysis of machine data in real time, and its acquisition allows Schaeffler to strengthen its data capture and status monitoring capability as key elements in the computer assisted production of its industrial and automotive components,” he concluded. “The acquisition is part of the M&A adopted by the Schaeffler Group, supporting the global concept of “Mobility for tomorrow” and providing additional technological capabilities to assist in the ongoing pursuit of its digital agenda.”

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VALEO COMPLETES FTE AUTOMOTIVE ACQUISITION

VALEO COMPLETES FTE AUTOMOTIVE ACQUISITION

Parts maker Valeo has completed the acquisition of actuator firm FTE Automotive, having received clearances from the European Commission and the Turkish Competition Authority. All FTE employees will transfer to Valeo.

Valeo says that the acquisition will allow it to expand its offering of active hydraulic actuators, a fast-growing market that has benefited from the rise of hybrid and electric vehicles.

Jacques Aschenbroich, Valeo’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, said: “With the acquisition of FTE Automotive, Valeo is positioning itself as the technological leader on the actuators market and thereby consolidating its CO2 emissions reduction strategy. This acquisition will help strengthen Valeo’s Powertrain Systems business. We are happy to welcome FTE’s 3,800 employees to the Valeo Group.”

In 2016, FTE Automotive generated sales of around 550 million euros. The company has more than 3,800 employees and a diversified manufacturing footprint in eight countries, including Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Mexico and China.

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THE ‘DISRUPTIVE FORCES’ OF THE NEAR FUTURE

THE ‘DISRUPTIVE FORCES’ OF THE NEAR FUTURE

A senior figure at Delphi explains some of the change to vehicles and how this could affect the aftermarket.

Unless you’ve been living under one of Ned Ludd’s stocking frames for the last decade, you can’t have missed all the brough-ha- ha about the connected car. Trade bodies talk about the issues endlessly and the topics are often brought up in discussions in Europe.

However, the people that discuss the why’s and wherefores are rarely the people who are actually developing the systems. As a result, there are often crucial points that are misunderstood. To counter this, we had a conversation with David Paja, Senior Vice President and President, Electronics & Safety at Delphi, who states that there are are three obstacles (or ‘megatrends’ as he calls them) that need to be addressed before the sort of connectivity that VMs and governments are asking for can be achieved.

BIG DATA
The first huge problem is the sheer volume of data that is captured by next-generation vehicles’ sensors, cameras and radar. “If you think of a vehicle on the road today, the amount of data captured by the vehicle is in the order of several megabytes per second, but as we move towards fully autonomous vehicles, there could be many gigabytes per second that could be generated,” said Paja explaining that a gigabyte is equivalent to 1,024 megabytes.

“Not all of that data is usable, but when we think of the needs of moving it around the vehicle, the needs are first of all one gigabyte per second, moving up to ten gb per second”.

Paja explained that with that amount of data, the ‘current connectivity doesn’t scale’. “We will have to rethink all of the architecture” he said. The key in how to manage all of that information is ‘centralisation,’ – or in other words, upload it to the cloud. Not all of it will have any use or relevance, in fact Delphi says that only around five percent will be stored, although that is still going to be a heck of a lot of data.

This brings Paja to the next point: What to do with all of this info, and who would want it. The answer might surprise you, as the data thrown up by cars turns out to be extremely valuable to those who know what to do with it. “In the future, a lot of value is going to be put on the data,” he said. “A lot of analysts have attempted to size the value data services business. They talk about $750bn of potential value. We’ve been adding capabilities to extract the right data and move into a marketplace where it can be monetized. So we are in a good position to embrace this megatrend.”

There are lots of people who want the data – and not just staticians looking to build electronic road pricing models. All sorts of information that can be useful to marketing experts and insurance companies can be gleaned from the computers by those that know how to cut to the data required. To that end, suppliers are starting to do deals with software firms that offer ‘data solutions’: Delphi for example has acquired Dearborn-based data analytics firm, ControlTec. It has also started work with a ‘data broker’, a firm that buys raw data, structures it and offers it for sale.

Don’t think that all of this computing happens on remote cloud servers though. Indeed, your own vehicle will decide what info needs to go where, so some analytics must be done on board the vehicle. This requires a sharp rise in the size of the computers. “Traditionally a computing power increase tends to follow Moore’s Law, where the capacity doubles over time, but when you think about the computing power increase needed here, it is not a linear curve, but exponential,” explains Paja. “Today, a vehicle can have up to 50 ECUs and modules. With the connected car you could double that… well, that isn’t scalable, there isn’t room on the car for a start. It isn’t practical and would be too expensive so there has to be a significant consolidation.”

The plan from Delphi, and no doubt from other ECU suppliers is to reduce the number of ECUs, including the various body control modules from the current 50 to just three large computers. “Our view is that there only needs to be three, and this will enable savings in mass production,” he said, adding that consolidating the computers and redesigning the network bus accordingly will make affordable, true self- driving cars closer to becoming a real possibility.

SERVICE

So where does this brave new world of scaled data leave the aftermarket? Asked how the aftermarket will connect to the cars, he replied, “That’s a good question, and one I’m not sure I have the answer.” Pressed further, it seems that the OBD port will only be left on the car for as long as legislation actually requires it to be there, because diagnostics data can be streamed wirelessly. This goes back to the question of ‘access to data’. The dealership will be able to communicate with the car, potentially from anywhere as it is connected to the cloud, through a channel, but the connection obviously needs to be encrypted to keep out hackers and would-be car thieves. The problem for us in the aftermarket is to identify who has the ‘right’ to also have access to these secure channels and how this right is enshrined in European law.

However, if you can get on the network then the good news is that electronic fault- finding should be a bit easier, thanks to the huge reduction in the number of controllers and associated wiring, although Paja explains that monitoring live data comes with a caveat: “It certainly does (offer diagnostic advances) across multiple controllers but the amount of incoming data by orders of magnitude… Discriminating data becomes very important when you have such a large amount of it.” The network itself will be different to the CAN that garages have become used to. Some data (firing the injectors, triggering the airbags etc) obviously has priority over other functions, but the wiring won’t be as crude as simply having high – and low – speed network wiring.

MAJOR CHANGE
Whatever happens to vehicle’s wiring looms over the next few years, one thing is clear: It certainly won’t be business as usual, for either the VMs, supply chain OEMs like Delphi, or us in the aftermarket. “I don’t think there has been a situation in automotive history where there have been so many ‘disruptive forces’ happening at the same time,” said Paja. “Electrification will be a disruptive force and autonomy as well as data connectivity. The three things are happening at the same time. There are opportunities as it is pushing companies to adapt and adapt very fast.”

Let’s hope we all manage to adapt, before it’s too late.

DEBATE OVER ACCESS TO DATA
Who will, and who won’t have access to data on the next generation of vehicles is a topic that has been kicked around by the aftermarket and by people speaking on behalf of the VMs for ages, and now the discussion has reached the Commons. Transport Minister Lord Callanan said, “Risks of people hacking into the technology might be low, but we must make sure the public is protected. Whether we’re turning vehicles into wi-fi connected hotspots or equipping them with millions of lines of code to become fully automated, it is important that they are protected against cyber- attacks. That’s why it’s essential all parties involved in the manufacturing and supply chain are provided with a consistent set of guidelines that support this global industry.”

The IMI’s Steve Nash asks who actually has access to this info, which largely falls outside the scope of the new GDPR data protection act, as it relates to the vehicle and not the individual. “With the sector currently unregulated and no national standards in place, it’s not always possible to track the people who may have access to our personal information,” Nash said. “We are working hard to get government to address this area as well as the creation of systems at the manufacturing stage, so that motorists have confidence that they are not at risk.”

Mike Hawes, Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders Chief Exec commented: “A consistent set of guidelines is an important step towards ensuring the UK can be among the first – and safest – of international markets to grasp the benefits of this exciting new technology.”

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VLS RECEIVES 50TH CASE

VLS RECEIVES 50TH CASE

As the Verification of Lubricant Specifications receives its 50th case complaint, the Director reviews the cases it has investigated so far

VLS was formed in 2013, when the industry faced a real problem. Lubricant products were being sold by some new market entrants with claims that just did not seem to be believable. Closer inspection found that occasionally sub- standard formulations provided by newly-established companies were being passed off as the latest specifications to their customers, or even failing to perform effectively at low temperatures.

Even though the majority of lubricants were compliant with relevant market standards and manufacturer approvals, out of this concern reputable lubricant blenders and manufacturers came together to launch the Verification of Lubricant Specifications (VLS), an industry-led service that independently validates complaints regarding the technical specifications and performance claims of products.

Four years on, VLS has tackled 50 cases, receiving its 50th complaint in September this year. Looking back over the cases so far presents some interesting reading.

MISLEADING CLAIMS
The first case was received in March 2014. The complaint related to an engine oil which was making unrealistic claims that did not comply with ACEA sequences for which it was claimed to be suitable. At the time, VLS was still relatively new and people did not know what to expect. The company involved soon saw that it meant business as the case was escalated to Trading Standards and the company suspended from membership of the United Kingdom Lubricants Association (UKLA) until the matter was resolved.

Non-compliance with ACEA has accounted for the majority (60 percent) of cases. These engine oil sequences change every four years to take account of developments in emission regulations and technical developments in OEM engine design. Lubricant marketers need to manage their stockholding to ensure they are not left with old stock on the shelves when the new sequences become mandatory. VLS cases have shown that they will get reported, investigated and required to withdraw mislabelled stock if necessary.

COLD WEATHER
Around a quarter of cases have related to low temperature properties, which is a particular safety issue. In one case a lubricant was found to turn solid at temperatures of minus 40 degrees centigrade. Whilst the temperature in some parts of the country rarely stays below freezing for a sustained length of time, in Scotland, extreme temperatures are not uncommon. To be within specification, lubricants must be able to perform even in these extreme conditions to avoid damage to vehicles.

OIL TYPES
Of the cases investigated three quarters have related to passenger vehicle engine oils. This is in line with expectations, as automotive comprises a significant sector in the marketplace, as much as half of all lubricants sold. However, VLS’ remit does include everything from engine to transmission and gear oil and all have featured in cases. Seven cases of automotive gear oils with suspected low temperature properties have been investigated. Cases have also been reported in automotive transmission fluids and hydraulic fluids. VLS has even investigated agricultural tractor oil. So far only two cases have been received relating to industrial products and one in the marine sector. VLS plans to focus on raising awareness in this sector as well.

AFTERMARKET AND BEYOND

Over the course of 2017 the number of cases brought to the attention of the organisation has reduced as the initial issues of non-compliance have been tackled in the wider lubricant marketplace. There is now a greater awareness amongst marketers and blenders as to what constitutes a compliant product.

We know this because blenders report that there is a greater degree of compliance in the market place, additive companies tell us that they are engaging with companies that they have not had a relationship with previously, and European body ATIEL has also begun its own programme of policing conformity.

If you have any concerns about lubricant products then you can report them to VLS by calling 01442 875922 or emailing admin@ukla-vls.org. uk. VLS handles all cases anonymously through a clearly defined process which includes technical review by a panel of experts from across the industry and dialogue with the manufacturer and all relevant parties to work together to resolve any issues.

You can find out more about VLS by visiting their website: www.ukla-vls.org.uk or calling 01442 875922.

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