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EXERCISING CAUTION WHEN HANDLING COMPLAINTS

EXERCISING CAUTION WHEN HANDLING COMPLAINTS

No matter what industry you work in, there will come a time when you receive a complaint based upon the services or goods you have provided.

Unfortunately, the automotive industry is no exception, and it can be easy to see such complaints as an unjustified attack on your company’s good reputation. In the heat of the moment, aggrieved business owners can jump to the defence of their company, engaging in a war of words with the complainant.

According to Gemma Carson, Head of Dispute Resolution at law firm Wright Hassall, they could do more harm than good: “Naturally, business owners can feel like they have a duty to protect their employees, and without thinking, fire back with an angrily worded email, expressing their displeasure with the original complaint.

“When emotions are running high, it is easy to get involved in a heated debate about the rights and wrongs, mistakes and failures, or actions and inactions of one party or another. It is at this point that things can escalate quickly and easily get out of control.

“The most serious issues can occur when promises or threats are made without due consideration given to any existing contractual agreements between the two parties.

“To reduce the risk of worsening the situation, there is plenty that can be done and it should start with a careful consideration of the content of the complaint. The pressure may be on, but take your time and ensure you make no commitments and no threats.

“Allow yourself time to properly cool down before sending a response, as emails sent while emotions are still running high have a nasty habit of biting back later down the line. “Instead, begin by drafting your email and save it to your ‘virtual mantelpiece’. This will give you time to review the situation and think carefully about what you want to say, instead of hitting back with a knee-jerk reaction.

“It is also important to check whether a service agreement and/or a contract exists between the parties. You should read any agreements carefully and check what they actually contain.“With an agreement in place, you may be able to respond to the complaint by highlighting any relevant contractual terms that may help you manage the situation.

DON’T IGNORE
“When dealing with a complaint, it is important to be proactive. By acting quickly, you can help diffuse the situation without the need for any legal involvement.

“Personal, face-to-face meetings will often help resolve issues before they can escalate. It is best to either raise the matter directly or if you suspect it to be more serious, to seek legal advice before you make contact.

“If it does feel serious, you should ensure you retain all of the relevant information relating to the complaint, including documents, correspondence and any products or specimen products from the same batch. It can help if you carry out and document any inspections of equipment or machinery.

GET HELP
“Seeking legal advice early on does not necessarily mean a serious legal dispute has arisen.

“Dispute resolution advice is very effective when delivered soon after the complaint is received, but your lawyers do not need to take an active role in the issue. They can offer strategic legal guidance focused on resolving complaint situations and diffusing potential disputes, whilst preserving the commercial position for the future.

“The most important legal factor to remember is that making a rash statement or taking a knee- jerk decision to stop providing your services or products, by sending that angry e-mail draft without first putting it on the virtual mantelpiece, may cause a serious breach of contract.

“If nothing else you risk a serious argument and potentially a threat of injunctive proceedings. In simple terms, a breach of contract can entitle the party affected by it to terminate the contract and then bring legal proceedings against you for damages.

“For this reason, sending that inflammatory e-mail without firstconsideringthe consequences could be a huge mistake that ends up costing time and money, both of which could be better spent managing or growing the business.

“Finally, where parties have become so embroiled that legal proceedings are not only threatened, but seem the only option, choose to work with experienced lawyers who understand commercial disputes and demonstrate a commitment to reaching an early, commercial and cost- effective resolution” concluded Carson.

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ASA FINDS BMW AD ‘MISLEADING’

ASA FINDS BMW AD ‘MISLEADING’

BMW i3 model

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a complaint against BMW regarding a paid-for Facebook post, which featured a video claiming its i3 model contained ‘zero emissions’ in the voice-over and subtitles on screen.

The complainant challenged whether the claim: “With zero emissions, the i3 is a clean car and helps to give back to the environment” could be ‘substantiated’.

BMW (UK) responded saying that its i3 vehicle came in one model with the addition of a ‘range extender’ as an option. The firm said this comprised of a small petrol engine that didn’t drive the car unlike hybrid versions and instead, maintained the state of the charge of the battery, allowing the car to run purely on electric. In addition, BMW told the advertising watchdog that the reference to ‘clean car’ ‘should have been interpreted in the same manner as when consumers compare an electric car to their previous petrol ones as electric versions are considered better for the environment.

Despite the VM’s evidence, the ASA found this ad breached the rules, because it does still have a petrol engine, albeit one that isn’t connected to the drivetrain.

“We noted that BMW considered the statement was meant as a comparison between buying an electric car and buying a petrol car rather than not buying a car at all. However, we did not consider that this was sufficiently clear in the ad and concluded that the claim was misleading,” the ASA said in a statement.

The ad cannot appear again in its current form and has told BMW to ensure its environmental claims in relation to all-electric vehicles are clear in the future.

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LIQUI MOLY ACQUIRED BY WÜRTH GROUP

LIQUI MOLY ACQUIRED BY WÜRTH GROUP

A deal has been struck by German lube producer Würth Group to acquire Liqui Moly.

Würth Group has owned shares in the Ulm-based company for some years. Now, Managing Partner Ernst Prost has agreed to sell his controlling share in the company, effective January 1s subject to the usual regulatory approvals.  

Following the sale, Würth has said that Liqui Moly will continue to operate as an autonomous company with an independent brand in the Group. Prost will remain with Liqui Moly as joint MD, sharing the role with the firm’s long-standing Head of Sales, Günter Hiermaier.

Liqui Moly has sponsored Team Engstler for years

Peter Zürn, Deputy Chairman of the Central Managing Board of the Würth Group said: “We are proud that this successful and established brand, which is known for its outstanding reputation and great dynamics, will enrich the portfolio of the Würth Group. Our objective is the sustained successful development of Liqui Moly in the future. This is why we will continue to put our faith in the entrepreneurial expertise of Ernst Prost, just as we have done in the past 20 years as a silent partner at Liqui Moly”.

From Prost’s perspective it will be business as usual: “Those who know me know that my employees are my focus,” he said. “After all, it would be foolish to change anything about the road to success over the past few years. Everything will continue just as before – just under a bigger roof that offers greater protection.

In fiscal year 2016, Liqui Moly generated sales of approximately EUR 500 million with 800 employees.

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AAG ACQUIRE FAST PARTS WALES AND MORE

AAG ACQUIRE FAST PARTS WALES AND MORE

Newport-based factor chain Fast Parts Wales and Peterborough-based Hereward Car and Truck Components are among a list of businesses acquired by Alliance Automotive Group in the last quarter.

Fast Parts Wales is a three branch light vehicle factor business based in South Wales with depots in Abercarn, Cwmbran & Tredegar.  The business was started around 25 years ago by the Travis family and the deal also includes the FastRads cooling system business based in Abercarn. The annual sales are around £9m and prior to the acquisition the business was a member of AAG’s GROUPAUTO buying group.

Hereward Car and Truck Components is another family run business, started in 1983 by the Saddington family. The two-branch factor was a member of the IFA buying group prior to the acquisition by AAG. Annual sales have been around £2.8m.

Single branch factors Macclesfield Motor Factors, DMFX (Darlington) and GD Components (Anglesey) have also been acquired by AAG.

There’s more info in the January issue of CAT Magazine.

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GETTING A NEW ANGLE ON SAXON

GETTING A NEW ANGLE ON SAXON

Claire Seymour shows us some fast-moving products at a brand distributor in Hungerford

POS with current range

As is often the case in Aftermarket Lives visits, I’m admiring a warehouse, but if the truth be told it is probably the least interesting thing about the company that I’m visiting today (though it does have an exceptionally low roof height, which is due to planning restrictions in a residential area, apparently).

What is interesting is the products distributed by Saxon. By our count, the firm distributes 27 brands and hundreds of different products to chain stores and supermarkets, independent retailers and garage forecourts and online vendors alike. Most of the brands are distributed on behalf of other compnies, but some of the names, such as Sakura and Metro Products are wholly owned by Saxon.

With that in mind, it seemed like a good place to come to find out what products are trending and what belongs in the bargain bin. The answer, as I found out, is a little more traditional than you might think.

TREE GROWTH
Curiously, given that hardly anybody smokes in their vehicle these days, the humble air freshener is still the best selling product by volume in the warehouse and by far the best selling brand is Little Trees (nee Magic Tree) which despite the updated name, and slightly more realistic outline of an evergreen, is still essentially the same product that was invented in 1952.

That said, there are dozens of fragrances with names such as ‘Silly Citrus’ and ‘Summer Cotton’ to give the product a novelty each season. However, as Saxon’s Commercial and Products Manager Clair Seymour tells u it is the most traditional scents such as ‘Vanillaroma’ and ‘Black Ice’ that make up the majority of sales, with another long-standing product called ‘New Car Scent’ coming in third place. This struck us as curious – after all, who wants their car smelling of the glues and plastics that give new cars their distinctive smell?

Nonetheless, thousands are packed and shipped out to retailers from the Hungerford depot each day. Some like the contents of the boxes to be mixed, others like them with one ‘flavour’ at a time, while some clients like the trees to be pre- packed into quantities of three or six, which makes them more suitable for online retail. Saxon has done a supply deal with Amazon and the tech giant has a button that allows the consumer an option to ‘subscribe’ to have a regular delivery of a six-pack of Trees automatically sent in the post.

GUARD DOG
Sakura is a traditional accessory shop brand, which since becoming a wholly-owned Saxon brand has adopted a uniform brand identity and packaging style. This is good, because accessories as diverse as car vacuums, wheel trims and luggage straps are sold under the same brand.

Today the brand also offers a lot of light in-car tech: think of USB chargers, power inverters, FM transmitters and the like. The best selling line is none of these though: Indeed, it is a new version of a very old product that is delighting retailers this season, namely a dog guard. The guard differs from others, because it clips on to the head restraint supports on the back seat, rather than being a push-fit. On our visit, there were pallets full of these guards, which along with the related boot liner kit are doing big business for the firm. “It’s amazing the amount we are selling of these guards” said Seymour, explaining that the company looked at how it could improve the design following customer feedback.

OLD SCHOOL
Perhaps one of the most curious examples of a product thought to be obsolete is Stoplock. The bright yellow steel bar was an effective if unsubtle way of stopping joyriders stealing 1980s- era cars. However, the introduction of radio chip keys
made the Stoplock feel like a very twentieth century product, and in line with vehicle thefts, sales volumes declined sharply.

For a while, it looked like the existing stock POS with current range would be run down and the product quietly dropped, but something remarkable happened. A spate of thefts where criminals had managed to steal BMWs by hacking the OBD port led police in the West Midlands to advise motorists with high-end vehicles to start using such a lock.

“It is surprising trend” said Seymour, “But vehicle thefts have increased 12 percent since 2015, reversing years of decline and people were asking for a physical deterrent”.

Sales went up as people, understandably wanted to keep their car safe. Sales received a further boost when another group of wrongdoers worked out how to clone key fobs by using a weak radio signal when in close proximity. This led the company to retool and introduce new products that could fit over the bulge of the airbag on some luxury 4x4s. The company also introduced a neat black carry case to hide the lock in.

There are any number of new options one can have when ordering a new car, but for now it seems that the traditional products are the best.

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CAT AWARDS 2018:  VOTING NOW OPEN

CAT AWARDS 2018: VOTING NOW OPEN

The nominations for the CAT Awards 2018 are in. You can now vote for your winners by filling in the short form here. All of the category winners will be announced at the awards ceremony taking place in the luxury surroundings of the Lowry Hotel in Manchester on Friday 9th February 2018.

 

 

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MAINTAINING EMISSION STANDARDS

MAINTAINING EMISSION STANDARDS

Launch DPF Gun

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

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

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

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

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

CLEANING AND TESTING

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

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

Euro5 BM

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

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

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BREAKING: ECP PARENT TO ACQUIRE STAHLGRUBER

BREAKING: ECP PARENT TO ACQUIRE STAHLGRUBER

Euro Car Parts’ parent company LKQ Corporation has entered an agreement to acquire Stahlgruber GmbH in a deal valued at roughly €1.5bn.

Stahlgruber is one of Germany’s largest factor chains and, as was discussed at last week’s IAAF conference, it was known to be for sale.

A report in the October issue of CAT highlighted how Stahlgruber recently invested in a vast automatic warehouse using robotics from TGW Logistics. The firm has over 500,000 SKUs and 100,000 clients on its books.

LKQ plans to complete the deal in March or April of next year, subject to usual regulatory approvals.

John S. Quinn CEO of LKQ said: “The LKQ Europe management team and I look forward to working with Stahlgruber’s management team and leveraging our combined best practices to maximize the benefits of scale across the continent.”

Heinz Reiner Reiff, CEO of Stahlgruber Otto Gruber AG, added: “I am very excited about the meaningful benefits that will occur by combining our complementary cultures and industry leading management, which together position Stahlgruber to achieve the continued growth of its European businesses. Our acceptance of LKQ shares as part of the consideration emphasizes our belief in the value of this combination.”

More on this deal as we get it.

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DELPHI AUTOMOTIVE TO BECOME APTIV PLC

DELPHI AUTOMOTIVE TO BECOME APTIV PLC

Following the recent split of Delphi into powertrain and automotive divisions, both departments have taken new names.

The powertrain segment will become Delphi Technologies, while the department formerly known as Delphi Automotive will be called Aptiv PLC.

As aftermarket products are made by Delphi Technologies, the brand will remain on products in factors.

“Despite recent debates around the future of the internal combustion engine, market experts predict that around 95 percent of vehicles on the road will still have an engine in 2025, albeit with increasing degrees of electrification,” said Liam Butterworth, newly appointed CEO, Delphi Technologies.. “This means we have the opportunity to make significant step changes in vehicle performance on the way to a fully electric market. ”

Apiv President and CEO Kevin Clark said: “Aptiv is built on a strong foundation of industry firsts, and has the knowledge, capability, and agility to win with traditional OEM customers and emerging mobility players. It is a remarkable time to be in our industry, and we are very confident about our future.”

Both Aptiv and Delphi Technologies will officially set out their stands as separate entities at CES, held in Las Vegas in January.

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SMMT PRESIDENT: ‘CONCRETE PROGRESS’ NEEDED ON BREXIT

SMMT PRESIDENT: ‘CONCRETE PROGRESS’ NEEDED ON BREXIT

The 101st SMMT dinner was interrupted before it had even started by Greenpeace protesters who managed to get on stage with a ‘Toxic Air award’ for VW. It was clear from the outset that this was going to be a politically charged event.

Mike Hawes, Tony Walker and Jennifer Saunders at SMMT Dinner 2017

Greenpeace invaded SMMT Dinner to present VW with ‘Toxic Air Award’.

Tony Walker delivered speech about the need for ‘concrete progress’ on Brexit

 

Following an introduction by Jennifer Saunders, SMMT Chief Exec, Mike Hawes took to the stage to talk about what he saw as the dangers of ‘demonising’ diesel. “Customers are not moving straight from diesel to electric. They are switching to petrol or are staying put in their older cars” he said, adding that the decision in the budget to increase tax on diesel cars leads to a falling market and a, conversely, rise in CO2 emissions. “This is not a policy without consequences. It has to stop” he said.

Business Minister, Greg Clark made a speech in which he acknowledged that the car industry was of ‘fundamental importance to the British economy’. He added that there was an industrial strategy in place, which ‘in many ways’ had been inspired by the motor industry.  

However, SMMT President Tony Walker warned of the dangers of a no-deal situation and a 10 percent tariff on exports. “Competitiveness comes hard-won. It can be easily lost” he said. “A hard Brexit would undermine all that we have collectively achieved. It is a real threat – a hurdle we cannot ignore.” He acknowledged that it was Government policy ’not to fall over a cliff edge’ but there needed to be evidence of ‘concrete progress – and quickly’.

Walker expanded that falling consumer confidence, uncertainty about Brexit and market confusion over diesel have taken their toll on sales domestically, and that the threat of trade barriers was putting the ‘export-led renaissance’  of the UK’s manufacturing base. “Our supply chains are integrated with Europe and well developed over time” he said. “We cannot disrupt them…We do not need trade barriers to be our next challenge”.

 

 

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