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ZAFIRA FIRES: VAUXHALL FACE CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION

ZAFIRA FIRES: VAUXHALL FACE CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION

A criminal investigation into the Vauxhall Zafira fire scandal has been launched by DVSA.

The government agency is working with officers from Luton Trading Standards to investigate Vauxhall.

In a written statement, Andy Rice, DVSA head of counter-fraud & investigations, said:: “DVSAs priority is to protect you from unsafe drivers and vehicles”.

“We have made it clear to manufacturers that to protect consumers, they should swiftly rectify problems and meet their obligations under the code of practice”.

“DVSA will take the necessary action against any manufacturers who fail to comply with their obligations.”

The long-running saga of the people carriers catching fire dates back to 2009, when the then GM-owned carmaker first had reports of blazes.

Six years later, and following reports of over a hundred more fires, the VM attempted to point the finger at the aftermarket, blaming ‘unauthorised repairs’ to the thermal resistor cut-off on the heater blower, a recall was offered. The repair was unsuccessful in fixing the problem and another recall with a more extensive repair was made.

Following this, Vauxhall bosses were called into a Select Committee hearing and faced questions from MPs.

Although a majority of the 160 recorded fires have resulted in the total destruction of the vehicle, to date there have been no reports of serious injuries.

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WRS MOTOR FACTORS JOINS A1 BUYING GROUP

WRS MOTOR FACTORS JOINS A1 BUYING GROUP

Somerset-based WRS Motor Factors Ltd has joined buying group A1.

New brands will arrive at WRS

Weston Recovery Services (WRS) was established in Weston-Super-Mare by Robert and Lynn Hopkins in 1983. Today, it has an around the clock breakdown and recovery service.

WRS Motor Factors Ltd was subsequently incorporated in 2006 after some years trading under the Weston Recovery Services umbrella. Operating out of four branches across the Somerset area; Weston-Super-Mare, Shepton Mallet, Wellington and Bridgwater, it supplies many brands such as NGK, Lucas, Mahle and Britpart, as well as stocking a full range of Motaquip products.

Martin Tier of WRS, said: “It’s very important that we have a voice and aren’t just a number and after speaking with them, we feel A1 offer the right environment for us.

“Communication is a key part of this group,” says Simon Salloway, Head of Operations at A1. “We’re all working together. Everyone’s feedback and input is valued, and our combined knowledge and purchasing power form the foundations of our collective success. By listening to each other and working together, we can get a stronger hold in this increasingly competitive industry.”

The businesses trade as WRS Motaquip and this won’t change as the company will continue to buy hard parts from Motaquip. However, the move will widen the factor’s access to brands.

The A1 Motor Factor Group has added a number of well- known names to its network of suppliers in recent months. These include Hella-Hengst, Federal-Mogul and National Auto Parts.

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MOVERS & SHAKERS EXTRA: BILL STIMSON LEAVES ECP, TERRY KNOX IS IAAF VP,

MOVERS & SHAKERS EXTRA

Knox appointed as IAAF VP

The IAAF has appointed Terry Knox as its new Vice President, further adding to its wealth of industry expertise.Knox has been a Member of the IAAF Council since 2016, and is Managing Director of CD Group, a third-generation family business established in 1963, with Knox joining in 1999 to help establish the company’s operations in Republic of Ireland. CD Group’s largest trading name, Component Distributors, is a warehouse distributor, supplying Motor Factors throughout Ireland.  Headquartered in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the company employs close to 200 people.

 

MacAulay becomes Group Autoparts Director

Stewart MacAulay, Arnold Clark director, has become Group Autoparts Director, based at its head office in Glasgow. MacAulay has worked at Arnold Clark for more than 30 years, rising to the role of Group Aftersales Director and brings to the independent aftermarket a wealth of experience. He will be responsible for overseeing the successful running of all factor businesses within the group and ensuring their continued success and development. MacAulay said: “I am looking forward to playing a more specific role within the factor businesses – Autoparts UK and Midwest Motor Factors – and working to ensure we take advantage of any opportunities to develop our proposition further.”

Stimson leaves ECP

Euro Car Parts’ CEO has confirmed that Marketing Director Bill Stimson has left ECP. “We can confirm that Bill Stimson has decided to leave ECP – he feels it is the right time and wants to take advantage of a variety of opportunities he has” said Gray in a written statement. “I would love to take the opportunity to wish him the very best for the future and to thank him for his incredible contribution and leadership.   I sincerely mean that.  Bill is like family and he remains best of friends with all of us!  Bill will always be in close contact for advice, friendship, support and will be very much part of our lives”.

 

 

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EPIC ACCESSORIES GETS TRICO VAN

EPIC ACCESSORIES GETS TRICO VAN

New sporty van for Epic Accessories

Wiper blade brand Trico has presented Epic Accessories with a Trico liveried Ford Fiesta van, after the latter achieved its target during the former’s three-month promotion last year.

The vehicle was handed over to Epic Accessories owner Samantha Gutteridge at the A1 buying group’s spring trade show, which took place at the Whittlebury Hall in Towcester last month.

Speaking of her firm’s new addition, Gutteridge said: “The new vehicle will help us on both a promotional and practical level in getting the message out to potential customers that we fit wiper blades in our designated fitting bay at the rear of our store, so a huge thanks to Trico.”

Sam Robinson, Product Manager at Trico, added: “The show was a great success for us, in particular our promotional offer on Neoform retro-fit beam blades, which was well received with a number of members who placed orders for a merchandise box on the day. We also agreed plans with various members to help boost their sales, including supply of in-store signage, as well as training days to educate and support their staff on selling and fitting Trico blades.”

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SUPPLIERS FINED IN RECENT CARTELS

SUPPLIERS FINED IN RECENT CARTELS

Another cartel has been exposed

The European Commission has fined OE suppliers Bosch, Continental and NGK a total of €151M, after participating in one or more of five historic cartels concerning the supplies of spark plugs, hydraulic and electronic brake system components to VMs in Europe.

The first cartel lasted from 2000 until 2011 and aimed at avoiding competition by respecting each other’s traditional customers and maintaining the existing status quo in the spark plugs industry in the European Economic Area.

The second and third related to the supply of various braking components including electronic parking brake systems between 2007 and 2011.

All suppliers acknowledged their participation in these cartels and agreed to settle the
case. Denso was also involved in the first cartel, but was not fined after revealing the existence of its cartel to the Commission. TRW also escaped fines altogether for disclosing the second and third cartels, while Continental avoided charges for one of the two cartels it participated in on the same grounds.

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who is in charge of competition policy said: “These cases are about collusion at the expense of car makers. But in the end, any extra costs these carmakers may have incurred could potentially be passed on to final consumers when they buy a car. So our work will help to make sure that those markets work fairly for consumers.” She concluded added: “Today’s decisions are unrelated to our investigation that several German carmakers might have broken EU competition rules. That is still ongoing”.

“We will be active in this area as long as we keep finding companies that hope to
make higher profits by colluding instead of competing.”

Previously, bearing suppliers and air conditioning component makers have been fined under the same anti-trust rules for colluding against vehicle manufacturers.

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ON TOP OF THE WEALD

ON TOP OF THE WEALD

Uckfield Motor Services – The Cockill family show us around their Sussex garage

Uckfield Motor Services

What’s the most efficient way of raising your profile as an independent garage? Offering a good service and establishing a customer base that will keep returning time after time is important of course, but arranging a garage in a way that doesn’t feel intimidating to new and non-traditional customers is something that eludes many small businesses.

However, this was less of a problem for Symon Cockill. Coming from a franchise retail background, he understood that the details are important for a customer’s perception of a business. Founded back in 1988, Family-run Uckfield Motor Services was originally based in an anonymous unit at the back of a trading estate, but when the opportunity came to move to one of the customer-facing units alongside the likes of Halfords and Topps Tiles, he jumped at the chance: “Everyone thought we were mad,” he recalled. “When we put the figures on paper, we knew it would be hard work [to justify moving]”. Nonetheless, the move was a step on being a more recognised brand in the town and the business employs Symon, wife Melanie, daughter Hannah, sons Harry and Edward as well as various other technicians.

The units had previously been used by a local bodyshop and so were well suited to become a service and repair garage and part of the Cockill’s strategy was to join a garage scheme and benefit from recognised branding and visibility. Originally, the garage was one of the Unipart Car Care Centres, but left when the well-publicised problems hit Unipart Automotive. The Cockills liked the idea of garage schemes and joined Bosch Car Service for a while, but chose not to re-apply when this scheme restructured in 2015.

Instead, the garage had its own signage made, but there were a number of things about being in a scheme that the family liked. First, there was the raised visibility already mentioned. Secondly, and most importantly according to Edward Cockill is the access to affordable training courses. After speaking to a few suppliers about various schemes and ‘soft franchises’, the team settled on joining AutoFirst, a scheme developed by Euro Car Parts and for which UMS would be the 300th member.

Other than the benefits of being a member of a garage scheme, Uckfield Motor Services also offers customers an option to view work on their car, or at least part of it, on their phones, thanks to a series of video cameras that link to an app. The firm has also joined the bookmygarage and blackcircles aggregators in order to bring some work in from customers who may not have previously visited the workshop.

CLEAN AND TIDY
Touring the building, we’re struck by how clean the facility is. You might expect tidy reception area – and this one is very smart (and complete with a coffee table that uses an F1 tyre as the base). All of the bays are clean and the ramps themselves are positively gleaming. Ten people work in the business in total, and though it isn’t the biggest workshop, there seems to be a system in place where everyone can move around without bumping into each other. As with most high-level independent garages, modern diagnostic play a big part in the business and a proportion of income is spent on the latest scan tools and test equipment.

However, it isn’t all hard work. Outside the workshop is a race- prepped Citroen C1, one of many track cars owned by the family over the years. “Racing is a way of life” explained Edward, though he did note that the little car was a ‘bit slow’ compared to the other, more exotic cars he has driven on the track.

What’s next for the garage? At some point, brothers Edward and Harry are keen to build a glass frontage to enlarge the waiting area and increase the dealer-like feel of the garage.

For the time being, they are happy maintaining their reputation as one of the most popular garages in Sussex.

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MEETING THE BENTLEY BOYS

MEETING THE BENTLEY BOYS

William Medcalf talks us through his preparation business for vintage Bentleys

William Medcalf

Let’s say you are thinking of going on an endurance rally, what car would you take? By endurance, I mean a long, long distance across far-flung and generally inaccessible corners of the world with stretches covering unmade or non-existent roads. You might think about taking a tough four wheel drive that you could get parts for anywhere, a Toyota Land Cruiser perhaps, or a suitably prepared Subaru Impreza.

What you probably wouldn’t consider taking for such long jaunts is a pre-Rolls-Royce era Bentley. Apart from the fact the youngest machine is now 87 years old, you can consider it a given that any roadside factor you might find in the Gobi desert, the jungles of Borneo or the Canadian wilderness won’t have that many parts on the shelf. That’s before we mention that the minimum you can get your name on the logbook for one of these cars is about £300,000 – and this could easily exceed £4m if you were able to persuade one of the owners of the super-rare Blower Bentley to sell it to you.

It’s surprising then that William Medcalf, owner of the eponymous one-make specialist in Sussex says that many of his clients do take their cars on such jaunts. “Around 60 percent of our clientele like to take their cars on rallies,” he tells us as we walk into his workshop, adding that pretty much all of the cars that he looks after are in regular use and not simply museum pieces.

Bentley showroom

RALLIES
Clearly, all of these cars need to be suitably prepared for the epic jaunts they are regularly run on. The balance to be struck is how to make any modifications in keeping with the original car, and reversible if the owner chooses to put it back to entirely standard. To this end, Medcalf employs engineers rather than vehicle technicians and the firm has invested a lot of money in computer design, 3d printing and milling machines. “I’d like to think that if W.O Bentley was here, he’d look at some of our designs and he’d nod in agreement’ Medcalf said, while showing me the internals of a differential that had been made out of a piece of solid billet. “Everyone wants the modifications because you can go and drive the thing around the world. What we are not doing is turning it into something different: It’s all Bentley engineering and Bentley ethos,” he furthered.

There are plenty of other examples of this sensitive approach to making the vehicles more usable. On our visit, an engineer had the drawings for a clutch up on the computer. Previously a clutch failure could mean the car having to be shipped home without completing the rally, but by using the fittings that are already there, Medcalf’s team have developed a clutch that can be replaced far more easily.

All aspects of prep and restoration can be undertaken at the workshop. Apart from mechanical work, bodywork can be restored, welding can be undertake und there’s even a fully-equipped woodworking bench, serving as a reminder that when these cars were new, coachbuilders would have been most familiar in doing exactly that: building horse drawn carriages.

MODERN METHODS
While some of the work might have its roots in the 1800s, the industrial processes in place are not. Despite the one-off nature of working on these cars, every job is coded to a computer- based garage management system, measuring the time and materials each engineer is using on a task. “There are no projects gathering dust in the corner, to be worked on ‘as and when’” explained Medcalf. “Apart from anything else, we simply don’t have the space to clutter up.” The stockroom on the upper mezzanine is a sight to behold. With 15,000 lines, there are a lot of items in the stock drawers that look familiar, but on closer inspection are certainly not. “These screws for instance” says Medcalf, pulling out a bag of machine screws, “Are a size specified by W.O and they aren’t found anywhere else except on a Bentley engine. You can use a different size screw, but there are 136 in an engine and we make them in the original size, and with the right number in the packet – so why use the wrong ones when we have the right ones on the shelf ?”

In-house manufacturing

Other ex-stock parts include beautiful brass water rails and radiators, which are identical to the originals, only with slightly strengthened gussets to prevent blown rads in when running in hot climates. There are fun items like Castrol filler jugs, ranging to the more usual, such as bearing sets. One SKU of note is a copper gasket set, which there are plenty of in the stock location. “You could literally walk in here and buy a gasket set for a ninety year- old car. I’ll bet you couldn’t walk into a BMW dealer and buy a gasket set off the shelf for something built today,” noted Medcalf. They will happily bring engineers and parts to wherever their customers need them as well: Recently one of the team walked through Medcalf’s door on a Friday before a Bank Holiday and walked out with a ticket on the next flight to Tokyo and a differential as a regular client needed repair at the start of a rally stage. A friendly local (in Tokyo) garage was found, the part was fitted, and Medcalf’s employee was back at work in Sussex on the Tuesday. Apparently this is not uncommon.

NEW DESIGNS
New designs for parts are tested on Medcalf ’s own car (which by his own admission is regularly ‘murdered’ on rallies) but there is a plan to take development of parts design a step further. The firm has struck up a partnership with the University of Sussex to produce a ‘Knowledge Transfer Partnership.’ Simply put, the University has assigned a graduate to work with the business, effectively as an employee, for two years, looking at ways, no matter how small, that the understanding and engineering of vintage Bentleys can be honed. The idea is that new skills, and the latest academic thinking can be applied to help the business further streamline and innovate new methods of production. It sounds like an interesting project, and one we’d be interested in learning more about when it concludes.

If you want a vintage Bentley, the business also has a showroom with some cars for sale. Obviously the market is somewhat limited: Out of the estimated 1,600 cars remaining the majority are in the hands of people who neither want or need to sell them. Nonetheless, there are half a dozen cars on sale in the showroom on our visit, ranging from a fabric body doctor’s coupe (complete with cadish accessories in the boot that include a shotgun store, a sink and a fold out bar!) to a concours winning tourer and a blower replica. You’d need to bring some bunce with you though: The cars in the showroom start at £300,000 and range to well over a million.

So if you fancy taking on a new hobby and you have some spare time and a few hundred thousand quid in your back pocket, then you should visit the one-stop-shop for everything Bentley.

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TENNECO ACQUIRES FEDERAL MOGUL

TENNECO ACQUIRES FEDERAL MOGUL

Emission parts firm Tenneco has acquired Federal Mogul from Icahn Enterprises in a deal valued at $5.4B.

Following the acquisition, Tenneco has also announced its intention to separate the combined businesses into two independent, publicly traded companies through a tax-free spin-off to shareholders; establishing,  ‘Aftermarket & Ride Performance Company’ and ‘Powertrain Technology Company’. The agreement is expected to complete in the second half of 2018, subject to regulatory and shareholder approvals with the separation taking place in late 2019.

Brian Kesseler, CEO of Tenneco, said: “Federal-Mogul brings strong brands, products and capabilities that are complementary to Tenneco’s portfolio and in line with our successful growth strategies. Unleashing two new product focused companies with even stronger portfolios will allow them to move faster in executing on their specific growth priorities.”

Carl C. Icahn, Chairman of Icahn Enterprises, added: “Icahn Enterprises acquired majority control of Federal-Mogul in 2008 when we saw an out-of-favor market opportunity for a great company. I am very proud of the business we have built at Federal-Mogul and agree with Tenneco regarding the tremendous value in the business combination and separation into two companies. We expect to be meaningful stockholders of Tenneco going forward and are excited about the prospects for additional value creation,” he concluded.

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EURO CAR PARTS ACQUIRES NEW WAREHOUSES

EURO CAR PARTS ACQUIRES NEW WAREHOUSES

Two sites, similar to this, have been acquired by ECP

Factor chain Euro Car Parts has acquired trade counters in Scarborough and Normanton, Wakefield. The acquisition was completed on behalf of American commercial real estate broker Cushman & Wakefield; however, terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The Scarborough site is now open on Seamer Rd between Howdens and Toolstation, housing 17 staff and six delivery vans within its 3,356 sq ft warehouse. Meanwhile, the Wakefield branch will open in due course on Good Hope Close, located off Pontefract Rd near Junction 31 of the M62 motorway.

“We are delighted to have been able to secure both these sites for ECP, allowing them to expand their presence and better service their ever- growing customer base”, notes Henry King of the Logistics & Industrial team at Cushman & Wakefield. “These new locations are the first of an ambitious 2018 expansion plan
and signify a purposeful and positive start to the year.”

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VISION OF THE FUTURE: NEW BRANDS FOR ELTA AUTOMOTIVE

VISION OF THE FUTURE: NEW BRANDS FOR ELTA AUTOMOTIVE

Midlands-based supplier Elta Automotive has announced the introduction two new brands, VisionPro and VXPro catering for lighting and engine management products respectively.

The company has been best known over the years for being a licensee of the Lucas brand, but a push to get the firm’s into new markets in Europe, and into the hands of new technicians domestically, has led to the introduction of the new ranges which the company says are aimed at the upper end of the aftermarket.

In the case of ignition products, each unit will be shipped in an anti-static bag and the carton will contain fitting notes.

“In this, our 25th year, we are taking a strategic step to address what we believe is a great opportunity for independents within the sector,” said Ian Hallam, MD at the firm. “As the market has evolved and the influence of the big buying groups increased, independent factors and their workshop customers need to have access to a premium quality brand they can call their own”.


The firm will continue to be a Lucas licensee and products under that brand will be unaffected by the new introductions.

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