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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.

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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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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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BREAKING: NINE AP BRANCHES MUST BE SOLD TO ‘PURCHASER APPROVED BY CMA’

BREAKING: NINE AP BRANCHES MUST BE SOLD TO ‘PURCHASER APPROVED BY CMA’

In a statement released by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), Euro Car Parts must now ‘sell a depot in each of these areas to a purchaser approved by CMA, so that customers don’t lose out’.

ECP bought most of the Andrew Page business in October 2016, after the latter went into administration.

A group of independent CMA panel members identified nine areas in England where the both companies were close competitors and where the merger could ‘significantly reduce competition’ for local customers.

The group did not consider that larger national or multi-regional customers would be adversely affected by the merger.

Professor Alasdair Smith, Inquiry Chair, said: “Following an in-depth investigation, we have found that this merger has the potential to drive up prices or reduce levels of service for customers in 9 local areas. That’s why we are requiring a depot in each area to be sold to a buyer approved by the CMA”.

“Outside of these areas, we did not find that the merger will further reduce competition compared to what would have happened if Euro Car Parts had not purchased Andrew Page”.

The nine affected areas are: Blackpool, Brighton, Gloucester, Liphook, Scunthorpe, Sunderland, Wakefield, Worthing and York. Swindon had also been identified during the provisional findings stage, but new evidence came to light which resulted in the group deciding that competition would not be affected in this area.

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BREAKING: ECP/ANDREW PAGE CMA FINAL REPORT PUBLISHED

BREAKING: ECP/ANDREW PAGE CMA FINAL REPORT PUBLISHED

Breaking news: CMA has published its final report on the ECP takeover of Andrew Page.

You can read the full report here

Statement from ECP“Euro Car Parts welcomes today’s decision by the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) to give approval to its proposed acquisition of Andrew Page, subject to the divestment of nine branches*. 

Euro Car Parts bought most of the Andrew Page business in October 2016, after the company went into administration. Euro Car Parts supports the CMA’s conclusion that “The group did not consider that larger national or multi-regional customers would be adversely affected by the merger”. 

Sukhpal Singh, Chairman of LKQ UK & ROI, commented “We are genuinely thrilled the future of the Andrew Page business has been secured, which celebrates its UK centenary this year. We remain committed to assuring that the Andrew Page ‘brand’ continues to thrive and remains separate from Euro Car Parts, but will benefit from our UK infrastructure, inventory and the financial support from the LKQ Corporation. 

“We very much hope that customers of Andrew Page will continue to support the business, and we will partner with them to ensure that the company’s proposition continues to meet their current and future requirements in the way they have come to rely upon and cherish. 

“I would like to thank all Andrew Page colleagues for their professionalism, with total focus on serving their customers during a challenging time. We wish to reassure them that we are committed not just to retaining them but to investing in their long-term progression and development.” 

Martin Gray, CEO of Euro Car Parts, stated: “Euro Car Parts will continue to work with the CMA to bring this process to a conclusion and will update as appropriate.  We are delighted that approval has been clarified. This will provide welcome direction and confirmation for our customers, employees, suppliers and shareholders.” 

*The 9 branches are: Blackpool, Brighton, Gloucester, Liphook, Scunthorpe, Sunderland, Wakefield, Worthing and York. Swindon had also been identified during the provisional findings stage, but new evidence came to light which resulted in the group deciding that competition would not be affected in this area.”

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WIPING UP WITH BLADE PROMOTIONS

WIPING UP WITH BLADE PROMOTIONS

Offering free fitting is one way to boost blade sales

Staples of retail they might be, but wiper blades are no longer simple items with each supplier offering its own take on hybrid and beam designs. In terms of display, cars today might well have wiper blades of unequal length, which makes stocking twin packs something of a nightmare.However, thanks to various cunning clip designs, most wiper suppliers can now produce a short range of single packs that takes up perhaps just one panel of retail space. Of course, if you have only a small space dedicated to a core product, you had better make sure that the area works for you, both in terms of displaying the product and making it look as attractive as it can be. This is not just to make it look nice, but to make it clear for the motorist
to find the right product for their vehicle.

Kevin Singer of wiper maker Pylon, which has the licence for the Michelin brand in the UK said: “People like to be able to see the blade inside the packaging and it makes it easier for them to understand the product”.Sam Robinson, Brand Manager at Trico made the point that simple carton-style merchandising stands can be used to remind customers of wipers when they are at the counter. “If you can get them in front of the customer you remind them that they are not just summer products” he said.

PACKAGING
Noting that while consumer products are often packaged in small works of art that cost millions to develop, Randstad’s Martin Dowd makes the point that for trade customers, the packaging is irrelevant and just makes for extra and expensive trade waste. “Most of our product is in a cardboard box with our livery on and each blade just has a thin plastic bag. This takes up very little room and is environmentally safe” he says.

This is a point echoed by all of the people we spoke to: While there are still some kits on the market that have both wipers, the number of vehicles with unequal length blades mean that the size of stockholding would be vast even before you factor in slow-moving references. Single blades of course, don’t have that issue and the ability to have all the product you need in one box means that suppliers are eagerly persuading garages to once again hold stock. Being able to carry a small range that covers the market opens up opportunities that had fallen out of favour. Describing a ten- hook merchandise stand, Jerry Banks, a Product Manager at Federal Mogul’s Champion brand, said: “Although garages don’t sell wipers like they used to, you can more or less squeeze a stand like this in anywhere and fit quite a bit of product into a small space”.

Having garages return to stockholding wipers has obvious benefits for the supplier: Garages are more likely to offer a pair of wipers if a car needs them, even if it has been brought in for something else. “Absolutely, and with blades being a compulsory part of the MOT, as well as something that motorists can literally see if they are not clearing the screen, it is a massive opportunity” said Carlton Edmeade, a Manager at Tetrosyl-owned Bluecol.

FITTING OPTIONS
Adrian Syder, the co-owner of a pair of accessory shops around Wymondham in Norfolk favours offering free fitting, and has a bay designed for the purpose at one of the branches, but he only offers one premium brand of wiper. “We fit wiper blades and that works well because of the little bay outside the door. Even on a (rainy) day like today you can nip out and fit them” he said, adding that the motorist was always happy with the premium product and the higher margin justified free fitting.

Compact store display

However, this strategy is relatively unusual in retailing. Pylon’s Kevin Singer says that retailers will usually chose to offer different types, i.e conventional, beam and hybrid as well as different price points. “The range offered depends on the type of store and who their consumers are” he explained. “Some people only carry the traditional blade, while others only have the hybrid blade but most will carry both. It is always good to give consumers an option with a budget, and a brand with more features or more exclusive technology”.

There are other ways of bringing your wiping product to the attention of the motorist, or at least to the attention of the counter staff who will hopefully recommend it. Denso has signed a racing driver as a face of the brand who has given the product as much exposure as the manufacturer could wish for. “We’ve got a partnership with Rebecca Jackson, who has fitted hybrid wiper blades to her Mini race car” explains Marketing Manager Fatiha Laauich. “And I can tell you she is a good brand ambassador as her nickname is the ‘raining queen’ because she has performed at her best when it is raining! She has been very complimentary about our wiper blade and said the blades profile kept f lat on the screen, compared with the previous flatblade” she said.

CUSTOMER CAMPAIGNS
Promotions other than those that are run at the point of sale can also bring success. “We are driving the ‘light and sight’ campaign to check both wiper blades and bulbs” says Besime Kaya, a Product Manager at Bosch. Such campaigns urge the motorist to judge for themselves that (in the case of wipers) a blade should be replaced before it is a smearing, juddering, MOT- failing mess. To promote this, the company is set to launch a consumer website, separate from the main Bosch sites, to get the message across. There is also a new app to find the right products, and the packaging itself has QR codes which show would- be purchasers neat computer- generated fitting animations.

A traditional way of keeping retail and wholesalers onside is to offer incentives to sell a certain product. Often this is in the form of a token collection scheme that can be saved up to exchange for goods, or a number of promotional free items thrown in with each order over a certain size. However, the most innovative of the season so far is Trico, which has produced its own label beer, which it it dishes out to thirsty distributors. “I like beer and it seemed like a good idea!” said Sam Robinson. “Also, I wanted to try something we hadn’t done before, and I’ve got to say that it has had the best response from any press release that I’ve sent out”. The promotion has lead to a surge of interest in the firm’s social media presence. “It would certainly be a lot easier to sell beer than wiper blades, I’ve found that out” he joked.

PRIVATE LABEL
Selling products under a private label is a phenomenon that those in the aftermarket almost dare not speak its name, despite it being incredibly widespread. However, Randstad are happy to talk about how they can produce wipers, or rather have them produced, for private clients. “One of the biggest areas for growth for us is own label, people who want their own brand because we have made established relationships and have gone through the difficult learning curve that you have to go through to establish a good supplier at the right price” said Martin Dowd. Trico also produces product for other companies. “We’ve always been upfront about it and write ‘Engineered by Trico’ on the packaging” said Sam Robinson.

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QH NO LONGER DISTRIBUTED BY JP GROUP

QH NO LONGER DISTRIBUTED BY JP GROUP

QH Braking portfolio

DENMARK-based distributor JP Group will stop distributing Quinton Hazell brand products from 6th December 2017.

The move comes as QH brand owner Tetrosyl prepares to have its new distribution centre fully operational.

JP Group provided a relaunch platform for the QH brand since being appointed licensee for Scandinavia and Germany back in 2013. A statement on a Tetrosyl press release states: “It has now been agreed that in order to increase the current commendable distribution routes established by the JP Group that Tetrosyl Ltd will continue the development of these markets directly”.

JP Group are based in Viborg, Denmark and is best known for producing and distributing
League’s Southern Premier club and stadium sponsor.

Tetrosyl’s Distribution Centre is due to be fully operational in October 2017 and will combine the distribution of oils, chemicals, car care and now QH replacement parts all under one roof. This will enable all supplies of QH products within the territories to transfer to Tetrosyl as of the 6th December 2017.

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REMAINING LOYAL AS AN INDEPENDENT

REMAINING LOYAL AS AN INDEPENDENT

Dunlop family’s new accessory shop in Rutherglen, South Lanarkshire.

Smiles all around at new branch

Located in the town of Shettleston near Glasgow is Dunlops Auto Shop, a family-run retailer that has served garages in and around the local area for over 40 years.

In fact, the parts business goes right back to the 1960s when charismatic owner Fred Dunlop first established it, which was a one-windowed shop selling tuning parts for Minis, Big Bore exhausts and leather steering wheels at the time. “I first left school at 15 to go and work with my father”, said Fred, “My dad used to run motor factors when I was young so I have been in the motoring trade most of my life”.

14 years into service, the opportunity came up to move to a larger and more mdern shop on 1218 Shettleston Road where the branch continued bulking out its wares and delivery services to workshops for a number of years. The business eventually moved up the road to 1250 in 2003, where Fred bought the building outright and extended through to next door – which was demolished and rebuilt to expand the firm’s footprint. In more recent times, Fred is still involved, but son Stewart handles the day-to- day business.

BUSINESS EXPANSION
The search for a new and extra branch brought them to the town of Rutherglen, South Lanarkshire, proving a fitting spot logistically for business, as Stewart explains. “The main reason for opening the branch in Rutherglen was to service another area of Glasgow and Lanarkshire, where we thought was wide open and only covered by other factors’ delivery vans”, he continued. “In Glasgow, we have every factor covering all areas with van deliveries, but with our service and expertise, we have little competition in the area for having a branch there”.

Shop gondolas

Fred and Stewart officially opened the Rutherglen branch four months ago, housing five staff and six delivery vans as they make their daily runs to nearby towns; ensuring garages receive their parts on time. “We stick to the local area where there are many small workshops”, Stewart notes. “We also deliver to Eastkilbride and Hamilton. We are getting busier there but we always make sure we stick to an approximate 10 mile radius”. Aside from its efficient delivery services, Dunlops offers free wiper blade fittings and alternator battery tests for customers at both sites.

SHOP REVAMP
Prior to opening, the Rutherglen premises was previously a branch of another factor and in need of some TLC. This is when Fred and Stewart worked effortlessly to spruce up the shop before its grand reveal. Their hard work paid off with a new and modern retail operation sporting its blue, red and white livery across the shop floor and its fleet of vans. “The days of a dirty store or accessory shop is finished. Customers like being served in a nice environment”, Stewart replied. “As I have said often to friends I have known in the trade for years, the trade is not dying, in fact, it is far from it”.

Stewart notes that despite only being open a few months, business has taken off well after inking deals with various suppliers, including TMD Friction’s Mintex, FAI Automotive and retail stock from FPS, the latter helped with the store display and fit-out.

The new site is also home to a large trade counter with Bosch wiper blades and Laser Tools products hanging along the left wall while a range of oils and lubricants from Lucas and other well known brands occupy the right. Shelves are stacked in an orderly fashion with an eclectic range of car care products to choose from. Meanwhile, a number of cycles and alloy wheels are displayed in the shop window as a handy upsell to garages and DIY enthusiasts. “Any name you can think of in the component industry we’ve got it”, Fred remarked. “We’ve been with the GAU for over 10 years and they have been marvellous and very helpful with all the major suppliers supplying us. The rebates are really good too!”.

For now, the Dunlop family are taking some breathing space before commencing with their next project in the New Year. This will involve an additional extension on the Rutherglen site to bulk out its competitive offerings of braking, steering and suspension parts that are currently located in its Parts Department behind the tills. In addition, Stewart is on the lookout for a third branch. We can’t wait to see it.

Posted in Factor & Supplier News, Garage News, News, Out and About with CAT, Retailer NewsComments (1)

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