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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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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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  • New tools and toys to kick-start your New Year

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