Tag Archive | "aftermarket"

FILLING GAPS IN THE MARKET

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FILLING GAPS IN THE MARKET


Sean (L) and son Daniel (R)

Sean Brown shows CAT around Brown & Geeson in Wickford, Essex

Today we are Essex-bound visiting Brown & Geeson – a parts supplier and manufacturer that’s had a strong presence in the motorsport sector since its inception over 50 years ago.

BACKSTORY
In fact, the company first started out as an accessory shop in Chadwell Heath, set up by father and son duo Ray Brown and Arthur Geeson, which saw the integration of B-G aftermarket accessories in the form of fuel pumps, seat covers and wheel trims among various other components. However, the turning point in business came when Ray discovered the importance of self-branding, as his son Sean explained: “At the time, my father realised that by buying something in, putting his name on it and in his own packaging, he could sell his products worldwide and that’s how the business started to grow”.

Following expansion plans, the business partners relocated to larger sites in Plaistow East London and Dagenham, Essex respectively, where bespoke production facilities were introduced for serving VMs, importers and parts manufacturers across the country and abroad. This eventually led to another desirable location in Wickford in the mid 90’s, however, there were plenty of major changes ahead: “The UK manufacturing industry back then was quite tough, so myself and my father Ray made a decision to sell all contracts, machinery, shutdown the company and start what was ‘Brown & Geeson Distribution’.” said Sean. “The decision was taken to come out of manufacturing and concentrate on buying and selling from where Brown & Geeson originally started” adding that the firm eventually reclaimed its original name and returned to manufacturing, that’s now outsourced overseas.

BRANDING
As it stands, Sean and son Daniel head-up the operation of whom have extensive experience in motosport both on and off track. They greeted and took us through to an office space displaying styling products such as the infamous Momo steering wheel and numerous accessories behind shiny glass cabinets, along with mannequins dressed head to toe in Team GB race wear.

Display bits and pieces aside, Sean was keen to get down to business and discuss the B-G Racing brand that is now in its sixth year. Speaking of how it came about, he said: “What we needed to do with Brown & Geeson was go back to the old days where we sold boxes with BG logos on it. I believe there are products not only for pit equipment but also for setup equipment.” He continued: “On travels around the world, I have visited paddocks in Europe and noticed gaps in the market for premium products. I thought I could create something similar and bring it to the masses, not only to ‘educate’ but give the top teams a quality product for an affordable price.” He adds that the BG platform has been well received so far as the organisation’s distribution base now stretches globally.

Barcoding system has proved effective

Daniel agrees and expands on his father’s sentiment: “The B-G Racing brand is growing steadily everyday. We target distributors in different countries so instead of selling directly to the public, we target trade and retail shops in France, Germany and many more countries. We try and offer them a whole catalogue solution so they can source all their necessary parts from one place to simplify the purchasing process”.

Sean notes that the team have recently released their Seventh Edition catalogue packed with vehicle, setup and pit equipment for motorsport and aftermarket companies. Some of the popular sells he notes include: lift jacks, work mats and hub stands, plus camber/ caster gauges and levelling trays for technicians whether they’re working in a garage or pit lane. In addition, the brand is a supplier of car components from Australian firm Aeroflow Performance and Mittler Bros Machine & Tool.

After a business insight, Daniel and Sean provided us with a tour of the facility. During our tour, the shop floor seemed well organised with Momo and B-G Racing wares stacked along the aisles in an orderly fashion as they await distribution. The top floor comprised of more styling accessories and an in-house studio where new products are photographed before being uploaded to the firm’s website. To speed up productivity, Daniel told CAT that a new barcoding system has recently been implemented to get the product logged, onto the shelves and out the door to reduce stock discrepancies with customer orders.
Of course, with any queries that may arise, the sales and admin department are on-hand and who were very busy on our arrival dealing with customer calls and queries both nationally and internationally.

Although the duo have acquired some new OEM and workshop projects, everything is being kept top secret until completion later this year.

But for now, Daniel and Sean’s main objective is spreading the BG footprint while continuing to produce products to help bridge gaps in the market. We look forward to catching up with the team very soon.

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UK TRADE SHOW RETURNS TO BIRMINGHAM

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UK TRADE SHOW RETURNS TO BIRMINGHAM


PROMO ARTICLE ON BEHALF OF AUTOMECHANIKA BIRMINGHAM

This summer, Birmingham will again become the central hub for the UK’s automotive industry as it unites with Automechanika Birmingham, bringing thousands of visitors to the region.

For the third year running, the UK’s leading trade exhibition for the automotive industry will be making a welcome return to Birmingham NEC on 5 to 7June, where an increase in visitors is anticipated thanks to a raft of new initiatives, networking opportunities and extended opening hours for automotive repair garages.

With UK manufacturing continuing to climb up the global rankings in a post-Brexit era, it currently helps power the engine of the West Midlands (£17.5 billion) and East Midlands (£15.9 billion), with their strength across the aerospace and automotive sectors.

With this in mind, Automechanika Birmingham represents the ideal opportunity to continue to support this growing market in a central, accessible and relevant location, also bringing the sector to a city synonymous with the motor trade with the region’s heritage immersed in automotive growth and success.

To help leverage this global economic potential, this year’s event is launching a facilitated meetings programme to allow visitors to pre-arrange meetings with exhibitors, ensuring that visitors maximise their time and an increase of business conversations are held on exhibitor stands.

More than 500 exhibitors are due to attend for 2018, with 85% of 2017 visitors intending to return to the exhibition, which will house a newly improved layout.

What’s more, organisers at this year’s show have widened the appeal across the aftermarket sector, including a new, dedicated Garage Quarter, hosting tools and garage equipment suppliers looking to meet the growing number of independent garages attending the event.

The West Midlands is no stranger to the automotive trade with global brands Jaguar Land Rover Automotive PLC, MG Rover Group and more recently Aston Martin dominating the UK automotive industry’s history.

Simon Albert, Event Director of Automechanika Birmingham, said: “After last year’s success with a turnout of around 12,000 visitors, we’ve no doubt that this year’s event will cement Automechanika Birmingham’s’ position as the UK’s most valuable meeting place for the automotive industry, uniting the very best of the UK aftermarket and vehicle production sector.

“The importance of the UK automotive industry to the economy is evident, particularly now more than ever. As we believe the sector will provide a key role in our global economic standing, we’re now calling on regional businesses to get behind the event and support the UK automotive industry.”
Many of the exhibitors will announce special show deals, offers and competitions in time for the show. Visitors can benefit from an enhanced programme of live events featuring live technical demonstrations, free training and keynote speakers.

This year’s event at the NEC Birmingham, running from 5-7 June 2018, will welcome vehicle production exhibitors in Hall 6, aftermarket suppliers in Hall20 and a dedicated Garage Quarter in Hall 19.

Visitors looking to sign up can register for their free ticket here: https://www.automechanika-birmingham.com/welcome/get-your-free-ticket

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MAKING FAIR DISMISSALS

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MAKING FAIR DISMISSALS


Deciding who makes the cut and telling those who haven’t is never easy. Here are a few tips to smooth the process

No employer likes to make employees redundant. Unfortunately, as the recent decision for 100 planned redundancies at the AA illustrates, and the announced Andrew Page branch closures might mean, sometimes difficult decisions do need to be made.

For the process to work properly, it is important that redundancy dismissals are handled sensitively and in accordance with the law. Any employer that fails to comply with its legal obligations during a redundancy situation could face complaints from employees and claims for compensation for unfair dismissal as a result.

WHAT IS A REDUNDANCY SITUATION?
In an employment law context, redundancy has a very specific meaning. To summarise, the statutory definition of redundancy identifies three sets of circumstances that amount to redundancy situations – a business closure; workplace closure; or reduced requirements of the business for employees to do work of a particular kind.

There is no mandatory procedure laid down by legislation in England and Wales for fairly dismissing an employee for redundancy reasons. Instead, employers must follow a fair procedure involving individual consultation. Dismissal decisions must be fair and reasonable. Case law has determined various principles of fairness that an employer should follow in order to reduce the risk of employees pursuing claims for unfair dismissal.

Generally, these principles require an employer to give employees early warning of the risk of dismissal; consult with employees (and the union if required); identify an appropriate “at risk” pool for redundancy; draw up and apply fair selection criteria; and give consideration to alternative employment.

CONSULTATIONS

First, an employer looking to make a number of employees redundant must check whether the obligation to engage in collective consultation exists. Where there is a proposal to make 20 or more employees at one site redundant within a 90-day period, the employer must engage in collective consultation with a trade union. If no trade union is recognised for that particular employer, then an employee representative will need to be elected, with whom the employer will need to consult. The employer will also need to notify the secretary of state of the number of planned redundancies.

Employers should seek specific advice in circumstances where multiple redundancies are planned as there are a number of obligations.

Even where a collective redundancy situation does not arise, consulting with the employee(s) at risk of redundancy is absolutely vital and will be central to the fairness (or otherwise) of the decision to dismiss. Consultation should be genuine and take place at a time when the employer can properly consider the employees views and suggestions – that is, before the final decision is made.

THE “AT RISK” POOL
Before selecting an employee or employees for redundancy, an employer must consider what the appropriate pool of employees for redundancy selection should be. Otherwise the dismissal is likely to be unfair.

There are no fixed rules about how the pool should be defined and, unless there is a collectively agreed or customary selection pool, an employer has a wide measure of flexibility here.

The question of how the pool should be defined is primarily a matter for the employer to determine and, provided an employer genuinely applies its mind to the choice of a pool, it will be difficult for an employee (or a tribunal) to challenge the choice.

Factors that are likely to be relevant to identifying a pool are the type of work is ceasing or diminishing; the extent to which employees are doing similar work (possibly even those at other locations); and the extent to which employees’ jobs are interchangeable within the workforce.

SELECTION CRITERIA AND SCORING
Once an employer has identified the employees in the at risk pool, it will need to apply selection criteria to determine those at risk of redundancy. To do this, employers will need to develop appropriate selection criteria. The criteria, which of course must be objective and fair, might want to look at things like disciplinary record, length of service and performance. Criteria which relate to protected characteristics such as age, disability, religion or sex must be ignored.

The employer will need to mark each of the potentially redundant employees according to the finalised selection criteria.

Different weighting can be given to different criteria. It can also be useful to ask different managers to independently score employees in the at risk pool in order to ensure objectivity.

ALTERNATIVES TO REDUNDANCY
In many cases, consultation between employer and an employee who is at risk of redundancy will be focused on finding an alternative to dismissal on redundancy grounds. Employers should be prepared to discuss the steps that it has taken, or has considered taking, to reduce the risk of (or number of) redundancies. This might include things like a recruitment freeze and terminating the engagements of agency workers before embarking on the redundancy process.

Equally, employers should provide details of any vacancies to employees who are at risk of redundancy in order to minimise the number of dismissals that might need to be made.

STATUTORY PAY
Lastly, when making redundancies, employers should bear in mind that employees are entitled to an SRP payment where they are dismissed by reason of redundancy and have at least two years continuous employment at the date of the dismissal. The calculation for this can found at: gov.uk/calculate-your-redundancy-pay

Managing a redundancy process to ensure fairness can be difficult. It is crucial that an employer carefully plans the process at its beginning and critically before consultation with employees begins. Getting it wrong can have a big impact – in addition to potentially facing unfair dismissal claims, a poorly planned redundancy process may end up alienating the workforce at a time when the employer requires everyone to be particularly focused on the job at hand and morale is low.

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UNION ASKS AA TO CONSIDER ‘DEBT FOR EQUITY’ SWAP

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UNION ASKS AA TO CONSIDER ‘DEBT FOR EQUITY’ SWAP


AA faces a tough few years

The GMB union is calling on the directors of the AA to give ‘serious consideration to negotiations’ on converting debts to equity to relieve growing pressures on the day to day operation of the business from having to service the £2.7 billion debt mountain inherited from the private equity previous owners. This follows an announcement by AA on a profits warning and dividend cuts.

On 21st February, the AA announced that profits will be £50m lower than forecast and that it is cutting the dividend from 9.3p per share to 2p. Debts are nearly eight times net free cash flow, an unusually high amount. AA membership figures are also down.

The figures came as AA CEO Simon Breakwell announced a three-year ‘strategic review’ of the business, which included modernising the breakdown service with new IT systems
and connected car technologies, while also increasing the reach of its insurance services.

CAT has seen an all-staff email from Breakwell. In it, he admits that ‘the reality is that many of you are working against the odds’. He mentions the speed of dispatch, stretched patrols and the reliance on third party garaging as reasons why the service has been pushed. He also mentions the legacy IT systems used by the organisation ‘that do not always allow call handlers to access the information they need quickly when dealing with breakdowns’. He adds that these old systems are now being upgraded ‘to allow us to deliver our strategy’.

Paul Grafton, Regional Officer at the GMB union welcomed the sentiments in Breakwell’s email for ‘recognising the pressures staff are facing in the day to day operations of the business’

He added: “Directors need to now face up to and deal with the fundamental cause of the pressures- the £2.7bn debt mountain inherited from the private equity owners.

“When debts are more than two times net cash flows, warning lights flash in any normal business. At AA, the ratio is nearly eight times. It is not sustainable. No amount of hopeful scenarios will make it so. Growing the insurance business, patrols selling more batteries and tyres and in car diagnostics will never fix this”.

“It won’t be easy but AA directors have to give serious consideration to negotiations on converting debts to equity to relieve growing pressures on the day to day operation of the business”.

The news follows a report in last month’s CAT of how the AA announced 100 redundancies and closed a training centre. Despite bad headlines, the AA brand remains strong, topping a poll of the UK’s ‘Most loved brands’ several years running.

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TEXTAR BRAKE PADS ACHIEVE RESULTS IN AMS BRAKING TEST

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TEXTAR BRAKE PADS ACHIEVE RESULTS IN AMS BRAKING TEST


PROMOTION ARTICLE ON BEHALF OF TEXTAR

Global OE friction manufacturer, TMD Friction, has proved the quality of its Textar aftermarket brakes in an AMS braking test that scored Textar above the competition and original equipment manufactured material (OEM).

An Audi A5 and VW Passat Variant test vehicles were loaded to the permissible gross vehicle weight along with two passengers. The car was brought to a standstill by braking from a speed of 100 km/h ten times in a row. The first and the tenth braking applications were evaluated to provide information about the characteristics of the brake pads when they were cold and hot.

Textar competed against three competitor brands and the respective OEM material, with both test vehicles equipped with ex works. Overall, Textar achieved the best results compared to the competitors’ products and the VW Passat Variant scored even better results than the OEM material. The Audi A5 with Textar brakes performed identical to the OEM material, for cold and hot braking, and was the most stable performer in comparison with its competitors. The difference between the first and tenth braking application was only 0.2 m, the same as the amount achieved by the brake pad fitted as part of the original equipment from the manufacturer. The biggest deviation by a competitor was 2.8 m.

For cold braking, Textar brake pads and all three competitors achieved even better results than the OEM material. For hot braking, nearly every brake pad except one beat the OEM pad in terms of braking distance. Textar was the supplier with the lowest deviation between the first and tenth braking application, only 0.2m, compared to a competitor with 8.7m which corresponds to two vehicle lengths.

The internationally accepted AMS test was originally developed by automobile magazine, Auto Motor Sport. TMD Friction performed the test within the scope of the benchmark series, to secure and expand the high quality and performance of its products based on the results gained.

Vincenzo Di Caro, Product Engineer of TMD Friction, said: “Today, in a time of high-tech, high-performance cars and increasing traffic, brakes have to generate maximum performance with speeds of up to 250 kilometres per hour. Significant testing cycles are also very important to us in order to check and improve our products. The AMS test shows one of many examples of Textar placing great importance on safety as well as removing prejudice by demonstrating that aftermarket brake pads can be even better than OE products when dealing with original spare parts.”

TMD Friction launched its premium brake brand, Textar, to the UK market aftermarket earlier this year. The full range of products cover 99.9% of the UK car parc and includes brake pads, discs and accessories, including brake fluid, available for next day delivery. The launch of Textar passenger car provides the aftermarket with a superior braking product, complementing the long-established Textar brand dedicated to the OE sector.

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TRIPLE T RANGE FOR COMMERCIAL VEHICLES

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TRIPLE T RANGE FOR COMMERCIAL VEHICLES


PROMOTION ARTICLE ON BEHALF OF CARLUBE

The largest operating expense for a fleet is fuel costs and any savings made within this sector will have a significant impact for the fleet. As a result, fleet managers are constantly looking for ways to reduce costs and increase fuel economy. Although it may be overlooked, engine oils are a vital part of any operating vehicle, and can also reduce emissions – even a 1% fuel economy saving can help hugely in a large fleet. Although this sounds like a small percentage, when an average annual fuel bill is reviewed, a 1% saving can make thousands of pounds difference by simply changing the engine oil. A potentially large saving for a fleet of vehicles.

Engine oil manufacturers are constantly looking at ways to improve fuel economy in all vehicles. We know that the thinner the oil, the less drag it puts on the engine, and therefore an increase in fuel economy. These oils are now ready to buy off the shelf for passenger vehicles – for instance grades such as 5W-30 instead of 10W-40. However, within heavy duty applications, one of the main concerns with this method is whether lower viscosity oils will protect the engine to the same extent.

Carlube’s Triple T range for commercial vehicles, meets the needs of Truck, Transport and Tractor engines. This range covers over 99% of commercial vehicle engine applications, allowing extended drain intervals of up to 80,000km and reduced engine wear. Triple T products carry formal approvals from leading commercial vehicle manufacturers such as Mack, Renault, Scania & Volvo.

Carlube Triple T 5W-30 UHPD E6/E9 is rigorously tested to provide premium protection against engine wear and fully protect vital components. In the ACEA E6 engine tests, it has been proven to offer over 40% more engine wear protection than the test limit. The formulation is one of Carlube’s most comprehensive offerings for on and off road vehicles in the marketplace.

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A NEW CHAPTER FOR ANDREW PAGE

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A NEW CHAPTER FOR ANDREW PAGE


Steven Frost and Shay Allen

Of all the places that I thought might be my first visit of the year, a new branch of Andrew Page didn’t seem likely just a few months ago.

But things change, and so today, I’m standing at a shiny shop counter in a new branch. There are displays of tools and accessories with a number of brands and a small screen with a noisy infomercial for something called Gorilla Glue on a loop – something which I suspect will get old very quickly for the staff.

The stockroom, loaded with parts across two levels, is just as clean. Incredibly, building the mezzanine plus racking the whole branch and filling it with stock was achieved in just a week, according to Regional Manager Steven Frost, who was there to meet me along with Southampton Manager Shay Allen and Interim Marketing Manager Richard Swan.

Admittedly, this is not an entirely new branch. There was already a satellite of the Southampton branch in Eastleigh that needed to move or be closed as the lease was up and the landlord wished to redevelop the building. At the same time, parent company LKQ had a recently vacated building that had previously been a JCA Coatings counter, so it seemed logical for one business to move into the empty building.

RATTLING PHONES
However, don’t think that this is nothing more than a re-site. The sales team that manages customers around Eastleigh and Winchester are to move from Southampton into a bright new telesales office upstairs at the Eastleigh branch, and the team have plans to increase the headcount in order to win some new accounts.

“You get closer to your customers when you are in a standalone branch” Steven Frost emphasised, “But in a satellite branch, you become a bit disengaged as your customers don’t know that you’re up the road. So part of the investment is to get more people in”. This will likely include an extra van or two (there are currently six) and possibly extra people to handle the increased pareto and anticipated rise in orders.

The problems faced by the management of Andrew Page have been covered ad infinitum in CAT, but from a customer point of view the main issue has been inconsistent supply and ever-changing brands on the shelf. “There’s nothing worse than having to ring a customer back and tell them that you can’t get something” said Frost, adding that as an ex-ECP man, he breathed a ‘sigh of relief ’ when he heard that LKQ were behind the takeover, because he knew that range and availability would no longer be an issue.

So, is this branch a new start for the hundred year-old factor? “That’s certainly what we’ve been told” said Frost. “There are more moves and openings planned as [LKQ] want to heavily invest in this brand and move it forward. It hasn’t moved as quickly as we wanted, because of the CMA thing, but straight away this is what we want to do”.

NEW BUSINESS
Branch Manager Shay Allen believes that filling gaps in existing accounts and winning new business is entirely possible, due to the good and personal relationships the team have with individual customers. This trait goes back to the days of Camberley Auto Factors which several team members worked for, prior to being bought and rebranded by Page.

“It absolutely comes down to the relationship between the garage and the factor. If there is one thing that sets us apart right now it is people, and the knowledge and level of skill that they have” said Allen.

This is emphasised in the firm’s attitude to outgoing sales calls. Rather than badger people on the phone with an offer of screenwash or whatever, the sales team will prefer to visit customers to make sure they are happy with everything the factor is doing, and looking to see if there are any gaps that can be filled.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t challenges to this expansion. Both MPD, GSF and GAU are active on the patch that the branch wants to take more of as well as the ‘friendly’ competition from the local ECP. Nonetheless, the shiny new branch sends out a clear message to the aftermarket: Andrew Page is back and open for business.

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BIG IDEAS FROM A FAMILY BUSINESS

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BIG IDEAS FROM A FAMILY BUSINESS


Operations Manager Lorraine Fullers takes CAT around family-run and CAT nominated garage: D&D Autos in Ashford.

Workshop space serves all marques

If you’re on the Eurostar, the chances are that you’ve seen the looming D&D Autos building as you pull out of Ashford International. It is physically the largest independent garage in the town, if not the whole of Kent, and it needs to be. Numerous awards, including CAT’s Large Garage of the Year in 2017 and a strong local reputation have allowed the business to expand to accommodate the volume of work.

However, big ideas start small, and the credit for starting the business goes to Derek Pestridge, who founded it in 1983 after acquiring his first workshop unit in Ashford. The decision for Derek to do this was simple, it was time to ‘better himself’ by taking the next step in his automotive career, having worked for various automotive companies including a VW dealership Euro Charing. “He founded the business with his friend Dave Woollett, hence where the name ‘D&D Autos’
comes from” explained Derek’s daughter and Operations Manager Lorraine Fuller. “He went on to acquire the units adjacent to the main workshop, which saw the start of MOT testing. The business continued to grow”.

As part of major expansion plans, in 2009, the independent relocated from its old site in the town to a purpose-built 10,000 sq ft. facility, situated on the Orbital Park Industrial Estate. Of course, moving to a bigger site didn’t come without its complications as Fuller pointed out: “We were aware that we may lose customers moving away from our Victoria site that was five minutes away from Ashford town centre and the railway station. However, we introduced a courtesy shuttle service and new courtesy vehicles to help customers get to and from the site, so as to help make our customer’s collection and delivery of vehicles as simple as possible”.

EXPANSION
Since the move, the firm has enjoyed steady growth over the years, growing its workforce from 11 to 23 staff whilst building up its customer base through a number of marketing initiatives. On our arrival, the sitting area was neat and tidy with the company logo sported across the foyer walls. We were welcomed by front-of-house staff who were busy dealing with the Monday rush of customer calls and parts orders as the local TPS van made its morning delivery.

Although Derek has taken a backseat to the business, he can still be found around the workshop replacing a clutch or conducting an MOT test to assist sons Matthew and Richard who have stepped into their father’s shoes.

The workshop space itself is quite impressive, home to 13 ramps and two MOT bays designed for servicing class one, two, four, five and seven
vehicles. The move from the old site has also allowed the workshop to take on more diagnostic work for fleets as well as picking up some jobs delegated from dealerships in and around the Orbital Business Park.

ALL MAKES
“We fix cars of all makes and models and that’s basically the crux of it”, Matthew remarked when we asked how the business maintained a steady flow of work. “We never outsource any work. Everything is completed in-house”.

Matthew notes that he is keen to get all his technicians qualified on these systems over the year. He explained: “We have started seeing more hybrid and electric vehicles coming through the workshop. Some of the technicians and I have started training on these systems through Bosch, but the company plan for D&D Autos is to get everyone in the workshop into some hybrid training”.

Another project is to sell used cars on site, following a new partnership with the AA. Matthew elaborated: “With the reputation we have, we’re always getting customers asking about buying cars, so we are going to see if we can make it work for the business as another add on for D&D. He concluded, “When we roll this out, we are going to do AA warranties, because we’re already signed up for the recoveries when we went through the process of becoming an AA-approved garage.”

For the future, the family have yet more big ideas, possibly including an extra site. We’ll be interested to see how they get on.

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CHARGING UP BUSINESS MARGINS

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CHARGING UP BUSINESS MARGINS


There are plenty of battery charger brands out there, but how are firms standing out from the competition?

Noco Genius series

Consolidation is the buzzword of our industry at the moment, but it isn’t just reserved for the factor groups, suppliers are part of this trend too. “There has been a lot of consolidation of battery brands with only a few major players left in the market.” said Gary Vincent, Sales Manager of American battery charger firm Noco.

While battery brands are shrinking, he says the opposite is true of chargers, “In terms of battery chargers, there is an increasing number of battery charger brands entering the market from the far-east with little actual battery charging experience and just looking to make quick money on places like Amazon,” he said, adding that this has had a knock-on effect on product quality and safety in the marketplace.

TRAINING
To maintain quality standards and be one of the ‘go-to’ brands for battery chargers, Noco has heavily invested in a number of marketing initiatives, technologies and training programmes to maintain customer retention while providing new clients with the technical know-how to up-sell its chargers in store. “Technical training forms part of the Noco on-boarding process for new customers so they can confidently advise and sell across the range,” said Vincent. “We see a continued trend towards lithium-ion batteries in all markets, and all of our chargers contain a specialised lithium charging mode. However, most competitors focus on their attention on charging fast, whereas we focus on return of capacity whilst restoring the specific gravity to optimal level, which can sometimes lead to slightly longer recharge times.”

The design and packaging can also bring many plusses to retailers stocking them as Vincent highlights: “Our chargers and packaging is extremely compact, which typically saves retailers upwards of four times in retailer footprint. These not only allow retailers room to add additional SKU’s, but also saves on logistical costs.”

NEW PRODUCTS
Taking a slightly different stance on battery charging is Swedish battery charger firm CTEK. As previously mentioned in CAT, the firm recently introduced its ‘CT5 Time To Go’ device, which informs users when their battery is fully charged, through a series of LED lights that monitor the state of charge of the battery. The tool is used in conjunction with the firm’s new ‘Battery Sense’ dongle, which tracks the vehicle’s battery health. The concept behind this was to encourage more motorists to check their battery regularly in order to prevent further breakdowns, particularly during the colder months when this component is at its most vulnerable. Sten Hammargren, Consumer Business Unit at CTEK, elaborated: “The Battery Sense tool is easy to install and data is delivered through a free to download iPhone or Android App. Battery Sense means no worrying about charge levels or when to charge; providing valuable information about the vehicle’s battery in a simple, user-friendly way.”

In addition, the maker is conducting ongoing training sessions for factors and distributors via its Skillsbase programme, allowing them to gain a thorough understanding of the firm’s wares. This is further supported with marketing materials such as product sheets, brochures and promotional films for additional advice and guidance. “Understanding how our products can be used to meet the needs and demands of the end user is a strong factor in choosing the right products to generate sales opportunities”, said Hammargren, “Our Skillsbase programme is helping our customers to gain comprehensive CTEK knowledge and develop essential skills and understanding to maximise profit margins.”

In a similar vein, Banner Batteries is raising awareness and the importance of battery chargers and maintenance to its retail network in the form of ‘visually appealing’ display units and marketing materials including a pocket guide leaflet for its Accucharger range. Lee Quinney, Country Manager at Banner, elaborated: “Developed to ensure that modern lead-acid batteries attain their anticipated long service life through regular and necessary equalisation charges, each Accucharger is more than capable of powering up any starter battery easily, fully automatically and safely. In addition to their functionality and suitability for all 6/12V lead acid batteries, they are appealing in terms of their design aesthetics and have already been widely adopted by Banner’s distributors and their customers.”, he concluded.

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THE RIGHT PART GOES BEHIND WHAT FITS

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THE RIGHT PART GOES BEHIND WHAT FITS


The rules around replacement parts are complex, but worth getting your head around, writes BM Catalysts Commercial Director Mark Blinston.

While there might be more hot air than hard facts about emissions across the mainstream press about vehicle emissions, there can be no doubt that reducing toxic gas and restoring trust in the motor industry is the greatest problem faced by the trade at the moment.

Everything is geared towards reducing emissions and much of the emphasis seems to be pointed towards vehicles and how we can reduce the impact that they are having on air quality. You may be wondering what we can do about it in the aftermarket; but one thing we can do is making sure the right part is fitted to the right vehicle based on the emissions standard of the vehicle in question – the Euro level.

Vehicles and replacement emission control devices must meet specific standards for exhaust emissions before they can be offered for sale in the European Union. Emissions limits are commonly referred to as Euro standards or levels.

Emissions are measured using a standardised test cycle called the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC). The NEDC was last updated in 1997 and is gradually
being replaced by the World Light Test Procedure (WLTP), which is designed to better replicate real driving conditions. WLTP is now being applied to new vehicles (types) but does not yet apply to replacement parts.

In order to test the durability of each part emission test results are most frequently multiplied by a deterioration factor; with the adjusted result then compared to the legislative limit. Deterioration factors are designed to simulate the likely change in performance of the part after it has aged with use over time. These deterioration factors have become more stringent over time, and so when coupled with the gradual lowering of limits it becomes considerably harder to achieve a pass when testing newer parts and newer vehicles. The largest increase in deterioration factors occurred between Euro four and Euro five.

In order to meet higher emission standards, it is frequently found that the OEM part is made to a higher specification than the lower EU level part it has superseded. Legislation requires a comparison of performance between a replacement part and its OE equivalent and so it naturally follows that tougher standards + higher deterioration factors + higher performing OE parts = a real need for a higher specification replacement part.

RIGHT LEVEL

The Euro level of each vehicle prescribed at the point at which that vehicle is Type Approved. A replacement part cannot be approved to a lower Euro level than that of the original vehicle; so if the vehicle is Euro five then the replacement must be approved to Euro five levels/limits. Testing and approving this part to Euro four would mean that it cannot be proven that it meets the relevant emissions standards and therefore cannot legally be fitted to any Euro five vehicle.

There are many catalytic converter and diesel particulate filter (DPF) references that appear to be physically identical but are, in fact, designed and approved for vehicles that carry different Euro levels. This is made possible as the internal specification of the part is largely the key to the emissions performance of the vehicle. For example, the Euro five version of the close-coupled cat for the Citroen C1 requires a specification that is more than 3 times that of the Euro four version of the part. A similar story is true of the Euro four/five Fiat five00 and Ford KA. Quite apart from it being illegal to fit the Euro four version to a Euro five vehicle, it will cause poor emissions performance with a much higher chance of related vehicle issues and potential part warranty returns. It can be easy to source the cheapest product which isn’t necessarily approved to the correct Euro level – the consequence of which is then a part that will actually not perform to the standards required.

CATALOGUE
The correct cataloguing of aftermarket parts is complex and challenging and many consumers will not be aware of the Euro level of their vehicle. It is therefore down to the garage and parts distributor to ensure that the part that is being sourced is approved for sale to the correct Euro level of the vehicle in question. This is something that has recently been identified as a “problem” in the aftermarket whereby parts can be physically the same, catalogued with the same start and close dates yet be very different both in terms of the internals and what they are legally approved for sale to fit.

In an effort to reduce the number of occasions that the incorrect part is being supplied and fitted to the vehicle, MAM (Autocat) will shortly be introducing the Euro level as a search criteria when identifying the correct part for a particular vehicle. Manufacturers of catalysts and DPFs will be asked to submit the Euro level for which their part has been homologated to enable an accurate match upon lookup. This is a positive step that the aftermarket is taking to reduce vehicle emissions.

Posted in CAT Know-How, Exhausts, Factor & Supplier News, Garage News, News, Retailer NewsComments (0)

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