Tag Archive | "Automotive"

PUTTING A CAP ON EMISSIONS

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PUTTING A CAP ON EMISSIONS


There are plenty of filters out there, but how are suppliers helping garages with their selection?

TPS anti allegen dust and pollen filter

It’s hardly news that emissions are hot on the VMs’ agenda, notably with the ongoing initiatives encouraging customers to swap out their older diesel vehicles for cash to put towards a newer model. Whilst scrappage schemes have been widely adopted by the former, suppliers are also playing their part in filtering out contaminants that would otherwise cause engine damage and discomfort for motorists if left unattended.

AIR/CABIN AIR FILTERS
Jonathan Walker, Managing Director of manufacturer Mahle Aftermarket UK, says that as a general rule of thumb, technicians should be replacing cabin air filters at regular service intervals as a clogged filter is still a major contributing factor for under performance of the A/C system and losses in engine power. He also mentions that the installation procedure is not always plain sailing: “Fitting cabin filters is increasingly complex and garages spend a lot of time locating and removing other components to ensure a correct fit”, he replied, “Fixed price service has arguably had a negative impact as the time spent on replacing cabin filters becomes more pressurised. It all equates to the biggest contributor of failure, which is a clogged cabin filter.”

To assist workshops with these practices, Walker highlights that Mahle’s CareMetix cabin filters have played a crucial role in communicating these messages whilst offering improved health and wellbeing benefits for end- users. He elaborated: “Our Caremetix range comprises of a five-layer cabin filter specially designed to improve passenger health and wellbeing by removing nasty odours and harmful contaminants from vehicle cabins.” He continued. “Garages can offer customers a tangible difference as the innovative range provides five- layer protection against allergens, brake dust, diesel soot, fine particulates and tyre debris that is proven to enter a car from exhaust fumes.”

Attempting to achieve a similar goal is Hella Hengst, a distribution partnership between Hella and filtration brand Hengst which launched last year. “The focus is to support workshops with point of sale material and marketing strategies that help inform the end user of products being fitted”, said Mark Adams, Product Manager at the firm. “The company also takes extra steps to include fitting instructions/ location guides for its cabin filters, which reduces time and allows workshops to maximise profit.” Adding that the supplied content points out the ‘benefits of premium quality products against the dangers of using those of an inferior design’.

ENVIRONMENT
Michelle Smith, Marketing Manager at TPS, explains that the organisation is economising through its Genuine Parts Range, with new pleated technologies. “In terms of materials, the filter media contains cellulose fibers which protects it against moisture, oil and fuel vapours. Depending on the application, fully synthetic filter media with a multilayer structure or with an additional nanofiber coating are used”. Smith noted, “Our Genuine Air Filters incorporate the latest materials and pleat technology to ensure that both performance and fuel economy are maintained throughout service life. In addition, our pleat technology has the ability to absorb dirt and dust particles whilst maintaining the optimum air f low into the engine for efficient combustion”.

HELLA Hengst portfolio

Sogefi’s Sales Manager, Jonathan Brooke said “Car drivers are not enough aware of the benefits of changing the cabin filters for their well-being. “The garages should more systematically inform their customers of these benefits. One good reason for doing it is that the end users can really feel the improvement: less dust and odours, better ventilation and defogging. These are strong selling points, that the customer will appreciate. In many cases the fact of showing the used filter – full of dirt and pollution- is the best selling argument.

THE FUTURE OF FILTERS
Touching back on the diesel market, UFI Filters Sales Manager Karl Ridings says the firm is armed and ready to service the next generation of vehicles complying with Euro Six and Seven standards. Speaking about this in more depth, he
said: “Thanks to the investments in R&D we supply filters like the Gen2Plus diesel filter”. He added: “Based on the availability of these technologies, UFI looks very confident in the future of diesel filter sales”.

Miten Parikh, General Manager at Comline, concurs and builds on Ridings statement, outlining that this ecological- type filter is becoming a more desirable choice among VMs particularly for their air modules. “As vehicle manufacturers become ever- more environmentally conscious the ecological-type filter is becoming more prevalent”, he continued. “Manufactured entirely from recyclable materials, many modern applications use this type of air filter and this trend seems likely to continue. Comline has in its range a number of fuel filter references with built-in water separators and sensors”.

With the multiple filter options available, workshops will certainly not be left starved of products that will result in repeat business and happy customers bearing in mind they follow the procedures outlined in this article.

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AUTOMECHANIKA BIRMINGHAM WINS INDUSTRY AWARDS

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AUTOMECHANIKA BIRMINGHAM WINS INDUSTRY AWARDS


PROMOTION ARTICE ON BEHALF OF AUTOMECHANIKA BIRMINGHAM

Automechanika Birmingham team

Automechanika Birmingham has won two industry awards for the hugely successful second edition of the UK’s leading exhibition for the automotive aftermarket and vehicle production industry.

The Automechanika Birmingham team proudly took to the stage to collect two awards on Friday 23rd March for Best Trade Show and the Best Independent Organiser in 2017 at the prestigious Exhibition News Awards.

The 2017 exhibition sold a staggering 5,000 square metres before the 2016 exhibition had even taken place and achieved a 45% increase in the number of exhibitors overall. The exhibition welcomed over 12,000 visitors through the doors to see over 800 exhibitors from the aftermarket and vehicle production sector.

Simon Albert, Event Director said “Now in our third year of Automechanika Birmingham, the team and I are grateful for the support of our exhibitors, visitors, partners in helping to making the industry’s event a huge success. We are now only 10 weeks away from the 2018 event – we have introduced a raft of new initiatives to suit the entire automotive industry. New elements include a dedicated hall for garage businesses as well as areas for retailers and free business advice, a meeting’s programme to encourage business conversations on exhibitor stands, new live demonstrations and free training from the experts! We look forward to welcoming everyone from 5-7 June 2018 at the NEC”

The two awards follow a further four accolades that the team at Automechanika Birmingham have achieved across the previous two years.

Visitors can register free at www.automechanika-birmingham.com

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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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RETAIL TRADE FACES ‘UNCERTAIN FUTURE’

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RETAIL TRADE FACES ‘UNCERTAIN FUTURE’


New car registrations continue to fall

The UK’s motor retail and parts industries face an ‘uncertain future’ as the number of firms in ‘significant financial distress’ according to a new report.

The research, published by insolvency firm Begbies Traynor shows that both new and used car dealers are having a very hard time as new registrations continue to fall. Interestingly, the firm cites a glut of used cars on the market as one of the reasons for used car dealer’s distress, rather than the number of pre Euro-5 vehicles taken out of the market as a result of scrappage schemes offered by various VMs.

Over the past year, the level of ‘significant distress’ for used car dealers rose by a third to 1851 dealers, compared with the same period in the previous year.

Julie Palmer, partner at Begbies Traynor, said: “Consumers up and down the country are tightening their belts in the face of rising inflation, increased interest rates and real wage pressures, causing households to put the handbrake on spending on big ticket purchases, and encouraging many to hold on to their vehicles for longer”.

“Even those owners looking to upgrade their vehicles are struggling to do so, as a recent glut of second hand cars on the market continues to depress the value of second hand motors while making new vehicles and their hefty price tags even less appealing”.

New car dealerships fair little better, with consumer confusion regarding diesel legislation and a lack of electric infrastructure keeping would-be car buyers away. Worryingly, the findings chime with the results of a KPMG survey released at the same time that predicts over half of all dealerships in the UK could close within eight years, leading a number of dealer principals and other motor industry executive to state that the only way these businesses can survive is to convert to a used car dealer and/or repurpose to becoming an independent service garage (see page 5).

FINANCIAL HEALTH

The Begbies Traynor findings were published in the firm’s Red Flag alerts, which monitors the financial health of UK companies. It warns that a number of macro-economic pressures last year contributed to this considerable increase in distress, with the combination of rising inflation, stagnant real wage growth, a weak
pound, political uncertainty, November’s rise in interest rates, and the ever-tightening credit environment putting increasing financial stress on businesses across the country. As a result, 258,349 UK businesses ended the year in a position of negative net worth, while a further 154,251 demonstrated a ‘worrying increase’ in their working capital deficit.

Palmer added: “When the overall business environment is so challenging, unfortunately there can be few real winners, however certain sectors of the economy are certainly feeling the pinch more than others. In particular, the vast UK support services sector saw a spike in distress as their stretched customers reined back spending. The construction industry saw the lowest levels of optimism in five years while the real estate sector felt the full impact of the increasingly stagnant UK housing market”.

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HELLA ANNOUNCES NEW PLANT AND BUSINESS DEAL

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HELLA ANNOUNCES NEW PLANT AND BUSINESS DEAL


Hella and BHAP tie the knot

AS PART OF growing demand for its vehicle lighting systems, Hella has opened a new production plant in Tianjin, China valued in low-to medium double-digit million euro.

The opening of the site follows a joint venture between Hella and Beijing Hainachuan Automotive Parts Co. Ltd. (BHAP) – a subsidiary of the BAIC Group, which will see both parties collaborate on LED headlamps, rear combination lamps, car body lighting and interior lighting under the newly formed entity, ‘Hella-BHAP’.

Markus Banner, Member of the Hella Management Board, said: “The new plant will strengthen our market position on one of the world’s major automotive markets. When extending our structures locally here on site, we are also very consciously counting on collaboration with successful Chinese partners such as BHAP. And that is because such cooperation means that we will be able to meet the needs of local customers even better than ever before.”

“Tianjin, where the new factory is located, is of strategic importance to the Chinese automotive industry as many of our key customers are located nearby”, said BHAP General Manager Chen Bao, “Hella is a perfect partner for BHAP, and we join hands to develop the automotive lighting business in this region and provide our clients with the best services and support,” adding that its cooperation will gradually expand into  electronics and aftermarket.

The new location employs100 staff with plans to extend this number to 250, along with its current site and 12,000 sq m production facility in due course.

 

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CLUBBING WITH THE TRADE

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CLUBBING WITH THE TRADE


Mitch Cameron shows us around a relocated TPS Branch in Slough.

New logo on signage

You have probably noticed the quiet growth of trade clubs over the past decade. At first, these were a way for the VMs to get the independent garages that wouldn’t normally consider queuing at a franchise’s parts counter to use genuine parts.

The idea worked, and today some of the clubs are as busy, and as lean and sales-focussed, as any branch of an all-makes factor chain.

Take TPS for example. Launched 11 years ago the trade counter started its first month with four branches selling mostly dealer-only parts and bodyshop supplies. Today, it has a nationwide network of 75 centres and has recently been through a programme of modernisation and rebranding.

To find out what these changes mean in practical terms, we’ve headed west to the Berkshire town of Slough to have a look at a branch that has recently relocated to a more modern site.

When we arrive at the allotted (and very precise) time of 11.15, the first thing to notice is the large signs across the driveway. “We were one of the first to receive the new branding” said Branch Manager Mitch Cameron, adding that the new silver logo (TPS originally stood for Trade Parts Specialists, but now has no official designation) looks very professional when combined with the new corporate colour scheme.

The new look continues inside the building, as staff are wearing a redesigned uniform that matches the silver logo. Customers, according to Cameron, appreciate all of these tweaks. “We hear a lot from the front counter that it is a pleasant place to get parts from” he said.

Actually, a partition screen between the counter and the telesales floor has a dual role as on the reverse it has a large sales board, filled with targets broken down in ways that no doubt makes sense to the nine people rattling the phones.

FIGURES
While the board of figures doesn’t mean a lot to us, it is clearly very important to Cameron and the team as monthly targets are broken down into weekly, daily and even hourly productivity goals. Like most factor branches, there is a morning rush, which finishes just after 11 (hence the time we were given to arrive) followed be a spike in activity in the early afternoon, mostly from garages who want to make sure their parts are ordered ahead of a vehicle arriving first thing in the morning.

Part of the programme of branch modernisation is a phone system that will be able to monitor call volumes, lengths, number of outgoing and incoming and so on. “When we get it, it will give us a much better handle on what the peaks are during the day” explained Cameron, adding that, in common with the practice at most factors, each operator has their own list of ‘regular’ clients that they build up a relationship with and a few customers can be in touch with the branch ‘seven or eight times a day’. One of the team is a bodyshop specialist, so he deals with the panel beaters around the town.

9,000 items including many crash repair parts

Another relatively new system is a ‘gap analysis’ tool, something many readers in factors may well be familiar with. Simply put, it looks at what customers have been purchasing alongside what they haven’t been. For example, a customer might buy many sets of brake pads from the factor, but never any hydraulic fluid. The tool can pick things like this out and the sales rep can then find out why, and see if there is an offer that will persuade the garage owner to change their buying habits.

VAN FLEET
The branch’s fleet also deserves a mention. There are 11 vans, which is not untypical for a branch of this size. However, the branch has also acquired a small hatchback car (a VW of course) that has been converted to carry a small amount of stock and be used for client visits. “The idea of that is we have some part time drivers in the morning to cover the busy period. In the afternoon when it is a little quieter, we can send some of the telesales guys out so they can meet their customers face to face” explained Cameron. “This is something we’re building on, that we hadn’t been doing particularly before”. It has been said many times before, but there is never any substitute in the aftermarket for getting out and shaking hands with people.

The factor’s fleet also boasts a motor scooter for local runs. Traffic in the area immediately around the industrial estate can be pretty gnarly first thing in the morning and the bike is just the thing for small deliveries.

Some 9,000 lines are kept in the stockroom. Brake parts, oil and filters are the fastest moving lines as you might expect, although around 15 percent of stock holding relates to crash repair and body refinish (On our visit, the side panel for a Caddy van was waiting to be delivered to a customer). As you’d expect, TPS delivers many OE parts from the parent company, but in a move to compete with others it also has a second-tier line called ‘FourPlus’, which as the name implies are parts for vehicles old enough to be out of the warranty period. All products in the range come with a two-year guarantee and meet the VM’s quality assurance standards.

The phones start to get busy again as the afternoon rush begins, so its time for us to leave. However, if you are in Slough and you notice that there are a lot of Volkswagen Group cars on the road, now you’ll know how they stay there.

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ELECTRIC VEHICLES VS THE AFTERMARKET

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ELECTRIC VEHICLES VS THE AFTERMARKET


What challenges does the lubricant industry face? With impending bans on traditional vehicles and increasing market share of EVs

At the end of last year, the UK media reported a sixth month consecutive decline in sales of diesel cars. UK Government’s uncertainty about how to treat vehicles once classed as ‘the green option’ has led to consumer caution about buying cars that might be subject to higher taxation in future.

In July 2017, the UK Government declared that from 2040, sale of motor vehicles powered with internal combustion engines, petrol or diesel, would be banned. This followed similar announcements made by the French Government earlier that year. Even Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) followed suit with Volvo and more recently Jaguar Land-Rover announcing the end of petrol and diesel car sales from 2019 and 2020 respectively.

The impact on the automotive sector, its fuel and lubricant sales, as electric vehicle sales increase cannot be underestimated.

Barclays’ analysts reported that if electric cars with greater efficiency increased to one third of the current automotive sector, this would cut global oil consumption by 3.5 million barrels a day by 2025. This is roughly the equivalent of Iran’s current supply of oil at 3.8 million barrels a day that is the Organisation of Exporting Petroleum Countries (OPEC)‘s third largest member.

Globally, demand for oil is still growing. In their 2017 outlook OPEC signalled that the medium-term demand for oil for the period 2016–2022 would increase by 6.9 million barrels a day, rising from 95.4 million barrels in 2016 to around 102.3 million barrels a day by 2022. Developing countries are expected to account for the majority of this increase, with demand expected to increase here by 43.2 million barrels a day in 2016 to 49.6 million barrels a day by 2022.

A cut in automotive demand for oil would effectively wipe out half the expected increase in global oil demand by 2022. But globally, the demand for oil would still increase.

Transportation is expected to remain the largest consumer of oil products, both fuel and lubricants, well into 2040. Much of the sector faces weak competition from alternate sources of fuel and lubricants although improved efficiencies, the rise of hybrid or electric vehicles and a tightening of energy policies will help to decelerate increases in the demand for oil from this sector.

WHAT IS ALLOWED?
Details of the French and UK Governments’ decision to ban conventional internal combustion engine vehicles is still vague. Will hybrid vehicles still be allowed? What about heavy goods vehicles or diesel powered public vehicles such as taxis? Some analysts believe that Governments might have kicked an emissions issue aligned to poor air quality into the long grass. The UK faced with the prospect of fines by the European Union over the quality of its air in cities, needed to be seen to be doing something positive about the issue.

Today’s vehicles are cleaner and leaner than those of ten or twenty years ago. Exhaust after treatment devices, both catalytic converters and diesel particulate filters, have removed many post-combustion harmful gases. Car scrappage schemes promoted by both Government and car manufacturers have incentivised owners to replace ageing vehicles with more modern cars. Changes to car taxation duties reward cars with lower emissions.

Electric cars might not be the panacea for everyone. Limited battery range and the high cost of lithium power cells means that extended ranges between charges of 300 miles or more are not yet a reality. As local town run-arounds or shopper cars, electric vehicles provide a viable alternative to conventional vehicles for journeys typified by short local stops. For longer commuter journeys then electric vehicles alone do not currently provide a realistic solution in the absence of a national and comprehensive electric charging network.

Much needed investment in electric charging stations along major motorway routes and trunk roads still remains in short supply. The Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) gave evidence to UK Government’s Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill Committee in November arguing against proposals to mandate electric vehicle charge points in petrol stations and motorway service areas. Although subsidies exist for domestic installation, the Bill proposes that a larger commercial network of charging points would be paid for by fuel retailers who would, by implication, pass the charges back to motorists. Government would not fund such a scheme.

REQUIREMENTS
In terms of engine oil and lubrication requirements, hybrid vehicles act in a slightly different manner to more conventional vehicles. A distinguishing feature of hybrid electric vehicle is that the conventional engine switches off when the power available from the electrical cell exceeds that needed to propel the vehicle. This results in lower operating temperatures and higher stress during stop/start for the conventional engine, which could lead to increased sludge and varnish than that of conventional engines.

What of service intervals? In the UK, service intervals of 12,000 miles are usually expected by motorists. In America, some dealers are claiming that hybrid vehicles require oil changes every 5,000 miles or 10,000 miles if using a synthetic, more typical of conventional cars sold in that country. The move to lower viscosity oils could also confuse matters if a motorist has been used to using a 5w30 engine oil in their hybrid ten years ago and today the same, but newer, model of their much-loved car requires a lower viscosity lubricant of 0w20 or less.

For the aftermarket, although electric cars might prove a challenge today, a hybrid car is a more popular and obvious choice for motorists. They provide the assurance of extended ranges for longer journeys similar to that of conventional vehicles, with the benefit of lower emissions under town centre driving conditions.

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GETTING A NEW ANGLE ON SAXON

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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.

Posted in Factor & Supplier News, News, Out and About with CAT, Retailer NewsComments (0)

WINTER BLUES? GET READY FOR SPRING TIME

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WINTER BLUES? GET READY FOR SPRING TIME


New apps and wider distribution make for a better future for spring stockists. CAT Ed Greg Whitaker reports. 

Heavy rollers

As this month’s topic is springs, we thought we’d get on the road to visit two different spring suppliers to find out what they do first hand.

CZECH FACTORY
Our first visit was all the way to the Czech Republic to see the European production facility of KYB. Situated outside the town of Pardubice, two plants produce both coil springs and dampers. Established in 2003, the plants enjoyed large extensions a few years ago, allowing the spring factory to push 2.2m coils springs through the goods out door every year. The capacity is set to rise as extensions built on both plants in the last few years give the company room to grow.

We had a long tour of the spring factory and were fascinated to see how great machines twist bar into springs, which are then tempered and shot-peened before being laser etched and electrostatically coated. On our visit, the products being produced were being made with taper wire, although side- loading (banana) springs and other designs are also produced in the facility. Shot- peening with the correct medium is apparently critical

in producing a strong spring. Units from factories that haven’t been through this process, or have been blasted with the wrong medium can be a third weaker than those that have been correctly produced.

KYB hasn’t been slacking in investing in new technology. While were were in Pardubice we learnt about a new app, which unusually is for garages to show to customers. The app, named Suspension Solutions, is split into two parts. Part one is to help the technician explain to the motorist what issues have been identified with their vehicle’s suspension and which components need to be replaced. It sends the driver a text message with links to video clips which explain the dangers and risks associated with worn shock absorbers, coil springs, mounting and protection components. Part two is for showing the completed repair which a garage has carried out on a customer’s vehicle. It can send a text message to the driver with a before and after photo of the work carried out.

While the app can be viewed on the customer’s phone, garages will also be sent a type of VR headset, which is simply
a frame in which a phone slots in to. The end result is astonishingly good, and an interesting way of involving the customer in the work.

YORKSHIRE HUB
Meanwhile, we were interested to visit Lesjofors’ new facility in Huddersfield. The firm was keen to get its logistics based from one site, and so constructed this site measuring 65,000 sq ft situated right near the motorway network.

On CAT, we love a good warehouse and were fascinated to see how the design allowed use of the full height of the building, which left room for future expansion. Both Kilen and Lesjofors brand springs are stocked in the warehouse (Kilen was acquired by the parent in 1996) and leaf springs, gas struts for boots and bonnets, as well as sports lowering packs
are stocked alongside the regular coil springs.

Slightly less centrally located, the firm has a UK factory in Cornwall. It produced road springs under the Kilen springs brand, while other production takes place in Sweden where both companies originated. The factory doesn’t just produce car springs – indeed, it will produce to order any size and application, ranging from the type of spring found inside a biro, right up to the giant coils found on a mining truck.

Lesjofors has also recently published a phone application. The app allows professional users to search its catalogue by vehicle, with an option to search for country-specific references. You will also be look up technical articles when they’ve been uploaded.

Posted in CAT Features, Steering & SuspensionComments (0)

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