Tag Archive | "Workshops"

TYRE DEALERS URGED TO CAPITALISE ON ‘BUDGET’ TYRE PRICE INCREASE

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TYRE DEALERS URGED TO CAPITALISE ON ‘BUDGET’ TYRE PRICE INCREASE


 

Micheldever Tyre Services (MTS) is urging tyre retailers to take advantage of unstable pricing at the budget end of the market and upsell mid-range tyres to offer consumers better value and maximise their margins.

The combination of rising raw material costs, Chinese pollution regulations and Brexit- fuelled exchange rate fluctuations have created a perfect storm for the budget sector. In recent months, budget tyre prices have been rising disproportionately compared with the mid-range and premium sectors, significantly reducing the cost price differential between typical budget and superior mid-range tyres in the same size.

Alan Baldwin, MTS Sales Director, comments: “With the difference between a budget and mid-range tyre now less than a fiver, it’s time for tyre retailers with a ‘that’s all my customers can afford’ attitude on price to change tack. With prices now so close, there really is a fantastic opportunity to offer a significantly better alternative for a negligible additional outlay. By doing so, garages are not only providing their customers with better quality tyres, but also improving their own profitability.”

Post-recession, the appeal of a Chinese budget tyre from a consumer point of view was clear; cheap raw materials, few regulations in Chinese factories and a favourable exchange rate meant budget tyres were often up to half the price of a mid- range alternative. With few consumers fully understanding the importance of their tyres,
the cheapest option is often the default choice, especially when that’s what the garage is recommending.

Baldwin continues: “Drivers are interested in their safety, longevity and quality but have become fixated by the cheapest option and too many retailers have become conditioned to appeasing this demand. With the price barrier all but removed, selling the benefit of a better quality tyres should now be a much easier conversation for retailers to have and customer retention is always going to be higher from giving the driver better value and a recognised brand.”

Confusingly, the increasing cost of a budget tyre has led some budget brands to position themselves as mid-range. Alan Baldwin suggests the simplest way to distinguish mid-range from budget is: “If it hasn’t got OE; it’s budget. Any tyre manufacturer that doesn’t produce OE tyres for major car marques is not mid-range.”

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DIAGNOSING AND FIXING FAULTS FIRST TIME AROUND

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DIAGNOSING AND FIXING FAULTS FIRST TIME AROUND


Dinos Christoforou takes us around his family-run garage business, ‘Spiros Motors’ in North West London.

Ex-F1 technician, Spiros Christoforou, opened his garage business in North West London 35 years ago, and has enjoyed steady growth ever since. “We have got contracts with HR Owen Sports Car, which means we get a lot of prestige sports cars coming through from the dealership” said Spiros’s son Dinos – who is also a master technician at the firm. “This includes Lamborghini, Ferrari and Maserati. We have our own USP of fast cars that we service on a regular basis”.

While some garages have been known to still use older diagnostics, coupled with the newer technologies coming into the market, technicians should be regularly updating their skills both in terms of equipment and training, according to Dinos. “It’s hard to stay up-to-date in this industry because everything is changing” he said. “If you don’t keep up then you will start falling behind and I think many garages find it difficult because they’re always trying to cut down their prices”, adding that his staff are fully up-to-speed with tooling, training and the technical know-how to repair these models correctly.

WORKSHOP LAYOUT
This was evident from the workshop layout, which has a new automatic tester lane (ATL) installed for MOT on the right hand side with five dedicated service ramps lined up on the left. The site also contains an engine room as well as a dedicated car park space outback, which Dinos notes, is the only independent to possess one in the Park Royal area. With a handful of garage networks operating in close proximity and JT Car Repairs next door, we were curious to find out if this has impacted business. Dinos said. “There are around eight to 10 local garages in this area but we’re all in different leagues with one another so there is no cross over or competition between us”.

DIAGNOSTICS
Being a diagnostic specialist for most car models, means the team is well equipped for whatever enters the ramp. For troubleshooting and detecting fault codes, Spiros technicians will use Launch UK diagnostics and for more complex issues, the Autologic or Bosch KTS tool is the preferred unit of choice. Being a Bosch Car Service member also has its perks, according to Dinos, which is noticeable in the foyer area where many Bosch training qualifications are framed and hanging on the walls. “The Bosch training is world class”, he said, “They provide us with training from diagnostics up to service and master level technician”, adding that himself and his uncle are the two qualified master technicians on site.

Workshop contains five service ramps

SERVICES
To say the garage only conducts MOT and general repairs would be an understatement as there are many other services within its remit including air conditioning, bodyshop repair and fitting AlloyGators, which we were lucky enough to see Dinos fit to a BMW Z3 fresh off the track. Explaining his reasons for offering this service, he said. “It started with my mother who had a Porsche Carrera. She kept hitting the kerb and had to change her tyres nearly every two to three months as a result. They should normally last up to 12,000 miles on that vehicle.” He adds. “We told her to get rid of the car because it’s costing thousands on tyres a year, but someone from the racing community suggested AlloyGators and we have been impressed with them ever since”.

However, after fitting AlloyGators for nearly 10 years now, the master technician has found a number of fitment errors among some tyre fitting centres. He elaborates. “I have found people have failure of alloys because they have gone to a tyre fitment centre, where they have pumped up the tyre, handed back the keys but haven’t gone back around them for the final fitment”. Dinos makes sure that every AlloyGator fitted has ‘sunk in’ properly by applying pressure with a rubber mallet around the wheel, once they’ve been trimmed and fitted accordingly.

Although there’s been discussions between Spiros and his son about opening a second garage, they have decided to put it on the back-burner for now due to the growing demand of vehicles entering its current site as Dinos points out. “The way our business operates, it’s very hard to open a second garage because me and my father are hands on. Every job that goes through the garage, goes through us so we will carry out the quality controls and road test the vehicles when jobs have been completed”. He concluded. “It’s difficult to expand for these reasons however, we want to continue providing that high level of service and be there for our customers”.

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KEEPING UP WITH THE TIMES


With so many diagnostic tools available, when is the right time to upgrade? 

Nowadays with advanced vehicle technology, diagnostic tools have become an essential
piece of kit for garages whether the job involves re-f lashing ECUs to pulling out fault codes However, with the wide range of products and updates on the market, are workshops keeping their tools in check?

TOOLING UP
“There’s a lot more realisation now with anyone possessing old kit that they’ve got to look into upgrading” said Dave Richards, Managing Director at Launch UK. “The older kit predates the electronic park brakes where service resets were just a part in the dashboard. But on a Range Rover, it’s a programming function where you have to re-program five ECUs to reset all the service lights.” Julian Goulding, UK Marketing Manager at Delphi, points out that there are some older devices being used by technicians. He says, “There are still old and out-of-date tools out there, however, with the coverage we provide, that is dependant on the workshops updating to the latest software”, adding that the firm is continually stressing the importance of using modern units to trade customers.

HGS Mega Macs tool

From a tyre dealer perspective, Colin Webb, MD at TPMS firm Bartec Auto ID, advises technicians to consistently update their diagnostic equipment and software, due to the ongoing growth of new passenger cars and sensors making their way off factory lines. “The market is moving very quickly so tyre shop technicians need to have their tools updated as soon any new car comes onto the roads, otherwise, they will have trouble repairing the next car coming over the threshold”, highlighting that this could incur loss of business to OE franchise dealerships.

PRICE DRIVEN
Neil Hilton, Head of Business Development at Hella Gutmann Solutions, notes that many technicians are driven by price when it comes to upgrading their toolbox and do not necessarily understand the differentiations and benefits between what a budget and a premium tool can bring to the workshop. A challenge the firm is consistently educating garages and bodyshops about, as Hilton explains. “The comparison is you pay a little extra and buy a better quality machine that has more capabilities from day one and also has a longer lifetime”. He continued. “A customer who buys price driven compared to a customer who buys one of our HGS devices, the HGS customer has spent less in the long term because he’s purchased a machine that’s seen him through five years plus whereas the alternative customer has brought two or three more in that space of time and had less coverage”.

Delphi’s Julian Goulding agrees and expands: “There are still some technicians driven on price and this feeds through to diagnostics. What we try to stress to people is look at return on investment, what price you pay and the capabilities it gives you across a wide range of vehicles”. Similarly, Bartec’s Colin Webb says the firm has developed a method to take the hassle out of reminding tyre technicians and fast fit centres through regular wifi updates. He explains more. “We offer wifi updates so the technician doesn’t have to remember to do the update so they will always be ahead”. He elaborates, “The TECH500 is our latest tool containing wifi and software updating on it as well as wireless charging”, adding that the gadget also allows users to detect vehicle faults and re-program universal sensors on a range of vehicle models.

BUYING TRENDS
Launch UK’s David Richards said the firm has spotted a buying pattern between technicians who are keen to upgrade their apparatus. Speaking about his findings, he said. “One of the trends which we are trying to address is that technicians are wanting to up their game but don’t want to wait around for the boss’s tool. Most of those guys are not looking to spend £2,500 so we have products in the £500 to £1,000 range, which are affordable for them because they’ll usually spend around £500 on a set of spanners”. He continued, saying, “We’re already seeing some cases where you almost get the tablet for free but you’re committed to five years of software updates. Launch UK doesn’t operate like that and instead, offers two years free software for the customer”.

Launch UK’s X-431 PRO 3

ADAS DIAGNOSTICS
It’s all well and good having a unit that performs general diagnostics, but garages may struggle if the system can’t detect faults on ADAS systems, according to Hilton, who says many workshops are unaware of the business implications this could cause in the future. “Through our ADAS awareness seminars, it is clear from the shocked faces that most of the workshops, bodyshops and to an extent, glass companies, are still not aware of these systems on the vehicles they’re working on and the risks it poses to their business by not carrying out the correct processes or procedures”. He concluded. “All of our HGS Mega Macs equipment is capable of calibrating ADAS systems (some vehicles require additional hardware). We also offer a diagnostic tool that is purchased as a standard tool but also incorporates the required software at no extra cost to have the capability to calibrate ADAS vehicles”.

Although suppliers seem to hold a certain level of responsibility to encourage workshops to keep up with the times, it is crucial in this day and age for technicians to take charge by familiarising themselves with not only the diagnostics and software available, but not allow pricing to get in with the way of potential ROI opportunities.

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ACQUISITIONS NEED PLANNING

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ACQUISITIONS NEED PLANNING


Takeovers are in fashion in the aftermarket, but you need to find a company that’s the right fit, writes Adam Bernstein

The question of how to grow a business is one that has perplexed many for generations, namely: organic growth or acquisitive growth? It makes no odds which route is taken, the end goal is the same – greater profitability.

Acquisitions seem to be in vogue for the aftermarket at the moment. You’ve probably already read in this issue that Canadian parts giant Uni-Select has acquired The Parts Alliance, which has itself been on the lookout for smaller factors to buy. GroupAuto’s parent company AAG has made numerous acquisitions in the past year, including FPS and LKQ’s attempted tie-up between ECP and Andrew Page has attracted the attention of the Competitions and Market’s Authority, for which we await the decision in November.

There’s nothing wrong with organic growth, it’s just that it takes time. And compared to setting up a new unit from scratch acquisition takes less time, resources and finance that many firms struggle to provide. So how should firms acquire? What are the issues to be aware of?

DUE DILIGENCE
Understanding what is being bought is key. Although acquirers will usually be able to obtain warranties (think guarantees) from shareholders, there is no substitute for extensively checking the detail of the transaction through “due diligence.” The process falls into three distinct areas – legal which will be handled by lawyers; financial and tax which will be dealt with by accountants; and commercial which falls to the acquirer. If any skeletons in the cupboard are identified, these can be turned into indemnities and, as such, the risk stays with the vendors.

But while due diligence is important, desktop research should be completed before any approach is made along with market and commercial due diligence. Research is much easier nowadays as so much information is available in the public domain through Companies House, online databases, the web, and other information gained discreetly through industry sources. But remember, financial information can be months out of date and cannot be relied upon to give an accurate view of a firm’s financial health.

Skimping here will mean the acquirer will have no idea about the veracity of what they are being told.

WORKPLACE CULTURE CLASH
Acquirers need to recognise that buying the assets of a firm is one thing, but businesses also come with staff already employed and they must get along with the acquirer’s own employees. There are countless examples where mergers and acquisitions have failed because of culture clash – Daimler and Chrysler, AOL and Time Warner, HP and Compaq.

Culture is something that should be looked at closely; compatibility is one of the key requirements. Inevitably there is a learning curve following acquisition, but many find that due diligence meetings usually indicate if the businesses can adapt. Others suggest looking at the top to board level for clues on possible culture issues.

TAKING PRECAUTIONS
Of course, some businesses are bought when they are in trouble and here the purchaser should be particularly cautious.

Firms in trouble often find themselves the target of creditors who can apply pressure; this must be considered when arriving at a valuation.

A question to ask is what is the reason for the decline? Is it the loss of a major client or a bad debt? Is the firm out of step with the market and unable to compete? Can the decline be reversed? Some buyers choose to wait until the target goes into a formal insolvency process before making an offer to the administrator or liquidator when the price the target can be acquired at should be considerably lower. But there is a warning – there will be no warranties and the acquisition will be on a ‘buyer beware basis’. Buying a business from an administrator is risky; their job is not to help the buyer but to realise the greatest possible value for the creditors.

It’s important to also look out for Crown debt arrears such as PAYE and VAT. If these exist a time to pay arrangement is crucial if a rescue is to be completed. But buying a failed firm may mean that existing customers may lack confidence in the business. Similarly, creditors who would have suffered due to the business failure – will be wary too.

ACQUISITION COST
Acquisitions involve significant costs and many are not insignificant. Purchasers should budget for the corporate finance finder’s fee, accountant’s costs, legal fees (legal drafting, due diligence and deal completion matters), insurance warranty payments and costs allied with any associated funding. These can be over 10% of the purchase price.

Also, buyers should not ignore property and any stamp duty that is payable. And just as importantly is the hidden cost of the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 – TUPE – which crystallises if there is a staff restructure following the takeover. Employees involved in a business acquisition can sometimes have a significant level of protection under TUPE – which in practice means that dismissing employees following an acquisition can be restricted or costly. Acquirers also need to consider any changes that have to be made to accommodate staff with disability issues.

There’s also the threat of loss of business due to change of control, changing relationships and the possible loss of key staff following the takeover. But these can be managed by having close liaison with customers and offering staff revised employment contracts that come with incentives. Further, existing contracts and arrangements will need to be honoured once the former management leaves.

But there is one more expense that is harder to quantify – time. It is important to make sure that the acquisition doesn’t become a huge distraction and the underlying business is not neglected.

BOLD MOVE
An acquisition is not for the faint hearted – acquirers should consider if they are better off focusing energy on organic growth or proceed ahead by taking a larger risk with an acquisition.

The adage that “people buy people” applies to staff as much as it does to the seller and customer relationship. Ignoring and potential staffing and culture issue can do more damage than any over-valuation.

NOTABLE AFTERMARKET ACQUISITIONS

  • There have been thousands of takeovers in our sector over the years. Here are a few that sprung to mind:
  • Lookers PLC took the decision to sell FPS Distribution, BTN Turbo and Apec Braking to Alliance Automotive Group (AAG) in 2016.
  • American recycled parts firm LKQ Corporation acquired Euro Car Parts in 2011 after months of rumour and speculation around the aftermarket (much of it incorrect). More recently, LKQ has acquired Arleigh International, a large distributor of touring and leisure products.
  • In 1973 Burmah Oil acquired Quinton Hazell ltd from the man of the same name. Hazell didn’t take to working as part of a large corporation and took a stake in the Supra Group, where he started competing against his former company.
  • ZF and TRW came together in 2016, though Helmut Ernst, CEO of ZF was keen to stress to CAT that TRW as a brand was ‘an asset that would remain’.
  • Cash and carry chain Maccess was sold in 1999 in an MBO valued at £68m. It was a rare example of then-parent Finelist selling a company for profit. Finelist Group collapsed in 2001 while Maccess lasted until 2015 before it ran out of ‘time and customers’ according to the then owner Tetrosyl.

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WHICH INDUCTION HEATER DO I NEED?

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WHICH INDUCTION HEATER DO I NEED?


PROMOTION ARTICLE ON BEHALF OF INDUCTION INNOVATIONS

Induction heaters use magnetic flux to quickly heat ferrous metal and some aluminium parts, but which one is right for your application?

Our portable induction heater, the Mini-Ductor® Venom™, uses 1,000 watts of power, so when you do you need 2,000 watts of power provided by the Inductor® Pro-Max™?

To answer these questions, we’ve developed this handy guide to give you clarity.

Induction Heating Applications

The entire line of induction heaters from Induction Innovations® is ideal for removing parts that are corroded, rusted on, stuck on with adhesives or threadlock compound, or are otherwise sealed. Some examples:

• Agricultural & Farming Equipment (e.g. combines): Inductor Series
• Bonded Trim: Inductor Series with the Fast-Off Pad
• Brake Bleeder Nuts Removal: Mini-Ductor Venom
• CNC Machine Repair (spindles, rotary tables, nuts, bolts, etc.): Mini-Ductor Venom
• Corroded Exhaust Removal: Mini-Ductor Venom
• Door Skin Removal: Inductor Series with the Fast-Off Pad
• Exhaust Manifold Bolt Removal: Mini-Ductor Venom
• Flywheel Bolt Removal: Mini-Ductor Venom
• Graphics Removal: Mini-Ductor Venom
• Inline Connector Removal: Mini-Ductor Venom
• Lug & Wheel Nut Removal: Mini-Ductor Venom
• O2 Sensor Removal: Mini-Ductor Venom
• Rusted Nut Removal Near Fuel Lines: Mini-Ductor Venom
• Seatbelt Bolt Removal: Mini-Ductor Venom
• Soft Dent Removal: Inductor Series with Concentrator attachment
• Spray-On Bedliner Removal: Inductor Series with Concentrator attachment
• Steering Bolt Removal: Mini-Ductor Venom
• Tie Rod End Steering Nut Removal: Mini-Ductor Venom
• Trucks or Heavy Duty Equipment (including king pins): Inductor Series
• Windshield Removal: Inductor Series with Glass Blaster attachment

The thickness and type of ferrous metal determines how much wattage is needed to heat the part. For removing parts in the application below, more than 2,000 watts may be needed. This where the Pro-Max™ tool is ideal:

• Aerospace
• Construction
• Marine
• Military
• Rail

PROMAX Kit

Additionally, induction heating can be used to harden automotive parts to decrease wear and increase their lifespan. It can also be used to expand bearings so they can be mounted on an axle or other type of rod. These applications require either a service, hot plate or more sophisticated induction heating equipment.

Need help?

If you need to remove ferrous metal parts and still aren’t sure what you need, contact us and we’ll point you in the right direction.

12 month’s interest free on purchases over £500

To help spread the cost of your Inductor order, you can now receive 12 month’s interest free credit on purchases over £500. For more information, please call 01953 859138 or email info@theinductor.co.uk or visit www.theinductor.co.uk

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EURO REPAR PLANS 600 UK WORKSHOPS

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EURO REPAR PLANS 600 UK WORKSHOPS


The PSA Groupe’s Euro Repar garage network is to expand across the UK.

Colin Start, Head of Marketing for Parts & Service for the PSA Groupe told CAT that there were bullish plans to open 600 centres over the coming years. The first of these will be in spare bays of existing Peugeot/Citroen franchises but the plan is to extend the network on a ‘soft franchise’ basis across independent garages.

“Ours is a proposition unlike any other in the UK, with a partnership approach that has deliberately kept the cost and complexity of entry very low: garages are not even required to change their name” Start said.

Requirements for membership are minimal with two manned ramps and a separate reception are the main points, although there will be a minimum spend amount on PSA’s new line of aftermarket parts which are set for introduction later in 2017. These will be supplied through 28 parts distributors that have signed as partners. These Distributors are all located within easy reach of the new network the company is looking to enrol.

Smart adds: “Euro Repar Car Service has built a reputation on consistent standards, transparent pricing, local convenience and especially, trust. We are seeking to work with forward-looking owners who not only share these values, but who are prepared to take the next step and benefit from the huge experience and support we can offer – being part of a growing network with national and international, business and marketing support.”

The first outlets are set to open later in the year and Start’s team are looking to meet perspective garage owners at the upcoming Automechanika Birmingham exhibition.

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SERVING EVERYTHING THAT IS AUTOMOTIVE

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SERVING EVERYTHING THAT IS AUTOMOTIVE


We visit ‘Small Garage of the Year’ winner Simon Taylor

It’s fair to say Taylor’s winning streak has gone in his favour as when we arrived, there was a stream of customers and a logjam of cars waiting for attention on the forecourt. “We weren’t sure whether it was because of Brexit, or the economy or other reasons that we’ve been so busy”, said Taylor “But it seems to be lasting and we are getting more customers from further afield now”.

With a handful of garages and a Honda dealership operating in close proximity, we were curious to find out how this independent has ‘survived and thrived’ while others have been forced to roll down the shutters for good.

UNIQUE SELLING POINTS
While the garage is not selective and will operate on just about anything and everything that is automotive, there are a number of specialisms. For a start, it deals with LPG conversions and all that entails as well as having a skill set and a whole lot of diagnostic equipment for JLR products, and Land Rover in particular. Nonetheless, Taylor’s team will trace the fault on whatever is presented to them. “Although it would be nice to say that we specialise in specific vehicles, our customer base is completely varied. Generally, we work on Land Rovers, classics and even agricultural vehicles including tractors for our farmer customers”, says Taylor, adding that the workshop, on occasions, has taken on work from the Honda dealership who have also diversified its range to remain competitive in the area.

The experienced in-house technicians have played a major role in the garage’s success, according to Taylor, who are equipped with years of industry knowledge and expertise between them.

To complement their skill-set, Taylor makes sure his workforce are fully trained with the latest diagnostic tools and software on the market to speed up vehicle turnaround. “We are part of the Delphi Diesel Network and utilise its DS100 tools for diagnosing faults”, he says. “We also use Autologic and Launch UK diagnostic platforms”, The firm has also upgraded to Haynes Pro’s system to source and install the correct components first time around.

WORKSHOP TOUR
The workshop space is home to both car and motorcycle bays and even a small waste oil burner (SWOB) that wasn’t in operation during the tour. The garage is one of a handful in Leicestershire that can MOT motorbikes. As is common in rural garages, there were vehicles crammed into every available space, with cars ranging from a pretty Triumph TR4, to a number of new looking 4x4s, right down to a couple of Hyundai Coupés from the last century. “The garage’s original structure was a butchers shop and later home to a petrol station”, Taylor explained, adding that an old fashioned law imposed by the local pub still prohibits anyone from drinking alcohol on-site.

Busy morning in the workshop

NEXT STEPS
Winning the Award two years in a row has encouraged Taylor to give the garage a revamp with the addition of a new reception area and roof to be complete in the next couple of months. “I often apologise to customers who are sitting around and explain to them that it’s not as glamorous as the main dealer, but they said just because you take it to a main dealer doesn’t mean you’re going to get a good job”, Taylor continued. “It is a bit chaotic in the reception area but they know they will get a good job done because all they want is a good service and value for money”.

With the emergence of the Connected Car and hybrid technology, Taylor is in the process of enrolling staff onto training courses and considering installing an electric charge point as more of these models enter the parc. He concluded. “At the moment, I’m looking into how we can best deal with the technology that is coming through. Courses for these vehicles are getting better because initially, they were few and far between but over the next five years, we are going to see a lot of changes”.

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ELECTRIC TAXI FACTORY HAILED IN COVENTRY

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ELECTRIC TAXI FACTORY HAILED IN COVENTRY


The London Taxi Company (LTC) has opened a new vehicle plant in Ansty, Coventry to construct purpose-built, mass-market electric taxicabs.

LTC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Chinese VM Geely, has invested more than £300m in the new site in order that the TX5 will be produced at the plant and exported around the world. The investment and expansion of LTC has created 1,000 new jobs, including 200 engineers and 30 apprenticeships.

The site has the capacity to build more than 20,000 vehicles per year and the new vehicle is using the Volvo electric powertrain and platform, although the design of the outer body looks similar to previous taxis.

Deliveries of the new vehicle are expected to start in Q4 of 2017.

Chris Gubbey, Chief Executive of the London Taxi Company, said: “[The opening] marks the rebirth of the London Taxi Company. A company with a singular vision; to design and build dedicated urban commercial vehicles that can operate without emissions in cities around the world and bring down running costs for drivers.”

The London Taxi Company briefly went into administration in 2012 after parent company Manganese Bronze failed to secure funding, having failed to make a profit for five years. Geely, which already owned 20 percent of the taxi firm’s stock, bought the remainder of the company from the administrator in early 2013 to save it.

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IF YOU CAN’T BEAT THEM THINK SMARTER

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IF YOU CAN’T BEAT THEM THINK SMARTER


David Massey explores using car forums and social media to work for him at little cost.

massey

I couldn’t count the amount of times I’ve heard a customer say, “I’ve been on a forum and I think it’s this…” It is extremely annoying and turns me into someone angry and not very approachable. I guess it’s typical of the male ego, ‘how dare you tell me what I’m doing’ irrespective of the truth. It is true that some customers spend a decent amount of time sifting through the web and come up with some good info, but others will seek out any explanation of why a dash light has come on, for example, and are not easily dissuaded from their theory when confronted with expert evidence.

So if customers that browse the internet and tell you how to fix cars make your blood boil and gets you angry… then good! Because that means you have the motivation to do something about it.

It struck me that if customers can search and find specific information about their cars then why can’t you find specific customers for your business? The cat becomes the mouse and you’re holding all the cheese.

SPECIFIC CUSTOMERS
This is a brilliant opportunity where you can target and reach very specific audiences and really focus on your selected customer base that maximises profit and cuts out the unwanted work and customers we all dread.

If you type in a common fault into Google – I don’t know, let’s say intermittent loss of power 1.9 diesel VW undoubtedly the first place you would stumble across is a forum with 100’s of posts about turbo vanes sticking or faulty AMM’s. Try it for yourself, go on stop reading this for a minute and try it.

Now what if you had the ability and knowledge to direct people to your website instead and read informative and interesting articles about their problem? In other words by having blog posts or Facebook articles pointing to your site.

In January we were pretty quiet in the workshop and feeling fed up, I decided I wanted to learn how to build and optimise my own website. With fairly basic computer IT skills the amount I learned to never ever rely on third parties to promote and grow your business because nobody in the world has either the same passion or more importantly the same unique knowledge as you do about your business.

Before this exercise my website looked great but was very poorly ranked on Google and I couldn’t be found unless you actually typed in my URL (full web address). Most of my page listings could be found between page 10-20 of which I honestly believe have never been visited since the dawn of the Internet.

I specifically targeted the customers and demographics I wanted to target with strategic and careful methods by using specific faults, vehicle specific info and DTC’s embedded behind and into my website.

TOP RANKING
My website is now ranked first for just about every VW/Audi/ seat/Skoda related search in the Preston area and further afield. If you don’t believe me try it for yourself now with your smart phone or laptop.

I have done this extremely successfully, in fact so successfully it caught me off guard and has completely redefined ADS as a business. Just humour me and try this for a minute, carry out a search for Audi RS4 inlet valve cleaning and see who’s website comes up.

The key is to think like a customer and not like a garage owner, who might type something entirely different to what our customers would.

All this data can be very easily analysed by using web analytics which gives us the opportunity to react accordingly and adjust our key words embedded within our websites or SEO (search engine optimisation).

You have to ask yourself why on earth would you pay a third party who knows very little about your business and cares even less be good at doing it for you? Simple when you think about it.

There’s nothing new in what I’ve discovered only the skills in order to implement the changes. Big companies do all this as a matter of routine, but most garages are literally decades behind in getting to grips with social media and an effective online marketing strategy.

The truth is change is happening and there’s nothing we can do to stop that. We must embrace the change instead.

If you’re curious to know a little more I have created and designed an in house web development program aimed at helping garage business emulate our success. Like the old saying: If I can do it, so can you.

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ARE YOU CREATING ‘THRESHOLD RESISTANCE’?

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ARE YOU CREATING ‘THRESHOLD RESISTANCE’?


Don’t entice customers into your premises or website only to have them walk out in disgust.

Andy Vickery is a consultant for the aftermarket

Andy Vickery is a consultant for the aftermarket

Marketing is a process that should be in operation from the creation of initial awareness through to the physical point of purchase.

Whether you are a garage business, accessory retailer or motor factor, your existing and potential customers are picking up signs and signals all the time and at different stages of the buying process.

You’d like to think that the purchasing process is as simple as running an advert, the customer sees what they want, then the customer comes to you to make a purchase – job done. If only it was that easy.

END GAME
The problem is many focus on the early stages of their marketing, for example creating initial awareness, but neglect other aspects closer to the point of sale; failing to realise that there is still the potential for what is known as ‘threshold resistance’.

Threshold Resistance is the title of a book written by retailing pioneer A. Alfred Taubman who states that ‘Threshold Resistance is the physical and psychological barrier that stands between a shopper and the inside of a store’. Of course, these days Threshold Resistance applies equally, if metaphorically, to online selling too (websites can give out the wrong selling signals).

Ask yourself if you’ve ever come across a retailer or business where you just couldn’t bring yourself to go in? There are times when threshold resistance occurs, when there’s no reason for it to be there. This is when there are physical aspects to a business that are repelling customers.

Tidy front-of-house boosts customer confidence

Tidy front-of-house boosts customer confidence

INVESTMENT
So, you’ve done all the heavy marketing lifting, you’ve invested a lot of money in attracting customers and you’ve brought them to the point of purchase. Unfortunately, the job isn’t finished here, you can’t yet guarantee the sale – you’ve got to get the customer through the door. If this doesn’t happen, you’ve blown all that investment in marketing so far, which is why businesses also have signage and point of sale displays – to help customers.

But the reality is often customers are getting as far as the business ‘threshold’, be it a physical retail outlet, garage or online website, but resisting because they’re receiving the wrong signals. One of the biggest signals people base their judgements on at this stage of the marketing process is how your business and the people within it look.

But there are still certain types of business that could do so much more to improve their perception, but have resisted making improvements to their physical environment. Unfortunately, many automotive outlets remain in this category. Many obviously consider that they fall outside of this customer judgment arena. Well they may have in the past, but in an area where the dealerships and chains are seeming to excel, the independents must follow or risk losing out.

INTIMIDATION
Customer intimidation is a term that could be swapped with threshold resistance. It’s another thing that will destroy a sale.

In areas where customers lack knowledge and expertise, it is natural for them to feel a little
uneasy when making a purchase. Not only do they not want to make bad decisions, they also don’t want to be laughed out of the shop either.

It is well known that some people, especially women, do feel intimidated by the garage environment. But I would say that garages, retailers and motor factors aren’t the only culprits. There are other trade counters such as plumbing, electrical and builder’s merchants that could make positive improvements through tidying up their appearance and coming across as less intimidating to customers.

To customers, little things do matter. Customers do notice when furniture is threadbare, when floors and walls are dirty, when an environment is just plain untidy and this does reflect on their judgement. I once read an article about an airline where the CEO remarked that if a customer found a coffee stain on their fold-down table in front of their seat, they would think that the airline didn’t take care when maintaining its engines.

The same could be said of delivery or company liveried vehicles – if these are dirty,
what sort of signals are they giving out to people who see them? And what about dress- sense and personal cleanliness?

Okay, garage environments can be dirty, but simple procedures can mitigate the customer having to see or witness this – we’re talking dirty overalls and hands here. You’ll notice that the likes of Halfords have tidy-looking staff.

A very simple example that I particularly notice is when an independent garage or retailer, provides their employees with liveried overalls or shirts – this is something that is expected in big retail, but to me, an independent that goes to the trouble of putting their logo on clothing is more likely to apply more attention to detail on larger issues.

In the grand scheme of all things marketing, the recommendation is don’t be deliberately putting people off buying from you. Improving your premises and how you look could be one of the most cost effective investments you could make to your business.

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

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