Gates also has a new man in charge of the UK but unlike Hutchinson he’s not transferring from another company.
Taco Homan has worked at Gates since 1998, starting with the company as European Pricing Administrator.
Over time he has been given more and more territories to manage and now has the impressively long job title of Regional Sales Manager UK, Ireland, Benelux, Scandinavia, Baltic States and South Africa.
The UK is a demanding market, so how can Homan give it the attention it deserves with such a large area to cover?
“That’s a fair question,” he says: “We have talented new people in the Benelux countries, so they are really taking care of that.
“Scandinavia isn’t as big a market as the UK, so we have two people in the field and two or three times a year I travel with them to visit our key accounts.”
Homan is also set to hand over South Africa in the coming weeks. “So at least two weeks a month I will be here in the UK. I learned in only a few days it’s a totally different market.”
Other territories in Europe have far fewer groups to deal with as well as longer agreements running to 70+ years, says Homan. The greater number of groups, and the tendering process, squeezes prices in the UK.
“It gives you a lot of price pressure,” says Homan. Although workshops are more likely to reach for a brand like Gates or Dayco when it comes to belts, the price is still important so Homan aims to bolster the value of his company’s products.
“People know what the risk is when a timing belt fails but while they are looking for best quality they are also looking for the lowest price. We have to make the difference in service and added value – technical support, training.”
Timing belt kits complete with water pumps and Micro-V belt kits aim to provide some of this added value, but there’s also a move to provide tools through factors to workshops.
Homan is talking with key accounts like FPS to make vehicle-specific tools available from the second half of the year. It will allow workshops to take on more jobs, but should also help to reduce warranty claims, perhaps by the same 90 percent as was found in Benelux.