Watch a film about Mark’s inspirational story

Published:  15 August, 2017

This is Mark’s story about his recovery from a sudden life-threatening illness. Watch how Ben supported him after he suffered life-changing injuries as a result of this serious illness.

 

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  • LIQUI MOLY Gear Oil Additive 

    It is a common problem, especially with older cars: The gearbox is notchy and changing gears becomes more difficult. Often the reason for this is wear. LIQUI MOLY Gear Oil Additive reduces friction and wear and facilitates changing gears. The active principle is its solid lubricant and it does not contain any chemical agents. This makes Gear Oil Additive a good choice also for very old cars, because there are no chemicals which may harm their sealing or other parts of the gearbox.
    www.liqui-moly.com

  • The changing face of the Aftermarket 

    Arguably the world’s largest and most successful aftermarket show was recently held in Frankfurt – Automechanika.
        
    If you didn’t go, you missed something very impressive, but there will be various reports about what was there and details of specific exhibitors and their latest product or service in this most noble magazine.
        
    However, although I spent most of a week at this exhibition, what intrigued me was not just the enormous variety of exhibitors, with their corresponding products, services and new ideas, but the wider question of why it is so successful and why so many visitors – over 130,000 this year - attend this bi-annual show out of their busy schedules. Most importantly, well over two thirds of these are senior business managers or business owners with 96% stating that they were “very satisfied’”with their visit to the show. Doesn’t this start to tell you something very important?
        
    It starts to show why exhibitions are so important, especially at this moment in the history of the aftermarket, and why it is increasingly important to attend this type of show. Let me explain.

    Evolution
    For over a century the aftermarket has continuously evolved and primarily provides consumers with competitive choices about the diagnosis, service and maintenance of the vehicles – generating healthy competition and impressive innovation along the way. If evidence was ever needed as to how important this is, then Automechanika shows this in abundance. Whole halls (several on three levels) exhibit specific sectors of the aftermarket and the Automechanika organisers help the visitor by keeping all similar products or services in a dedicated area or hall. Believe me, this really helps when planning what you want to see and how to find it, but equally reflects the needs of the visitors who plan their visits almost like a military operation. However, there were some important differences with this year’s show as there was an interesting dichotomy. For the first time, there was a significant retrospective view with older (classic) vehicles in a dedicated hall and at other stands around the show. This was to illustrate that growing skills gap in what is a lucrative and resurgent market, but was also clearly based on the B2B opportunities that servicing and maintaining these cars can create.
        
    From the opposite perspective, there was much evidence of new technologies and the rapid revolution that is taking place towards the garage of the future. Perhaps these two elements summarise nicely the question of why so many senior people go to this show – it enables them to understand the threats and opportunities in relation to their businesses and equally, flowing from this, where and when investment in their businesses should take place. This leads into how their businesses can remain competitive, which can be a combination of exploiting new digital technologies to create higher workshop efficiencies, implementing improved tools and equipment or understanding how improved work methods using internet and cloud based solutions can reduce the costs.

    Competition
    On the other side of the equation is the wider competition issue of how to remain in the position to offer competitive choices to the consumer, as the ability to remain competitive could be under severe threat from changes to the vehicle design, access conditions and new competitors entering the market.
        
    Automechanika represents the epitome of the aftermarket’s success, but is viewed by the vehicle manufacturers as a rich opportunity to encroach into the aftermarket sector and ‘take back’ what they consider should be rightfully theirs.
        
    As I have written about before, this is part of the connected car and allows the vehicle manufacturer to control all remote access to the vehicle. You may consider that this is not your problem, as you repair vehicles when they come into your workshop, but what is happening now is that the start of this repair process starts with vehicle manufacturers’ applications embedded in the vehicle, monitoring what faults or service requirements are needed and then proposing via the in-vehicle display a location and price where the service or repair can be conducted – the driver just clicks  the icon and ‘voila’, the appointment is made at the nearest main dealer. You can’t compete if you can’t make a competitive offer as you don’t know what is needed and cannot contact the driver at the time the vehicle manufacturers are making their proposal.

    Access
    So, the aftermarket is evolving, but in a way that may not be obvious until it is too late. Independent service providers can manage their businesses to remain competitive with each other, but there is a distortion with which they cannot compete and with a competitor who wants to control the whole aftermarket value chain and its corresponding profit margins. Without being able to communicate with the vehicle, access its data and use the in-vehicle interface to communicate with the driver, all independent service providers (workshops, parts suppliers, data publishers – i.e. the complete aftermarket value chain) will be unable to offer competing offers, as they will not be able to pre-diagnose the vehicle and identify the parts or technical information required before the vehicle comes into the workshop.
        
    This remote access can reduce workshop costs by 50% and the corresponding competitiveness of any service you may wish to provide.
        
    This is not a ‘let market forces rule’ scenario, but is a real threat to the ability of the whole aftermarket to continue to offer consumers competitive choices and is an excellent example of the ‘primary market’ being able to dominate the ‘secondary market’ – a similar situation to the famous Microsoft Explorer case, where once you had made your choice of a PC, the only choice for an internet search engine was from Microsoft. To address the problem of monopolistic control in the aftermarket, we need the same support from the legislator as they enacted with Microsoft – ensure that there is the ability to implement a competitive choice and let the consumer choose.
        
    Only if legislation supports this basic principle of undistorted competition, will the Aftermarket be able to continue to do what it does best – make innovative, competitive and appealing offers to vehicle owners as well as putting on a great show – in every sense of the word.
    xenconsultancy.com

  • Tyre Fix 

    Automotive Brands, parent company of Power Maxed has released Tyre Fix. In the event of a puncture, Tyre Fix can be affixed to the air valve of any flat tyre and entirely injected into the tyre. The vehicle can be driven at 30mph for up to six miles. The packaging does recommend changing the tyre as soon as possible but, like with a spare tyre, it buys the user an extra day peace of mind while the vehicle is booked in to have the tyre professionally repaired or replaced.
    www.tyrefixrepair.com

  • Hunter Revolution WalkAway  

    Hunter’s fully-automatic Revolution WalkAway tyre changer offers 80 seconds of unattended bead breaking and demounting, meaning that technicians can perform other tasks such as wheel balancing while other tyres within a set are being demounted. Indeed, with the new WalkAway tyre changer, Hunter estimates that the process of changing and balancing a complete set of four identical wheels and tyres is 25% faster than traditional methods.The new Revolution WalkAway is ideal for workshops who are changing a large number of end-of-life tyres in sets of four or two of same size tyre and wheel assemblies.

  • Head for the Brexit 

    We've been talking about Brexit for a while now. At least once in every issue there will be a story about the process of leaving the European Union, and the potential impact on the automotive sector.  
        
    While progress is hard to gauge, with every issue there is some new angle. It's difficult to keep up, so that handy phrase "as we went to press" gets used a lot. Using it yet again, as we went to press for the October issue, a deal with the EU seemed more likely. Reports were surfacing of Germany and the UK dropping certain demands that would enable an agreement. A positive development then.
        
    Have we been giving a balanced view through the process though, and are we asking the right people what they think? Maybe, and maybe not.

    Positive aspects
    David Dawson, co-owner at Preston's Car Doctor contacted Aftermarket to express frustration regarding the coverage of Brexit in the magazine. He had this to say:  
        
    "You’re becoming as biased as the BBC. this is Project Fear all over again. Try balancing your reporting with some positive aspects and opportunities that Brexit may provide us with. BAE Systems has won a £20bn contract to build frigates that will form the backbone of the Australian navy, beating off rival proposals from Italian and Spanish groups for the biggest naval defense deal of the past decade.
        
    "I know it’s not automotive news but there will be many opportunities like this for the automotive industry outside of the EU post Brexit. The Germans French and Italians will still want to sell cars to the UK. It just annoys me that the media constantly go on about how bad it will be when we leave the single market. There will be many opportunities and upsides out of the EU even on WTO tariffs."
        
    David added: "I read Aftermarket magazine, both online and the printed version and have done for many years. However in recent times many of your articles paint a dim picture for the industry outside the EU would be nice to read something positive for
    a change."
        
    Now, as a publication we stand by our reporting, and will cover positive and negative views on key issues as they arise. We do listen to our readers though, and David's argument did make us think. It also raised another issue – one of representation.
        
    Having heard from David in the north of England, we thought we might take views from other businesses around the UK, to see what they think the impact of Brexit will be on their business.

    Access
    Turning our attentions south, we asked Kevin Pearce from 2018 Top Garage winners Cedar Garage in Worthing his views on whether Brexit will have a positive or negative impact on the aftermarket. "I think it could go either way," mused Kevin. "I don't see any positives it can necessarily bring. On the negative side, I think we could struggle to get hold of technical data and manufacturer-specific information." According to Kevin, UK consumer buying choices have built up a car parc that could swing things 'our' way: "Considering the number of vehicles we actually import, especially the German stuff, we should actually be in a very strong position to dictate terms. If they want to continue to sell cars to us, whoever is negotiating for the UK should be able to dictate terms on that. Going forward, in terms of telematics we need to make sure the aftermarket stays on the right side of the manufacturers to make sure we continue to get access."
        
    Cedar Garage recently opened a German marques-only outlet, so we wondered if he thought Brexit might have a specific impact on the business's ongoing endeavours: "If it does, not for a long time," replied Kevin. "I think generally it will all come down to how well the negotiations go. We have good access to all the data we need for the German brands. So long as Brexit does not get in the way of that, I can't see how it could cause a problem.
        
    "Obviously a lot of the parts that we buy come from Europe. Hopefully the prices won't increase too much. At the end of the day, we import so much, that if these people then do not want to sell to us, they are surely going to be the ones that lose out."
        
    We went onto ask if Cedar Garage's customers had displayed any noticeable Brexit jitters: "So far it does not look like that at all. We have not seen anything like that. All of our customers are carrying on as normal. If any of them say, ‘I can't afford this or that’ I don't think it affects our trade that much. Maybe if it was car sales, but definitely not in terms of the repair market."
        
    While garages on the south coast might be closer to the continent than most of the other businesses in the market, it's not like Cedar Garage customers are likely to head over the channel to France for their car servicing is it? Shaking his head, Kevin replied: "Of course not." As far as Kevin was concerned, the market is changing and this should mean the supposed consumer confidence hit that might result from Brexit could be over-stated: "What we are finding is that people are looking more and more for a professional service, and are prepared to pay for that. People are becoming more conscious of what goes into a car and are prepared to pay. They would rather pay a professional to pay to repair their car, rather than someone they met down the pub who does it in the car park."

    Uncertainty
    How you feel about the relative opportunities and threats of Brexit can largely depend on where you are sitting. For businesses in Northern Ireland however, Brexit has its own special issues. Starting with the more general concerns,  Colm Higgins from CH Autoservices  in Magherafelt, Northern Ireland said: "I think the biggest issue for most garages, with the position we are in, particularly the go-ahead guys who are into diagnostics, is access to data. This is the issue we would want to address first and foremost. We rely on the access to manufacturer data that is assured through European regulations like Euro 5, so obviously we are concerned. With Brexit nobody really knows what is going to happen.
        
    "Some of the manufacturers, like Mercedes-Benz, had a very good scheme where you could lease a diagnostic tool, but they removed that recently, and I think it is tied to Brexit.
        
    "Obviously the price of parts and access to parts, is something to be concerned about as well. MOTs too, as well as emissions. Are we going to establish our own standards? Are we going to be governed by European rules? Or are they going to be similar to the European rules? Is it a chance for the UK to make its own emissions standards. If so will they be similar, or less?  
        
    Colm continued: "Also, what affect will it have on the car parc? What cars will we be working on? Are we going to see a change in consumer activity as well? What the good guys seem to do is look at what people are buying and how the market is going and see the trends. Obviously electric vehicles is something we have invested in here. Is that going to be impacted by that? Is it going to be more or less. It is important to get an idea of where things are going to go. The biggest problem is that nobody knows.
        
    "Almost everybody has a German or French car in the UK, or at least a European car. What is going to  happen? Are they going to be taxed more? In the second hand car market we are still seeing the effects of years of uncertainty over diesel."
        
    "The key thing for any business is to be ahead of the curve or at least be aware of where it is going before it gets there. For any business you would be absolutely crazy to  bury your head in the sand. It gives you a very good reason to read the latest industry news so you know what is going on."
        
    One problem that most businesses in the UK don't have to worry about is a land border with the EU. For businesses in Northern Ireland  that is a real concern. Will Northern Ireland motorists head for the Republic for servicing and repairs if prices rise as a result of Brexit?
        
    "There is already a lot of that happening in Northern Ireland" said Colm. "We are about an hour's drive from the border. Some of my customers in trade sales, they sell a lot of cars to the south because the Pound is weak. We can make the most of that depending on the situation, as we can buy stuff from down there and sell it up here, or vice versa. I am optimistic, and we can make the most of that kind of situation. Because we are so close to the border,
    we can be flexible. Northern Ireland is unique that way, and more flexible if we have to adapt. If Brexit becomes
    a complete nightmare there are options in terms of suppliers."
        
    Then there's the threat of a hard border: "That's a big issue," opined Colm, "and a complete minefield. We have enjoyed this border-free situation for a long time now, and no one wants to go back to having a hard border. The flexibility would be gone. No one wants to go back to the old days here."
        
    Despite these concerns, Colm remained confident: "Anyone who is in the higher end of this business is ready to adapt to change. In the next few years you won't see an engine or a piston as it is all going to electric motors. It is change or get out really. Brexit is another factor in the motor trade, albeit one that is going to affect your life in a big way."

    Double meaning
    Next, we looked to Scotland, where the issue of exiting a bloc has a double meaning. Pier Garage is based in Ardrishaig, Mid Argyll. Owner Kris Gordon's first concern, like his counterparts in other parts of the UK, is access to data: "My biggest concern is definitely access to information. You can't get all the information from all car manufacturers. Even with the situation we have at the moment, we still struggle. With someone like Ford, they make it quite difficult to get it, and they do charge you for everything, so whether it works worse or better is my
    main concern.
        
    "I voted to leave at the time, for other reasons. There was so much stuff being put out there that you didn't know who to believe. You just had to pick a side and go with it I think. Nobody knew what chaos would happen as a result of it all. I suppose if you had thought about it, it was obvious what was going to happen. Now we are in a situation where nothing has been answered. It is worrying, because it has been a hard enough few years since the banking crisis in 2008, and now it looks like it is all going to get worse. We will have to ride it out and see what happens."
        
    Kris believes Brexit could be leading Scotland into a period of greater uncertainty than the rest of the UK: "I think it will cause a lot of distraction rather than getting people focused on getting the economy in a better place. Political parties will be thinking 'do we have to have another independence referendum and then rejoin the EU?'  Again, I voted for an independent Scotland, but now it has been decided, everyone has made their choice and is getting on with it. Despite this, the SNP is still focused on a second referendum, rather than just accepting the result and getting on with things. If we have another referendum and it goes the other way, where will it end? It could go back and forth, and the same with Brexit, there is always going to be someone who is unhappy. I think they need to accept it and do the best they can."

    Your views
    We found a mixture of views from business owners on both sides of the argument. Do these views on Brexit chime with your own? Or do you have an opinion not expressed here? We would love to hear from you. Get in touch with us via alex@aftermarket.co.uk to tell us what you think.


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