Automechanika to tackle major issues affecting aftermarket

Published:  23 February, 2018

 Automechanika Birmingham 2018 is set tackle all the major issues affecting businesses in the automotive aftermarket, according to event director Simon Albert.

With an exhibitor base set to be the most proactive yet, visitors will also benefit from the event’s seminar programme with issues such as GDPR and MOT changes set to dominate.

Simon Albert commented: “With changes affecting the running of garages due to come into place just weeks before the event, Automechanika Birmingham is perfectly positioned to provide much needed clarity on issues affecting the trade.”

This year, the show will also have a dedicated ‘Garage Quarter’ for the growing number of garages attending the event and an enhanced programme of live events featuring live technical demonstrations, free training and keynote speakers.

Simon added: “Automechanika Birmingham 2018 is an event for every company in the aftermarket to come together, share ideas and express opinions on how to move business forward. With so much happening in the trade, the event has become a ‘must attend’ for automotive personnel looking to develop their business now and in the future.”

This year’s event at the NEC Birmingham runs from 5-7 June 2018. The show will include vehicle production exhibitors in Hall 6, aftermarket suppliers in Hall 20 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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  • 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

  • clear view of the aftermarket 

    While many garage businesses in the sector probably have a pretty firm idea of what trends and changes are affecting their businesses, it is always helpful to be able to look at the whole picture and see where you fit in. This means you can see where you are, and gives you an idea of what to expect going forward.
        
    With this in mind, a recent report on the global automotive aftermarket from corporate finance house Clearwater International provides a useful view of the trends influencing the sector, taking in the local, regional and global landscape.  Overall, liberalisation of the market, changing technology and shifting consumer habits and expectations are identified as being the key drivers in the way the sector is moving.
        
    On liberalisation, the changes have a range of aspects. On one hand there is increasing penetration by OEMs looking to claw back market share in terms of supplying parts to the traditional garage sector. At the same time, OEMs are obliged to provide information about the exact identification of replacement parts, albeit on their own terms. The report pointed to ‘European automotive aftermarket landscape,’ a report from BCG, which observed that independents have been effective in broadening their market share at the expense of the manufacturers and their networks.
        
    OEMs are also looking to take back a piece of the market through the formation of aftersales networks. Another part of this trend has been the increasing ability consumers have had to use aftermarket providers to service and repair newer vehicles, as seen through the Block Exemption Regulation (BER).
        
    Changing technology in terms of the emergence of electric vehicles and hybrid drivetrains is having an impact. Back in the workshop, key drivers going forward, according to the report, include digitally enabled services, telematics, e-commerce and 3D printing. Remanufacturing is also seen as having a strong place in the future, with OEMs investing in the segment.
        
    The report found that the average age of cars in the EU is 11 years, an age that puts a major chunk of the transcontinental car parc firmly in independent garage territory, is certainly good news for garages.
        
    The picture looks bright in fact. The report cites a finding from Frost & Sullivan’s ‘Global automotive aftermarket outlook 2018’ that showed global automotive aftermarket demand was set to rise by 4.4% in 2018, a view shared by many sector analysts according to Clearwater’s report. Another forecast that the report pointed towards, ‘The changing aftermarket game’ from McKinsey, predicted that the market will have a worldwide worth of €1,200bn by 2030. On that basis, underlying global growth on a year-by-year basis would be 3%.
        
    Speaking to Aftermarket about the report, Tobias Schätzmüller, Partner and International Head of Automotive at Clearwater International said: “There are a lot of challenges out there for the aftermarket, as well as  opportunities. First of all, the liberalisation of the independent aftermarket. I think this gave it a boost. Also, technology-wise, there are new entrants. Some pose a threat but also offer many opportunities. Then, of course, there is the powertrain discussion, connected vehicle, and autonomous driving, which will all change the picture.”
        
    One of the aspects the report covered was the ongoing trend of mergers and acquisitions taking place in the sector. The report cited the ongoing purchase activities of LKQ Corporation and Euro Car Parts as an example. It also pointed out the purchase of The Parts Alliance by Uni-Select two years ago, as well as the acquisition of Borg Automotive by Denmark’s Schouw.
        
    Tobias thinks the smaller suppliers will continue to gravitate towards larger companies:  “We see from the M&A analysis that there are still a lot of small and medium-sized businesses around, in small units but with a relatively limited range of products. They are now trying to redefine themselves in terms of international reach, as well as in terms of covering additional markets, and product ranges. For some of them, they recognise it is not possible to gain scale on their own, so they are joining forces with others.”
        
    Expansion is the keyword: “There have been a host of cross-border transactions. In the report we have published a list of many of the deals that have been completed in recent years. Every month there are new deals going through. We are advising players to grow and refine their strategies, and they are bringing access to new product categories. We also advise those players to invest in technology, into automatic warehousing etc. That is the challenge, but for some of the players it is an opportunity to develop greater professional capability, and grow through investment.”
        
    Tobias then pointed out the key trends where businesses need to pay strongest attention: “On the environmental side, it is certainly the change in the drivetrain, with electric vehicles coming in. Nobody knows in the future when, or even if, this dramatic shift will happen but I think everyone still believes we are in a mixed period of combustion engines, hybrids, and electric vehicles. However, if you look 10 or 20 years into the future, the prevalence of electric vehicles will be much stronger. This will of course change the complexities of the engine, and the powertrain. This means less components and less moving parts which is a threat to the spare parts market, although the components in an electric vehicle might have a higher average value per unit. However, this would probably not compensate for the very complex engine that is now in use in combustion engines. There will be a reduction of complexity and, assuming that with the numbers driving there may be less accidents, which will also have an impact on the spare parts business.
      
    “On the exterior side, there will be pressure from OEMs because they now see an opportunity. While increasing liberalisation has seen the independent aftermarket gaining market share, with all the e-solutions in the car, it is possible for an OEM to be the first to provide pre-emptive maintenance. If the car has to go to the garage, they are the first to know that and can make use of this information. They are all desperately looking for alternative profit streams beyond the process of selling hardware, i.e selling a car, which is also a driving factor.”
        
    For the garage on the ground this may seem a long way off, but there is a way forward. “I think it is important to offer the whole spectrum of products, to be present everywhere and to reach a critical size so the parts can be sourced cheaply, and they have more marketing power. Additionally, they also need to increase their competencies, to be able to offer customers the wider range of products.”
        
    On the potential impact of Brexit on the aftermarket, Tobias said it was too early to be drawn on likely outcomes: “Parts supply either comes from the OEMs or tier one suppliers, or it is sourced in Asia. I don't know, looking at the UK market, whether they would have problems sourcing parts from abroad. It depends on what the regulations will be, but Brexit will probably have an impact.”
        
    On whether concern over Britain’s exit from the bloc is warranted, Tobias speculated: “I trust that they will find an economical and reasonable solution. Brexit concerns the UK most, but given the highly integrated automotive value chain, it will also affect the continent.”
        
    Looking ahead, Tobias concluded: “There will be continued consolidation in the market. In the independent aftermarket there is a lot of activity, with many M&A transactions coming up. We are actively tracking this. Companies will seek to be more international, aiming to cover more markets, and will get a broader cross-section of products. On the technological side, advancements in connectivity will mean more preventive maintenance, and overall professionalism within the market will increase. Transparency will also continue to increase thanks to the impact of the online world, and that will have an impact on price.”

  • BER: What next 

    Following last month’s article about the European Commission’s launching an ‘evaluation roadmap’ to consider if the existing Automotive Block Exemption Regulation (BER) should be renewed when it expires in May 2023, I explained the background and how important BER is to the abilities of the UK aftermarket to conduct their day-to-day business and offer the motoring consumer competitive choices for the service and repair of the vehicles.
        
    However, since the original BER was drafted in 2002 and subsequently updated in 2010, much has changed concerning the design and functionality of today’s vehicles, with much more likely to change in the coming years. If you think that 2023 is a long way ahead, just think about the Olympics in London in 2012 – does that seem like such a long time ago - and this is nearly twice the period between now and 2023.

    What should the legislator consider? Firstly, there is the fundamental question of why the BER exists and if the original requirement is still valid. The answer is not so clear, as the original BER has already been modified in 2010 to allow franchised dealers to sell outside their geographical area and the way that vehicles are being distributed and sold is changing to different outlets (think shopping centre ‘pop-up’ shops as well as the internet).

    It is also appealing for the vehicle manufacturers to oppose the renewal of the BER, as this would provide them with a much more ‘flexible’ approach to supplying vehicles – either directly from the vehicle manufacturer to the new vehicle owner, or as part of tomorrow’s ‘mobility services packages’ on a ‘pay by use’ basis – in both cases avoiding having to pay the dealer margin. It would also release them from the legislative obligations for the provisions for the aftermarket and thus avoid supporting their competitors in vehicle servicing.

    Vehicle manufacturers are increasingly selling vehicles online and with the exponential increase of the ‘connected car’ retain a direct relationship with the vehicle owner/driver – again negating the involvement of the dealer. The original ‘vertical agreements’ are changing to be ‘horizontal agreements’. Equally, the legislator may also view this as a natural evolution of the vehicle distribution sector and a valid reason not to consider renewing the BER.

    Aftermarket perspective
    Most importantly, where does this leave BER from the aftermarket perspective? Clearly, the original key elements need to be maintained, namely the honouring of warranties, servicing in the context of leasing contracts, the supply of spare parts, the use/purchase of tools, access to technical information and access to authorised repairer networks to buy original parts. Some important aspects are also covered in other legislation, such as the access to the repair and maintenance information (RMI) under the Euro 5 vehicle type approval, but this is complimentary legislation and is not a replacement for the BER.

    Critically, there are both important changes in vehicle technology and the way that the vehicle manufacturers themselves have become an active competitors for aftermarket services which the legislator should also consider.

    At the moment, BER and the guidelines provide protection against a number of distortions. They serve as an important framework which allows OE parts producers the right to supply independent parts distributors as well as the independent and authorised aftermarket. These OE parts suppliers also have the right to brand their OE products with their own logo (dual branding) and the definition of ‘original and matching quality parts’ has had an important effect in the aftermarket helping to demonstrate the true origin and quality of parts to consumers and their subsequent competitive choices. All this needs to continue - especially from the position of protecting small independent businesses – the backbone of the aftermarket.

    It is very welcome that the European Commission has rightly emphasized that competition policy needs to "make sure that our markets stay competitive enough to give consumers the power to demand a fair deal." However, this pre-supposes alternative choices exist.

    It is therefore critical that the legislator considers how small businesses can continue to compete, as only focusing on the repair level is too myopic and does not capture the influence that BER needs to have on the entire aftermarket and its competitive eco-systems. The complexity of the aftermarket sector and the nature of the respective economic activities throughout this value chain should be taken into account to allow a better understanding of the different competitive conditions at each level of the supply chain and then legislate accordingly.

    Examples of this include the trend for vehicle manufacturers to require replacement parts to be re-coded, but then either restricting access to the code (e.g. ADAS components) or charging a inflated price for the code for non-OEM parts to ensure that their own total price for the part and the code are cheaper. This is an example of another developing trend from vehicle manufacturers where ‘software as a product’ is becoming another way that competition can be distorted.

    As the vehicle becomes a ‘computer on wheels’, there is an increasing concern that the (already) existing imbalance between OEMs and the independent aftermarket will further increase due to vehicle manufacturers being able to control access to the vehicle data. Vehicle manufacturers have evolved since 2010 into new and additional roles, entering as direct competitors into traditional independent aftermarket areas. Increasingly repairs are being done today directly and remotely (e.g. resetting of fault codes, coding, reprogramming, software updates) via the ‘connected car’ and this also needs to be addressed in any revision of the BER.  
    There are also now the first examples of vehicle manufacturers joining forces on a common Internet ordering platform for their original spare parts and consequently corresponding to the role/function of an independent multi-brand spare parts distributor. The main competitors of independent repairers/operators are no longer only the authorised repairers/networks, but are now also the vehicle manufacturers themselves, who have much more power and much more (in)direct technical and commercial means to frustrate effective competition by independent aftermarket operators.

    The traditional comparison between the position of the dealer/authorised repairer and the independent operator (the vertical ‘non-discrimination principle’) is no longer valid, due to the proprietary design of the in-vehicle telematics systems, the vehicle-generated data/functionalities go directly to the vehicle manufacturer, who then decides with whom it shares the data, or not and under what contractual conditions.

    The proprietary closed design of their in-vehicle telematics systems and the unique access to the vehicle, its data and functions, enables manufacturers to vertically integrate additional services, e.g. to offer bundled telematics services over the life-time of the vehicle, and even ‘free of charge’ (e.g. remote diagnostics, remote programming, fleet management, insurance policies etc.). This has a de-facto competitive knock-out effect on all other service providers around the car.

    Clearly a lot has changed since the original BER was implemented - given that it is the vehicle manufacturer itself who is now the privileged controller of the in-vehicle data and resources/function and subsequently the whole downstream aftermarket, so any new version of BER must now consider a different approach and re-assess how a competitive aftermarket can continue to offer consumers a competitive choice.

    xenconsultancy.com

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