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31/08/2015

Massimo Brunamonti

The European garage equipment market: a new study

Profound changes have affected the garage equipment  market since the late 90's;  Asian products, technological developments and the progressive growth of the market,  along with major macroeconomic factors, have brought about this transformation.

European manufacturers in general, and especially Italian producers, traditionally at the forefront of quality equipment and professional quality, experienced on the one hand the arrival of new and aggressive competitors from extra-European countries and on the other a process of market segmentation between price and quality.

Entrepreneurs need to know the market, its size and the current trends: for this reason AICA (Italian Garage Equipment Manufacturers Association) and its German counterpart ASA, which jointly represent the great majority of garage equipment manufacturers in Europe, have decided to sponsor a study, managed by EGEA (European Garage Equipment Association), on garage equipment in the European Union.

Having to deal with an important share of Asian products that simply didn’t exist until about fifteen years ago, this study is considered necessary. Until the late nineties, the presence of non-European products on the market was considered rather negligible and, above all, they were products of comparable quality especially from the USA. But things have since changed, with the advent of Chinese products, to the point that relying solely on data relating to production and domestic sales, which the associations are still collecting, is not enough in itself to have a real evaluation of the market.

More is needed: a real study that defines the size of the European market by product and by country or group of countries.

This is what prompted AICA, ASA and EGEA to endorse a three-year agreement with Wolk After Sales Experts (www.wolk-aftersales.com) and Leo-Impact Consulting (www.leo-impact-consulting.de), companies with a long experience in the sector, for an in-depth study on the European garage equipment market.

The study will use data provided by National Associations members of EGEA as well as information obtained  directly from the market through a more traditional approach, interviews! The data collected will then be analyzed through two antithetical methods: a top-down approach, which starts from the distributors to finally arrive at the market and a bottom-up approach which considers first the market and then works its way up back to the distributors.

The aim is to cover the entire European Union, with a market analysis that includes both producers, and - and this is the big news - distributors and importers from all over the world, so as to get an overview of the real size of the market; the production and sales volumes of garage equipment, in terms of quantity and value including import/export value. The overall results will be divided by country and by product category. Past studies and trend analysis will also feature, in addition to data from the study period.

The study, finally, will collect all the data on the sector: the number of registered vehicles as well as new registrations, the number of independent and authorized repair workshops and their market volume, sales of spare parts and repair services, not to mention the number of MOT testing centers and their business volume, as well as other relevant information.

The resulting reports will be provided quarterly, in a shortened version, and annually in full version, free for AICA, ASA and EGEA, sponsors of the operation, while a fee will be required from any other interested company.

The study is already in progress; a product classification has been defined, which leads to the start of the operational phase, in other words, how to process and analyze all preliminary data. The first results are expected by the end of the year, providing sector professionals with the opportunity to use the resulting data for their own marketing purposes and business.



eCall: 2018 the starting date!

Published last year by the European Commission, the draft regulation for the introduction of automatic emergency call (eCall) devices as standard equipment seemed at first sight quite simple. In reality the matter is rather complex and full of both technical and often politically sensitive implications. The so-called eCall (emergency call) is a system that automatically forwards a call to the European emergency number (112) the moment a vehicle’s sensors detect a serious accident. The system sends the geolocation data of the vehicle along with any available technical detail of the accident in order to give emergency services the opportunity to decide immediately the type and mode of a possible rescue operation. This will enable faster and more targeted rescue interventions to save lives, or at least contain injuries and, at the same time, reduce the time needed to remove damaged vehicles from the road.

On 28 April 2015, the European Parliament approved the Regulations, which will make mandatory the installation of eCall devices in all approved new cars and vans starting from March 31, 2018.

One of the most debated aspects of the eCall issue relates to access to its on-board system, not because of the eCall itself, but for all the other possible connections that will follow on the same platform, which will transform a car into a "connected vehicle". Who can access it? Will the manufacturers have the monopoly on repair and maintenance operations? Where does this leave independent repair workshops? Meeting with the approval of many specialists, including EGEA and AFCAR (Alliance for  the Freedom of Car Repair in the EU), which represent the vast majority of independent repair workshops in Europe, the second paragraph of Article 12 of the Regulation states that “Following a broad consultation with all relevant stakeholders and a study assessing the costs and benefits, the Commission shall assess the need of requirements for an interoperable, standardized, secure and open-access platform. If appropriate, and no later than 9 June 2017, the Commission shall adopt a legislative initiative based on those requirements”.  It seems therefore that, with the spread of new technologies, finally everyone, both manufacturers and independent vehicle repairers, will have a fair and non-discriminatory access to data transmission platforms, as established by the Euro 5 Regulation (n. 715 / 2007). Independent operators could also arrange additional services offered through the network; on-board connections will open a completely new business model that will be accessible to all.

 

Following the publication of the Regulation, the European Commission has set up a forum, C-ITS (Intelligent Joint Transportation System), to address issues related to open-access telematics platforms. According to AFCAR, it is essential to determine the mode of access to information, and it proposes a combined interim and long-term solution: open telematics platforms as the long term and final solution (but this will take time); an interim solution would be based on a shared server, managed by a stakeholder consortium, and an OBD connector.

As noted, once again vehicle manufacturers have tried to keep a monopoly of access to the eCall system, proposing to give all the information through their websites in a deferred mode. This is exactly the monopolistic and anti-competitive attitude that AFCAR has been fighting for years (remember, for example, the Right2Repair campaign). The commitment, once again, is the defense of the motorist’s right to choose in an open and competitive market. It is not acceptable that the Internet becomes the monopoly of someone just because he produced the car we drive; it would be like having a master in our own house. Fortunately, Brussels is quite sensitive to this issue; AFCAR’s difficult task is to highlight possible traps and obstacles, given the technical complexity of the issues at stake.

 

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