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Massimo Brunamonti

EGEA’s General Assembly in Aica’s new headquarters                  

Held on May 28, at the AICA (Italian Garage Equipment Manufacturers Association) new headquarters - in Anzola Emilia (BO), the General Assembly of EGEA (European Garage Equipment Association), a traditional meeting point of all the main players in the European garage equipment sector. The occasion was a very favorable one to take stock of the situation involving the many activities in progress and to see the opening of the new headquarters of AICA, and to point out the perfect organization of AICA and the exquisiteness of the hospitality. The new offices, meeting rooms, the premises in general, logistics and support provided by AICA’s staff members have allowed the work to be performed in the best way possible to the point of earning sincere commendations from the guests. There is no doubt that the new headquarters will allow AICA to act as a hub for the whole Italian auto repair sector and more.

The AGEA Assembly, led by President Leon Andriessen, and vice-presidents Michel Vervekken and Massimo Brunamonti and the secretary general Sylvia Gotzen, in addition to the usual organizational responsibilities and internal management had to deal with many of the topics currently on the European table.

As far as the Association’s management goes, a growing financial effort and greater participation is required in view of the many issues on the table; the already excellent contribution offered by a number of associates both in practical and financial terms, as well as participation of their representatives, has proved of great value, and will be further strengthened through the identification of projects of great mutual interest. Such projects will be financed and managed separately from the Association’s budget and will be added to the Association’s general activities. This will enable to increase the resources, using them for specific objectives. A few examples of these projects are: the proposal for an “EGEA” approval for air conditioning stations, a proposal for a European standard on suspension tests and a European standard communication protocol on equipment.

Some of the topics discussed verged on the recently published European Directive 2014/45 on MOT tests (Ministry Of Transport inspection tests), which has been one of the main “battles” for both AICA and EGEA during the past two years. With great satisfaction we can say that some positive results were accomplished: EGEA’s recognized pro-activeness from the highest European authorities in Brussels, along with its members, such as AICA, as well as from national governments, on issues such as emission tests, access to MOT tests technical data and the introduction of new inspection tests all things accepted, or at least partially, through law decrees. The new Directive on MOT tests represents a great result as a harmonized scheme at European level, but at the same time a starting point for EGEA’s future activities on MOT tests.

Also activities relating to the “ECSS” ( Electronically Controlled Safety Systems ) European tender fit in the picture, as many AICA and EGEA members are actively involved. The project is in its concluding stages: evidence was produced to support the opportunity to test electronic systems such as ABS, SRS, ESP etc. using OBD (On-Board Diagnostics) instruments, with a considerable advantage for road safety.

Following this, the attention passed on to the various activities of the working groups, which are also very committed and operating on many fronts. In addition to the activities already identified as projects, they talked about verifying the operation of the Euro 5 Directive, currently followed by the 2nd Working Group, as well as the French proposal for safety standards on truck braking test followed by the 6th Working Group , and the creation of a system of market statistics for all EGEA members.

We can safely conclude that just as AICA did at national level, so has EGEA experienced an important growth that has led it to become a key-player, summoned and heard by European institutions. The Euro-Parliament and Commission are well aware that equipment manufacturers and traders are an authoritative and reliable voice, a voice worth listening to, along with all other components of the Automotive Aftermarket.



An App for your car                                                                  

The advent of the smartphone marked a technological change with the focus placed on mobility; the next step is the mobile object par excellence, the car. We do not have to go too far back to remember the sense of technological achievement we got from the hi-fi system and central locking. Today they seem pre historical; nowadays we talk about internet and on-board connectivity not as something in the future, but as something already here: remote assistance, automatic emergency calls, “infotainment” on board and much more.

All the biggest car manufacturers are working to integrate online services which will have a deep impact on the whole car industry and will also affect repair workshops and the aftermarket as well.

Car manufacturer have already stipulated agreements in that direction: VW-Audi, Ford, GM, Toyota, Fiat, etc. are already cooperating with companies such as Apple, Google, MirrorLink and other platforms where specifically designed apps for cars can be downloaded. Service and infotainment represent the greatest investments nowadays, with service dealing specifically with vehicle maintenance, while infotainment by definition deals with information and online entertainment.

Basically the aim is to make a personal mobile interchangable: we leave home with our smartphone set on personal info and as we climb in the car heading for the work place we can connect it to the car electronic system and have all our info on the display found on the dashboard, to finish the research of the movie to watch later in the evening or the dress to buy on the weekend. If we think at the amount of time we spend in the car, we cannot help but imagine what the likes of Amazon, Ebay, etc. will do to exploit the natural inclination towards purchasing of drivers stuck in traffic jams or simply waiting for someone.

If the trend seems certain, however, there are still a few issues to be resolved: connection stability and reliability as well as online transactions safety protocols. But we can be certain that the industrial giants involved will find the necessary solutions.

However, what concerns us more is online service: repair and maintenance is faced with a completely new challenge, especially for independent workshops. Already now, a number of manufacturers offer remote diagnosis with the opportunity to book a visit to the nearest dealer, and even the possibility to re-program the electronic control unit in case of malfunction. But this is just the beginning: what could prevent Groupon from offering winter tires through the on-board internet connection? Or, what will stop any fast-fit chain store from offering a convenient car check in any of its workshops?

The same applies for a large part of repair equipment, especially those dealing with diagnostics: what we expect from diagnostic equipment is to detect any malfunction and inform us about the needed spare part; at least up to recently, but in the near future this will not be sufficient: diagnosis will be constant and will become diagnosis-maintenance/repair, that is, after detecting the problem, it will program the correct intervention and lead the vehicle towards the most suitable workshop, both in case of maintenance and repair.

Will this new scenario have a winner? It is difficult to say, but it is easier to know who the losers will be: whoever won’t understand the new features of the business, organize themselves appropriately and cooperate in large networks. Meanwhile Google and Apple have already established their goals: their platforms will be totally developed and operative by 2018, able to support all that today can be only imagined. Careful: the motor vehicle that can use such platforms is not something that belongs to the future, it is already on display in many dealers’ showrooms.



2015: the “eCall” deadline                           

The European Commission has just issued a draft law aimed at the definitive introduction of the eCall system following a lengthy debate. As previously written the eCall (Emergency Call) is an on-board safety telematic system that, in case of a serious accident, calls automatically the emergency services using the European emergency number 112 communicating automatically the vehicle’s position.

The draft is composed of three parts each dealing with different issues: Telecommunication and all related regulations, infrastructures and safety, and more importantly for our sector, the definition of on-board technical specifications and laws regulating all approvals.

Technical specifications as always represent a problem for the repair and maintenance sector given the attitude often displayed by great manufacturing groups: once again, we have to assist at the attempt to reserve the exclusive rights of this business to the detriment of the free market. The “eCall” can become the door through which telematics can become standard equipment on every vehicle, for emergencies at present, but tomorrow for a myriad of other services that represent a huge business opportunity.

Stakes are high and members of the European Parliament, who at first supported a rapid conclusion of the matter, have now recognized the positive impact that a healthy competition on the market can have. The final report issued on February 26 by the IMCO commission, now being examined by the Parliament, contains a declaration in principle on the use of the open-access platform for independent operators including an article aimed at regulating such electronic platform.

The Council of Ministers, acting as co-legislator, began to discuss the proposal from the Commission in January 2014. AFCAR, the Alliance for the Freedom of Car Repair, of which EGEA is a member, met with a select number of permanent representatives of the main Member States to illustrate the need for independent operators to obtain equal access to the vehicle and its data. The position of AFCAR is that the Commission receives the mandate, as required by IMCO, to develop a specific legislative proposal to ensure free competition.

For years AFCAR, which in addition to EGEA combines virtually the entire world of independent auto repair (CLEPA, CECRA, FIA, Leaseurope and Assicurazioni Europa), has been fighting to ensure free competition against monopolies and dominant positions to protect the interests of citizens and the free market. We hope that this time the efforts get the desired result.

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